For a cancer survivor, a trip to the grocery store may be a difficult or unpleasant task. How can you make the trip quicker? How do you practice good food safety at the grocery store? How can you save money? You can make your next trip to the grocery store easier by following a few simple tips.

Ask for help. Some patients may need a little help such as a ride to the store or help carrying heavy items. For others with limited stamina and immunity, grocery shopping may not be possible. Here is where caregivers, friends, relatives, and neighbors can really provide help. If you need a hand, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Your loved ones want to support you.

Shop with a list. Use our Must Have Pantry List to get you started with a fully stocked pantry. You can then uses our Grocery List Worksheet on your trips to the store. Make copies of a standard grocery list that includes perishables like milk and bread, and then add to that list each week. Items that you may want to add on a weekly basis are in-season fruits and veggies and any items that accommodate changes in special dietary needs.

Plan ahead. Plan your meals and snacks for the week in advance. Make one trip to the grocery store with a list. Stick to the list and do not make impulse purchases. This will help you save money and avoid unhealthy foods like cookies or chips that you may add to your cart at the last minute. Use our Meal Planning Worksheet to plan your weekly menu.

Be an early bird. Shop early in the day if you live in warmer climates so the food will stay cold while driving, and it will be cooler while unloading the groceries at home. The grocery store may also be less crowded as many people tend to shop after work or on weekends.

Bring a cooler. If you plan to buy chilled or frozen foods, take a cooler with you to keep the food at a safe temperature until you make it home.

Grab cold foods last. When shopping, select fresh items and room temperature items first. Then grab cold and frozen foods right before you check out at the grocery store. This helps keep the cold and frozen foods at a safe temperature on the drive home.

Check the dates. Cancer patients often have decreased immunity. This means a greater risk for infection and disease. Be sure to only purchase foods that are not expired. Don’t purchase foods with damaged packaging.

Read the label. Some dietary restrictions may limit specific ingredients like acid, alcohol, fiber, grapefruit, iodine, lactose, or sodium. Your healthcare team or a registered dietitian can provide a written list of suggested and restricted foods.

Learn more about organic foods. For the word “organic” to be on a label, the product must meet certain United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved guidelines. Organic produce has been grown without the use of prohibited substances, which includes most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic meat comes from animals that are raised in living conditions that accommodate their natural behaviors, fed organic food, and not given antibiotics or hormones. Keep in mind there is no definitive research that says organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Eating a variety of plant-based foods whether organic or conventional is what’s important. Organic foods can also be more expensive You may be able to find budget-friendly organic foods at farmers markets. Finding a source for local produce means your produce is picked at peak freshness and only travels a short distance to market. Learn more here: Organic vs. Conventional Foods and Cancer 

Use coupons. Look online and in the newspaper for coupons, especially for protein beverages and supplemental products recommended by the healthcare team. Some specialty products can be pricey. Check out the product websites for coupons or contact the manufacturer.

Save the receipt. Saving the receipt can help you stick to a budget. Keep track of what you spend to make adjustments.

Check out food delivery and pick up services. Many grocery stores now offer pickup services. You send a list to the store ahead of time. A store employee then puts together your grocery order. Once your groceries are ready, you go to the store, and an employee loads them in your car.

Some online retailers offer food delivery services. If a trip to the grocery store isn’t feasible, think about having your groceries delivered to your door. You can sometimes even have fresh produce and other products delivered by taking part in a community supported agriculture program (CSA). A CSA program gives you the opportunity to pay for your share of produce ahead of time and the farm supplies you with your share (a box of fruit and vegetables) at a set interval, usually weekly or bi-weekly.