I am more than happy to provide my "staple" grocery list which includes the foods I buy on a weekly basis, no matter what. There are always extra's that I throw in every now and then but you can typically find the same foods in our fridge and pantry no matter what day of the week or what time of the year.
Before I give you a template of what you can consider to add/include in your diet in order to help fuel your workout and lifestyle, I want to open your mind to the idea of shopping healthy on a budget.
We live in a world of processed food. Sure, there are healthy boxed, frozen, packaged and canned foods but the best nutrition can be found in foods that contain little to no ingredients.
My idea of a healthy diet is building off a plant-based diet. Regardless if you are a vegetarian, vegan or meat-eater, the diet should be rich in fruits and veggies to provide your body with an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Assuming that you understand a little bit about the human body, I think you would agree that vitamins and minerals are essential in our diet as they play major role in the normal functioning of the human body. Considering that many people in developing countries suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies, you would think that American's would take advantage of the abundance of fruits and veggies in the grocery store in an effort to prevent severe health conditions.
Sadly, much of our nation is obsessed with calories, weight and for many people, performance. I find a strong correlation in the rising number of overweight and obese individuals and the ever-increasing number of processed, "healthy" and fast food options available to consumers. If you think about it, 20-30 years ago the options of "healthy" foods were small compared to now, yet 20-30 years ago, much of the American population was at a healthy weight and lead a fairly active lifestyle.
Despite the number of sugar-free, fat-free, sodium-free options on the shelf, American's aren't losing weight. In my opinion, a calorie isn't just a calorie. People are choosing "diet" foods and "healthy" foods, yet feeling hungry and unsatisfied throughout the day.
You don't lose/maintain weight and/or increase performance by just eating x-amount of calories per day. By timing your nutrition with your training (thus keeping your blood sugar stable), allowing your body to metabolize fat for fuel (thus not overdoing it on sugary sport drinks and unnecessary/unused calories during training) and focusing on recovery nutrition you will ultimately find yourself with more energy throughout the day, thus allowing your body to stay more active. By focusing on more fiber and nutrient-rich foods, in addition to complex carbs, lean/low fat protein and healthy fat you will find yourself eating a variety of foods, thus providing your body with a variety of nutrients, without a lot of calories.
I stress the importance of eating on a budget because many of the "cheap" foods are found in the outside of the grocery store. Sure, the apples may not be on sale and may run you $3, but an apple for a snack, served with 1/2 ounce cheese or 1/2 tbsp natural PB may be much more beneficial to your diet and body than a box of 110 calorie Special K protein snack bars, with an ingredient list that reads:
COATING (SUGAR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL OIL?, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, WHEY, NONFAT DRY MILK, SOY LECITHIN, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, SALT, POLYSORBATE 60, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), CORN SYRUP, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, FRUCTOSE, SUGAR, RICE FLOUR, SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, COCOA BUTTER), TOFFEE BITS (SUGAR, BUTTER [CREAM, SALT], CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, MALT EXTRACT, SALT, RICE BRAN], CORN SYRUP, SWEETENED CONDENSED SKIM MILK [SUGAR, SKIM MILK], SALT), SOYBEAN AND PALM OIL WITH TBHQ FOR FRESHNESS, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE, CONTAINS TWO PERCENT OR LESS OF INULIN, COCOA PROCESSED WITH ALKALI, MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, NONFAT DRY MILK, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SALT, GELATIN, GLYCERIN, MALT EXTRACT, SODIUM ASCORBATE (VITAMIN C), VITAMIN E ACETATE, SOY LECITHIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, NIACINAMIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), ALMOND FLOUR, PARTIALLY DEFATTED PEANUT FLOUR, WHEAT STARCH, VITAMIN B12. ?LESS THAN 0.5g TRANS FAT PER SERVING
Better yet, how about a glass of skim milk and a piece of fruit?
Right now in my life, I can't spend a lot of money on my weekly groceries. I would love to buy Greek Yogurt every day but with Karel and I eating at least 8 ounces low fat yogurt a day, I would spend about a 1/4th of my weekly grocery budge just on Greek yogurt. I would love to buy organic meat and fish for Karel but right now, I buy fresh whenever I find a good sale. I don't have hardly any organic food in my house but I would love to consider some other options of foods (specifically fruits and veggies) when I have a bit more money. Do I think that buying organic is going to make me healthier? Well, that all depends on whether or not my body needs the food and what it will provide to my body. Maybe all I can afford right now is brown rice but in a few months I can try out a few different types of grains. I certainly prioritize my food choices the best I can so that I can have a variety of food to meet my athletic and individual requirements and I plan on doing that now and in the future. I'd like to think that I am eating today in order to feel good tomorrow and planning my diet to keep me healthy for the future.
Therefore, as you plan your grocery list to fuel your workout and your lifestyle, bear in mind that you do not have to leave the grocery store with an empty wallet. As you build your diet, to meet your individual needs (and not what a magazine or book is telling you to do) prioritize foods with little or no ingredients (veggies, fruit, lean/low fat protein, healthy unsaturated fats). With the base of your diet filled with vitamins and minerals, you can then build your meals/snacks with foods in the inside of the grocery store (as opposed to the perimeter).
My typical Grocery List
*I try to buy on sale so I typically shop around at Wal-mart, big lots (no fruits and veggies there), Food Lion and Publix.
Tomatoes (although technically a fruit)
Nature's Own High Fiber Bread
Whole grain/enriched pasta
Oatmeal (instant and packaged)
Cereal (I typically buy at Big Lots because they are super cheap. I try to find the lowest sugar and least ingredient option)
*all canned (rinse and drain before using)
Part-skim mozzarella cheese/swiss cheese
Low fat yogurt
Veggie burgers (on occasion)
Low fat or Fat Free Breakstone Cottage Cheese
Whey protein (Body Fortress at Wal-mart)
*these last for a while so we usually don't go through them fast
Low sugar jelly
Whipped cream cheese
Condiments (horseradish mustard)
Salsa (ok-we go through this fast)
Spices/herbs (no salt)
Dark Chocolate (ok-this needs replacing on a weekly basis :)
Fiber One granola bars