For most of us, grocery shopping is a necessary errand that we routinely do without much emotion. Yet for those with eating disorders grocery shopping can be loaded with emotion. Sometimes it is a place they spend excessive time looking at foods, reading labels, trying to decide what foods are acceptable to buy. Other times the grocery store represents something so anxiety-provoking that they avoid it all together, which then results in further challenges with food given lack of adequate supply at home.
I've developed several grocery shopping guidelines that I use with clients to help minimize the distress and/or obsession with the task. The client and I together will further individualize these guidelines for their specific needs.
General grocery shopping guidelines:
- Plan to go 1x/week, usually on the same day each week. This allows you to plan menus, purchase perishable items, and to buy things that you are in the mood for. Shopping more frequently than this results in excessive time devoted to the task.
- Write out your week's menus, factoring in your schedule that week (e.g. don't plan to cook an elaborate dinner on nights you are time-crunched). Dinners will likely have the most variety. Choose 1-2 meals to rotate at breakfast and lunch. Leftovers also make great lunch/dinner options.
- Extrapolate your grocery list from your menus – this is how you'll know what foods to buy. Also think about additional items you need (e.g. snack foods, condiments, things you ran out of, staples such as milk and bread).
- Don't forget to take your list with you to the store! Try to stick to the list without overthinking it. Of course it's ok to throw some extra things in your cart if they sound good. Avoid label reading – it's a trap!
By using these guidelines, grocery shopping will become more efficient and, with repeated exposure, less emotional. Making the commitment to purchase foods that are satisfying and nourishing is a wonderful gift to your amazing body.