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March is National Nutrition Month according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of making informed food choices. In honor of National Nutrition Month, Stop & Shop recently offered me a $20 gift card that I could use to highlight how I shop for healthy food at their store. This is a great opportunity for me to share how I navigate the grocery store. Stop & Shop is the closest grocery store to my house, so I end up there just about every week.
Stop & Shop’s weekly sales flyer arrives in my mailbox every Thursday. I go through it and make a list of the minimally processed food items on sale that my family eats. Rather than buy apples, bananas, and grapes every week, I buy the fruit that’s on sale. This helps me to provide variety to my family, which is essential to a healthy diet.
When I go shopping, I always start out at the scanner kiosk. Stop & Shop’s scanners allow me to scan the items as I put them into my cart throughout the store. There are four things I love about shopping with these scanners:
- I can check for price accuracy as I scan the items throughout the store. This is easier than trying to pay attention at the checkout counter.
- The scanner offers individualized discounts based on what I’ve bought in the past. I frequently receive a discount for $.50 off Nature’s Promise eggs, which brings their cage-free eggs down below $3 a dozen.
- I can bag my groceries as I shop through the store, which feels more efficient than bagging them after checkout.
- I can quickly check out at the self-checkout lanes instead of waiting in line for a cashier.
With my scanner in hand, I stick to the perimeter of the store and I stay focused on my list. I try not to shop when I’m hungry, and this helps me to avoid impulse purchases. On my recent trip to Stop & Shop, here’s what I bought with the $20 gift card:
As you can see, most of the items are produce. My farm share is mostly vegetables, so I end up purchasing lots of fruit every week from the grocery store. I love to get organic fruit, but I do buy some conventional fruit as well. I never pass up the reduced produce cart, which is stocked throughout the day with produce that isn’t quite perfect. I picked up 4 apples for a quarter apiece and I used one for some cole slaw that I made that night. This fruit may not win a beauty contest, but it’s perfectly fine to eat.
Stop & Shop has been sending great coupons in the mail during the past few months. This week’s coupons included $5 off a $50 purchase, $2 off a meat department purchase, and a free pack of organic baby carrots. I used the meat coupon to buy a Nature’s Promise whole chicken (which was already on sale) and of course I picked up the free organic carrots. If you get these coupons in the mail, don’t throw them away with your junk mail! Even if you’re not a big coupon user, you’ll probably be able to find a way to use the $5 off coupon. In my town, we have to purchase special garbage bags for curbside trash pickup, so some weeks when I need to buy one more thing to get up to $50 I’ll throw in a pack of garbage bags.
As you can see from my receipt, I got $44 worth of groceries for $20. By shopping the sales and using coupons, I was able to save about 55 percent off the regular price of these whole foods grocery items. I’ve saved $356 so far this year, and it’s only March. I love that Stop & Shop includes this savings breakdown on my receipt because it helps keep me motivated. At this rate I’ll save over $1500 by the end of the year just at this one store.
Here are some of the healthy grocery shopping tips offered by Stop and Shop’s nutritionist.
Before You Leave:
- Don’t shop hungry. Be sure to have a light meal or snack with fiber and protein before shopping to avoid impulse buys.
- Make a grocery list. Plan out your week of meals, snacks and beverages and those you need to restock. Organize the list by the departments of the grocery store to save you time shopping.
During Your Shopping Trip:
- Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where the freshest, most natural food lies. So fill most of your cart with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and dairy items then venture down the center aisles to stock up on staple goods like whole grains, beans, vegetable-based soups, canned tuna and wild salmon.
- Pay attention to symbols to help you shop. For example, at Stop & Shop, you can look for the Healthy Ideas® symbol next to the price to find products that are better for you and your family.
- Read the ingredient list. If you are not sure how to accurately interpret the Nutrition Facts label, the ingredients list can provide you with enough information to make a healthy decision. Ingredients are listed in order of weight from high to low.
When You Get Home:
- Focus on filling half your plate with fruit and non-starchy vegetables. Fill the other half with whole grains (bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and starchy vegetables like corn, peas, potatoes) and protein.
- Think about adding fruits and veggies to your family’s favorite foods. Add strawberries in cereal, blueberries in yogurt, sliced pears in a grilled cheese sandwich, shredded carrots and zucchini to pasta sauce, and broccoli on pizza.
What tips would you add to this list?