General nutrition guidelines for grocery shopping on a budget:
1. Shop in the perimeter of the grocery store
This is where you will find the grocery departments such as the produce, meat, and dairy departments. These areas contain perishable and whole foods that offer more nutritious options than in the center aisles. The center aisles tend to contain highly processed foods.
2. Let’s stick to the list!
First, see what you already have. Think about the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy. Take a look at the foods you already have your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and shop for foods you may be missing. Download the free app called MyPlate MyPlan here
to show your personalized food group target and how to eat within your calorie balance.
Consult MyPlate resources here
for tips on creating healthy habits and use this information to formulate a list that incorporates each section of your diet:
• Fruits and Vegetables:
fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables count. Aim for both starchy and non-starchy vegetables to get a good mix of vitamins and minerals.
get a variety of lean proteins from fresh or frozen meats, eggs, seafood, canned fish, beans, nuts, tofu, meat alternatives, vegan proteins. Avoid highly processed meats such as salami, hot dogs, and cold cuts.
dairy products or dairy alternatives fortified with Calcium and vitamin D
aim to make at least half of your grains whole grains
3. Read nutrition labels:
Reading a nutrition label on food packaging can help you understand the nutritional content of a product and make informed choices about what you eat. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to read a nutrition label:
• Serving Size: Start by looking at the serving size listed at the top of the label. All the information provided on the label refers to this specific serving size, so make sure to note the serving size to accurately interpret the values.
• Calories: Check the number of calories per serving. This indicates the amount of energy you would obtain from consuming one serving of the product.
• Limit Certain Nutrients: Pay attention to the amounts of added sugars, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. These are nutrients and additives that should generally be limited in your diet to promote good health.
• Get Enough of Certain Nutrients: Ensure you're getting enough fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Aim to choose products that provide higher % Daily Values for these nutrients.
• Ingredient List: Scan the ingredient list, which is usually located beneath the nutrition facts. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, with the most abundant ingredient first. Be aware of any additives, artificial colors, or preservatives that may be listed.
• By understanding and comparing the values on nutrition labels, you can make more informed choices about the foods you consume and work towards a balanced and nutritious diet.
4. Prioritize Super Staples
Prioritize purchasing and incorporating these superfood staples into your diet, backed by research according to Harvard Medical School (10 superfoods to boost a healthy diet - Harvard Health)
1. Berries: berries are high in antioxidants. Purchasing frozen berries is a great option to help them last longer. Add to yogurt, cereals, smoothies or eat them as a snack.
2. Fish: salmon and tuna offer a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. Purchasing fresh, frozen, or canned fish are great options
3. Leafy greens: spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens or mustard greens can be added into a salad or sauteed with a little olive oil. Greens can also be added to soups or stews.
4. Nuts: hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans area great source of plant-based protein can be added in a handful to oatmeal or yogurt.
5. Olive oil: use in place of butter or margarine in pasta or rice dishes. Drizzle olive oil over vegetables
6. Whole Grains: Have a bowl of oatmeal, or substitute bulgur, quinoa, wheat berries, or brown rice instead of a baked potato. When purchasing breads, make sure the first ingredient is “100% whole wheat flour.”
7. Yogurt: avoid fruited or flavored yogurts as they can contain a lot of added sugars. Purchasing plain yogurts and adding your own fruit is a great option. You can use yogurt in place of cream, mayonnaise, sour cream, and butter in many dips, sauces, or baked goods.
8. Cruciferous vegetables: steam or stir-fry cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. You can purchase frozen cruciferous vegetables to add to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes.
9. Legumes: Add beans, chickpeas, and peas to salads, soups, or casseroles. You can also prepare a chili or bean-based spread or dip.
10. Tomatoes: Try to add tomatoes in a salad, chili, or soup, or make your own tomato sauce to go with a pasta.
5. Plan your weekly meals.
How often a week do you go grocery shopping? Write down meals you want to make for the week. Think of creative ways to use some of the items you already have together with some new ones. See below for more resources on mealplanning.
6. Organize your groceries by order of expiration
Remember FIFO, first in first out! If you notice that at the grocery store that you pick up an item that will expire before you can use it, try to pick from the back for a expiration date that is farther out.
7. Shop in Season
Look in your county’s agricultural website to find out what is growing each season, find your harvest of the month and prioritize purchasing produce that is in season for the freshest, most affordable, and highest nutrient content. Canned and frozen are great options, just make sure to check the nutrition label to avoid added sugars or salts. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh! They are typically picked at the peak ripeness and flash frozen to retain their nutrients.
8. Look up, down, and around for savings
Many grocery stores have savings programs. Ask your local cashier to sign up for free coupons and savings.
9. Discover the ShopSimple with MyPlate website
Find budget-friendly foods, SNAP EBT savings, budget-friendly recipes, ideas for meal-planning, and other ways to shop smart on every aisle here