One of the most commonly asked questions people come to me with is “Kim. I want to eat healthier and whatnot but I don’t even know where to begin. What kinds of food should I buy??” Or I get “I want to eat healthier but it’s expensive!” To which I say – noooo it can be quite the opposite if you do it right! ;) Calm down and don’t get overwhelmed! First off, there’s a LOT of food available in a grocery store, am I right? Yeahhh.. I can see how it can seem overwhelming. Everyone is different and prefers/avoids some food over others, so I’m not going to tell you definitively what to buy or what not to buy. But I figured that giving you a list of what I personally always buy or have around would be a helpful place to start for some suggestions.
Chicken breast, Frozen pre-cooked shrimp, Light canned tuna/salmon, Frozen/fresh fish of any variety, 97% lean ground turkey, Turkey sausage
Plain 0% chobani greek yogurt, Fat free/reduced fat cottage cheese, Unsweetened almond milk, Eggs
Old-fashioned raw oats, Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, 40-calorie/slice wheat bread by Natures Own, Kashi Go Lean cereal, Sweet potatoes, Brown rice, Whole wheat pasta, Quinoa, Low carb high fiber tortilla wraps, Rice cakes
Frozen veggies (peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli, okra, edamame, corn), Fresh veggies (Zucchini, yellow squash, onion, bell peppers, any squash, spinach, etc.)
Frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, mango), Fresh fruit (bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges, pears, etc.)
Avocados, Nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc) (raw and unsalted), Nut butters (cashew butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, betternpb, coconut butter, etc) (as natural as possible. meaning least/no added sugars/oils)
Always in supply/Other randoms:
Unsweetened applesauce, Unsweetened cocoa powder, Unsweetened shredded coconut (Let’s Do Organic! brand), Chia seeds, Ground flax seed, Coconut flour, Peanut flour, Almond flour, Sugar-free breakfast syrup, Sugar-free Smuckers jelly, No sugar added raisins (most dried fruits have added sugar. check the ingredients!), Sriracha, Natural salsa, Mustard, Olive oil, Coconut oil, Pam, On-the-go bars (Larabar and Quest bars), Stevia/Splenda (sweetener), Tea/Coffee, Protein Powders (Whey and Casein), spices, extracts, and baking soda/powder.
Like I said, everyone is different though. This is just what I personally prefer. I’m not saying you can’t have anything in particular if it wasn’t on this list. Also, my standard grocery list has evolved A LOT since I first started to make healthy changes in Sept 2011. Start reading labels. Compare products. Some of the first things I look at on labels are the sugar content, the sodium content, and the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of what’s most prevalent in the product to least prevalent – so you can get a good idea of what exactly is in your food! I go for whatever product has least added sugar and least sodium. Don’t feel like you CAN’T have something. If you like mayo, go ahead and get that mayo. But go for the Hellman’s Reduced Fat mayo. If you love salad dressing, go for the Fat Free dressing. I started out just by making simple changes like switching to brown rice/whole wheat pasta, getting unsweetened products, getting plain oats and flavoring it myself instead of the pre-mixed instant sugary ones (I’ll make a post about this soon!), and switching to plain greek yogurt (the regular/flavored yogurt has SO much sugar!). And remember that just because it’s fat free still doesn’t mean it’s healthy – labels are misleading. More than likely, if it’s fat free, either the sodium or sugar content is jacked up in order to still be delectable, and vice versa. Just, read those labels! And take baby steps. Certain foods I learned to love by first making them a little unhealthy. For example, I couldn’t stand the taste of plain greek yogurt. So I’d mix in 1/4 a packet of sugar free jello mix to sweeten and flavor it! I don’t do this anymore, but it worked for me back then! :p On that note – plain greek yogurt is a great healthy substitute for mayo and sour cream. In general, if you stay along the edges of the store rather than going down the aisles, you will find the healthiest products. You’ve got the essentials along the edges – produce, meat, and dairy. Everything in between becomes pre-packaged and processed. So the less aisles you’re having to go down, the better :)
My biggest advice is to keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to try new things! I kept a goal each week to try some new fruit/vegetable. If you do that, you’ll find out more about what you do/don’t like. Experiment in the kitchen – if something turns out terrible, just don’t eat it. No biggie. Try again next time! And. Spices are your friends!<3 I slowly learned what spices I prefer, but if you have no idea, Ms. Dash is a WONDER WOMAN. Ms. Dash is a nice lady. Use Ms. Dash :p Or other similar pre-mixed spices.
Shopping on a budget!!
One of the biggest misconceptions in my opinion is that eating healthy is expensive. You would be amazed how cheap produce is if you visit your local farmers markets or flea markets. Prices are a lot higher in our grocery stores. I love to shop at the farmers market but honestly, the grocery store is a lot more convenient for me so I usually just shop there. The prices are still reasonable for a small budget. Personally, I spend between $30-50 on groceries a week, meaning all of the food I eat (that’s a lot :p) averages to less than $6 a day. Now compare that to a single, $5-7 McDonald’s meal and try to say eating healthy is expensive? Yeahh… I think the biggest issue is that people will buy fresh produce, not know what to do with it, and then it goes to waste. If you’re just making a switch now, the best way to staying on top of this is FROZEN VEGGIES! As a college student, I found this to be a lifesaver. Seriously. As long as you avoid the ones with sauces added and are just the pure vegetables, they’re just as great in quality! And all it takes is 2-3 minutes in the microwave and BAM. A side dish. You can find different blends of veggies and mix things up and they won’t go bad. Woooo.
Know what’s also good to freeze? Fruit. I usually buy the cheaper fruits fresh to keep around the house (bananas, apples, bags of oranges, etc). But the more expensive fruits (out of season ones and berries like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries) I buy in bulk frozen! You can always heat them up or defrost them. And if the fresh fruit is about to go bad, just freeze it! Don’t let it go to waste. Bananas are a perfect example of this because you can use them to make fruit smoothies with them once their frozen, or healthy ice cream.
I usually choose what meat to buy based on whatever is on sale. I always get skinless chicken breast in bulk for $1.98 a pound, never more. I chop it up into convenient portions and, once again, FREEZE IT. Do you see a trend? :p Stores will mark down products that are about to go bad in a few days in order to get it off the shelves. I like to snag these up to eat and once it hits the “sell by” date – I just shove it in the freezer. Now it’s there for later :) Canned tuna/salmon are also really cheap meats to buy and they’re shelf stable and won’t go to waste! I buy mine for $0.78 a can (2 servings). I tend to go for the grocery store’s brand of an item. Their brand is almost always cheapest and there’s never really a difference between it and the more well-known brand version.
If you know you’re going to be eating beans a lot (chickpeas, black beans, etc), go for the dried bags over the cans. First off, they won’t have added sodium. And secondly, they’re SO. CHEAP. It’s amazing to compare how much you get in the dried form over the cans. Seriously.
I also buy my bread marked down and freeze it. I’m not sure if this is a normal thing, but my family has always kept it in the freezer since bread can be $3-4 for a single loaf :o we just defrost it for 30 seconds in the microwave before we use it.
Keep an eye out for sales and special deals. I keep tabs on 2-3 stores in my area, and it helps a lot. To me, it’s worth going to two different grocery stores if it means saving a significant amount of money that week.
I hope this helped give you a good starting point! I feel like I could ramble on forever about this topic. If there’s anything I missed or you’d like me to cover in more detail, just let me know! Send me an email or find me on Instagram!
Learn healthy, plant-based eating in 6 weeks from me.