Does grocery shopping stress you out?
I’ve heard time and again that people have a love/hate relationship with shopping for food.
I totally get it. You walk into the store and you’re inundated with bright colours, boxes of food making a million claims, and shelves upon shelves of products.
Why does it have to be so complicated!?
Below, I share a few tips on how to navigate the grocery store so it is less stressful.
First, it helps to understand how the grocery store is laid out.
Grocery stores are designed to make you want to buy more food.
Have you ever noticed that the milk is in the back right corner of the store? If you have to ‘run in for milk’ you have to go through everything else to get to the dairy case and you’re more apt to buy something else. Sneaky!
This is the basic layout of a larger grocery store like Loblaws:
Fresh food is typically found around the perimeter of the store. Think of it like a rectangle: first produce, bakery, meat and seafood, then dairy.
The health food or natural foods area takes up the first few aisles. Drug store items come next, followed by cleaning supplies, and then rows and rows of canned and boxed goods.
The freezer aisles are usually the last couple of aisles.
Oh and don’t forget the beer and wine aisles!
If you shop at Loblaws, Joe Fresh is closer to the front beside the cash area.
So how the heck do you navigate the store without feeling overwhelmed?
Here are some tips:
1. Make a plan.
Part of the plan is to create a meal plan for the week and then generate a grocery list from the meal plan.
If you find creating a plan overwhelming in and of itself, start with three meals your family likes to eat on a regular basis. Then create a grocery list based on the ingredients you need for those meals.
Make sure you check your fridge and cupboards for ingredients first! You don’t want to buy more than what you actually need at the store.
2. Make a grocery list and organize it based on the grocery store departments.
Instead of writing everything you need in one big list, separate the list into the following categories:
- Pantry items
Separating the list this way will help you stay on track as you walk through the store. It’s not going to be helpful to have a list like this:
Instead try it this way:
Once your list is written, bring a pen to cross off each item as you get it or check it off if you made the list on your phone. That way you can keep track of what you bought as you put an item into your cart.
3. Eat at home before you shop.
This should really be the number one tip because shopping while you’re hungry may mean disaster for your grocery list, bank account and possibly health.
When we shop while we’re hungry, we’re also more apt to reach for the cookies in the bakery that have a million ingredients.
My recommendation is to shop on the weekend after breakfast or after lunch.
If you can’t get to the store at those times, bring a container of almonds and raisins with you so you can have a snack before you go into the store.
4. Don’t aimlessly walk up and down the aisles.
When we walk up and down the aisles, we’re more apt to a) get overwhelmed, and b) buy something that wasn’t on the list and that you wanted to avoid buying in the first place.
Many people walk up and down the aisles waiting for meal inspiration to hit.
What I find happens instead is that people end up buying a bunch of random ingredients that don’t work well together, or they’ll end up buying food that just isn’t going to serve them well from a health standpoint.
The middle aisles are where you’ll find 80-90% of the processed foods.
That’s why it’s so important to have a plan before you go to the store. A plan will help you stay on budget, stay on track from a health perspective and will save you time (we could also use a bit more time am I right?).
I try to plan my meals around fresh foods consisting of vegetables, fish, meat or beans and legumes which means for the most part that I can stick to the outside ring of the store.
There will be times when I need to get rice or beans as I mentioned which are found in the middle of the store, but because I always have a list I know where to go.
I go in to a certain aisle to get one or two items and leave.
Wherever you shop in the store, I encourage you to always read the ingredients.
Contrary to what I just wrote above, just because an item is around the perimetre of the store does not automatically make it nutritious.
I have found many ‘freshly baked breads’ that contain a list of ingredients that is three inches long.
After reading these tips, you still may find grocery shopping to be overwhelming.
- Try to breathe as you walk through the store
- Listen to some calming music or a podcast on your phone
- Hum a tune as you walk around (I do this all the time, I don’t care what I look like!)
- Lift your head up and smile at other people (smiling helps to bring stress levels down, I swear!)
- Don’t lean on your cart and drag your feet—walk with purpose!
- Try to make it fun (I love grocery shopping! You can too!)
Other shopping options:
- Change up your shopping routine! Farmers’ market season is upon us and these days you can get everything from meat, eggs, milk, cheese, sourdough bread and produce at most markets.
- Shop online! Here are my favourite go-to online sites.
I hope these tips help you with making grocery shopping a little less stressful.
If you ever need help in person, I offer grocery store tours. I’ll walk around the store with you to get you familiarized with the layout and where to find the food that will make you feel your best.