You go to the shop for one thing and come out with ten.
Something catches your eye across the shop and you pick it up.
You forget to buy the one thing you went in for.
You start cooking dinner and don’t have one of the ingredients.
You visit the shop four times throughout the week.
You buy more processed foods than whole foods.
Sound familiar? We all do it!
Food shopping is hard, especially when they try their best to convince you to buy a new product or you’re tired and not concentrating on what you’re doing or you’ve no idea what you’re going to eat for the week so therefore have no idea what to buy. Here’s a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way to avoid buying the unnecessary, to make sure I get what I need, to save money, to reduce waste and to focus on your whole-foods.
One thing that I have found extremely helpful over the past months is planning my food. It sounds like an effort to sit down and plan what you will you eat for the week. However, the more you do it, the quicker you become and the less stress you’ll face during the week. I plan what I will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. For me, it helps to make sure I’m eating nutrient-rich meals and it eliminates the stress of figuring out what I’ll eat. I’m the type of person that if I don’t know what I’m having for dinner, I’ll opt for the most convenient option which is not always the healthiest. When I plan, I know exactly what I’m making each day, how much time I’ll need to cook and the ingredients I’ll need. Planning also allows me to make a list of the food I’m going to need for the week. This means I know exactly what I need when in the shop and I have all of the ingredients I need.
2. Read Labels
Something I’ve gotten into the habit of over the past few months is reading the labels on any packaged foods I buy. Again it seems like a lot of effort at first. However, if you buy something every week then there’s no need to read the label every week. I try to buy most of my food unprocessed (such as fruit and veg). However, obviously it would be very difficult and expensive in today’s world to buy absolutely everything raw. Instead, my aim has been to buy the least processed options with the least amount of additives/preservatives/emulsifiers and the largest amounts of whole-foods. For example, when buying peanut butter, I buy one that is only peanuts with no added salt, sugar, etc. By reading the labels of the foods you’re buying, you can find options with less added salt, sugar and additives. Aim for packages that state organic and by rule of thumb, avoid items that have ingredients that you do not recognise or cannot pronounce.
3. Only Buy What You Need
Did you know that Irish Households produce over 250,000 tonnes of food waste a year? Which is at a cost of €700 per Irish household? Quite literally, we are throwing our money in the bin. Planning your meals and having a shopping list helps with this because you know what food you need for the week and what you don’t. When shopping try to only buy the items on your list and don’t buy something if you don’t know how or when you’ll use it. Also, sometimes we go for a larger pack of something because it works out better value. However, if you buy a bigger pack knowing that you probably won’t use it all or be able to use it before it goes out of date, it’s not better value. You’re not saving money if you’re throwing it in the bin. As well as hurting your wallet, food waste is also hurting the planet. Wasted food contributes to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. So save your bank account and the earth and only buy what you need and what you know you’ll use.
4. Set a Time
Another useful hack is to set a time each week when you will go shopping. I like to do mine on a Sunday morning because I’m not in a rush and the shops are usually quiet. Find a time in the week that suits you. It’s a good idea to go when you’re not in a rush and you know there will still be food on the shelves. Also, make sure you’ve had time to make your shopping list before you go so you know what you’re buying. If you do the shopping properly the first time, you shouldn’t need to go a few times a week except to pick up the odd thing. You can make it as stress free and relaxing as you’d like. I quite enjoy doing my food shopping and it helps to set me up for the week.
5. Shop the Perimeter
You might never have noticed before but most food shops are the same. Obviously, all shops are set up differently. However, they all generally have a similar layout. Fresh fruit and veg as you walk in the door, fresh food counters around the side or back, packaged foods on aisles in the middle, drinks on the far side. It is a marketing technique. However, one which you can use to your advantage. A tip that I heard a few years ago is to focus on the perimeter of the shop. That means getting most of your foods in the fruit and veg section and other fresh food sections with only a small percentage of your shopping coming from the middle aisles. Obviously, we all need rice, pasta, flour, etc. from time to time. The way I like to look at it is instead of buying a jar of processed pasta sauce from the middle aisle, buy fresh ingredients to make a pasta sauce from the fruit and veg section.