By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
6 tips to make grocery shopping easier
Many people get bogged down by the minutiae at grocery stores and then feel frustrated by the entire thing. Find out what common mistakes people make with grocery shopping and how to make the experience more efficient and enjoyable. - photo by Paige Smathers
If you don't go grocery shopping each week (or at least on a regular basis), it's pretty tough to eat in a nutritious, well-balanced way. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand how life can get hectic and grocery shopping can take a backseat in a busy week. But investing an hour or so of time from start to finish is really one of the absolute keys to making balanced eating realistic and sustainable long term.

Without a weekly grocery shopping trip, it can become all too easy to rely on the break room snacks for meals during the day, and it can be all too easy to stop by the fast-food place on the way home from work. The occasional break room meal or stop at a fast-food place isn't the end of the world at all, but, eating meals at home most of the time is one common theme among healthful, balanced eaters.

Here are some ideas to work smarter, not harder, with grocery shopping.

1. Block off time in your weekly routine for meal planning and shopping.

Take some time during your week to sit down and plan some meals for the week. If you don't block off a time during your week, other things will likely take precedence.

Meal planning can feel tedious and time consuming, but when you block off Saturday mornings or Monday nights, for example, to sit down and plan meals and then shop for the foods, you are making an investment in the rest of your week being much smoother and meals requiring less time. This small time investment pays dividends in making healthy, balanced eating far more likely to be realistic and sustainable in your life long term.

2. Have a plan and make a list.

Be sure to take note of which stock items you've run out of (i.e. bread, cheese, milk, etc.) and create your grocery list based on what you're planning for the week and which stock items you need to replace. Creating a grocery list not only serves as a way to help save money, but it also makes the grocery store trip much more time efficient because you don't have to wander the store aimlessly wondering what to buy.

3. Don't let nutrition labels or clever marketing schemes trip you up.

Reading each and every food label at the grocery store can turn what could have been a half-hour trip into an hourslong ordeal, leaving you frustrated and confused. Rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of nutrition labels, consider your priorities when looking at labels.

If reading and comparing labels is important to you, you could spend some time comparing labels at the store one day and then from then on out, you already know what bread you like, which yogurt you typically buy, etc. and don't need to pour over the labels each time.

What's more important than food labels for most people is keeping in mind the importance of a wide variety of foods: including fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, proteins, fats and dairy. Most people really don't need to obsess over food labels and might find grocery shopping more efficient without getting bogged down by them.

Obviously, for those on special diets such as gluten-free for people diagnosed with celiac disease, reading food labels can be an important thing to block off time for at the store.

4. Eat something before you go.

This is a popular grocery shopping tip that can help keep you focused and efficient in the store. Shopping right after a satisfying meal works well for many people who find themselves tempted to buy the whole store when they're hungry. A satisfied stomach can help the decision-making process at the store easier and more effective.

5. Shop during off times.

If you have a day during the workweek that you can get a grocery store trip in during the mid-day, or if you are able to shop first thing in the morning, those tend to be slower times in the store, making your trip a bit more smooth and quick. Ask your local grocery store when is the slowest time and see if you can block off your shopping for that time frame if it works in your schedule.

6. Buy food from all food groups.

When you look down into your grocery cart as you're checking out, you should ideally be seeing food from all the food groups: starches/grains, protein/meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy and fats. If you look down and only see vegetables or only see grain products, chances are good you're not going to be eating as balanced as would be ideal. Each of the food groups is important for your overall health and well-being.

The main thing that's important with grocery shopping is that you do it consistently. Healthful, well-balanced eating is only possible when there is a wide variety of foods to choose from at home, as well as meals already planned and shopped for. Make grocery shopping a part of your weekly routine and see how your well-being improves!