Amanda Terillo, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian with the M Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia

After years of working with clients and families on improving/changing their eating habits to live a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, I have come to realize how important proper grocery shopping is for implementing successful change. Grocery shopping is a skill that is specific to you and your family. The amount of food, and types of food, that you and your family go through on a weekly basis is very individualized. If grocery shopping is a stressful event due to consistently under-shopping or over-shopping, or not purchasing the right types of foods to make an actual meal, changing our eating patterns is going to be more difficult than it needs to be.

After making a trip to the grocery store, we should have everything we need to make a complete meal. Nothing is more annoying than having to make multiple trips to the store because we forgot an ingredient or realized we did not purchase enough food. Multiple trips to the grocery store end up being a waste of time and money. It also leads us to stopping at a restaurant to pick up food last minute, which costs more money, and usually ends with us eating foods that may not be best for our health.

We need to go into the store not only with a list, but with a strategy. We want to be purchasing foods that can make complete meals instead of snacks. It’s like going clothes shopping and only buying shirts, and then getting home and realizing you have no pants that match the shirts. Instead of a complete outfit, you have random tops that you can’t wear.

Complete meals satiate and nourish, leading to good health. In order to ensure that we purchase foods to make a complete meal, try grocery shopping in terms of food groups. Below are the food groups that I encourage clients to shop for.

Food Group Recommendations
*not based on any specific diet
(always organic when possible)
CarbohydratesBeans, organic fruits, potatoes, root vegetables, quinoa, rice
ProteinsBeans, lentils, quinoa, organic soy products, nuts, seeds, pastured eggs, pastured meats and poultry, wild-caught fish
FatsNuts, seeds, coconut products, avocados, olive, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee

Make a list of some of your favorite, healthy proteins, carbohydrates, fruits/vegetables, and fats. Try to think of at least 5-6 from each food group so it can last you all or most of the week. This way you will ensure you will have the right ingredients to make a complete meal.

Other tips for successful grocery shopping

Go on the same day each week
By going on the same day each week, you can more accurately track how much food your family eats and then purchase accordingly. If each week you go on different days, then it will be difficult to track how much you need to purchase.

Take inventory of what is needed
Shop your kitchen first! We are very busy during the week, and it is easy to forget what we already have. Take a quick 10 minutes before hitting up the store and see what you already have in your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer.

Assess what you have left or what you have wasted
Just like you want to know what you already have, it is also important to know what you tend to over-purchase or waste at the end of the meal. Always have fresh vegetables that end up wilting? Think about cooking them first or trying some organic frozen vegetables while you get used to using fresh vegetables. Do you tend to throw out leftovers? Make smaller quantities or pre-portion them into glass containers for lunch the next day.

Go simple!
When starting a new way of eating, it is very easy to go overboard, trying several new recipes. While new recipes are great and exciting, I often recommend my clients start with only one new recipe per week. New recipes can be ingredient heavy, time consuming, and stressful initially. One new recipe per week is a good balance to keep your grocery list simple and consistent.