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46404912_MGrocery shopping can be a time consuming and expensive task if you go to the grocery store unprepared. A grocery list is a great way to plan out your meals, keep track of what you are eating and to stick to your long-term health goals. Creating a grocery list can also minimize over-spending and shopper’s guilt. Follow these tips to create the perfect grocery list:

Plan before you go. Before you hit the grocery store, be sure to take a survey of what is already in your cabinets, fridge and freezer. To avoid buying what you already have, create a checklist and fill in the blanks when you head out to the grocery store. If you make this a habit, you will save time and money. You’ll also be surprised on how many meals you can prepare with what you already have on hand.

46404912_MOrganize your list. First, decide how to create and organize your list. You can create either a paper or electronic list, depending on preference. The best way to organize your list is to divide each food group into a specific section. Categories you could use include fruits, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, dairy, condiments and beverages. By dividing your list into categories, you will be more likely to buy nutrient dense food instead of over-processed snacks.

Be realistic. If you are used to buying candy, chips and soda at the grocery store, it’s not likely you will break that habit overnight. Instead, implement small changes over time, perhaps cutting out candy first. Additionally, it is important to understand how much food you can actually consume to avoid buying too much. This is why taking an inventory and making a list is important.

As we get older, we’re sometimes set in our ways. But we encourage you to try some of these ideas. You might be surprised how much easier it is to eat healthy foods when we’ve planned — and purchased the ingredients — for healthy meals!