Grocery shopping is an art. Think about it: you need bread this week, but you don’t want to waste your money and buy more bread than you can use in a week. But also, you don’t want to underbuy and come Friday, be breadless.

Fine, you buy bread. But you get home and realize--you’ve forgotten the mayo for your sandwiches this week! If grocery shopping is an art, grocery lists are the science that makes the art possible. In other words, a healthy grocery list can help you save time and money, be healthier, lose weight, and enjoy delicious food all week.

Without one, you’re shopping blind, throwing things in your basket as you race through the store like you’re competing in an old Supermarket Sweep episode, inevitably wasting food and forgetting the very things you came for.

If planning your next grocery visit leaves your frustrated and crabby, fear not! We’ve got your ultimate guide on creating a healthy grocery list. And the good news is that once you’ve created one, you can make your list for the week in just a few minutes.

Why Use a Grocery List?

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When we’re talking about grocery lists, we’re not just talking about a quickly scrawled list on the back of a receipt that you hastily put together; we’re talking about a template, a master list you can refer to every week that guides your grocery goals.

When you have a master healthy grocery list, you don’t have to worry about forgetting important staples, and you have a strategy for giving your fridge, freezer, and pantry a quick check before shopping. This enables you to save money because you’re not wasting food or rebuying the same thing over and over again.

How to Use a Healthy Grocery List

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Here’s how using a healthy grocery list works:

  • Each week you’ll check your fridge and pantry against your master list. Out of coconut milk? Soy sauce? Tomato sauce? Peanut butter?
  • Maybe you’ve noticed you have lots of greens ready to be used up; time to look for a few recipes to use them!
  • Next, you’ll make plans for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. The list is set up with staples so that if you don’t want to make strict plans, you don’t have to. But, if you like trying a new recipe each night, you can do that, too!

Why Should You Use a Healthy Grocery List?

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Here are our favorite reasons to use a healthy grocery list:

1. Save Money

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Not only can you save money by not wasting food, but you can also save money by checking ahead of time for store specials, and building your meals plans around those. If, say, peanut butter is one of your grocery list staples, and it’s on sale this week, you can plan on stocking up because you know you’ll be using it for months to come.

Similarly, meal planning using a grocery list is a great way to take advantage of coupons, whether you’re using online sales like in Target’s Cartwheel app.

Meal planning also helps you to stretch your dollar; you can choose recipes that rely heavily on plant proteins, for example, instead of expensive animal proteins like steak and organic chicken. Plus, since you have delicious food at home ready for all sorts of delicious recipes, you won’t be as tempted to swing through the drive-through.

And, you can plan lunches--we all know taking your lunch to work every day with you saves a ton of money.

2. Be Healthier

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Eating healthy means a lot of different things for different people today. Some people are trying to cut calories to lose weight, while others are trying to eat a plant-based or vegetarian diet, full of vegetables, legumes, grains, and nut and seeds.

Still, others need to cut out gluten or dairy because of intolerances or outright allergies, while others are looking for an altogether grain-free diet as part of their paleo lifestyle. Whatever the case for you, planning your food ahead of time helps you eat healthier because it makes sure you have the food you need when you need it.  

3. Save Time

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One of the biggest benefits we can think of using a healthy grocery list to plan your shopping is that it will save time. This sounds counterintuitive, but making a list helps you get through the store faster and keeps you from making repeat trips.

Plus, you can use a list on conjunction with meal prepping, washing, chopping, and otherwise prepping your ingredients as soon as you get home from the store, so they’re ready to go during the week.

Healthy Grocery Lists You Can Use

We’re about to share some sample templates that you can modify for use in your home, but first, we need to tell you the most important tip when it comes to creating your healthy grocery list. All grocery stores are essentially structured the same way, with the nutrient-rich foods on the perimeter and the nutrient-empty foods in the center aisles.

This means, to stay healthy, stick to the outside of the store and only head to the center aisles for things like spices, grains, and canned beans and vegetables. If you can stick to this strategy, you’ll be on your way to healthier living in no time. In the meantime, here are our favorite lists and how to use them:

1. Your Ultimate Healthy Grocery List

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If you’re not trying to avoid specific foods for health reasons, here’s your list:

  • Produce: you’ll spend most of your time and money here, in the produce aisle. As your taste buds adjust, it will quickly become your favorite aisle, packed with delicious flavors and seasonal produce you’ll love to try. To help you with dinner prep, feel free to grab pre-chopped onions, garlic, and squash, as well as pre-rinsed greens like kale, spinach, and salad greens. Adding herbs like fresh mint and basil to your shopping cart will go a long way, as well.
  • Meat: get fresh, organic cuts of meat but also utilize nitrate-free meats such as sausages and sandwich meat. These last for a long time in the fridge and can be whipped up into a quick meal.
  • Grains: whole grains like brown rice, jasmine rice, quinoa, and others make delicious side meals. You can find many of these available now in microwavable steam packs for even quicker meals.
  • Dairy: milk, eggs, and cheese are all nutritious proteins that can both star in meals or act as all-important sidekicks.
  • Canned items: beans and vegetables such as tomatoes are staples that can help you get meals on the table quickly.
  • Oils: for most cooking, you’ll want to utilize olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Bread: keep your bread choices healthy and interesting by choosing whole grain options. Bonus tip: keep bread in the freezer until you’re ready to use it; it’s easy to toast individual slices or rolls when you need them!
  • Spices: always have the basics on hand, including sea salt, black pepper, basil, thyme, oregano, cumin, garlic, and cinnamon. By no means limit yourself to just these, however!

2. Your Ultimate Paleo Healthy Grocery List

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Whether you’re doing a Whole30 or simply trying to live the paleo lifestyle, paleo shopping can take some time to adjust to. This is why a list is especially important! Here is our list and our tips:

  • Produce: Make sure you grab cauliflower, zucchini, and lettuce wraps, as you can rice the cauliflower and use it to make easy fried “rice” or a delicious pizza crust, turn the zucchini into zoodles, and use the wraps in place of bread for delicious sandwiches. Grab avocados and sweet potatoes for extra starch and good oils to fill you up. Also don’t forget fresh herbs, onions, and savory and sweet peppers, as these are the flavors that will make your food stand out!
  • Meat: if you’re paleo, this is another aisle you’ll spend some time in. While you can grab the standard cuts like organic chicken breast and thighs, beef roasts, and pork chops, make sure you also pick up things like fresh, nitrate-free sausage, as well as nitrate-free lunch meat and frozen chicken breasts. These are staples that will make it so you don’t have to cook every night and can rely on something from the fridge or freezer in a pinch.
  • Eggs are the only thing you’ll grab in the dairy section but don’t skimp on these as they’re highly beneficial and super useful--use them in everything from scrambled eggs for breakfast to frittatas for dinner to hard boiled eggs for lunch.
  • Oils: stock up on the basics like coconut oil, olive oil, and ghee.
  • Coffee: you might have to avoid your dairy creamer, but you don’t have to forget your coffee (or your tea).
  • Nut and seeds: add nut butter like almond butter and cashew butter to your list, and you can also stock up on these nuts to eat as snacks.
  • Spices: spices are a fantastic and wonderful world to play. Add sea salt, black pepper, to your list, as well as powerhouses like turmeric, cinnamon, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, basil, and thyme.
  • Extras: coconut milk from a can makes a great sub for milk (as does almond milk), and you can use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Also add honey, maple syrup, and hot sauce to your list.

3. Your Ultimate Vegan Healthy Grocery List

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A vegetarian healthy grocery list is even simpler than a paleo grocery list; again, just stick to the produce aisle as much as possible, supplementing with whole grains and legumes, and you’ll be in great shape!

  • Produce: using firm vegetables like squashes, potatoes, and mushrooms can give your meal’s calories and texture. Add lots of green, leafy vegetables and fresh herbs, onions, garlic, and spicy and sweet peppers for added flavor.
  • Canned items: coconut milk, canned beans of all kinds and flavors, and canned tomatoes.
  • Legumes: utilize the full range of legumes available to you, including lentils!
  • Protein sources: tofu, tempeh, seitan, chia seeds, flax seeds, and vegan protein powders are all beneficial forms of protein for vegan diets.
  • Vegan alternatives: not everyone like uses “soysage” and other vegan alternatives to meat and dairy products but if you do, you can stock up on everything from vegan butter to vegan cheese to vegan sausage.
  • Plant-based milk like almond milk or cashew milk
  • Bread of choice
  • Grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal are all important sources of protein and carbohydrates for vegetarians.
  • Nut and seeds provide tons of great nutritional benefits plus they’re delicious! And, you can even use nuts to make plant-based milk alternatives, or even use cashews to make sour cream and other dairy alternatives.
  • Oils: use oils like olive oil and coconut oil for cooking.
  • Spices: the better stocked your spice cabinet, the better you’ll be able to add flavor to any meal. Here are the basics: salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve created your healthy grocery list, now it’s time for the shopping! Keep in mind that it could very well take you a month or two of regular trips to fully flesh out the master list that’s best for you. As we’ve already mentioned, grocery shopping is part art, one that you get better at with experience.

Your tastes might change, as well, but what’s important is that you have a master list that you can use each week to whip up your list. This will allow you to save money, time, and finally achieve those health goals you’ve been putting off.