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Bernard O’Shea: I tried the 6-to-1 grocery hack to shop more healthily. Here’s how I got on

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Ah, grocery shopping. It’s a necessary evil, a chore I approach with the same enthusiasm as scheduling a dentist appointment. 

Yet, here I am, fascinated by the viral 6-to-1 grocery shopping method” that promises to transform this tedious task into something… bearable. 

Could this be the solution to my grocery store woes, the answer to my prayers for fewer impromptu takeout nights when I realise I’ve got nothing but a jar of beetroot and some stale cream crackers in the press?

Disclaimer. I’m working on a year-long fitness and nutrition program that will be a one-hour podcast next February. I’m mentioning this because of an unashamed promotion. I’ve drastically changed my eating habits in the last three months, so my shopping has changed, but not drastically.

So, I dove into the depths of scientific studies and academic articles, looking for anything to justify my newfound interest in this grocery shopping method. 

Surprisingly, the Journal of Preventive Medicine research contributes that meal planning promotes a healthier diet and is a significant control method in fighting obesity.

Historically, humans have sought ways to simplify life’s more mundane tasks. From the ancient markets where vendors shouted the virtues of their produce to the first self-service grocery store in 1916, the evolution of grocery shopping mirrors our desire for efficiency and convenience.

The 6-1 grocery shopping method introduced by chef Will Coleman has become a beacon for those looking to navigate the rising costs of groceries with a strategy that promises savings and a simplified shopping experience. Here’s how it works, broken down into layperson’s terms for those of us who can barely remember what we went into the shop for in the first place.

You aim for six veggies, five fruits, four proteins, three starches, two sauces, and one fun item. 

It’s like playing a game where you can only pick certain items, turning a mundane chore into a culinary adventure.

Could this be the solution to my grocery store woes?

I was eager to try this bespoke supermarket sweep myself. I am that man who goes to Dunnes for milk and bread and returns with a hall rug, bleach and hake fillets. My usual grocery shopping strategy resembles a blindfolded toddler playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. 

Last week, I ventured into the store with a vague notion of buying “healthy stuff.” I emerged 45 minutes later with a bag of lime-flavoured chips, a discounted Easter bunny chocolate (nothing broadcasts your commitment to a healthier life than biting into a Swiss rabbit head as you wait at a set of traffic lights), and a sense of bewilderment. I needed a new approach.

Now, armed with the 6-to-1 method, my latest shopping trip was entirely different. I felt like a knight on a quest, a modern-day Marco Polo navigating the Silk Road of supermarket aisles. So, what did I emerge with instead of purchasing soft furnishings and chocolate animals?

I bought six veggies: sweet potato, cauliflower, fennel, avocado, scallions and a courgette. Five fruits: a mango, a grapefruit (which I still plan on eating three weeks later), a dragon fruit, kiwis and grapes. For the proteins, it was my usual that I would anyway, a packet of ham, sardines, chicken breast and a can of bijoux lentils. 

Same for the starches, it was rice, pasta and potatoes. I never buy sauces, but when I looked into my new fit basket (if anyone who knew looked into it, they probably thought I got a new job shopping for a celebrity influencer), I bought some pasta sauce and a fancy oriental stir-fry plum sauce. As for the treat, this is where it got interesting. I didn’t buy one. Why?

When I looked into my health basket, I couldn’t infiltrate it with a giant pack of custard creams I had my eye on. I thought it was time to lay off the sugar for a few weeks. Also, although I have recently changed the dynamic of my shopping list, I realised I needed to buy more of the old fruit and vegetables.

In reflection, this method is more than a shopping strategy; it’s a philosophy, a way of life. It’s about making conscious choices and recognising that the simplicity we crave in our diets begins with the simplicity of our decisions. 

However, I went back for the custard creams. They might go well with the grapefruit!

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