What do root canals, pelvic exams, filing taxes, car repairs, and grocery shopping have in common? Absolutely nothing, except they are all life activities I despise with the intensity of a thousand white-hot suns.
As a health coach, I've noticed my distain for this household chore is not uncommon. Many of my clients feel overwhelmed and anxious when faced with a warehouse full of food. Part of the reason this necessary evil is difficult is that many of us make a few big mistakes when it comes to shopping for our food.
Here are the five most common mistakes I see in my coaching practice:
1. Going to the grocery store only once per week.
This is a very common way for American people to shop. We fill up our mega-carts to the point of exploding once per week and hope that this haul will last us for the entire week. Because of this strategy, the average shopper buys more foods with a longer shelf life, which equals more processed food. Many of us get pretty freaked out and angry when our expensive groceries rot because we can't get to them fast enough. However the nature of whole, natural food is that it will eventually go bad if you don't eat it or freeze it. If you buy less food more frequently, you will save money and have fresh food in your belly on a regular basis. This adds up to happy tummies and happier wallets.
2. Shopping without a plan.
Many people have a list when they shop, but one mistake I see is that the items on the list don't add up to well-coordinated meals. Before you venture to the store, know what you need for three meals per day for 2-3 days. Shop only for those nine meals. I've personally made the mistake of going to the store with a list of foods only to get home and have nothing to eat. I'm not sure how it happens, but if I don't plan at least a few meals and then purchase the ingredients, we end up going out to eat while the random carrots, cabbage and canned pumpkin sit at my house wondering why they were purchased in the first place.
3. Shopping with a totally full stomach.
So by now, we all know that shopping when you are starving is a horrible idea. This is how you end up rationalizing that Ho Hos are healthy and five pounds of deli mac and cheese is a fantastic idea. I think it's almost unnecessary to teach that lesson.
The issue I am seeing in my clients is that they are taking the "don't go shopping hungry" edict a bit too far. They go out for brunch, eat a ton of food, feel stuffed to the gills, go to the store and buy absolutely nothing edible. While they are stocked on paper towels and soap, they end up back at the store the next day for some actual food. The best strategy is to build your list and go to the store when you are neither too full nor too empty. Take the middle path.
4. Buying too many "healthy" convenience foods.
Food marketers rejoice at new food fads. Knowing that a fad exists means that there are hundreds of new processed foods that look really healthy on the package, but really are just another wolf in sheep clothing. Just because it is "paleo approved" or "gluten-free" or "organic and natural" doesn't necessarily mean it is a healthy choice. Stick to eating real food, not food that comes in a package that would last a nuclear holocaust, and you'll end up eating the best way for your body.
5. Not knowing when your local store restocks.
The key to buying the freshest food is knowing when your store restocks. Ask the manager what days of the week major restocking happens, and plan to shop on those days. I am lucky that I have two stores that I rotate that stock on different days. Buying food that is closest to being just picked can be challenging, but at least you'll know that it hasn't been sitting on the shelves forever. This goes for fruits and veggies most obviously, but also should be taken into consideration when buying high quality protein sources. Knowing when the meat comes off the truck and into the store will put you in a better place to buy fresh.
By avoiding some of the big mistakes when it comes to the grocery store, perhaps you can find some enjoyment in the process. When all else fails, here's one last trick. Delegate. I, for one, have most of my shopping to the most patient grocery shopper in the world, my husband. I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!