6 Grocery Shopping Tips for Busy Parents
Whether you're shopping for two or 10, these grocery store tips can help you save time -- and pick healthy options -- at the supermarket.
You've heard it a hundred times: Good nutrition starts with making smart choices at the grocery store. But who has time to figure out which items are the most nutritious -- especially with a mile-long errand list and a kid in the shopping cart? "Lines at the store, fussy kids in the aisles and the temptation of all those endcap displays turn even the simplest trip for bread and milk into a huge time suck," says Maggie Moon, a registered dietitian with experience as a nutritionist for a supermarket. Here are six tips to help you get your grocery shopping done quickly, all while making the healthiest decisions possible:
- Make a List
Before you set out for the supermarket, plan out your meals for the week and make a grocery list. You can even let your kids pitch in! "They can pick recipes so they will feel like they helped out," says Lisa Leake, a best-selling author from The New York Times and founder of the blog 100 Days of Real Food. Select a few for them to choose from. To make sure that you always choose the healthiest items, she recommends reading nutrition labels. "Look for items with five-or-less whole ingredients that contain no artificial flavors or colors," she says. You don't have to read the labels every time you go shopping. Do a little homework during one shopping trip, and make a list of go-to healthy options that you can turn to later.
- Map It Out
Make your grocery shopping trip as quick as possible by making a game plan for the route you'll take through the store. "Organize your list by department -- for example, produce, seafood and grains -- and only visit the aisles you need to," says Moon. "Don't even go into the aisles with potato chips or sodas -- there's nothing there for you!" Instead, stick to the perimeter of the store, where fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat and fish are usually located.
- Get Off to a Great Start
Have you ever heard that you shouldn't go the supermarket when you're hungry? The same goes for your kids. "Make sure your kids have been fed and it isn't nap time," Leake advises. That way, they're less prone to grabbing unhealthy options and having an epic meltdown. Additionally, since sugar and artificial colors can cause hyperactivity, avoid all candy before and during the trip, she advises. "Don't give them a big red sucker or they will be bouncing off the walls," says Leake.
- Talk to Kids About Healthy Options
To help combat inevitable arguments over unhealthy snacks, "Talk to your kids about healthy options and why you're making these choices," advises Leake. You can do this before you leave home or while you shop. When you refuse to buy junk food and give sound reasons why, eventually your kids will stop asking for it. If your child does have a meltdown over a bag of candy in the grocery aisle, say "no" and keep moving. "You're the parent, so take charge," says Leake.
- Give Kids Their Own Tasks
To help keep your kids away from the junk food, put them in charge of picking out healthy foods, such as produce. While you pick out the perfect bell peppers, have your child pick out apples or bananas. This turns the task into fun one-on-one time and helps you leave the store in half the time, says Moon.
- Shop Kid-Free
For a super-quick trip to the grocery store, leave the kids at home with a babysitter and do your shopping solo. Alternately, you can make shopping painless by ordering all your groceries online. "Online shopping may not be for everyone, but it has its perks," says Moon. Online shopping allows you to shop less impulsively and more mindfully. It's also a great budget-management tool, since you can clearly see what you're spending and take things out of your cart if you need to.
When shopping at the food store, "Make it a priority to avoid processed food," says Leake. It might take a little more work up front, but eventually, healthy shopping will become your new normal.
Need some more food for thought? Check out these healthy dinner ideas that kids will actually eat.
Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.