It’s 5pm, and you are finally tackling the food shopping you inevitably have no choice but to do. Being slightly hungry, very tired, and anticipating a busy evening of dinner preparation, homework monitoring, and tomorrow’s board meeting to plan, you need to get through this chore as quickly and easily as possible.
Realizing you left your list at home, you are confident that you’ll be able to shop from memory and get on with your night. As soon as you set foot in the market, you are barraged with the aroma of fresh baked samples, and your resolve to resist this type of eating quickly evaporates into thin air.
Welcome to the time of day I lovingly call “The bewitching hours”, where all good intentions and previous habits have a tendency to disappear. But alas, all hope is not lost, with some specific strategies, a little planning, and a bit of willpower, you will be able to tackle this time of day with ease.
Food Shopping Strategies: Navigating the “Calorie War Zone
1. Number one on the list of strategies is to NEVER enter a grocery store hungry, especially at the end of the day when you’re also tired. To preempt this, make sure you have eaten throughout the day, which will ensure you’ll avoid the highs and lows of blood sugar fluctuations and energy slumps so common during the later afternoon hours. If you are trying to lose a few pounds, saving your calories for dinner will backfire, and you’ll find yourself snacking on the wrong things (yes, subpar baked goods at the supermarket) and overeating in the latter part of the day.
2. Plan your day to incorporate a well-rounded breakfast with fiber and protein, a filling lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack. If you haven’t had a chance to eat your snack before entering the grocery store’s calorie-war zone, all is not lost. Keep a stash of non-perishable snacks in your car for emergencies.
3. Things like 100-calorie packs of almonds, homemade trail mix with high fiber cereal and raisins, a low-carb tortilla with peanut butter, or a couple Wasa crackers and jelly, all of which will satisfy your hunger when paired with a bottle of water.
4. One of my favorite strategies, but also one that requires a bit of deep thought with some creativity thrown in, is planning your dinners in advance, for the week. Taking 10 or 15 minutes on the weekend to come up with an evening meal for each weeknight that everyone can enjoy, will save an enormous amount of time and mental energy every day.
Think of experimenting with one new recipe each week, or having breakfast for dinner one night. And don’t forget a night or two of leftovers, especially if you are planning a soup or stew, both of which seem to improve the second day.
Having a shopping list ready and available, then sticking closely to it, is an important strategy that will get you through the most challenging of shopping situations. Do not let yourself be tempted by beautiful displays of items you were never intending to buy, let your list be your guide and you will cruise through the aisles with ease.
Most people find that their list does not vary greatly from week to week, so keep a copy of a master list from which you can tweak slightly depending on what’s in season, on sale, or planned for your dinners. If the basic list is always with you, you’ll have less of a chance of getting stuck without it.
5. And finally, utilize the strategy of familiarity. Whenever possible, shop in the grocery store that is the most convenient, so you can become a “regular”. Knowing where your son’s favorite cookies are located, the high fiber cereal that you eat daily, and that very important rest room, will save you time and energy when you most need it.
Do not underestimate the warm feeling you’ll get from being greeted with a smile of recognition by the store’s staff, or a personal approach to bagging your groceries. While these are just icing on the cake, everyone appreciates a little personal and kind treatment, even while grocery shopping!