Five Steps to Grocery Shop Like a Boss

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Five Steps to Grocery Shop Like a Boss

It’s not often I deal in absolutes. Whilst there are certain governing principles in strength and fitness training, a lot of them have to be tweaked for application to the individual in some way. The following rules, however, are universal and absolutely essential if you want to get the most out of your nutrition, training and life. If you are not following these rules, but you are striving for improved performance at the gym, at work, or in your personal life, then you’re not giving yourself the strongest possible platform to begin on. Don’t rob yourself.

1). Don’t shop hungry.

What happens when you’re hungry? Your body releases ghrelin, the hunger hormone. The longer you go without addressing this, the more acute those feelings of hunger become. The more acute they become, the more they govern our choices. Feeling hungry is a good indication that our body is no longer building muscle and instead has begun to break it down. For this reason alone it’s a state we want to try to avoid. In this situation, though, there is a second and equally important reason not to be hungry; the hungrier you become, the more you will be steered towards high-carb, energy-dense foods.

It’s a survival mechanism, but it’s one that’s a lot less helpful today than it was in our hunter/gatherer days. If you got hungry, it could potentially affect your capacity to hunt, because your body wasn’t being fuelled as effectively. For this reason the body steered you towards something that would provide a quick burst of energy and help get the job done, thus ensuring that later on you and your tribe would have roasted pig or whatever you’d caught that day to feast on. This was an effective mechanism when it steered you towards a piece of fruit, or if you were lucky perhaps some honey from that bees nest you stumbled across last week. These days it’s just going to steer you towards the cake aisle though, isn’t it?

And let’s say you hold off. Let’s say you don’t walk straight up to the high-sugar products and start pulling them off the shelves like Imelda Marcos at a shoe sale. Do you honestly believe you’re positioned to make the most sensible nutritional decisions about the remainder of your week?

Hell no. Have a sensible, well-balanced meal before you ever go near a minefield of bad decisions like the supermarket.

2). Make a list.

Who makes your decisions regarding what you cook and eat? It’s almost certainly one of two people. If you make a list and plan ahead, it’s you. If you don’t, then it’s probably the supermarket’s marketing department. From the signage and lighting to the nostalgic Billy Joel hits they have playing as you walk around, everything in the supermarket is geared towards extending your time there, because statistics reflect that for every forty-five more seconds people stay in these shops, they make another purchase. They don’t just stop there though. They’re going to be subtly guiding your attention with displays and specials towards those goods you didn’t realise you wanted until you saw them. Why didn’t you realise you wanted them?

Because you didn’t want them. Someone else is trying to govern that decision for you.

So here is my two point guide to making a great shopping list.

3). a. Become an expert.

This doesn’t mean hours and hours of internet research, or attaining qualifications, or anything like that. It’s just about knowing what’s in season, and therefore what’s both reasonably priced and most nutritious at any given time. This just means keeping an eye on prices. As a general rule of thumb, if prices are consistently low, and the product tastes good, it’s in season. Signage might also reflect this with statements like “new season.” This is also of value because sometimes just because a product is in season doesn’t mean what you’re buying hasn’t spent a substantial amount of time in cold storage. With fruit and vegetables, one rule I like to use is the heavier it feels for its size compared to other examples of the same fruit, the more nutritional value it’s likely to have.

Just take notice of these things and you will start to get a feel for it. Buying seasonally is both cheaper and increases the likelihood of getting the most out of your shop nutritionally.

3). b. Build your meal plan, then make your list.

Once you’ve started to get the hang of point a), it becomes a lot easier to build a meal plan based around what’s good. If the shop you’re at is currently out of stock on an item you were planning on buying, altering an existing plan on the go is much more straightforward than trying to build one from the ground up. Plan what you want to eat, make a list, buy what’s on the list.

4). Shop mostly from the fresh section.

This item pre-supposes the idea that you do all of your shopping at the supermarket. As you’ll see in my next point, this doesn’t have to be the case. However, restricting your shop to mostly the stuff they stock in the fresh section of the supermarket means you will eat more fresh items. Regardless of where you actually bought them, this is always a good thing.

That’s not to say there aren’t items in the other aisles you can make use of. I buy canned and frozen vegetables or fruit from time to time. I never use them in place of fresh if I can avoid it, though. I also buy and eat rice and quinoa. That said, when I shop, most of what I buy is fresh meat, fish and eggs, lots of green vegetables, some fruit, and starchy veg like sweet potato, potato or pumpkin. This represents eighty percent of my food shop or more in the same way that it will represent eighty percent or more of my food consumption.

5). Convenience isn’t always best.

Part of the reason supermarkets hold such an aggressive market share isn’t competitive pricing, it’s convenience. Yes, they have a massive amount of buying power, but the idea that they use this buying power to pass the savings on to you is a marketing myth. They mostly use it to buy overseas holidays and yachts for their top-level executives and majority shareholders. You are mostly going there because you can knock over your weekly needs under one roof. It’s handy, but is it the best thing for you? Are you getting the best and/or the cheapest?


If you want to ensure yourself the best produce at the most competitive prices, shop around a little. Is there an independent grocers near you? Where are the restaurants in your area buying their produce? I guarantee the good ones are shooting for the best quality and are trying their damnedest not to pay more than they have to for it. Live somewhere rural? Can you buy eggs direct from the farm? Does somebody near you keep chickens that lay more than they can eat? They’ll be tastier, more reasonably priced and they’ll likely have a higher Omega 3 content.

What about butchers? Try Googling “wholesale butchers” and finding something that’s open to the public. As a rule, businesses want you to go there and spend money, very few will turn you away if you’re waving cash and shouting “ready to buy…”

Take these rules and make them work for you. The results will be evident in every aspect of your life.

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