Level up your plant based shopping game. These proven tips and tricks will ensure a stress-free, health-focused, and (believe it or not) FUN experience at the grocery store.
Create your Plant-Based shopping List.
Nothing is more frustrating than wandering around the grocery store trying to figure out what you want to make for the week ahead. We’ve all been there. And this is why planning ahead is so important.
Not only will a plan make you feel less stressed while shopping, but it also helps you choose healthier options instead of getting thrown off track.
But like anything else, successful grocery shopping takes practice, and I’m hoping these tips will help make your shopping trips stress-free and planti-FULL. 😉
How to create your list.
There are many ways to create your plant-based shopping list, and it all depends on what works for you. These are a few options:
- Creating a shopping list by hand. Keep a small notebook with you and jot down all of your items.
- Use an app. I’ve used Google Keep for years, where I “keep” a note dedicated to grocery items. When I run out of a food item at my house, I add it to the list. I LOVE this app, not only for shopping lists, but for ANY lists. You can color code lists, and the best part- you can access Google Keep from anywhere, so you can easily go back and forth between your phone and computer to update lists.
For shopping lists, you have the option of a checkbox format (see below), so you can check things off while shopping.
- There is also an awesome app called AnyList. They have a specific grocery list template, which organizes items into categories, such as “Grains, Pastas and Sides” or “Vegetables“.
You can adjust quantities, package sizes, and add prices. And if you upgrade your plan, you can also group items by specific stores. Pretty cool! I’ve included an example shopping list of mine below (the free version). It’s super easy to download and use.
- Combine a handwritten list AND an app. It may be easier for you to keep a magnetic board near the fridge to quickly jot down items, then transfer those items to your digital list later.
Building your list.
So how do you know WHAT to put on your plant based shopping list?
- Find some time each week to research recipes to make.
- Go through each recipe ingredient list (I also highly recommend skimming through the recipe instructions too, just in case something was missed in the ingredient list). Don’t forget to think about what you’ll want to eat for every meal of the day, and factor in leftovers too.
- Plan out these recipes based on food items you already have, which will help you save money and time.
- Check out this detailed Plant-Based Shopping List for ideas (+ a downloadable shopping list PDF).
- You can also look through your pantry/fridge and note any staple items (foods you use on a regular basis) that may be missing. See some examples below.
Pantry and staple items:
- grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
- canned beans (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo/chickpeas)
- frozen vegetables of all kinds (or frozen vegan side dishes that contain grains and/or veggies)
- staple ingredients (soy sauce or tamari, tahini, lemons, garlic cloves, maple syrup, nutritional yeast, almond milk, peanut butter, vegetable broth, rice vinegar, potatoes, tofu, veggie burgers, tortillas, peppers, mushrooms, onions, vegan mayo, etc.)
- And don’t forget those non-food items, like parchment paper or dish soap.
At the store.
Organize by the layout of the store.
Here’s an awesome time saving tip- organize your plant-based shopping list by your path at the store. Not only will it make your shopping trip quicker and more efficient, it will help you avoid buying unnecessary items.
But note that this will only work if you REALLY know how your store is set up, and things don’t move around too often. If you don’t know exactly where things are located, you can arrange items by general locations, like canned items, nuts and seeds, refrigerated, frozen, etc.
Going to Multiple Stores
If you need to go to multiple stores in one trip, organize your list by stores too. But what if you don’t know which store you’ll find each item? I generally add everything I know Trader Joe’s carries to the ‘Trader Joe’s’ list. I go there first. And if I can’t find it there, the items gets moved down into the other list for my local market. Easy.
Get a cart (or not?)
Have you ever intended on getting just a few items, or misjudged the weight, and ended up barely able to carry a basket to the checkout line? Me too, and that’s why I generally get a cart. It will make your shopping trip less stressful and you’ll have time to relax and make sure you don’t miss anything on your list.
Bring reusable bags.
Reusable bags help the environment and that always feels good. I keep 3 large reusable shopping bags (strong ones that are easy to carry) in the back of my vehicle. So I always have bags I can use, regardless of which store I’m going into. Some stores, like Whole Foods, might even give you some $ off for using your own bags. Score.
Navigating your store.
Good nutrition starts with good choices in the grocery store. But unfortunately, most stores are designed to pull you off track.
Have you ever noticed that the meat and milk sections are usually conveniently positioned near the back of the store? That’s because the store owners know you’ll walk down other aisles and be tempted to buy other food as you go.
And on top of that, they put the items they want you to buy, (and most of those are highly processed), at eye level. Usually healthier items, like rice or dry beans will be on the bottom shelf. But if you know all of this going in, you can be strategic and not get pulled off track.
This is another reason why it’s important to organize your list according to where things are located in the store.
Shop the perimeter.
Generally, fresh food like produce is kept around the perimeter and outside areas of the store. Processed foods are generally kept in the interior aisles. So it’s best to go straight for the produce section first.
Check ingredients and labels.
Some items that you think are vegan, such as Worcestershire sauce, may contain dairy or fish, so it’s best to check labels or do a little research beforehand.
There are apps that can help. I like the “Is it Vegan?” app, where you can scan items to see if they are vegan. It’s not a perfect app by any means, but I do use it from time to time and it’s helpful.
Shop 2 times a week for the freshest ingredients.
It may seem like you’re spending a quite of bit of time shopping, but it’s crucial that you go at least a couple times a week, to ensure you get the freshest produce and reduce the risk of wasting food.
And all trips do not have to be equal in effort. You can do one trip for the bigger items, and another later in the week to stock up on fresh produce.
Other Shopping Tips
If you can, it’s great to get organic produce directly from the farmer, especially if it’s organic. It can also be cheaper than buying from an expensive grocery store. Another option is to shop at co-ops, if you have some in your area.
Avoid the store, completely.
With technology and new services like Shipt, Instacart, and other delivery services, as well as supermarket pick-ups at stores like Target, Kroger and beyond, you now have the options of getting food delivered or picking it up without going inside. This can be an incredible option if you have young children, or just don’t feel like running to the store.
Focus on variety.
Most people tend to eat the same foods over and over again. With a plant-based diet, it’s so important to focus on a variety of food. This is not just because it’s fun and tastes good, but because you need to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need- and variety in the food you eat is the way to do that. If you find it hard to do, commit to yourself that you’ll try one new vegetable each week.
Eat Organic as much as possible.
Organics foods are MUCH healthier for you, as they have (less) or NO pesticides/GMO’s. If you can’t justify the cost, I would recommend at least choosing organic for the biggest offenders of pesticides, which are called the Dirty Dozen. These are:
- kale/collard greens/mustard greens
- bell and hot peppers
So now that you are prepared with these plant based shopping tips, let’s get shopping! Check out this Plant Based Grocery List for a detailed list of foods you can eat, as well as a downloadable shopping list PDF!
Also, check out this list of 25 Common Vegetables; How to Select, Store and Cook.