Last week we talked about the most important workout you can do each week, and it takes place in the kitchen! Being prepared nutritionally comes before exercise.
But before we can master meal prep in the kitchen, we must first master the grocery store.
Here are my top tips for Navigating the grocery store and setting your meal preparation, and your week of nutritional success.
Tips For Being a Professional Shopper:
1. Know Before You Go
What is it that you need? Break your list into macronutrient categories. For example, Protein, Carbohydrates, Healthy Fats, and Miscellaneous items (think herbs, spices, etc... not things down the junk aisle). For help with this, Download our Encompass Grocery Shopping Template here. Personally, I arrange my grocery list in order of the items and aisles at the grocery store (I am sure that I could shop blindfolded).
2. Shop the Perimeter
Did you know that the whole food options surround the entire grocery store? Start here. Make one lap around the outside of the grocery store, picking up all of your essential items. Most, if not all of your items should come from this area, with the exception of any frozen vegetables and fruits. After you have shopped the perimeter, venture down any aisles that you know that you need items from. Stay away from aisles you don't need anything from. Purposeful shopping will help keep us on track nutritionally, and financially.
3. Don't Shop Hungry
You've heard it before, and I'll tell you again. Do not shop on an empty stomach. Studies have shown that customers who shop on an empty stomach not only purchase more, but also purchase items that are not on their list, and items that are less nutritionally dense. Surprisingly, this is proven not only in the grocery store, but across the spectrum. One study concluded that even when shopping for office supplies, customers were likely to purchase more items, and spend more money when hungry. Eat your healthy snack, and then shop for best results.
4. Read Labels
While you may feel silly picking up multiple items and comparing the food labels, it will make a significant difference in your waistline. Labels can be extremely misleading. As a general rule of thumb, choose items with the least amount of ingredients (5 or less), and with ingredients that you can pronounce. While many disclaimers can be misleading ("low fat", "sugar free", "low calorie") look at the macronutrient values, the sugar and sodium contents, and the serving size. Sobey's "blue label" items are often wise choices when compared to other brand label choices such as pasta sauces and canned items.
5. Go Local
When possible, look for local, natural, and organic sources when available. The local farmer's market in the summer is a great place to get local produce and establish connections. Although not all farmers markets run year round, you can often contact them to purchase farm raised eggs or look for locally grown grain products at select stores in the community. Here, you can purchase many locally grown items at Nutter's.
6. Clip Coupons
Extreme Coupon-ing isn't only for television. Look at flyers ahead of time and make your lists according to the flyers. There are often key items on sale, and you can even begin to catch on to the rotating sales. For example, chicken breasts cycle on sale every 3-4 weeks, so I will stock up, portion some out in freezer bags and be set until the next sale.
7. Get Creative
I try to look at the flyer each week, and choose one item that is on sale, or one new item I don't regularly purchase, and try to come up with a healthy and creative way to cook it. Sometimes I use my own cravings and creativity, and sometimes I will use pinterest for inspiration. For example, cauliflower was on sale, so I bought a head and made cauliflower buffalo bites by broiling cauliflower in the oven and then tossing it in a mixture of greek yogurt, ranch spices and franks red hot. I also bought a rutabaga and made rosemary parmesan "fries" by slicing up the rutabaga, tossing it in parmesan olive oil, fresh rosemary, and sprinking with fresh parmesan and then roasting it in the oven until the fries were crisp. Incorporating new foods is fun, and is key in keeping variety in the diet - both for sanity and nutrient wise. Eating the same foods day in and day out can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Smart shopping is essential to keeping nutritious foods stocked and readily available. Next week, we will be covering the topic of Meal Prep done quickly and easily, giving you tips on how to conveniently have all of your meals ready and be organized for the week in no time at all. When done correctly, you can spend relatively little, and only hit the store a few times a week all while eating to achieve your goals and fuel your workouts.
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