For those of us with anxiety, shopping can be a miserable experience. For those of us with food anxiety, grocery shopping can sometimes feel impossible. Grocery stores no longer simply sell groceries, they are now Supermarkets which sell just about everything you could possibly need. That’s great for one-stop shopping, but all those choices can feel entirely overwhelming.
Here are 9 tips for making grocery shopping a less anxiety-provoking experience:
1. Make a List
A shopping list is a must when you’re heading to the grocery store. Make sure to group similar items together. For instance: start with the produce (fruits and vegetables), as they are usually the first section of any food store. Group all of your refrigerated and frozen items last so those are the last things you grab before checking out.
A list also helps you to not have to deal with stress inducing decision making while at the store. It can help you stick to a budget and avoid any anxiety related to wondering if you’ll have enough money to pay for everything.
2. Go Off-Peak
The busiest times at a grocery store are typically mid-day on weekends and after work during the week. The day before a major holiday also gets very crowded. If crowds make you anxious, try to avoid doing any major food shopping during these times.
3. Prepare Emotionally
Sometimes we simply need to go to the store, even if we know it will be very crowded. Prepare yourself beforehand by reminding yourself that you will experience a lot of external stimulation and you may feel uncomfortable, but it will end once you finish your shopping. Having a mantra in mind might be helpful for some people, such as “I’m okay”, “I can do this”, “It’s just food shopping”, etc.
4. Choose Smaller Stores
The big-name stores where you can buy any item you could ever want might be more likely to cause anxiety due to their overwhelming size and variety. Try smaller stores that carry fewer products when you only need a couple of items.
5. Stock Up or Pair Down
If you really hate shopping, buy food items in bulk. Many foods can save in the freezer for months and you can reduce the amount of items you need to buy each week.
However, if buying food in bulk makes you anxious because then you’ll have too much food at home, opt for smaller portions of each item, even if it’s more expensive or there’s more packaging waste.
6. Pick Prepared Foods
Most supermarkets now have extensive selections of prepared foods. These items can be more expensive than preparing the item yourself, but they are great options if you find yourself obsessing over the nutrition facts labels on foods. Prepared foods must label the ingredients in case there are potential allergens, but they do not need to provide nutrition facts. (If you do have allergies, of course ask as many questions as you need to ensure the food is safe for you to eat).
7. Walk and Talk
If someone is available to go to the store with you, great! You can rely on that person to help distract you. If no one can physically be there with you, try calling a friend or family member to catch up while you’re shopping. (However, always remember to be respectful of those around you while you’re on your phone 😊 ).
If neither of those are an option, pop in your earbuds and put on some tunes or a new podcast to distract you and allow you to do something you enjoy while food shopping.
8. Ask for Assistance
Many supermarkets now have a Registered Dietitian on staff to help assist shoppers with any of their personal needs. These services are generally free to use and can be very helpful if you have any dietary questions or need recommendations for different products to use.
In addition, ask other staff members for help finding certain items or if there is an item you’d like to buy, but the store does not carry it. Many store managers will be happy to order a particular brand or item for you, when possible.
If talking to people makes you too anxious, skip it! Use that self checkout and call it a win when you get into your car without having spoken to anyone in the store!
9. Order Online
If all else fails, there are many different grocery delivery services available and it might be worth spending the extra money or time to figure out the system to avoid grocery shopping.
Feeling in need of some extra support when it comes to nourishing your body when you have anxiety? Recovering from an eating disorder or chronic dieting? In search of an experienced eating disorder registered dietitian nutritionist in the Long Island, New York area or virtually in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut? Send Christina an email to learn more about 1:1 nutrition therapy sessions!