Grocery Food Shopping Tips

The supermarket used to be my home away from home. Until now.

As a mom of three boys and as someone who loves to cook and bake, it seemed like I was in and out of stores on a daily basis. I’m one of those people that really enjoys going food shopping. I like to compare products side-by-side that are similar. I love discovering new foods that I can write about, and, although I wouldn’t admit this to everyone, I even like to hum along to the music playing throughout the store. In fact, my clients used to say, “I wish I could take you food shopping with me,” and that’s what inspired me to write an entire book on how to navigate the supermarket without being fooled by tricky food labels.

But things are different now. My kids have grown up, and they’re out of the house, doing their own food shopping. They’ll occasionally call me from the store to help them with their most asked question, “What’s better…this or that?” and I’m proud to say that after years of being pushed around in my shopping cart, they’ve learned how to stock their kitchens with just what they need.

Recently, along with my household changing, my home itself has changed. A few months ago, we moved from the house in the suburbs that we lived in for 28 years to an apartment in the city. That meant I also moved from having two refrigerators and freezers and an entire room as a pantry to a city-sized kitchen. Unlike my children, I could use a membership in Over-Shoppers Anonymous (if there were such a thing), since I am an over-buyer.

A downsized transition has become a work in progress for me, requiring me to learn new ways to food shop, prioritizing not only which foods we’ll need, but also which foods could fit into a more limited space in my kitchen. So if you’re in a similar situation, the following tips might come in handy, while also saving you some time and money.

[SEE: How to Grocery Shop Safely During the Coronavirus Pandemic.]

Food Shopping Tips

Take a photo.

Snap a photo of your fridge, freezer and pantry before you walk out your door. This way you can assess, in real time, the foods you actually need instead of relying on your memory (which is not a reliable source, in my case).

Create a super shopping list.

Make a shopping list that mimics the layout of the store you visit most often. Save it on your computer or phone and print it out before you go to the store so that you can circle what you require. Food shopping will be a breeze as you walk down the aisles without having to backtrack.

[READ: Recipes With Few Ingredients.]

Cook with less ingredients.

If there’s one lesson I learned during the pandemic, it’s that I don’t have to make a salad with 10 ingredients. Less elaborate, simple dishes could taste just as flavorful without having to overdo the components within. For example, a salad on a bed of arugula or spinach or baby kale is perfectly fine without having to include all three leafy greens for one meal.

Don’t shop when you’re hungry.

Although I’m not a betting person, let’s just say there’s an excellent chance that you’ll make more impulsive purchases (that you may never actually eat) when you shop on an empty stomach.

[SEE: Food Cravings That Wreck Your Diet.]

Plan with your partner.

Whether you’re shopping for your spouse, friend, child or roommate, meal planning can help you decide which foods you’ll need for the week. Be sure to take into consideration the days you’ll be eating out, ordering in, dining alone or cooking for company.

Shop online.

I like to look at, feel and pick my own produce, so online shopping never had an appeal to me. But now there are apps and sites that bring food and supplies to your door in minutes without the need to ever step outside.

Online shopping became particularly attractive during the pandemic, when we tried to keep out of stores yet wanted to keep our fridges full. E-shopping could also save you money by limiting the temptation to buy spontaneously while browsing through the store.

My biggest gripe about online shopping (besides not being able to micromanage everything in my cart), is that if most of us are not reading food labels when we’re in the store … how likely is it that we’ll read them once we get food delivered to our homes?

Although photo of products along with their Nutrition Facts Panels and ingredient lists are available online, I’m not so sure that people are taking the time to get those facts unless they suffer from a specific allergy or dietary need. My guess is that in most cases, we’ll receive, unpack and put away our groceries without flipping packages over to read about what’s actually inside each bag or box.

I’d be curious to see how many of us take the time to read about the foods we’re purchasing before pushing that ‘send’ button. Share your comments with us eatandrun@usnews.com.

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Grocery Food Shopping Tips originally appeared on usnews.com

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