Entity explains how to cultivate healthier and financially savvy shopping habits.

When we first take the first big step of moving out of our parents’ house, one of the greatest struggles we face is knowing what to eat. While we have more freedom to shop on our own, our newfound independence can keep us from making smart shopping choices.

While you want to save time and money, you also want to maintain a healthy diet. The problem is that you just don’t know how. So if you’re stuck in a grocery shopping rut, read these tips on how to shop smarter.

1 Eat before going to the grocery store.

It’s basic primeval human nature: We eat when we’re hungry. It’s hard to stop thinking of food when you’re at the supermarket wondering what to buy for dinner.

So before you leave the house, make sure to eat lunch or grab a snack. Otherwise, your shopping cart will be full of tasty (and likely unhealthy) treats you don’t need and will never finish.

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2 Have a general plan before you shop.

You have your paycheck. You have your reusable bags. But do you have a plan? Knowing what you want to make for the week ahead of time will save you time and money at the grocery store.

Keep track of different meal ideas throughout the week. Then make a list of what you plan to cook every night of the week and consider the ingredients you will need to buy. Unless you’re purchasing dry foods that last weeks or even months, buy only what you know you’ll eat in a few days to help cut down on food waste.

3 Exercise your buying autonomy.

Sticking to your grocery list will help you immensely when you walk through those sliding glass doors. You should also be aware that the store’s number one goal is to get you to spend money. It’s the reason why the more expensive items are at eye-level while cheaper items are lower down the shelf and harder to see. It’s also the reason the the dairy section is always at the back of the store (ensuring that customers must walk through aisles of tempting products before getting to the milk).

Keep that knowledge in mind the next time you walk by the chocolate bar rack. When you notice subtle tactics to make profits, take control of your buying power and make purchases based on need, not manipulation.

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4 Stock up on the essentials.

Some meals require fresh ingredients and preparation time and other meals only need a few minutes in the microwave. Your week will probably be a mix of both meals. But before you run out of frozen ready-made meals, make sure you’re stocked up on basic ingredients that you can quickly combine in a pinch. Staple ingredients may vary from kitchen to kitchen, but most people depend on essentials like rice, olive oil, tomato sauce, flour, onion, garlic and noodles.

These ingredients last for months and are easy to buy in bulk for a good price. So figure out what basic ingredients you use most and start stocking your shelves. They’ll come in handy when you don’t feel like cooking or when you can’t afford to splurge on more complex meals.

5 Treat your produce the way it deserves to be treated.

Eating more plant-based products is one of the best ways to improve your health. Different colored fruits and vegetables not only look great, but provide different health benefits along with a boost of energy. However, many shoppers buy too many fruits and vegetables, bring them home and don’t look at them until they’re moldy and need to be thrown out.

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In order to combat this cycle of buying and then wastefully throwing away fruits and vegetables, learn how to present different produce so its more available for the household. Cut up melons for easier consumption. Take berries out of their plastic containers, wash and dry them and then display them in a cute bowl.

You can also prepare your vegetables ahead of time, which will make them more easily available to eat at the end of the day. This also helps reduce your purchases to what you will absolutely eat within a short amount of time.

6 Shopping seasonally and locally when you can.

Perusing through aisle upon aisle of different products can be overwhelming, even for an experienced shopper. It doesn’t help that large grocery stores are designed to make you spend money. The sheer number of options for the same product can also be daunting if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.

Hitting up the local farmer’s market, however, can help you decide what to buy since the selection is mostly limited to what is in season. Shopping at smaller local produce stands will not only help your local economy and farmers, but it will provide a slew of fresh produce during peak seasons.

7 Be open to try out new recipes.

Try diversifying your meal ideas by testing out new recipes every week. Find interesting dishes co-workers or family members, online or in a cookbook.

Go even further by trying out different ethnic varieties of food. Learn how to make flour tortillas or start with a simple recipe for curry and rice. At the next work potluck, ask your co-worker how she made those enchiladas and use that recipe the next time you cook.

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