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Grocery Shopping 101

Posted by Kristen Ostermiller on
Grocery Shopping 101

At this point, you may be all in on plant-based living, not only for its powerful health benefits – but because of all the incredible things you can eat at all hours of the day! Perhaps, at this point, you’re even planning your first plant-based grocery trip. We’ve heard the concerns, and we get it. 

“It’s so much easier to eat out.”

“Eating healthy is expensive.”

“Eating healthy means eating 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 the ‘weird’ ingredients.”

We know it can be daunting; however, with this simple YA•YE guide, we’ll help ease your grocery store phobia. To begin a successful plant-based lifestyle, utilize this guide to help boost your health and productivity. 

1. Before you go: Lists & Planning

Before going to the store, some simple paper planning (or cellphone note-taking) helps reduce time and money spent on groceries. 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, lunch could be a veggie sandwich and dinner could be a burrito bowl. Start with the following questions: 

How many people are you cooking for? Two People.

How many meals per day are you planning for? Four a day (Lunch and Dinner for two people)

How many days are you cooking ahead for? Four days, considering we will likely order take-out or delivery from a restaurant 2-3 times this week, and grocery shop again next week.

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

Create your list by recipe and by store section: Create your list while in your kitchen so you can check to see if you already have that ingredient in your fridge or pantry, and make sure to note how much you need – especially if two recipes call for the same ingredient. 

 Veggie Sandwich

Produce: shredded carrots (1 package), 2 cucumbers, 1 red onion, 6 tomatoes, 2 large beets, 3 heads romaine

Bakery: sliced sourdough bread or sliced GF bread

Canned/Bulk: n/a

Spices/Seasonings/Spreads: sriracha, hummus, dijon mustard

Easy Burrito Bowl

Produce: red pepper, cilantro, avocado, lime

Canned/Bulk: two cans black beans, one package brown rice

Spices/Seasonings/Spreads: salsa of choice, cumin, chili powder

Freezer/Frozen aisle: 1 package frozen corn 

2. 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. For us, there have been too many occasions when walking into a grocery store 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 to the inside aisles for items like pasta, grains, canned foods, sauces, spices, and frozen fruits and vegetables. 

Tip 3: DON’T browse the snack section – real foods like apples + peanut butter and veggies + hummus make the best snacks

3. Organic vs. Nonorganic

When possible, buy organic – although we know it's not always 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. It just means taking extra care when washing down your produce. Always prioritize buying whole foods. This list is a great tool when deciding which items to prioritize eating organic due to their heavy pesticide use. 

4. Frozen vs. Fresh

Since frozen fruits and vegetables are fresh-frozen (when their nutritional contents are at their highest), it doesn't make much of a difference whether your fruits and vegetables come from a frozen source or a fresh source. What matters is that you’re eating a plant-rich 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. 

5. Becoming a Skeptic – Avoiding Marketing Tricks

Knowing how to read a nutrition label is essential because companies will always try to convince you to buy their product. "Plant-based" is 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 our next post, we'll review nutrition labels together, but in general, we recommend you read ingredient labels and remember – if you don't recognize the ingredient, your body probably won't either. 


To break any bad habit, you need a plan. It's easy to feel intimidated by the sky-high shelves of dairy, meat, and perfectly packaged goods that draw you in. The tips 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, YAYE friends! 

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