Nutrition Articles

Think You're Too Busy to Eat Healthy?

Quick Shopping & Cooking Tips for People on-the-Go

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Whether you're overworked or just plain overstressed, time is valuable to all of us. When making a lifestyle change, it can easily seem overwhelming to include new habits like exercise and healthy eating into your jam-packed days. Between everything else you've got going on, how are you also supposed to find time to prepare healthy meals and read all those labels in the grocery store? These tips will help you spend even less time in the grocery store, emerge with healthy ingredients, and cook diet-friendly meals in minutes, whether you're serving one, two or ten.

Time-Saving Grocery Shopping

Keeping a grocery list may seem like a waste of time in the moment, but it will actually save you time while shopping. While any old list is better than none, here are some tips that will turn your list into time well spent.

1. Keep a running list. One of the best places to keep your grocery list is in the kitchen—on the fridge, on a bulletin or wipe board, or even on the pantry door. As you run out of items, add them to the list so you don't have to remember them later. Then when you're ready to shop, you'll have a complete shopping list ready to go with you.

2. Organize your list. You can get through the store quickly if you organize your list in the same order that you typically navigate the grocery store. If you always start in the produce section, then start your list with these foods. If you hit the dairy section last, then add those foods to the bottom of the list. By listing items in order of the store layout, you can avoid retracing your steps to pick up things you missed.

3. Shop during "off" hours and days. You can usually get in and out of the store more quickly if you shop between Sunday and Wednesday, later in the evenings, or during the middle of the day, such as your lunch hour.

4. Avoid shopping when you are hungry. Studies show that when hungry people shop, they are more likely to purchase items that aren't on their lists. When your belly is growling, you're more likely to stray off of your list, notice other foods that you didn't come in to get, and spend extra money overall. Try shopping after a meal or a small snack to stay focused and on track.

5. Use caution with single-servings and bulk items. Many times when you shop, the choice of individual or bulk sizes means the difference between time and money. Individual serving items (such as yogurt, instant oatmeal, 100-calorie packs, frozen entrees, etc.) and pre-cut foods (chopped veggies and fruits, whether frozen or fresh) tend to be more expensive than larger packages or bulk quantities, but they will save you time and help with portion control.

If money is of greater concern then time, select standard food packages (such as a tub of yogurt, a canister of oatmeal, a box of crackers, etc.). With just a few food storage containers of various sizes, you can portion out your snacks and meals for later convenience. It only takes a few minutes to prepare snacks and portions for a whole week, but you'll save lots of money in the end.
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About The Author

Tanya Jolliffe Tanya Jolliffe
Tanya earned a bachelor's degree in dietetics and nutrition and has more than 20 years of experience in nutrition counseling and education. She is a member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators. See all of Tanya's articles.

Member Comments

  • I'd like to add to the reasons for not buying in bulk: if you're not very selective, you can end up either giving away or throwing away a good portion of your purchase, negating any initial savings. - 7/14/2014 1:29:27 PM
  • We have it down pretty good. - 4/4/2014 5:47:24 AM
  • eating and driving is one bad habbit that i try to avoid. It is not only really unsafe it also wrecks my diet cos at the end of the day it doesn't count as a 'real' meal and i end up consuming too many calories. in addition to the wonderful shopping tips, planning 10 mins for a meal ought to be priority. - 3/28/2014 2:31:01 AM
  • SARAHAKURTH
    I LOVE the ShopperLite app. I never worry about where my list is because my phone is almost always with me. I can add to the list as things occur to me. Plus I can check off the items as I shop (I don't need to bring a pen shopping) and I can sort the list by aisle. Plus it remembers past items so I don't have to retype each time. There is also a place to keep your favorite recipes or explore the ones already loaded. Check it out! - 3/26/2014 5:57:05 PM
  • or many years I earned a living in construction, where I would often work 7 days a week 12 hours a day, out of town, living in a motel, rooming house, tent, or whatever. Most of the guys I worked with ate at restaurants; I usually went to grocery stores instead. And now at 59 I still have very good health while those who ate less healthy are either dead or close to it. There were other factors; they tended to spend time at bars while I was going to gyms and martial art schools...

    I always carried a good spoon, fork, and paring knife wrapped up in a cloth napkin in my lunch box, and a can opener. Here are a few of my favorite grocery store and quick shop meals. Avocado; cut it in half and eat it with a spoon. Individual container of fat free yogurt. Peanut butter, eaten with a spoon out of the jar. Nuts and beef jerky, both available from quick shops. Fruit, whatever is in season (should have done the same with veggies). Lunchmeat sandwiches on whole grain bread. Canned olives and various veggies. V8, fruit juice, or milk, found even in quick shops. Salad bar and other buffets often had more or less healthy food too.

    While none of this might seem ideal, it's infinitely healthier than whatever else you might find when you're on the road with not a lot of spare time. - 3/26/2014 10:22:57 AM
  • LSPANBAUER
    The picture of the lady eating while driving shows a very un-safe driving scenario! It does not make sense to promote healthy eating while depicting dangerous driving. - 2/24/2014 2:16:38 PM
  • I also invested in an all metal meat grinder for my Kitchen Aid. So I can buy my own skinless boneless poultry, and grind it. Same with buying grass fed pasture beef. Also lets me make my own super lean fresh sausage with ingredients of my choice. I grew up canning, freezing, butchering and home processing. Sanitation is everything when you home process. We trust commercial food processors, but if you read ingredients, they use so many preservatives to compensate for iffy processing. The amount of re-calls is very telling of our food safety. - 2/23/2014 2:21:31 PM
  • If you are going to portion bulk foods at home, and it is a great money saving idea, be sure you used super cleaned containers and lids. There is no room for error if you are dividing a quart of yogurt or soft cheeses. And use them up quickly if you are not freezing. Using food ready freezer bags or zip seal sandwich bags for veggies and oats does not require sterilization. They come clean. Re-using your own containers, you should sterilize containers and lids. Even household dust contains bacteria that can cause spoilage. It is not difficult, just takes a few extra minutes. Veggies (whole heads of cauliflower or broccoli) can be broken or cut in to bite size, blanched, chilled, drained and packaged for single or family sized servings. Sometimes cheaper than bought frozen and sometimes not. Fresh veggies in season may be cheaper, so then freeze your own. - 2/23/2014 2:15:45 PM
  • GARDENREBECCA
    another possibility... use the ap "Our Groceries" (www.ourgroceries
    .com)... rather than forgetting the shopping list on the fridge it is always with you in your phone, and if 2 people are shopping in 2 different stores, they can cross things off as they buy them... or someone at home can add things while you are on the way to the store. - 2/23/2014 11:53:47 AM
  • NYLAURA1
    The picture which accompanies this article shows an activity we should all be striving to avoid: eating while driving. - 1/3/2014 2:56:01 PM
  • Great article and food ideas. Thank you!
    - 1/3/2014 11:32:59 AM
  • Great article. - 1/3/2014 2:47:44 AM
  • Great points. Thanks - 11/15/2013 5:07:29 PM
  • Thanks. - 10/17/2013 5:55:23 AM
  • I REALLY like this article. I love the ideas of quick ways to add freggies:) - 10/10/2013 6:02:15 PM

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