Diet modifications are the integral component of successful weight loss. To change our diet, we need to change our shopping habits too. For many people, it seems impossible to eat healthy foods regularly due to their prices. The truth is that you can get everything you need and save up at the same time. In this post, we are going to show you some useful supermarket-saving tips that will support your weight-loss endeavor.
1. Don’t go to the supermarket hungry.
Before you go to the supermarket make sure you are not hungry. In fact, the first and most important tip to adopt is to avoid going to the supermarket on an empty stomach.
You’re more likely to choose high-calorie and unhealthy foods that way. Science confirms it! One study found people who hadn’t eaten all afternoon bought more high-calorie foods than their counterparts who were given a snack.
The same research also found shoppers bought a higher ratio of high-calorie to low-calorie foods in the hours right before dinner compared to earlier in the day. In other words, even short-term fasting can lead to making unhealthy food choices (1).
Therefore, you should never go to the supermarket hungry. You risk buying high-calorie foods that will jeopardize weight loss. At the same time, you may buy a lot of items or quantities you don’t even need. That way, you end up spending more money than necessary.
2. Have a list and stick to it.
Do you have a grocery list or do you just go to the supermarket, walk through the aisles, and put into a cart everything you think you need? If the latter is the option you chose, it’s time to get rid of this habit.
Evidence shows persons who shop with a list tend to have better dietary quality and lower BMI than their counterparts who go to supermarkets without a list (2). The exact mechanism behind this relationship is unclear, but it appears the shopping list serves as a “shield” against the availability of unhealthy foods. Additionally, shopping lists prevent impulsive purchases that pose a huge burden on your wallet in the long run.
In other words, having a list (and sticking to it) enables you to focus on healthier foods only and avoid spending money impulsively on things or foods you don’t need.
The question is, what should your weight-loss shopping list contain? Here are a few examples (3):
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats (unless you’re vegetarian/vegan)
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats
- Fish and seafood
- Low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and seeds
These food groups are vital for our health and wellbeing, but they’re lower in calories than instant, ready-made meals that are popular today. When your shopping list focuses on these foods primarily, you get to buy all the healthy items you need but without overburdening your wallet.
3. Can’t afford organic? Buy frozen produce.
Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are among the most important aspects of a healthy diet that supports weight loss and its maintenance. Organic produce doesn’t come cheap and acts as a barrier for many people who want to eat healthy foods, but can’t afford them. If you are on a tight budget and want to make healthier choices, you may even want to buy frozen vegetables or fruits such as berries even.
While our brain is projected to think fresh produce is healthy and everything else is not, the reality is different. Frozen options are also good for you.
Opting for frozen fruits and vegetables allows you to enjoy a wide variety of options even when they’re not in season. Moreover, frozen produce means less spoilage since you get to eat them when they’re at their nutritional best.
Yet another plus of buying frozen produce is that they deliver as many vitamins as fresh fruits and vegetables. Or even more (5)!
What makes frozen fruits and vegetables so rich in nutrients? They are picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen and packaged under a nitrogen atmosphere. Exposure to nitrogen preserves nutrients that oxygen degrades. Unlike fruits, vegetables are blanched before freezing meaning they are exposed to hot water temperatures between 90°F and 95°F (32°C and 35°C). The main purpose of blanching is to destroy enzymes that cause browning, discoloration, and loss of flavor in vegetables.
Picking fruits and vegetables at the peak of ripeness means you get the greatest amount of nutrients they can offer (6).
Since frozen fruits and vegetables are more affordable than fresh and organic varieties, buying them is a good way to save money and support your weight loss.
4. Buy produce in season.
As seen above, frozen produce is always a good option, but you can still indulge in fresh fruits and vegetables when you play it wisely. The trick to eat fresh produce and save money is in buying fruits and vegetables in season.
In-season produce is fresh, nutrient-rich, and tastes better. At the same time, it’s also more affordable than off-season varieties. For example, peaches are more affordable in summer than in winter.
The goal to successful weight loss is to consume a variety of nutritious foods. The cornerstone of your diet belongs to fruits and vegetables. The best way to make it happen, besides frozen produce, is to look for in-season kinds only.
In winter, you may want to focus on buying chestnuts, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, tangerines, kale, radicchio, leeks, radishes, and turnips. Potatoes are also widely available in winter.
Spring is the season when you should focus on buying apricots, avocados, pineapples, mangos, artichokes, strawberries, asparagus, carrots, celery, chives, collards, mustard greens for example.
Summer is the best season for blueberries and blackberries, nectarines and peaches, plums, raspberries, watermelons, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, green beans, and zucchini.
And finally, the fall is when cranberries, apples, figs, grapes, pomegranates, pears, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, mushrooms, garlic, cauliflowers, and Swiss chard are in the season (6).
You can mix and match your produce shopping. For example, buy fresh in-season produce and frozen off-season varieties. That way you can enrich your diet with healthy ingredients, but also save money.
Remember, fruits and vegetables are your allies in the weight-loss journey. Studies confirm that produce influences weight through several mechanisms. They reduce eating rate, provide a satisfying very-low to low energy density, low-fat content, and low glycemic load. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are a major source of fiber that supports gut health and digestion (7). Fiber also keeps you full for longer thus preventing overeating and cravings.
5. Use sales and coupons.
The easiest way to save up on your trip to the supermarket is to use sales and coupons. Nowadays, supermarkets have huge sales for everything and anything. There are also tons of coupons for all sorts of items you can use.
For example, Sunday newspapers are full of coupons and sales circulars. You can get different foods at a discounted price. Just make sure you use coupons and sales for things you actually need.
Don’t use coupons to buy unhealthy foods, focus on healthy ingredients that will support your weight loss journey. That way you will get to fill up your pantry with healthy foods and save money at the same time. It’s not such a surprise that coupons are popular today, they can make a huge difference in your budget.
6. Use a calculator.
When it comes to trips to the supermarket your best ally is a calculator. Once you make a shopping list, you may want to get one step further and write down approximate prices next to each item. Add all values to get the estimated total sum. Use a calculator while shopping to make sure you stick to that sum or, at least, the budget you have set out for grocery shopping.
Without a calculator, it’s easy to lose the idea of how much you’re spending. On the other hand, calculators keep you on the right track and may also prevent impulsive purchases.
You can bring a calculator with you or use the app on your phone. This is yet another way to save up on groceries, but also support your weight loss. Your main focus will be on healthy items and there’s no room for unhealthy meals that way.
7. Shop the perimeter of the store.
Shopping the perimeter of the store is a common strategy for people who want to stop eating junk food and slim down. The perimeter of a grocery store or supermarket is the area that contains foods that are most likely to support your weight loss. These include the produce section, dairy, meat, and fish.
In most supermarkets and grocery stores, the perimeter with healthy foods is in the “outer” aisles, while processed and unhealthy foods are in central aisles (8). The goal is to stick to the outer sections and make sure your cart consists primarily of the above-mentioned foods (produce, meat, fish, dairy) and little to no processed foods. When you eliminate or reduce the amount of processed and unhealthy foods, you spend less money while enriching your diet with healthy ingredients.
8. Read the labels.
Most of us are inclined to buy products based on the packaging. Brands and manufacturers work hard to make their products look appealing, but good design is not all that matters. The reality is that we don’t read labels enough, but it’s never too late to change that.
Generally speaking, if a product has more than a few ingredients or you can’t pronounce them, you shouldn’t buy it (9). Overly processed items are high in calories and low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need. Plus, they are abundant in sugar. Consumption of those foods can lead to overeating because they’re not satiating. Overeating leads to weight gain (10). Needless to mention, buying these foods is damaging to your budget.
Let’s not forget heavily processed foods also come with various preservatives, colorings, and additives. These ingredients extend the shelf life of a product, enhance its appearance, and amplify the flavor. But, they have no nutritional value. You can’t benefit from them.
When you read the labels, you’re more inclined to making wise decisions. You become mindful regarding the foods you eat and strive to avoid overly processed items. This cuts your bill in half because for most people the greatest portion of shopping cart accounts for heavily processed foods. The money you save can go towards healthier alternatives that will help you slim down.
9. Check foods on top or bottom racks.
Supermarkets use different tricks to encourage customers to buy certain products. For that reason, the most expensive items are usually in the middle sections of the racks, at your eye level. You notice them easily, like them, and decide to buy.
To save money on your next supermarket trip, you may want to check foods that are placed on top or bottom racks. These items are generally more affordable (11).
A good thing to remember is that brand doesn’t necessarily dictate quality. Some brands are popular across the globe, but it doesn’t mean their products are automatically better. Always make sure you get the best value for your money. Every dollar counts! Take your time and compare different products. Opt for the one with the best ratio of price and quality.
Store brands can be at least as good as popular national brands, for example (12). And they’re more affordable!
9. Buy in bulk.
The benefits of buying in bulk, which you can do in almost all supermarkets, are numerous. The biggest advantage is in the budget, of course. Buying in bulk is more affordable and you get to save a lot of money just by doing that and still get everything you need.
The bulk food section usually includes healthy snacks, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, brown rice, and quinoa even. Buying them in bulk is cheaper than packaged versions of the same foods.
If your diet doesn’t contain quinoa, there’s plenty of reasons to include it. Quinoa is an abundant source of protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, copper, iron, zinc, and potassium. It’s also gluten-free and has a low glycemic index (13, 14). Since it’s high in fiber and protein, quinoa can also help you lose weight. Evidence confirms protein may suppress appetite and increase metabolism (15).
Other Tips Worth Checking Out
- Buy prepackaged items only when necessary
- Order online
- Check the “reduced” section e.g. ripe bananas are good for banana bread
- Shop in bigger supermarkets with a better selection
- Avoid going to the supermarket when in hurry, do it when you have a lot of time on your hands e.g. over weekends
Buying healthy foods to slim down doesn’t have to be bad news for your wallet. You can get everything you need and still save money when you make wise choices. This post outlined 10 practical and effective tips that will help modify your diet and stay within budget. Always plan ahead, make the list, and shop the perimeter. Make healthy foods the integral component of your supermarket haul.