Grocery Shopping on Your Own: Planning Cohesive Meals for Recovery

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Healthy breakfast. Yogurt with granola and berriesAs a Registered Dietitian, perhaps one of the most common questions I receive is, “How do I know what to eat?”  In the face of the startling number of food choices we are confronted with on a daily basis, this is definitely a legitimate question.  On top of the number of decisions we have to make about food, we are also faced with an overload of misinformation about food, dieting, calories and the like.  This can also make it difficult and confusing to know what to eat and what foods are best for your body.

Eating Well while in Recovery

at the grocery storeWhen in recovery from an eating disorder, establishing a meal plan is important, particularly in the early phases when you are learning how to nourish your body appropriately.  The reality is that all foods are acceptable for eating, and there are many benefits to eating a diet that is both varied and balanced.  A meal plan can also serve as a guide to ensure that you are getting in the foods you need on daily basis and planning cohesive meals and snacks for yourself.

Any transition in life, such as beginning college or moving out on your own, comes with new challenges and responsibilities.  Learning how to grocery shop and prepare cohesive meals comes with the responsibility of becoming independent and being able to sufficiently care for you.  While the task itself can seem daunting, with preparation and planning, you can easily begin to establish a routine that works well for you and upholds your recovery efforts.

Learning to Plan and Cook Meals

spaghetti-569067_1280The first thing you want to do is carve out time in your schedule for grocery shopping and meal planning.  Depending on what your schedule is like, you may prefer to grocery shop a couple times a week or once per week if needed.  Being able to cook cohesive meals is dependent on having the foods and resources you will need, so it is important to plan accordingly.  On a routine basis, be sure to check your pantry for basic items that you need to cook, including cooking oils, spices, herbs, etc.  Taking an inventory of your pantry and fridge regularly will help ensure that you have the things you need to cook meals for yourself.

In addition to dedicating time to grocery shopping in your weekly schedule, you also need to have strategy when at the store.  Walking into a grocery store without a clear concept of what you need will only make the process more overwhelming, and more often then not, you will leave without everything you need to make cohesive meals.  Begin by writing down meals that you might like to have for the next few days.  If that is too difficult for you to do, start with one or two days.  Plan your meals around your schedule.  For example, if you will be eating lunch at the school cafeteria or going out with a friend, note that on your weekly meal plan.

Well Balanced Meals

food-715542_1280Many people feel confused about how to put a meal together, but it all comes down to the basics.  Our bodies need a steady source of nutrition, so plan to eat a meal or a snack every 3-4 hours.  The crucial macronutrients our body needs includes carbohydrates and protein, so aim to include something from each of these categories at every meal and snack.  Carbohydrate type foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, legumes, potatoes, cereals, etc.  Protein type foods include meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy products, etc.  Meals do not have to be extravagant to be balanced and cohesive.  Aim for variety and balance, not perfection.

Once you have an idea of what you might like to eat for the week, put together a grocery list based on the meals you have outlined.  For example, if you are making spaghetti and salad for dinner one evening, be sure you have pasta, lettuce, spaghetti sauce, etc.  Whatever you do not currently have in your pantry/fridge, write it down on your grocery-shopping list.  It may even help you navigate through the store easier by organizing your list by section, such as produce, dairy, meats, etc.

You can be successful with grocery shopping and meal planning by adequately preparing for what you need ahead of time.  If you are struggling and still not sure where to begin, consider working with a Registered Dietitian, who can further assist you with this process.


Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What tools have been helpful resources for you as you have meal planned in your recovery?  What has helped you stay consistent with meal planning, even when your living situation has changed?


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 28, 2015. Published on