How Should You Shop Smart for Groceries? 3 Steps

March is National Nutrition Month! This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” 

Each bite of food you take is a small step that can make a big difference in your overall health. One of your first steps to making better nutrition choices starts at your grocery store. Smart shopping is the key! 

Plan Ahead

Set aside some time each week to sit down and plan out meals and snacks for the week ahead.

Save money by checking weekly store sales and coupons. Update your shopping plan to take advantage of the savings.

Include foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and beans/lentils.

Write out your list and do your best to buy only foods on the list.

When you have the ingredients you need on hand for your meals, it’s easier to stick with your plan. When you’re prepared, you may find you’re less likely to choose a last-minute convenience meal or to dine out.


Planning ahead is the first step to making grocery dollars go farther. When you follow your plan, you may find that it’s more affordable to choose healthy foods. You might also waste less food.

Try to limit buying pre-washed or pre-cut fruits and vegetables. These are usually more expensive.

Buy produce that’s in season, or find frozen or canned options without added sugar or sodium. Buy staples in bulk when they’re on sale. Bulk buying is great for whole-wheat pasta, dried beans, frozen vegetables and lean meat.

Limit bulk buying foods that you won’t be able to eat before the expiration date or that can’t be frozen.

Try more affordable store brands; you may not notice a difference.

Choose healthy foods

Many grocery stores have several variations or brands of the same product. This can be overwhelming for a shopper trying to make healthy choices!

Comparing nutrition facts between brands can help you make an informed choice. Beware of foods with “health halos.” These foods may seem healthy due to savvy marketing techniques, but they aren’t always good choices. For example, organic cookies are still cookies and protein bars or fiber bars may be glorified candy bars.

Make sure you compare food labels and make choices with less added sugar (especially when shopping for yogurt!), less saturated fat and less sodium.

Looking at every food label can make grocery shopping an all-day event. Start your label reviews by choosing two or three products during a shopping trip. Simply compare the labels of those few products. On the next shopping trip, compare a few different products. Over time, you’ll learn what the best choices are, and you won’t need to spend hours grocery shopping.

Having a meal and snack plan is essential to making healthy food choices. It can also help you save money at the grocery store. Like any good habit, planning ahead may be tricky in the beginning. Give it time and it will become easier! 

Meet the Author

Ali Stoffer, RD, is a registered dietitian at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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