10 Ways to Get Healthy Groceries Right Now, According to Nutritionists

How to find healthy food, even when grocery shopping gets hard.

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How Nutritionists Are Getting Groceries Now

Getting groceries has become a stressful event, especially now that some stores sell out of product faster than usual. So what should you do if you’re following grocery shopping strategies and still struggling to find quality meat, produce or diet-specific products? We asked registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) from around the country for their tips and tricks for getting the groceries they need while socially distancing and staying safe during the current pandemic.

Shop Early and Less Often, With a List

Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, a culinary and integrative dietitian based in Atlanta, GA, has to visit the supermarket to get groceries. "Using a list can mean fewer trips to the store, and organizing it by aisle allows you to get in and out of the store quickly," she says. Moore has also noticed that in her area weekday mornings tend to have fewer people in the store and better-stocked shelves. Every area is a little different, so find the time where the least people visit the market in your area.

Visit Other Kinds of Stores

The grocery store isn’t the only place to pick up food. Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition says, "You can pick up some staples (such as beans, rice, cereal, eggs, milk) at a few other places beyond the grocery store such as Big Lots, Dollar General or Family Dollar." While they may not have produce beyond canned fruits or vegetables, Andrews reminds us that they may have other staples like bread, peanut butter, canned tuna, canned beans, milk and eggs.

Hire a Local Food Shopper

Just like you would hire a babysitter pre-pandemic, you might be able to hire a local high schooler to make a local supermarket run for fresh, canned and frozen foods. Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, nutrition professor at Boston University and the host of the hit nutrition, health, and wellness podcast, SpotOn! says, “If you don't want to enter into a supermarket to get your weekly food supplies (especially if you are in the high risk category) and have an entrepreneurial spirit, use this time to think outside-the-box and solicit a neighborhood teenager who can drive to the store and shop for you.” If they don’t have a mask, make sure you provide them with one.

Check Local Restaurant Distributors

Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH of Fad Free Nutrition Blog says to check your local restaurant distributors to see whether you can pick up directly from their warehouses or even from the restaurant itself. “Here in Puerto Rico, restaurant chains such as Burger King and McDonalds have been selling pantry staples such as milk, bread, eggs and ham through their drive through windows. It controls exposure, plus many of them offer you hand sanitizer before any transactions take place.”

Join a CSA

“Seek out local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm share memberships for grocery needs,” recommends Erin Hendrickson, RDN Nashville, TN-based food waste expert. Hendrickson says that many CSA farmers have increased their crops to better support the community throughout the pandemic, and now offer weekly curbside pick-up or convenient home delivery. Shoppers can source meat and dairy products, baked goods, eggs and a variety of seasonal produce through most CSA memberships.

Talk to Grocery Store Employees (from a Distance)

Having a chat with any of the grocery store employees can help you get some important information. “They can tell you when new shipments are coming and some are even willing to set items aside for you, so you don't have to make multiple trips and continuously miss the toilet paper before it flies off the shelves,” says Colleen Wysocki-Woods MS, RDN a private practice dietitian. “If you know a grocery store worker personally, they may be willing to pick up your items for you before or after their shift; just be sure to thank them appropriately!”

Use a Grocery Delivery Service

Angela Lemond, RDN, owner of Plano, TX based Lemond Nutrition loves using the InstaCart app “because it gives you several local grocers for people like me that like foods at various stores (produce at one place, meat at another).” The app also allows you to make adjustments to your grocery order before an employee begins shopping and if an item you requested isn’t available, you can request a specific alternative. You can also reorder past grocery runs to make your life easier.

Try a Meal Delivery Service or a Meal Kit Box

Meal delivery services provide premade meals delivered right to your door. “This is a great option for those who may struggle with making meals such as the sick and elderly,” says Katie M. Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND blogger at The Geriatric Dietitian. You can also order from meal kit services where you do the cooking. There are numerous meal delivery and meal kit services available online.

Find a Shopping Buddy

“Get an ongoing text chain going with family or neighbors regarding store runs,” suggests Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, weight loss dietitian and owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, LLC. “Every time someone is ordering or making a trip, you can help each other find items that may not have been available the last time. In this way, you're maximizing the chances you'll get what you need and are helping others at the same time.”

Shop at Independent Stores

“Smaller, independent grocers often use different distributors than larger retailers, so their supplies may not be as depleted,” says Jamie Vespa MS, RD food journalist and blogger at Dishing Out Health. “Plus, you're supporting the smaller businesses that have likely been financially hit the hardest.”