When you really think about it, supermarkets are weird places.
The fruit and vegetable sections are always beautiful and vibrant, but venture further into the maze of aisles and you’ll find that most ‘foods’ come packaged in boxes and wrappers, with a long list of scary-sounding ingredients. Unfortunately, these options take up most of the store.
It’s all so… artificial. There’s no hunting, no foraging (unless you count squeezing the avocados in the search for that elusive, perfectly ripe specimen) and no actual legwork aside from pushing the trolley around the store.
It can be overwhelming to even think about searching out the healthiest options, but finding healthy options at a regular chain supermarket is easier than you think. Read on to learn how to avoid the ultra-processed junk lurking on the shelves, and fill your trolley with delicious ingredients that will keep you thriving all week long!
Make a list
Planning out your meals for the week is a lifesaver when it comes to sticking to a grocery store budget. Think about breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks – do you need greens for juicing, or dates for homemade energy balls? Write it all down and pick up everything you need at your local supermarket.
It’s a win-win – your food bill will be lower, your meals will likely be healthier and you’ll be more organised than ever before! Instead of coming home from work exhausted with no clue what to cook for dinner, you’ll be able to choose from your prepared list of meals.
If you’re trying to save money, don’t be fooled by your supermarket’s ‘Free From’ section – you still have to read the labels to see whether the items are vegan or gluten-free, and you can often buy identical products for much cheaper. A jar of vegan pesto can cost a bomb, but making your own with fresh basil and pine nuts is budget-friendly and actually tastes better!
Stick to the edges
The outer edges of the supermarket are where you’ll spot fresh fruits and vegetables, along with freshly baked breads. If you end up getting sucked into the middle aisles, you’ll find yourself surrounded by sugary cereals, salty snacks and processed sauces.
Sticking to the perimeters and avoiding the heart of the store will allow you to fill your trolley with nutritious, healthy foods. If it comes in a wrapper or box, rethink it. Those jarred pasta sauces may seem tempting, but a quick Google search will yield hundreds of simple recipes for homemade options that taste twice as good!
Opting for fresh produce whenever possible will result in naturally vibrant, nutritious meals that leave you full, satisfied and healthy. How’s that for an incentive?
Bring a bag
Recently, there’s been a fantastic shift towards using less plastic and being a little more environmentally-friendly. Supermarkets in the UK are now charging 5p for each plastic bag, and many people are opting to bring their own. You can purchase strong (and pretty cute!) tote bags online or from your local grocery store – it may cost a little more to begin with, but those 5p plastic bags will quickly start to add up if you continue to buy them.
Try taking it one step further by bringing your own produce bags to carry loose fruits and vegetables. There’s no need to use those flimsy little store ones! Don’t be shy about ditching the plastic – you never know who you might be inspiring.
Time it wisely
If crowds of people, screaming kids and long queues aren’t your idea of fun, rethink the time of day that you visit the supermarket. Early risers can rejoice – while most people are still asleep or getting ready to face the day, the stores are usually fairly quiet. It’s the perfect time to tackle your weekly shop, when the aisles are fairly empty and the shelves are freshly stocked.
Another option is to see whether your local supermarket offers a delivery option. Shopping online is great for reducing those impulse buys, and it’s much easier to compare deals and see what’s on offer.
Whether you choose to shop online or in-store, make sure you’ve eaten beforehand – otherwise you’ll be tempted to buy everything in sight!
Fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually cheaper, better quality and more plentiful. Many supermarkets will have a seasonal section – if not, Google is your friend! You’ll find rhubarb and asparagus in spring, cherries and tomatoes in summer, pumpkin and turnips in autumn, and squash and carrots during the winter.
Eating in tune with the seasons is so much better for your body and the environment, and a well-stocked supermarket makes it simple!
It can be difficult to eat well in a world full of convenience food, but navigating your local grocery store doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With these simple tips you can take control of your weekly shop and confidently select the healthiest options for you and your family.
Now, go forth and buy vegetables!