The vast majority of Americans shop for groceries once a week or more. With those numbers, you’d think most of us know our supermarkets like the backs of our hands. But shopping can feel overwhelming and rising food costs aren’t helping. To buy smarter, you need our expert-backed game plan.
Step 1: Make a weekly menu
- Save money by building your weekly meal plan around your grocery store’s sales flyer or other coupons. Chicken breasts are buy one get one free this week? Plan for a colorful grilled chicken salad on Monday and a savory chicken chili on Friday.
- Partially automate meal planning by incorporating regular themed nights into the mix. Try: “Meatless Monday,” “Taco Tuesday,” “Slow Cooker Wednesday”...you get the point. The themes set some fun boundaries while you get to flex your creativity within the theme.
Step 2: Stick to your list
- “Grocery shopping really starts before you even get to the store,” says Sherry Rujikarn, the food director at WeightWatchers. “Write your grocery list and shop your own kitchen first,” she says. “This avoids doubling up on stuff you already have and lets you know if you don't have enough of something you'll need.”
- A bit of prep goes a long way in the supermarket. To save some time during your next trip, ditch the running checklist of foods. Instead, sort your grocery list into categories Think: fruits/veggies, grains, proteins, dairy, and canned goods.
- While you should try and stick to your list, challenge yourself to get one experimental ingredient each week, whether it's a spice you haven't tried before or a new piece of produce. Once you get it home, look up recipes that feature it and try to use it that week in a dish.
Step 3: Don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach*
We all hear this tip, but how often do you shop when it’s been a while since you ate? To prevent your grumbling stomach from leading you off-script, Leslie Fink, RD, a registered dietitian and recipe editor at WeightWatchers, recommends eating these single-serve recipes so you’re not hungry while shopping. They’re made with minimal ingredients (since you might be running low anyways) but loaded with flavor.
Eat this before you go: Smashed Avocado and Egg Toast
This crispy and creamy breakfast on-the-go gets a hit of heat from crushed red pepper flakes which you can dial up or down based on your palate. A tasty reason to stock up on avocados? They’re packed with fiber and healthy fats that may help keep your blood glucose (blood sugar) steady after a meal.
Shopping After Lunch
Eat this before you go: Easy Shrimp and Veggie Bowl
This dish basically makes itself. Cook and prep ingredients for bowls like this on the weekend for easy mid-day meals during the week. Shrimp not your jam? Tofu or chicken are just-as-tasty substitutions.
Shopping Around Dinner
Eat this before you go: Chicken, Broccoli, and Tortellini
Shortcut the prep for this single serving of soup by using any mix of frozen veggies you have. There’s no need to defrost them (say no more, especially on super busy evenings), simply add them with the chicken and frozen tortellini. “It’s a perfect balance because you have 1 ⅓ cups veggies, 38 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber,” says Fink.
*For any questions about your eating plan, it's best to consult your doctor first.
Source: Grocery Shopping Frequency: Gallup (2022). “In-Person Grocery Shopping Rebounds in U.S.; Online Also Up.” https://news.gallup.com/poll/397706/person-grocery-shopping-rebounds-online.aspx