Supermarket Secrets by Michael Pollan
1. Arrange your shopping list by department
Grocery stores are arranged in departments related to specific types of food. Next time you go to your grocery store, notice the layout. The most wholesome, nutrient-dense food tends to be on the perimeter of the store, so spend most of your time here.
The interior aisles tend to carry the least healthy items. The one exception is the bulk section, which usually carries a wide range of whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
2. Stick to your list (and don’t shop hungry)
Did you know that stores are purposely designed to get you off track and buying more than you intended? This is why it’s important to know your store layout, incorporate it into your list and stick to it. If you only visit the departments on your list, it will be less likely that a giant bag of candy or chips (“But, it was on sale!”) will magically appear in your cart.
You don’t have to be totally rigid, though. If you can’t find something you are looking for, be open to substitutions (for example, apples for pears). A fun way to add flexibility and adventure to this rule is to add a surprise item. For example, add “new leafy green” to the produce section of your list and pick up one you haven’t tried before or that you don’t often eat.
3. Shop frequently (2 to 3 times per week)
That big trip once a week may seem like it saves you money, but a few short trips, especially at off-peak hours, can actually make your life easier and healthier. When keeping to a plant-based diet, this becomes especially important as frequent trips ensure you get the freshest, most nutrient-dense produce and that food in your fridge does not go to waste. Throwing away rotten food is the same thing as throwing away money!
4. Buy local and in season
Because a large portion of a plant-based diet will come from the fresh produce section, it’s important to know what food is in season in your area. In-season produce from local providers generally costs less and has spent more time developing on the plant, meaning it will have a denser concentration of nutrients with less environmental impact.
There are also specific days when produce arrives at your local store (Tuesday and Wednesday are common delivery days). Food that’s been sitting on the shelf for several days usually doesn’t taste as good as food that’s come straight from the farm. Ask your local store which days are delivery days so you get the absolute freshest food. Better yet, hit the local farmers market and get to know your producers for the best, most nutritious foods.
5. Ask for Help
Don’t know where something is? Don’t know how to pick out the best quality produce or know if something is ripe? Your time is precious, so ask for help. The employees at grocery stores are generally friendly and spend their days managing the products and conducting quality assurance tests. Your questions also help the store know about items that could be located in easier to find spots.
A smile and a “please” or “thank you” always help, too.