Plant Based Grocery Shopping 101

At this point, you may be all in on the plant-based diet in terms of health benefits and in terms of thinking of all the wonderful things you can eat at all hours of the day! Perhaps, at this point, you’re even planning your first grocery trip. However, we get it. We’ve heard all of the concerns:

It’s so much easier to eat out…eating healthy is expensive…eating healthy means organic…organic is way too costly, so I might as well just not go to the grocery store at all…the store is overwhelming – I never know where to get “weird” ingredients.”

It can be daunting, we know. However, with this simple YA•YE Organics guide, we’ll help ease your grocery store phobia. In order to begin a successful plant-based lifestyle, you can utilize this guide to help boost your health and productivity. 

Before You Go: Lists & Planning

Before going to the store, some simple paper planning helps reduce time and money spent at the store. This plan includes the ingredients you’ll need based on the number of  meals you’re aiming to prepare ahead of the time for grab and go use. For example, for lunch a choice could be a veggie sandwich and for dinner it could be burrito bowls. There are two people eating, so the guide below becomes incredibly useful: 

How many people are you going to cook for? Two People.

How many meals per day will you plan for? Four a day (Lunch and Dinner for two people, cooking breakfast at home daily). 

How many days are you going to cook ahead for? Four days, considering we will likely eat out 2-3 times this week, and shop again next weekend. 

Pick your recipes: Draw from favorites, or your favorite blogs or meal ideas on google. Two examples for lunch and dinner for the week: Veggie Sandwich, Easy Burrito Bowls.

Create Your List by Recipe and by Store Section:

  1. Create your list while in your kitchen to avoid duplicating ingredients already purchased.
  2. Review your list while looking at the recipe ingredient list to avoid too much creativity when it comes to ingredients.
  3. Compare your list by recipe to account for the amount you are buying. For example, if tomatoes are in two recipes, you want to make sure you buy enough.

Veggie Sandwich

  • Produce: shredded carrots (1 package), 2 cucumbers, 1 red onion, 6 tomatoes, 2 large beets, 3 heads romaine
  • Bakery: sliced sourdough bread
  • Canned/Bulk: n/a
  • Spices/Seasonings: Sriracha, Hummus, Dijon Mustard
  • Other: n/a

Easy Burrito Bowls

  • Produce: Red pepper, Cilantro, Avocado, Lime
  • Canned/Bulk: Two cans black beans, one package of brown rice
  • Spices/Seasonings: salsa of choice, cumin, chili powder
  • Freezer/Frozen aisle: 1 package frozen corn
  • Smoothies for Breakfast
  • Freezer/Frozen aisle: Frozen mixed berries, frozen kale
  • Nut Milk: Almond Milk

Lay of the Land: Geography of Grocery Stores & Where to Shop

Having a game plan for how you are going to walk through the store is essential for efficiency. There have been too many times when walking into a grocery store has turned into a two-hour long shopping wallet pain! This advice will save time, money and food waste.

  • Tip 1: Stay on the outside aisles for a majority of your list: Produce, Bulk foods, Prepared foods & Bakery = Plant-Based Whole Foods.
  • Tip 2: Venture into the inside aisles only to get your bulk items in smaller packages like pasta, grains, canned foods, sauces, spices and seasonings in packages, as well as to get to the non-dairy milk items and frozen fruits and vegetables sections.
  • Tip 3: DON’T browse the snack section.

While You’re There: Should You Read The Nutrition Labels?

Most of the time on a plant-based diet, you won’t have to read nutrition labels because most of your ingredients are coming from things that don’t have nutrition labels on them, because you are mostly eating whole foods. Make it a game: Can you count the number of nutritional labels you have to read on one hand?

Organic vs. Nonorganic

When possible, try to buy organic. However, sometimes, it is just not financially feasible. It is a common misconception that non-organic produce is unhealthy. Skipping an organic apple because of the high price does not mean you should take a stroll to the chip aisle. Instead, it just means to take extra care in washing down your produce. Always prioritize buying whole foods. This list is a great tool when deciding what items to prioritize eating organic due to their heavy pesticide use.

Frozen vs. Fresh

Similarly to the organic vs. nonorganic dilemma, it really doesn’t make a huge difference whether your fruits and vegetables come from a frozen source or a fresh source. What matters is that you’re eating a majority of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This study details why canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are both cost-effective and nutritious options for meeting daily recommendations for a healthy diet.

Becoming a Skeptic – Avoiding Marketing Tricks

The reason why knowing how to read a nutrition label is so essential is because companies will always try to convince you to buy their product. Today, plant-based is totally becoming a buzz word among others like gluten-free, all-natural, keto friendly, etc. This article walks through some common buzzwords seen in today’s grocery stores.

In order to break any bad habit, we need a plan. You can’t just walk into the store and expect you will not feel intimidated by the sky-high shelves of dairy, meat, and perfectly packaged goods that draw the buyer in. It’s not easy. The tips discussed above can help you move past your grocery store wandering, and help you conquer the rows, freezers, and shelves found inside every grocery store. Happy shopping plant-based eaters!