One of my biggest downfalls in the past in relation to healthy eating was the food shop. Last year I would make several trips a week to various supermarkets, picking up a basket filled with unhealthy convenience food to last me a few days. I mean, I live alone, I cook for one, it’s so difficult to cook for one person on a budget without waste so I really should get ready-made meals…that makes sense right? No. No it does not.
Changing up my approach to the food shop has been the most important change I’ve made: fact. So this post is dedicated to my tips for doing a successful food shop.
1. Write it down
I rarely go to do the food shop without a list. Yes it takes a bit of time but it is definitely worth it. You need to spend a few minutes planning your meals in your head and writing down what you need to stop you coming home with ingredients that just don’t go or food you don’t actually need!
Sometimes I start with meal ideas and write down the ingredients and other times I’ll write a list of healthy food then have a think about anything that is missing to make them into delicious meals I’ll want to eat.
Typical items on my list that never really change are:
- unsweetened almond milk
- sweet potato
- greek yoghurt
- cottage cheese
- dark chocolate
- peanut butter or almond butter (I go through far too much of this)
- rice cakes or buckwheat cakes
- 100% shredded wheat (I’m no longer buying all bran because of the sugar content but that’s for another post)
- grains if I’ve run out (whole-wheat couscous, buckwheat or quinoa)
- porridge oats
- green tea (I drink so much of this now)
2. Spend more money, shop less frequently
As I said in the introduction to this post, over the last few years (after University, out on my own and working full time) my approach to the food shop would be to stop in to any old supermarket a few times a week to pick up what I needed for that night and not much more. I therefore didn’t actually have any concept of just how much I was spending in a month…£10 here, £30 there…nothing right? Wrong.
I now have realised that doing as little as 1 or 2 shops a month (yes it can be done) definitely saves money. I can take advantage of the many offers for larger pack sizes or buy one get one free deals they have going on. This might seem bonkers because surely you’d run out of all the fresh things you eat within a week? Not the case if you plan. How? See point 3…
3. Think freeze
If you’re on board with doing larger but fewer food shops then you need to be savy about freezing. You don’t want to be eating fresh fruit and veg for a week and then tinned for 3 weeks until the next food shop. I use my freezer so much more than I used to. Actually thinking back I think all it was good for was chocolate croissants, how embarrassing…
Yes you might need to top up on some of the fresh kept items if you use them every day; yoghurt, eggs, cheese etc. but I tend to work around it. Almond milk is my milk of choice because it’s both healthy (in my opinion), low calorie and long lasting. So I will maybe have yoghurt and fresh fruit during the first couple of weeks and then switch to shredded wheat with almond milk, porridge or whole-wheat toast in the next couple until I return to the supermarket. I don’t mind that approach at all.
Here’s some of the things you will always find in my freezer:
- Fruit – the best fruit I’ve found that freeze really well are grapes, berries, bananas and pineapple. The grapes and banana (chopped up) I will eat frozen (oh my goodness so yum) and the berries I will use frozen in smoothies. The pineapple works really well if you take it out the freezer the night before you plan to use. I will buy a whole pineapple, cut up into chunks, freeze fairly small portions (I have a lot of little tubs great for taking anywhere) and have as my midmorning snack in work.
- Soup – making a big batch of soup and freezing individual portions is such a life saver on days where you’ve not planned your lunch. Take out the night before to defrost and heat up when ready to eat.
- Whole-wheat pittas and whole-wheat bread- I pop these straight in the toaster.
- Edemame beans – my regular supermarket stocks frozen edemame beans in a big bag that you cook straight from frozen. Great for a snack or as part of dinner.
- Meat/fish – in order to make the most of great deals supermarkets have on offer I will usually buy the largest packs of meat or fish. Pack of 5 chicken breasts…keep 1 or2 in the fridge and put the rest individually in freezer bags. Whole 1kg of salmon on offer…brill! Just slice up into say 8 or 10 portions pop in individual freezer bags and chuck in the freezer. I will always bring meat or fish out the day or night before.
Now this might be a tip that not everyone agrees with and I respect that. But I do believe that I’ve saved more money by being loyal to 1 supermarket. I regularly get coupons through for my favourite products, I get money off my fuel, I get points on my store-card to spend and after every shop I will get a receipt that either says “You have saved £x” or “You could have saved £x elsewhere”…and if it would have been cheaper in another shop I’ll get the money off my next shop.
This is just my personal opinion as I know shopping round for deals can also be beneficial. I guess I’m just too lazy for that!
5. Don’t disrespect the online shop
I will also sometimes do a large online shop from the same supermarket I go to. The first time I tried this was because I got a voucher for £10 when you spend over £60. I thought, well that would cover much more than the delivery charge and I’ll be buying the stuff anyways so why not.
It was great!
Being able to see all special offers on one page, compare brands easily and move things out of my ‘basket’ at the end when I realise the total amount has crept up a bit too high (I’m just not one of those people at the checkout that would be like ‘whoa £80, nah take some of this off’) was really useful and helped me get some really great deals.
This is also incredibly helpful if you don’t have a car! Keep an eye out online for vouchers. I will often see ones for money off or free delivery.
Well there you have it. That’s my main tips for successful food shop. I hope you find them useful. They really do work for me and now that I’m in this routine I do it all without thinking!