Living LifeWise: Grocery Store Playbook

Living Lifewise Sunday, June 23, 2013 Written by

Living LifeWise is a regular column provided by LifeWise Ambassadors – regular LifeWise employees whose healthy choices are helping them live better lives. Today’s column is provided by LifeWise Ambassador Sarah Swanberg

It’s the golden rule. No, not the one about “doing unto others.” The other one that says, “Never go to the grocery store hungry!” Such a simple concept, yet so hard to follow. Personally, I never make good choices when I go to the grocery hungry, ending up with a cart full of donuts and frozen pizza and other less-than-healthy choices.

Make a list, check it twice.

Before I go to the store, I make a list of everything I’ll need for the week. It helps me remember what I’m actually there for instead of veering off course and ending up in the cupcake aisle. To keep myself in check, I think of the store as a giant square. All of the foods I need for a balanced diet can be found on the three outside lines of the square. Fruits and veggies are on the left side, dairy and breads are on top, and meats and seafood are along right-hand side. The bottom of the square is where things start looking grimmer. Because this is usually where stores promote all of the sodas, chips and whatever else is on sale. I’ve yet to see an endcap with a display of apples that screams, “Buy one, get one free!”

Digging for produce treasures

My goal is always to find the freshest ingredients I can for my meals. And I always start out in the produce section. The trick to good produce hunting is to pick from the bottom. Don’t be afraid to dig down! I’ve been known to put a pile of oranges into my cart to find the perfect few and put the rest back.

Dairy & meat

Ask the person behind the meat counter to cut your meat to size. It will keep your portions to what you need and prevent you from overbuying. For dairy, it’s simple – just pull your milk, cream, butter from the back. Stores put the item with the closest expiration date towards the front. If you’re short like me, politely ask a taller person to make him or herself useful and grab something for you. Who knows… you could meet your future significant other in the dairy aisle! And wouldn’t that be a sweet story to tell your grandchildren?

The Bread Section

Now then. The bread section. This is hardest for me because it’s the closest to the bakery. And, like a lot of people, I’m easily distracted by cupcakes and pies and cookies and all of the other good smelling things you find in a grocery store bakery. So my strategy? Get in and get out – as quickly as possible. Focus your mind, eye your target, and make a beeline for the wheat bread and the light English muffins. Then you’re gone.

I’ll be honest – this isn’t an exact science. And it’s unlikely you’ll always be able to follow the grocery playbook. That’s okay! Grocery shopping is about making healthy choices for you and your family in ways that works for you. These are just a few things I do to keep myself on track. Because when it comes to cupcakes, a deterrence plan of action and a strong will is a big help.


Sarah_SwanbergSarah Swanberg is on the continuous path of finding the right balance between leading a healthy lifestyle, losing weight and enjoying all the food. Having completed her first 5K in March, She is finding new ways to include exercise into her daily routine in hopes it will stick. Sarah works in Communications for LifeWise and lives in Ballard with her goldfish Herbert and her cactus Ouch! She is always on the hunt for the perfect cupcake…