Yesterday, mid-conversation with a client, I had an epiphany.
You see, we were talking about incorporating more fruits and veggies into the day, and she mentioned it may be difficult for her to actually get to the store to buy the fruits and veggies. As I offered suggestions for alternative solutions, it really struck me. I shop like a freak!
For instance, in this run I picked up bananas, quinoa pasta, plain yogurt, basil, blackberries, apples, brussel sprouts, an avocado, one shallot and one head of garlic, pasta sauce, grapes, and a bag of pre-mixed salad! It was a random assortment of goodies that I bought to last a few days and fill in the gaps in the ingredients I already had and wanted to make into meals; but, this is how most of my shopping trips end up!
I realize, however, that most people do not go to the grocery store multiple times per week. Most people do not have the time, energy, or desire to constantly think about where their next healthy meal will come from, and what it will consist of. And quite honestly, many times I don’t either! BUT, I have streamlined my process and automated my decisions and routine so much that for me, going to the grocery store and making sure I have the basics on hand is just part of my normal day-to-day.
Spoiler alert, tough love ahead . . .
If you want to be a healthy eater, you will have to learn to easily incorporate access to healthy foods into your life.
Culturally, we are at a point where it is normal, even expected, that we remain crazy busy throughout the day. We devote ourselves to work, spend precious time commuting, attach ourselves to our phones and computers, and allow very limited time for the various activities that will sustain our health (like being active, getting quality sleep, preparing healthful meals, and connecting with nature, our loved ones, and our communities).
So if the goal is to keep our menu planning, shopping, and food preparation to a minimum, but still eat healthfully, how do we go about fine-tuning the process so that it is quick, easy, convenient, and effective?
Here are my top tips for adjusting your shopping habits to easily incorporate healthy foods into your life:
- Seek out stores and restaurants that are convenient, affordable, and offer healthy selections. If these places happen to fall on your normal route to and from work, or other places you go often, perfect! Or maybe they walkable from your house? Excellent! Do they deliver to your home? (some grocery stores do) . . . awesome! Get creative! We could just leave it at that, but we all know, even if something is right in front of us, it’s not a guarantee we will take advantage of it.
- Decide on your go-to foods. Personally, I have a handful of foods and meals that I like and could probably make in my sleep. They are yummy, satisfying, healthy, and effortless. These are the foods you want as your go-to choices. Incorporating your go-to foods and any other foods you’d like to eat over the next few days or week into a written menu plan can also be extremely helpful.
- Make a permanent, mental shopping list of your must-haves. Memorize the components of your go-to foods/meals, and keep a running tally of what you need to keep stocked to have these foods available when you need them. If you are incorporating new foods or recipes, make a written list to help you remember (try using your phone so that you won’t be caught in the grocery store not knowing what you need to pick up!)
- Shop by meals, and make sure every item has a place on your menu. When I head to the grocery store, I have my mental (or written) list of the foods I’ll eat for each meal. I know exactly what I’m out of and what I need to buy for each meal of my day. So, I’ll go meal by meal, picking up the selections I need to be able to eat my complete go-to meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Everything that ends up in my basket or cart has a place in the day. This is a great way to avoid impulse buys that will add extra/unwanted calories to your day, or contribute to wasted food that needs to be thrown out later.
- Shop often to keep fresh food stocked. There’s no getting around this. Maybe (hopefully), if you’re busy, you’ll be a bit more efficient than me (and by that I mean you won’t have to hit the grocery store every other day :-P) But the reality is, real food goes bad. That means that, when you are making healthy, whole food choices, you won’t be able to get away with grocery shopping every other month (that’s why we need to make it convenient first and foremost!)
I hope you’ll take these tips and strategies and make them your own, adjusting them so that they fit your lifestyle and needs perfectly. As I mentioned before, getting set in a routine of consistently seeking out healthy foods requires creativity. You may develop uniquely quirky, yet effective, shopping habits that make you feel like you shop like a freak! Embrace it, and enjoy the benefits of regularly consuming healthy and delicious foods!