4 Steps to Grocery Shopping Success by The American Diabetes Association

Shopping for healthy food should be simple. But with the average supermarket nearly the size of a football field, it can be confusing and time consuming. Going to the store with a plan can help you save time, money, and make healthier choices. This four-step plan will take the stress out of grocery shopping—and help you get tasty, diabetes-friendly meals on the table.

4 Steps to Grocery Shopping Success

Step 1. Plan your meals.

Whether you’re going to the grocery store or ordering groceries online, any successful shopping trip must begin with figuring out what you plan to eat.

Try to plan out as many meals as possible for the week (or more). Try a combination of tried-and-true favorites and new recipes to expand your repertoire.

Most of us focus on dinner when planning meals for the week, but think about breakfast and lunch, too. They don’t have to be complicated recipes but considered what foods you’ll want on hand to whip something together.

For example, keep a variety of vegetables, spreads, sliced cheese and tortillas on hand to make a quick wrap for lunch, or yogurt and frozen fruit to make a simple breakfast parfait.

With each recipe, jot down the ingredients you’ll need, and check your cupboards and fridge to see what you already have on hand

Try out Diabetes Food Hub’s interactive meal planner to plan your recipes and make a grocery list.

Step 2. Make a list.

A list is essential for getting all of the items you need for your meal plan, but it can also help you shop more efficiently, save time, and prevent impulse purchases.

A grocery list is so effective that a study published in 2015 in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that people who shopped with a list had significantly healthier diets—and weighed less—than those who chose to wing it.

A carefully constructed shopping list helps you stock your kitchen with nutritious staples and provides the building blocks for healthy meals.

Be sure to: 
  • Take a quick inventory of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. If you don’t have the basics for speedy breakfasts, snacks, and lunches, add them to your list.

  • Look over your list and make sure it’s balanced. Just like your plate, your grocery list should contain half nonstarchy vegetables, a quarter lean protein, and a quarter carbohydrate foods.

  • Between grocery trips, keep an ongoing list on the fridge or in a notes section on your phone. As you run out of staples, add them to the list so you remember to replace them.


Pen and paper will make a fine list, but a little technology can make the process even more efficient. Most smartphones have a note-taking function you can use to keep a running tally of foods to purchase. You can update it anytime, anywhere and even organize it by aisle of the store.

Step 3. Have a game plan.

With your list in hand, you’re almost ready to head to the supermarket. But before you do, consider the timing. Shopping on an empty stomach makes you more likely to succumb to samples or grab a bag of chips at the checkout counter.

Do damage control by grocery shopping after a meal or snack. Ordering groceries online can also make it easier to avoid impulse purchases and stick to your list.

Then plan your attack. Think of the layout of your grocery store and organize your grocery list by section. That way, when you get to the store, you can efficiently hit the aisles you need to get everything on your list without backtracking or wandering through every aisle.

Finally, don’t forget to check the store’s sales ads or websites/apps for coupons. They’re great money-savers.

Step 4. Shop from the inside out.

Many of us have heard to stick to the perimeter of the store for whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. However, there are plenty of great options in the center of the store too.

Starting your shopping trip with shelf-stable foods from the center aisles means that refrigerated and frozen foods won’t be at room temperature for too long.

To avoid impulse purchase, only go down the aisles that have foods on your list. Focus on minimally processed foods such as whole grain foods like pasta, oatmeal, and brown rice; nuts and nut butters; olive and canola oils; canned foods like tuna, vegetables, and fruit; and more. Remember to read the nutrition labels and limit products with added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.

Next, head to the perimeter for fresh produce and refrigerated foods like dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood.

Shop the frozen foods aisle last so that your frozen foods don’t thaw before you get home. Healthy options in the frozen foods section include fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

Watch out for added sauces, sugar, and seasonings in frozen products—check the ingredients and choose products where the only ingredient is the food itself.

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