Tired of campus food or the same chicken and rice? Put those Mr. Noodles back and learn how to start grocery shopping—like an adult.
As the school year progresses, I notice I’ve been neglecting my eating habits for more pressing priorities, like the many papers I’ve been meaning to start.
But just because your work or school life is demanding most of your time, it doesn’t mean your diet should suffer. And a lot of healthy habits start at the grocery store.
Whether you’re looking to revamp your meal prep plan or buying groceries for yourself for the first time, here are some tips to help you shop smarter for your health (and your wallet).
Know your promotions
Keep an eye out for flyers for coupons (you can usually find them by the entrance or online). But also keep an eye on those sale conditions. Let’s say mayonnaise is on promotion for 4 for $8.99—this doesn’t mean you need to buy 4 jars in order to get the sale price. Nobody needs that much mayonnaise.
Sign up for a free rewards card available at most chain grocers like Save-On-Foods, Loblaws, and more. Some loyalty programs, like the PC Optimum card, tailor deals to your purchases—you’ll be surprised at how quickly your points will add up.
Read your food
In your grab-and-go grocery mindset, you might miss some of the fine print. Double check the best-before date, especially on baked goods and dairy items—the items further back in the fridge may last longer!
When something is on sale, it doesn’t mean it’s the most frugal choice.
Shop generic or house brands and look at the price per weight (in the tiny fine print) to calculate the best buy.
Understand the nutrition label
The nutrition facts table on your foods can be informative (and surprising). Don’t be deceived by a low-calorie count or daily value of saturated fat—that percentage is entirely based off of serving size. That means 15% of your daily recommended intake of sugar for just half a serving of that candy bar is maybe not so nutritious.
Also, the list of ingredients is ranked by weight. That means the first few ingredients will be the most prominent in your food.
Be prepared—and don’t shop hungry
Get your groceries with your fridge in mind—and on a full stomach.
Every time I’ve shopped hungry I’ve left with bags of Cheetos and no dinner ingredients. Having a shopping list or a recipe in hand means you’re only getting what you need. A win-win for preventing food waste and your wallet. If you don’t have a gameplan, check out these 15 kitchen staples for inspiration.
I also make sure to pick up produce and bakery goods first, and canned and refrigerated foods last, to avoid lugging around a kettlebell of spoiled yogurt.
Shop the peripheries
You’ll notice that the layout of most grocery stores is the same: the good stuff is by the walls. By shopping the borders, your basket is more likely to include fresh produce and goods rather than processed foods (which live in the aisles).
But, if you’re looking for products with a longer shelf life, shop frozen over canned. Frozen vegetables and fruits are often cheaper, last longer, and are lighter on preservatives vs. their canned counterparts.
Get some help from a pro
Shop with an on-campus dietician when you sign up for a grocery tour at the Save-On-Foods in Wesbrook Village. These tours are catered to help you map out your unique meal plan and get credible answers and tips on how to eat healthier. Plus, you’ll get 10% off your groceries.
Once you incorporate these habits into your routine, eating healthy doesn’t need to feel like a chore. And as we approach exam season, knowing how to pick food that’s nutritious for your body and mind will help you eat for academic success.