Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Grocery Store 101- Your Healthy Shopping Guide

A couple months ago my bff Jen text me from the grocery store.  She was shopping and had questions about certain things she needed: which bread should she buy? what needed to be organic?  Is all coconut oil the same? Is canned food ok?

We exchanged quite a few texts before I finally called her and walked her through the rest of her shopping.  I got her through that trip but she still had many questions.

Why the sudden shopping inquisition? Jen doesn’t shop often because her busy schedule keeps her from cooking on a regular basis (she’s a massage therapist in school for physical therapy).  She strives to eat a clean whole foods diet but her time is limited.  When she does get a chance to eat at home she wants quality fresh food to nourish her body and keep her immune system strong.  But the grocery store is full of confusing options.  Sounds like most people right? 

If you aren’t used to shopping for “real” food it is difficult, time consuming and can really stress you out.  I sometimes forget how difficult it was for me when we first transitioned our diet to whole foods.  Our phone conversation reminded me of the hours I would spend grocery shopping—reading labels, asking the staff where things were, searching my phone for the dirty dozen produce list.  Yeah, good times.  Luckily, it gets easier!

Jen encouraged me to share our conversation and turn it into a post.  I quickly realized that one post was not going to cover it.  There are far too many areas to cover for one post so I’ll be doing a whole series!

I should mention first that I highly encourage avoiding grocery stores when possible.  Buy meats directly from the farmer or butcher, get produce from local farmers and co-ops, eggs and dairy from farmers and get your dry goods in bulk or from co-ops.  You will support local business, get better quality foods, eat seasonally and save a ton of money.  Oh, and it can be fun too!

I realize these aren’t realistic options for some people. Starting with changes where you normally shop is a good first step; whether you don’t have access to local farm fresh foods, don’t have time to drive 5 different places or the whole process overwhelms you.

Today I want to start with some general tips for grocery shopping.  These can be applied no matter where you shop for your groceries and how much real food you eat.

General Tips for Grocery Shopping

1. Shop at a local store
Local stores, even ones that are not "health food" stores are more likely to carry local products.  These will be fresher, make a smaller impact on the environment (no shipping) and often healthier.  Some stores even have standards for the quality of foods they carry (GMO-free, organic, no hydrogenated oils) so make sure you ask!

2. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
You’ll find the vast majority of your whole foods on the outside of the store.  Sticking to the perimeter means you’ll avoid all of those processed food-packed aisles.

3. Shop from a list
Don’t blindly wander the grocery store for things that look good! Bad things will happen people, I promise.  You’ll end up buying things you don’t need, spend more money and waste time.  Lists are a wonderful thing.

4. Don’t buy based on cost
Before you stone me, let me clarify this ghastly statement.  If you go to the store looking for the cheapest product, you are most likely not going to walk away with the healthiest.  Unfortunately, quality food is more expensive.  This is not to say you can’t shop around.  Take apples for instance.  Your organic apples are going to cost more than conventional, however you can choose a variety that is on sale (or another fruit that is in season).

5. Avoid packaged goods
Real food usually doesn’t come in a package.  Packaged goods are normally processed, contain additives and lack nutritional content.

6. Read labels
If you need to buy something in a package, turn it over and check out the label.  If you’re not used to doing this I guarantee it will be an eye opening experience.  Start with buying products with ingredients you can pronounce!  Bonus points for products containing "lots of love."

7. Look for minimal ingredients
The less ingredients a product has, the less processed it probably is.  It also makes reading the labels and shopping a lot easier!

8.  “All natural”, “organic”, “healthy” and “whole grain” do not equal healthy!
Don’t be fooled by these words plastered all over “food” at the grocery store.  Being healthy is trendy and the food biz is all over that.  Go back to #6 and make sure you read the label.

Ok, so there are some simple things to remember for your next shopping trip.  These are pretty basic things but I still have to remind myself of them ever once in awhile.  We'll continue our journey through the grocery store next week!


  1. Looking forward to more posts on this issue. Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

    Have a beautiful day!
    Much Love,

  2. These are good reminders as we start a new year and make our resolutions. Thanks for posting!

  3. I followed a pin here for your chocolate truffles and I think I might have to stay a while. I will be following your blog from now on!

    Looking forward to this series on shopping for food.

    1. Hi Tina! Thanks for stopping by and I'm so glad you're sticking around :)