Words: Sujata Din
Mindfulness means giving something your full attention. It requires you to slow down and really notice what you’re doing. It is the opposite of the rushing or multitasking that can be symptomatic of our busy lives. When you’re mindful, you’re taking your time. Have you ever thought about applying mindfulness to your diet – to buying, preparing, and eating your food?
Many of us are shopping mindlessly and because of that we end up cooking and eating mindlessly. I want to share with you how by making some simple shifts in mindset and habits you can gradually begin to shop mindfully, so you can then cook mindfully and eat mindfully too.
Let’s begin with first looking at what is shopping mindlessly.
Most of us are doing many things in our everyday lives that are habitual, including grocery shopping on auto pilot. It may seem tedious, going to the same supermarket, down the same aisles and buying what you’ve always bought. Or it may feel exhausting, especially when the supermarkets are busy, and you don’t have much time to shop.
Have you ever bought foods and then when you get home, you wonder why you even bought some things that you didn’t want or need?
It’s not your fault that you are doing this as there are so many marketing techniques used by supermarkets to tempt us, like beautifully packaged foods and special offer items, kept on shelves at our eye level. Things are never placed on shelves by accident – it is all carefully planned out to maximise our spending.
Or we impulse buy while waiting in the checkout line or get bread, cakes, cookies, or pastries when passing the bakery as this smell so good. If we shop mindlessly the problem then becomes that we are often eating unhealthily, overspending, and at times throwing away what we didn’t need.
Simple practical tips to shop mindfully by planning and increasing your awareness.
- Create a meal planner: It’s important to have a meal planner for the week so you know what you’re going to be eating and can stock up and prepare in advance. When you know what you will eat, it results in healthy meals, saves you time and money too as there is less wastage. You can have a meal planning system that you can use each week to help you to know what types of recipes to consider, such as “Stir-fry Saturday” or “Meatless Monday” or “Leftover Lunches”.
- Look up recipes: You can use recipes from my blog, use existing recipes or new recipes that you find on the internet and in recipe books. Do make sure to make a note of all the ingredients needed otherwise you end up rushing last minute to get them.
- Check what you have at home: We tend to forget what’s in the back of the cupboards at home and things can sometimes lurk there for months or years. Set some time and check your fridge and pantry for foods getting close to the ‘use by’ date. Try to use what you have at home and, if something is expiring, substitute it into your recipe so it doesn’t get wasted. If you won’t use something you have at home, put it in a food charity bin at the supermarket rather than throwing away perfectly good food.
- Prepare a shopping list: Based on the recipes you’re using, look at what you have at home and then prepare a shopping list. Buy only what you need and don’t be tempted to buy things that are on discount or are located by the checkout. By shopping mindfully, you can save money and decide how much you want to spend on your weekly food shopping. This varies from person to person, depending on the number of people in your home, what you are cooking, your income, dietary preferences, etc.
- Eat seasonal foods and try to buy local: Seasonal foods are cheaper and will also taste fresh and better. Use the different seasons as an opportunity to change your meals and get variety. Autumn and winter is a great time to experiment with soups and roasted veggies. You can use leeks, carrots, mushrooms, beetroots, and pumpkins. During summer have more seasonal fruits like berries, mangoes, and tomatoes. Wherever possible, support local farms and shops and buy from them.
- Use your senses: You can use your sense of sight, smell, and touch to see if produce is fresh or ripe. Look at the colours of the fruit, are they bright or dull? Or smell a pineapple or cantaloupe – do you get the sweet scent? And some like avocados, mangoes and tomatoes are soft to the touch when ripe and ready.
- Frozen produce: Buy some frozen vegetables, seafood, poultry, and fruits to help you on those days you need some ingredients to supplement your recipe and to save you an extra trip to the grocery store. When you catch these items on sale, stock your freezer and enjoy the savings.
- Include all food groups:
- Buy vegetables, these have many benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart diseases. Some options for easily available affordable vegetables include carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, onions, sweet potatoes, peppers, etc.
- Fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some options include apples, pears, bananas, kiwi, plums, lemons, oranges, etc.
- Grains provide many nutrients such as fibre and minerals and make us feel satisfied and there are many choices, including wholewheat pasta, wholegrain bread, brown rice, oats, and couscous.
- Include protein and have many choices, some vegetarian protein options are beans, lentils, tofu and for animal protein some choices are eggs, fish, turkey, and chicken.
- Buy more plant-based meals Vegetarian protein is lower in fat, has more fibre and is more affordable. Try to reduce animal protein in your diet and have more plant-based protein, not just doing ‘meatless Mondays’ but include some vegetarian protein daily.
- Read the labels A simple tip to shop mindfully is read the label and see what ingredients have been used in the packaged food. Do you recognise what this is and is it a real food? Just by reading the labels you are shopping mindfully and looking after your health.
- Keep to your shopping list When shopping our eyes tend to wander around as products are placed to entice us, so we end up buying more than we intended. Try to keep to your shopping list and avoid buying what you don’t need.
- Don’t shop when hungry Shopping when hungry may result in buying a lot more food, especially what we are craving at the time.
Sujata Din is a Certified Health Coach who specialises in helping busy women live healthier and happier lives by making small yet sustainable changes to their diet, lifestyle, and mindset. https://sujatadin.com/