Mindfully filling your cart

Do you like to grocery shop? Are you the type to slowly wander down each aisle? Or, do you shop so fast that you create a tailwind? I am a bit embarrassed to say that sometimes, I enjoy grocery shopping more than shopping at the mall.
You’ve probably heard the tip to "shop the perimeter" in a grocery store, as that is where you can fulfill most, if not all, of your needs. Inner aisles tend to be filled with more processed and convenience foods. I do shop the perimeter and try to fill my cart at least half full from these items. But truth be told, most times I do walk down every aisle. It counts as exercise, right? That cart is heavy! Kidding aside, I like to check out the new products; it’s  part of my passion for my job.
Let's check out your cart. Do you organize groceries into sections?  I like to put the frozen items together, the meat and poultry in a section and my fruits and vegetables together. If I need bread or eggs, they ride in the "safe zone" (the little basket on top). This helps me when I am meal planning. I think it also helps at checkout for organizing your groceries into bags. Pay attention to how colorful your cart is as well. Do you have produce from every color of the rainbow? Every fruit and vegetable is packed with healthy antioxidants and phytochemicals so stock up and choose a variety.
When I am in the grocery store and run into people I know, they worry I am going to check out their cart. I don't judge. But, if you are worried you may run into me, here is a technique I use: I like to put my "fringe items" (otherwise known as junk foods) at the bottom of the cart. These include my son's breakfast sandwiches, chips, cookies and cereal. I know I have too many of these items if they start to fall off the cart when I take a sharp turn (believe me, I move fast in the store). First, I giggle, then I pick them up and don't buy anymore. A good rule of thumb is, "Shop/eat healthy 85 percent or 90 percent of the time" and then the other 10 percent or 15 percent of the time you can plan for those "specialty items.” 
How do you plan your meals/shop? A new technique I use to plan meals is to check my freezer and pantry FIRST. Use the old before you buy new. This makes sense and makes me more budget conscious. Since I refuse to go shopping without my list, I always have a plan. I go with a list of items I need and then my list of 10 meals I plan to prepare. I used to meal plan for just five meals but 10 works better for my family. I LOVE the feeling of control when I know exactly what is in my pantry and refrigerator. I encourage you to have two lists hanging on your refrigerator or pantry: one for the items you need to stock up on and the other of ingredients needed for your 10 meals. This way the whole family can provide input in meal planning. Also, it means the "shopper" is not the only one responsible for replacing items.
Of course, there are so many ways to save money but we will save that for another time. So go shop. Put the fun back into grocery shopping. I see your smirk. Fun? At the very least, make it less of a chore.  

About the Author

Deb is a registered dietitian for Prevea Health’s LeadWell corporate health and wellness program, a role that allows her to share her commitment to healthful living. She graduated with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and completed her dietetic internship with Harper Hospital in Detroit. After graduation, Deb worked for area nursing homes until she joined HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in 1999. Her understanding of the importance of good nutrition started when she was very young as she tried to help her father with his medical conditions. Her passion for wellness and nutrition continues as she helps people incorporate lifestyle changes into their everyday lives.