You may enjoy grocery shopping or you may hate it, but either way it’s something we all have to do if we want to eat, right? Grocery shopping can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are winging it without a game plan for what meals and snacks you plan to make for the week ahead. You don’t want to buy more than what you will eat and then waste food and money throwing things out. You also want to buy enough so that you are not relying on take out. There are a few things you can do to take some of the stress out of the equation. 

At Home

Step 1: You first need to take into consideration how much time you will have during the week to prepare meals before selecting recipes. If you are working late or have a kids sporting event to attend in the evening, preparing a complicated recipe with a long prep and cook time is not going to be ideal. Those are the nights that having leftovers or a meal that requires a minimal amount of cooking would be perfect, so plan to prepare extra portions of the previous night’s dinner, if possible. 

Step 2: Once you’ve taken a look at your schedule for the week and determined when you’ll have time to do some kitchen prep work or make a more involved recipe, next is creating the shopping list. The first place you want to check is your own pantry, fridge, and freezer. See what you already have on hand and if there is anything that should be used before it expires. Have a half a bag of spinach leftover from last week that is starting to look a little wilty? Plan to make a meal using cooked spinach earlier in the week to use it up. Pull some frozen chicken out of the freezer first before buying more. You get the idea!

Step 3: Get out the weekly grocery flyer and see what is on sale and in season. Start with your protein foods first as that is your main priority, and then choose a vegetable that will pair nicely with it. Frozen steamable vegetables are an easy and affordable option for those nights where you don’t want to waste time washing and chopping! If you eat seafood, plan to cook that at the beginning of the week as it is more perishable than other types of proteins. Canned tuna/chicken, frozen turkey burgers, tofu, or vacuum sealed chicken/turkey sausages are great items to save for the end of the week as they last longer. If time is a barrier to eating healthy, consider spending a little extra on pre-cut fruits and vegetables rather than thinking you’ll have the time/energy to do it yourself. You might be surprised at how much more veggies & fruit you eat when the prep work has been done for you! 

At the Store

Step 1: Do not go to the grocery store when you are hungry. Everything will look and smell extra appetizing and you will end up buying things you don’t need and foods that are less healthy. Get out your shopping list and stick to it! Most grocery stores are laid out so that when you enter, you are in the produce department first. I like to keep my vegetable choices flexible as sometimes stores run out of sale items or they may not look very good when you get there and something else may be calling your name! Stock up on those non-starchy veggies listed in your hand book! 

Step 2: Protein is the priority on your list so this may mean heading to the meat/deli and/or fish counters at your supermarket. Ask the butcher if they can show you which cuts of beef/pork are considered “lean” if you do not know and need help. When thinking of high protein foods, don’t forget about the dairy aisle - Low fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese sticks, and eggs are excellent sources of protein too! Check out the brand FairLife or SkimPlus which is ultra filtered milk that has had the lactose removed, lowering the carbohydrate count and increasing the amount of protein!
Pro-tip: If you do not eat meat or dairy opt for plant-based alternatives that are higher in protein such as Soy milk, pea protein based milk like the brand Ripple or another alternative that has at least 6-8 grams (the equivalent of regular dairy milk) protein per serving. When looking for veggie burgers or other plant based meat alternatives, choose one that has at least 8-10g protein per serving, and be careful with the carbohydrate amount as many meatless products use grains, potatoes, or corn in them. Look for ones with <20 grams of net carbohydrates.

Step 3: Don’t avoid the center aisles completely! At this point your cart is stocked with fresh or frozen produce and plenty of protein options. But you still may need some sugar-free beverages, broths, marinades, salad dressings, vinegars, spices, and other condiments. Don’t forget to READ THE NUTRITION LABEL. Learn about the food you are buying. Try to keep the added sugar low! Many sauces are unfortunately filled with added sugar and sodium (BBQ sauces, salad dressings, etc). If you are post-op in maintenance phase, look for higher fiber starches such as quinoa, oats, bean pastas, brown/wild rice, low carb wraps/breads, etc. 

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t go to the grocery store hungry 
  • Go with a shopping plan and purchase a variety of high protein foods and plenty of produce!
  • Decide on what center aisle items you may need that are low sugar/sugar free and/or higher fiber items if you are in maintenance phase
  • Read the nutrition labels!  
  • Go home, put the groceries away and call it a day. You can meal prep the food items later that evening after some rest, or better yet the next day! 
Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
By Carley Baulick MS, RDN, CDN
Bariatric Dietitian Educator

Carley Baulick, MS, RDN, CDN is Garnet Health Medical Center’s Bariatric Dietitian Educator. She received her Bachelor’s and Master of Science Degrees in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University of New York College at Oneonta. She is a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist, holds an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management, and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Carley is passionate about nutrition and helping others reach their health and wellness goals through individualized counseling and nutrition education. Carley can be reached at (845) 333-2830 or

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