6 Food-Shopping Mistakes You're Making

May 6 2016
Grocery shopping lays the groundwork for healthy eating habits. You eat what you buy, so you better make it good! But there are plenty of traps and mistakes that can trip you up along the way. Here are a few to look out for…

Not starting with produce

The produce department should be the first stop on your shopping excursion. And just like you should fill up the majority of your dinner plate with veggies, fresh produce should take priority in your cart. Also important: starch swaps! Load up on cauliflower (for ricing), zucchini (for noodles), and spaghetti squash (spaghetti swap), and you'll realize you don't need that calorie-dense rice and pasta.

Ignoring the frozen & canned foods

Fresh food is fantastic, but frozen and canned versions are often just as nutritious... and more affordable. When it comes to fish and meat counters, newsflash: Much of that stuff was frozen at some point. So unless you're going to cook it right away and don't have time to thaw, you might be better off grabbing it from the freezer. And frozen fruit and vegetables are typically flash frozen at their peak, so they may have even more nutrients than their shelf-bound counterparts. As for canned foods... Beans are a quick-cooking must, tomatoes are a recipe staple, and tuna is a ready-to-eat protein source we can't do without. If you're concerned about contaminants, look for cans labeled BPA-free.

Simply skimming the nutritional info

We know, you're busy, but hear us out. Take the time to really read the nutritional panels and ingredient lists before tossing products into your cart. Many people think they absorb the info on the panels, but they only scan and miss the servings per container and/or serving size. The serving size could be half of what you'd realistically serve yourself! Don't fall into the trap of taking in twice the calories you planned on... Read up!

Shopping while distracted

It's often said that the ultimate grocery shopping no-no is shopping while hungry -- you're more likely to make spontaneous bad-for-you purchases than you would if you'd eaten beforehand. But that's just one form of distraction to watch out for. Talking on the phone? Chances are, you'll neglect reading those labels. Crunched for time, and focused on getting out fast? You're likely to forget the staples you really need. Make a plan to do your food shopping at a time when you've got a good meal in you, no multi-tasking on your mind, and a solid amount of time to devote to the task at hand.

Not making a list

Preparation is everything. One of the best ways to figure out what you need to buy at the store is to plan out what you're going to eat for the upcoming week. Who are you cooking for? How many meals can you get out of each recipe? How many healthy snacks do you need? Sit down, figure out what the coming days hold for you, and make a plan. Then make your list; it's best to do this at home, when you can see what you already have in your kitchen so you don't double up. Need a little help? Check out HG's Official 2016 Supermarket List!

An all-or-nothing approach to bulk buying vs. portion control

It's best to take these things on a case-by-case basis. The bulk method is often best from a cash-saving perspective. For example, we buy unsweetened vanilla almond milk by the case, and we're big proponents of buying multi-serve snack bags and then portioning them into sealable bags or containers for grab 'n go snacks. That said, if you can't trust yourself around a multi-serving bag of snacks, it's worth the investment to get the portion-controlled treats. And if you know you're more likely to make healthy meals if you have individually wrapped chicken breasts in the fridge, it's worth paying extra.

Chew on this:

Did you know that May is National Salad Month? Check out our Salad in a Jar recipes -- perfect for packed lunches!

Save your pals some cash and calories -- click "Send to a Friend" now!


We may have received free samples of food, which in no way influences whether these products are reviewed favorably, unfavorably, mentioned with indifference, or mentioned at all. Click for more about our editorial and advertising policies.

SmartPoints® value* not what you expected? We follow the same method as WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) when calculating the value of a recipe: We add up the SmartPoints® values* of the individual ingredients using the Recipe Builder, not the calculator. (Many foods have a value of zero and remain zero in recipes.)

*The SmartPoints® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe or its manufacturer or developer by WW International, Inc., the owner of the SmartPoints® trademark.