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If you want to save money and eat healthy, don’t do this when you go to the store.

Do you find yourself on autopilot when you head to the grocery store? You may fall into patterns that feel comfortable as you shop for food each week, but doing the same thing over and over doesn’t mean it’s best for your wallet or your health.

If you’re interested in saving money at the supermarket (and who isn’t, with food prices soaring lately?) and you want to eat healthy, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes. All it takes is a few tweaks to your food shopping habits to be a smarter and savvier consumer.

4 Grocery Shopping Mistakes You May Be Making
  • You don’t plan ahead. Some people like to scour the supermarket to see what calls out to them before deciding what to buy for the week. While that can turn into quite an adventure, it’s not the most economical way to shop. If you want to save money, plan out your meals for the week and make a shopping list. Start by looking at the store’s circular to see what’s on sale and build meals around good buys. Figure out how to use food for multiple meals so you get the most bang for your buck and don’t wind up with extra ingredients you can’t use before they go bad.
  • You skip the center aisles. You may be giving yourself a pat on the back for just shopping the perimeter of the store because that’s where the “healthiest” foods are. But if you’re skipping the center aisles, you’re missing out on some very nutritious food that is also kind to your wallet. In those middle aisles, you’ll find inexpensive sources of protein, such as canned or dried beans and lentils, as well as canned fish. You’ll also find healthy whole grains, like quinoa, farro, brown rice and oats. And you’ll find spices, vinegars and condiments that can make home-cooked meals taste great so you eat less take-out.
  • You don’t read food labels. Food manufacturers make all kinds of marketing claims on their packaging. But if you want to know how healthy a food really is, look at the nutrition panel and the ingredients list. That’s where you’ll get the real information. Not only will you see exactly how many calories a food has, as well as how much fat, sodium and added sugar it contains, but you’ll see what serving size the information is based on (you may eat more than one serving). The ingredients list will also give you a pretty good idea of how healthy a food is – if there are lots of ingredients you can’t pronounce, it’s a highly processed food that’s best left on the shelves.
  • You buy the wrong produce. If you’re focused on healthy eating, your first stop is likely the produce section. After all, fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. But sometimes fresh isn’t best. If you find prices too high on fresh produce, or you’re looking for produce that isn’t in season, try the frozen aisle. Fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak of freshness, which may make them more nutritious than fresh produce that travels far. Frozen produce may also be less expensive than fresh and will stay longer, so you don’t waste money throwing out food you can’t eat before it goes bad. Canned produce can also be healthy and inexpensive. Just choose varieties that don’t contain added sugar, salt, fat or sauces.

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Date Last Reviewed: June 16, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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