Food & Fitness

Grocery Shopping, “Living Healthy in the Real World” Style

I happen to love grocery shopping. I adore everything about it: analyzing nutritional stats of various foods, comparing prices, taking a look at new products, watching the other shoppers and wondering what they’re planning on doing with the food that they buy, realizing that there’s only a handful of companies that actually own most of the smaller name brands… it’s really interesting.

Any time I go to the grocery store, I know to set aside at least half an hour to peruse the aisles. Even if I only need to buy a few things, and even though I know I’m only really getting them from the produce section, I still find it fascinating to examine all sorts of different food. And if I’m in a health food store, be still my beating heart!

But just because going to the grocery store is “my idea of the perfect date”, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to agree with me. Most people seem to dislike grocery shopping, or don’t have the time or want to expend the effort to do a proper shopping trip. This is why I am putting together a Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping!

I’ve spoken to different people about eating healthy and their reasons for not eating healthy tend to be because either 1) It’s too expensive; 2) They don’t have enough time to shop and cook; 3) They don’t know how to read nutrition labels/ingredient lists; 4) They really hate shopping and/or cooking.

Because I strongly believe that you can still eat healthy even if one or all of the above apply to you, I am currently planning to write a mini-series in which I will address the following topics (with a different blog post for each topic):

– Preparation for grocery shopping

– Building the basics and stocking the pantry

– Grocery shopping for the time-restricted

– Where to shop

– Grocery shopping on a budget

– What to do if you really dislike shopping and/or cooking

– Tips for healthy grocery shopping

If you have any other issues that you would like me to address, or if you have any questions or thoughts on the mini-series, just leave them in the comments! As always, I would very much like to hear what you have to say! I am also in the works of putting together a few more mini-series, including The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Cooking, The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Budgeting, and The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Exercising, so if you have any thoughts on those, that would also be much appreciated.


  1. fd

    ooh sounds good. Nos 1-3 dont really apply to me but they used to! Number 4 sometimes applies. I don’t HATE grocery shopping, but alot of the time I dislike it. I’ve built up strategies already on what you’ve listed but I’m really intersted to hear yours.
    Regarding number 4, sometimes I dislike shopping because I’ve found at this point that I’m so educated about the ethical and environmental impact of my consumer choices that I despair at what’s available and I feel completely robbed of what used to be a simple pleasure of innocently choosing a pack of cookies. That said I’ve discovered new and other pleasures at the farmers’ market and healthfood stores and ultimately on my plate and in my tummy 🙂

    Also I’d like to hear if any of your readers get irritated at the temperature in grocery stores. In winter where I live they’re often too hot and there’s nowhere to put my coat and the myriad other things I’m carrying (laptop bag, gym bag…)and I get very uncomfortable and sticky and then vaguely panicky and bad tempered. Is this just me?

  2. Hanlie

    When I was working, I didn’t enjoy grocery shopping, but now that I have the time (and a weekly budget), I actually quite enjoy it. My biggest no-no is shopping when I’m hungry… it always ends in disaster.

    I am highly organized when it comes to grocery shopping. I work out a menu for the next few days and write down the ingredients I need (i.e. 3 onions, 6 potatoes). Of course, fruit is another matter, although I try and buy so that nothing goes to waste. I go to the store with however many canvas bags I think I might need.

    I take note of the basics when making out the shopping list – olive oil, brown rice, balsamic, spices, etc. I have a notepad on my fridge so that I can jot down the things that are getting low.

    Since we’ve moved I have been back to our old neighborhood a few times for grocery shopping. It’s just such a nice shop and not too far out of the way. The stores that are closer are not as nice.

    I get a weekly budget for food, cleaning materials, toiletries, gas, electricity (we’re on a prepaid system) and DVD rentals. Eating the way we do makes staying within the budget much easier – fresh, whole foods are a whole lot cheaper than prepackaged foods, meat and deli foods over here. I even manage to treat myself to some blueberries or figs (scarce and expensive over here) once a week.

  3. JavaChick

    I like grocery shopping. Possibly because I like food. But, I always like to make sure that I have a list/meal plan in mind before I go and I save it for the weekend so I don’t feel rushed. Like you, I like to take my time and look around. Especially in the Health food/Organic sections; Husband knows that if we go to a new grocery store I’ll want to check out the Health food section to see what’s there. Actually, he’s kind of getting into it now too. 🙂

  4. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    This is a wonderful idea for a series, Sagan! I don’t mind grocery shopping as much now that I have more time for it and can go several times a week. My biggest complaint is that now that I’ve lost the weight, I’m freezing all the time and find it very uncomfortable to linger in the very areas in which I want to be shopping (produce, dairy, fresh meats, etc.) Fortunately, my choices are pretty easy in those areas, and it’s slightly warmer near the processed foods, which is where I have to stop and scrutinize. 🙂

  5. Sagan Morrow

    Fd- “Regarding number 4, sometimes I dislike shopping because I’ve found at this point that I’m so educated about the ethical and environmental impact of my consumer choices that I despair at what’s available and I feel completely robbed of what used to be a simple pleasure of innocently choosing a pack of cookies.” YESYESYES. This is so very true. Interesting about the temperature! My complaint is that they’re usually too cold rather than too hot.

    Hanlie- It’s funny how we get accustomed to going to certain stores. With my move in a couple months, I have a feeling I’ll be making the trek down to my usual “grocery haunts”… going to new stores can be exciting, but I also like the comfort of having a couple grocery stores I know and adore.

    JavaChick- “I like grocery shopping. Possibly because I like food.” My sentiments exactly 😉 Always fun when other people become interested in the health food, too!

    Cammy- I feel the same way about the coldness. I like scrutinizing the differences between frozen veggies, so that’s a nuisance! But the enjoyment of the shopping experience counteracts the temperate, hehe.

  6. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman

    I don’t really grocery shop anymore since my knees can’t handle all that walking. Instead, my husband does all the grocery shopping, which can be a very scary thing. I try to prepare a list ahead of time for him so that he won’t wander, but he can never seem to avoid that junk food aisle. I do love grocery shopping at Whole Foods. I miss that. But, of course, that’s like a two-hour deal since I end up browsing for a long time.

  7. Mary Anne in Kentucky

    I don’t think I understand number 4. Whether you eat healthy food or not you have to shop for it, unless you grow everything. (I’m including eating out; it’s still shopping) I hate shopping, but I wouldn’t dislike it nearly as much if only I could get stores to turn the awful music off. I try my best to go when it’s not crowded so I can speed through without losing my temper.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  8. Sagan Morrow

    Tracey- I always like to do the grocery shopping MYSELF, too. Any time someone else goes shopping for me, they don’t *quite* get my particulars. I’m just picky 🙂 And the only couple times I ever was in a Whole Foods, it was incredibly exciting. I liked it!

    Mary Anne- Sure, you still HAVE to do *some* kind of shopping, regardless of if you dislike it, but that “shopping” can be heading to the nearest fast food restaurant/vending machine/cafe for a sandwich. Or, it can be running into the grocery store and grabbing the first thing you see on the shelf because you don’t want to LOOK for the healthier stuff. So it doesn’t matter that we still HAVE to do it, people can make incredibly unhealthy choices because they dislike it and want to do the minimum amount of it (or, if they dislike cooking, they’ll buy prepackaged stuff so as to minimize their cooking time). And of course, when I say “you”, I mean the royal/the majority of North Americans, not YOU specifically 🙂

  9. liz wx

    Great idea, Sagan! Looking forward to it. Mike does our shopping, though I write the lists, but that means on the rare occasions I do it I I love just browsing the store for new ideas and products or things I’ve forgotten about. I don’t have a problem with any of 1 – 4 but it’s always great to see new suggestions and ideas!

  10. FatFighterTV

    You are going to be super busy with so many projects! I am cracking up that you check out what others buy at the grocery store and wonder what they will make – I do that sometimes when I’m waiting in the check out line. Sometimes I gasp at what I see. 😉

  11. Sagan Morrow

    Liz- Browsing can be quite a relaxing experience. There’s always some kind of gem to find at the store!

    Jody- ME TOO. I could spend hours in the grocery store 😀

    Westwood- LOVED it. I tweeted about your post. It made me giggle.

    FatFighterTV- It seems that if I don’t have 534,000 projects going on at the same time, I feel it necessary to ADD MORE PROJECT FUNNESS! Hehe. Ah well. It’s enjoyable. And yes, I do get SUCH a kick out of looking in other peoples’ baskets/carts. Every shopping cart has a story 😉 (though some of it IS shocking, agreed!)

  12. fd

    ha ha. in response to this last one, i’ve often wondered what people could learn about me from my cart at the grocery store. i almost never buy my fruit and veg there (i go to farmers market) so it must look like I eat bread, yoghurt, coffee and toilet paper only 🙂

  13. Lori

    Great topic, looking forward to reading your tips. I’m in the camp that loves shopping, well, and cooking for that matter, even if it is a crockpot. The best way to clear up confusion about food labels is to not buy foods with labels. I know it sounds unrealistic for busy schedules, but fresh produce has no labels. Since I’ve reduced processed foods I pay little attention to food labels.

    I like Miz’s suggestion for the impulse buy. That can be tough to resist.

  14. Robyn

    I’m very excited about this series you are putting together. I love grocery shopping because I love food, but I have found that I can get frustrated by it lately as there are so many ingredients I try to avoid for ethical (and health) reasons, that it’s tough to find products that fit my criteria.

    For example, I want soy yogurt to avoid dairy, but some have milk from the cultures they use, some don’t have milk, but use genetically modified soy…. It’s easy to see how someone can leave the store with a fairly empty cart!

    I do however prefer to shop without my husband. He hates shopping and tries to rush me, plus puts stuff like Fruity Pebbles in the cart when I’m not looking. Anyway, great topic. I can’t wait to read these!!

  15. Sagan Morrow

    fd- I got a real kick out of it when I was doing my raw food challenge… PILES of fruits and vegetables, and nothing else. it definitely attracted some stares from the other people in line!

    Miz- OOH YES. That’s a good one!

    Lori- I agree about the food labels- but then, most of us still buy things like dried or canned beans, or frozen vegetables, and even simple things like THAT even can include tons of added salt and such. Even if it’s produce, we should still check the labels.

    Robyn- I have yet to find a satisfactory yogurt. I, too, do my best to avoid dairy, but I also don’t want to consume too much soy (I only ever really have it in the form of tofu, and I make sure not to eat it daily), so yogurt is pretty much out for me. I take a probiotic capsule on most days to get that healthy bacteria into my diet. But it’s VERY frustrating when a recipe calls for yogurt… I’ve taken to subbing applesauce for it instead (in baking, at least), and so far *fingers crossed* it’s worked well!

  16. Mary

    The series sounds great. I absolutely love shopping. I get a coffee and, like you, walk up every aisle even if I am only getting a few things. It used to be the “special treat” when my kids were young to take one to the store with me and they would get to pick out something special. It was always fun, some of my favorites were starfruit and black rice!

  17. Mimi (Damn the Freshman 15)

    Grocery shopping is awesome. If I’m going to Trader Joe’s later on (I don’t have a car at my university), I am excited the whole day long.

    But what I REALLY adore are farmers markets. I love them to pieces! It’s like a weekly fair! And I love to chat with my farmer friends and pick up useful information, like the best ways to store things, etc.

  18. julie

    I really only enjoy the farmers markets and upscale food places (that I can’t afford). The grocery stores, I tend to want to get my 2-3 things I need and get out. Every once in a while, when traveling, I’ll find some huge food court thing (such as new Penn Sta. court) that I have to look at everything, but once I know it real well, I want out asap. Even my own main farmers market is like this. Of course, it’s crowded, busy, parking is awful, people are pushy, so maybe not the best example.

  19. Sagan Morrow

    Yum Yucky- OH MY GOODNESS that would be the best job ever. Hmmm. I wonder if I could start up a business of grocery shopping tours? I think that would be my own personal heaven.

    Mary- There’s something nice about wandering the aisles… especially if you’re picking up a treat!

    Mimi- I love farmer’s markets too! I get so excited in the summer when they open up. I dream of Trader Joe’s in my spare time 😉 Only been there a couple times and it was lovely.

    Julie- Hehe, I quite like the upscale food places too. I was in a fast food court not too long ago (while I was eating raw, so my “meal” was a couple apples), and it was really fascinating to look at all the shops… sometimes I wonder where people come up with ideas for fast food joints. Sometimes the crows can be a pain, but other times it’s fun because then it gives you more carts to look in and piece together meals that they might be planning on making 😀

    Sophia- I regularly spend WAY TOO MUCH on food. I get excited about fancy health food and shell out money for it. But I will definitely address this!

  20. The Candid RD

    I love this idea! Why didn’t I think of it?! You’re so right, people complain about “time” and “money” when it comes to eating healthy. I have neither a lot of time, nor a lot money, but I manage! It does take a little practice, but practice makes perfect, and it’s worth it. I feel like I actually spend LESS on food than if I wasn’t eating healthy!

    Can’t wait to read more.

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  22. Chef Lisa

    You are so right on-this is a subject I have to breech in most of my private consultations. I wish they taught grocery shopping in the schools! It’s such a basic skill that most people don’t even think about, yet is so important to living life. And I agree, I love food shopping too! I look forward to reading your mini-series.

  23. Carla | Green and Chic

    I love grocery shopping. We have a few places within walking distance (co-op and a larger store) and I always look forward to buying food for the house (two adults). I probably spend more money on food than most people, but its worth it. I rarely buy prepared food with the exception of some raw food snacks for road trips. Everything else is raw, in bulk (nuts, seeds) and fish and sometimes chicken. There are so many “cheap” foods I cant eat such as legumes, starches, soy, gluten so my budget is a little higher than most people I suppose.

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