Have you noticed that the contents of your shopping cart vary according to your hunger level? Most people, including myself, tend to make more impulse purchases when grocery shopping on an empty stomach. The result? Less healthy choices AND a larger grocery bill! Both are undesirable, but completely avoidable. Here’s how:
1. Set a budget before you buy
As we discussed in our workshops, budgeting is a crucial part of financial management. Before you set foot in a store, think of a reasonable monthly shopping budget based off of your income, number of people you need to feed, and financial goals. If you’re unsure of where to start, add up all your grocery receipts for a month to see what you usually spend. Either make it a goal to reduce it (by a certain dollar amount or percent) or try to stay the same.
2. Plan your trip
Make a list to help you stay on track during your shopping session. Although it can be difficult to avoid the temptations of junk food while in the store, a list can help guide your decisions. Not sure what you put on your list? Plan your meals ahead of time so you know what you need to add to your list and to avoid multiple shopping trips. This will help you keep track from both a budgeting and health standpoint. Another bonus of planning your trip is that you can more effectively use coupons, something we spoke about last week.
3. Shop the perimeter
When grocery shopping, a good rule of thumb is to remain mostly in the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where we find the foods that are fresh and nutrient dense. Most of the sugary and over processed foods are located in the center aisles of the store.
4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach
Almost anything will look delicious when your stomach is growling. This could be a good thing if you were at a salad bar, but not so good when you’re surrounded by cookies. Try to plan your shopping trips so they are after a meal. If that’s difficult, have a small healthy snack (think veggie sticks or a small handful of nuts) and bring a water bottle with you when you shop.
5. Bulk up
Buying things in bulk is a great way to save, especially if you only need a small quantity of a certain item. Buying in bulk is also a lower risk way to try new foods. Curious about quinoa or bulgar but you don’t want to buy an entire bag? Buy a few servings worth in bulk first!
6. Buy in season
Food is usually cheaper (and can even be more nutritious and tastier!) when it’s in season. For example, apples and squashes would be a great choice in the fall, and berries and peaches would be a great choice in the summer. Check out this website for more info on in season food: http://www.eattheseasons.com/
7. Take your time – at first
Don’t rush through your shopping session. Take the time to read labels and understand what you are buying. This will help you optimize your spending for both affordability and healthiness. Its a common misconception that healthy food is ALWAYS pricier than junk food, but this is not always the case. If you are rushing around the grocery store, you are not taking the time to KNOW what you are buying. Your shopping trips may be longer in the beginning, but once you get to know your store and products, grocery shopping can be a rewarding experience when you are armed with the proper knowledge.
Do you have any other great shopping tips? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo from http://thesmarterwallet.com