Grocery Shopping Tips for Athletes on a Budget

Grocery tips for athletes on a budget 1

 

There’s no doubt it’s crazy times we live in right now. We need to be smart with spending whilst still fueling our body to stay as healthy as possible.  I run at the moment for the pure joy of it, the outdoors time each day and the mental clarity it provides. When I’m consistently running, I’m almost always hungry. It is important to consider the necessary nutritional intake for any training you may be doing at this time. Stress is stress, whether it be physical or mental, so eating well, and enough is essential to keep the immune system in check. Don’t let this one slide right now.

I’ve put together these tips for you, so you can save some extra cash in these next few months (or however long this thing is going to last!), and still enjoy your cooking and eating.

 

Write a list

Writing a grocery list might sound like a frustrating thing, however, it will ensure your grocery trip is the most cost-effective and time-efficient. You’re more likely to stick to your grocery budget if you write a list!

There are so many phone apps for writing shopping lists. A few I recommend in America are Mealime, Anylist, and Cozi Family Organizer. For my Aussie readers, Grocereaze, Buy Me A Pie! And Out of Milk.

When writing a list, it can be handy to categorize it. Most grocery stores will have the fresh produce and potentially specific colder goods in the first few aisles or entry section, so I tend to write these on the list first, as shown in my sample template below. Often the bakery section and bulk produce are in the same area, so I place any goods I need from these sections next. The middle aisles hold the cheapest food items, that last the longest. Essentially, your non-perishables like canned goods, preserves, nut butters, cereal, pasta, rice, etc. Meats and often dairy goods are in the same general area towards the back or sides of the store. I like to add these goods to the right side of the list. There are also frozen goods, pharmaceuticals, toiletry needs, and cleaning products, which I put at the bottom of the list.

 

Navigating the grocery store like a pro

Have you ever walked into a grocery store, and not known where to start? The middle aisles hold the cheapest items that last the longest. Keep in mind that this is great for saving money. If you’d rather fruit and vegetables that last a while, remember you can always get canned, frozen, or chop them up and freeze them yourself. I like to freeze bananas and chop up veggies to freeze for roasting or stir-fry later.

Grocery tips for athletes 2

 

Another nifty tip is to always look high and low in the aisle. Fun fact, grocery stores make most of their money off brands paying to have their product placed in prominent positions around the store, not you as a consumer. The most expensive products will be placed in the middle. Generic brand products often taste the same, so save money where you can here.

Always look at the price per weight, ounce or serving if applicable. You’ll always get the better deal. The first situation I think of where I use this most is milk and toilet paper (although I wouldn’t stress about the latter, there isn’t any, anyway). Also, always buy in bulk for goods you use often. It’s the same deal with cost-effectiveness. Think oats, rice, flour, sugar, pasta, olive oil, chicken stock, seasonings, etc.

 

Choosing the goods.

On a budget, being open to eating cheaper cuts of meats is prime. Chicken thighs are cheaper than chicken breast, and often marinate better and contain all the flavor. Don’t believe me? Try cooking a curry with chicken breast, and then try one with thighs. Life changer.

Do your own slicing, dicing, and shredding. The stores always charge more if they make cuts or shred the item for you.

Shopping in categories for the time savvy

I’ve found it’s a good idea to have a knowledge of where you can buy produce the cheapest, packaged goods, and toiletry products. This makes grocery shopping most effective cost-wise, however, if the stores are far apart and you don’t own a vehicle, this can be a little tricky. For example, in Boise (Idaho), close to Boise State University campus and downtown, we have an Albertsons, Wholefoods, Trader Joe’s and Winco. There’s a Walmart, Costco and Fred Meyer in other areas of Boise, but they’re not easily accessible by bike or particularly close to BSU campus. These are also cheaper options.

 

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  • For organic produce at a lower cost: Albertsons (open nature generic brand products), Trader Joe’s (How is it so cheap for good quality? Check out this post)
  • Cheapest: Winco, Walmart
  • For organic produce, regardless of cost: Wholefoods, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s (organic veggie section), Fred Meyer (organic section)

 

Savings programs?! You can get more bang for your buck

Most people’s first thoughts on joining a rewards program are annoying advertisements including multiple emails, flyers and potentially an annoying card that sits in your wallet, hardly being used. However, I’ve found Albertsons ‘Just for U’ rewards program really helpful in saving money, and also for the occasional free grocery item giveaway if I decide to shop at this location. Essentially, you make an account, and each week you can choose which coupons you add to your account. These coupons automatically deduct from the cost of groceries when you enter the phone number you registered at the checkout. Look out for ‘FREE’ groceries each week. I got a free bag of Open Nature Granola for 2 weeks in a row, some Kite Hill yogurt, and have had free bags of coffee on multiple occasions.

I know Wholefoods have rewards for Amazon Prime members. Prime members get an extra 10% off sale items, weekly deals (look for the blue prime member store icon), special deals on online grocery shopping with Amazon-like free delivery.

 

Moocho App: free grocery money

This app is worth downloading if you shop at Albertsons. For $5 free grocery credit upon downloading the app, use referral code: 293683.  Ask to pay with Moocho at the counter and collect 1 Mooch for every $5 you spend. At 20 Mooches, you get $7 worth of grocery credit at the store. The app also connects up with Starbucks and other popular fast food joints, but given the COVID-19 restrictions, these might not be utilized at the moment.

Best 5k Running Shoes

 

Best 5k running shoes 2

 

Selecting the best 5k Running Shoes to optimize your race is important to the athlete. It is essential to find the best-fit considering factors such as the individual’s foot type, biomechanics, race, and training goals, training level (from weekend warrior to elite athlete), weekly/monthly mileage, and speed. For elite athletes, selecting the best racing flats for 5k is important. Now is the perfect time to find your best shoe before races start up again, hopefully in a few months. There’s time to test and try shoes out on varied surfaces, research shoes, and talk to fellow teammates or training partners before you commit to purchase. I’ve found quite a few nifty running shoe discounts online as companies desire to increase profits and sales turnover in an unstable economy at present. Try any of these, dependent on your location, to find your best 5k running shoes:

International:

 

Australian

 

These shoes are in no particular order, and there are many more that I’d recommend also, so just comment or contact me and I will be able to provide insight into other shoes on the market. I tried to be brand diverse, exploring a few different shoes on the market to give an all-around overview of what is available. 

Shoe 1: Nike ZoomXVaporfly Next%

These shoes have earned worldwide acclaim, and you may have heard of them before as these snazzy shoes have been worn by Eluid Kipchoge and Mo Farah to run some very speedy times. Having worn these shoes before, I instantly noticed the bouncy cushion under my feet, linking it to the ‘energy return’ and optimization of running efficiency Nike promotes under the label of these shoes. The engineering behind this is the ultra light-weight carbon fibre plate in the midsole of the shoe, cushioned between two ZoomX foam layers. This ZoomX foam is Pebax-based, meaning it is lightweight, provides optimal cushioning and optimal energy return. This time around, Nike footwear engineers have added 15% more ZoomX foam on the Next%, compared to the previous model, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly 4%, increasing the energy return even further than 4%. This is according to Nike engineers and independent studies conducted (see https://bit.ly/3duMjnF)

The traction on the sole of the shoe ensures grip on the track, wet or dry road and even works well on gravel surfaces. These shoes have a 40mm sole, and a 9mm drop, which means they are very well cushioned and can help prevent muscle fatigue leading up to race day. I have personally felt less muscle fatigue the day after a session in these shoes. Further, the Vaporweave upper is a woven blend of thermoplastic polymers and nylon which have water and sweat resistant properties. The laces are looped through slashes on the sides of the shoe, requiring no band and securing the feet nicely for a comfortable fit. 

Weighing in at around 190grams, this shoe is lightweight and speedy, but not at the compromise of cushion and comfort. 

These shoes are a little pricey, retailing for around cheapest price $180-$300 USD, but I find most reputable stores are retailing them for $250USD (based on online figures). Grab yourself some fresh kicks here: https://swoo.sh/3boPR9c

 

Shoe 2: Asics Lyteracer TS 7

I thought I’d throw in an Asics shoe as this company has some pretty decent shoes for road racing and I often find they are under-explored as an option for athletes. Particularly those requiring a bit more support in the foot. The shoe is a great all-rounder, versatile on the track and road. I would use this shoe for shorter distance road races, like the 5k, up until the marathon (however watch the wear and tear, it is important to not wear an overused shoe for a marathon, it’s a long way). You want to break in a shoe, trial it out, and feel comfortable to run in it for the full 42.2km. 

This shoe has a 10mm heel drop (or gradient), slightly more than the Nike Next%. This ensures good absorption on hard surfaces through the heel/midfoot dependent on the athlete’s biomechanics when in the landing part of your stride. Asics claims that the “Speva Foam midsole” combined with the  “high-abrasion rubber improves durability to ward off wear and tear”, allowing the shoe to be used for larger amounts of mileage before a new pair is needed (https://asics.tv/3boPP14) This is a plus. Then again, I always say it is dependent on the runner’s biomechanics, the surfaces the shoe is used on, and how often the shoe is used in the athlete’s shoe rotation which determines the mileage a shoe can handle…..

Further, I always find Asics suits narrower feet, like my own. The lacing system also allows for a tighter, supported fit in this sense. I always prefer this extra support. Why? If I going to be running on the road and harder surfaces a lot, I want my foot to be landing with optimal placement in relation to my biomechanics, to reduce my risk of injury. The shoe needs to work with my body, not against it. 

The shoe is designed for those who have a neutral or under pronation type, however over-pronator type feet can also use this shoe (I am a over pronator) for racing and workouts as this is not as essential. Over-pronation means when the foot naturally rolls in more than usual. Neutral explains itself in a sense, “neutral”.  My training shoes are more important to me to have stability features for over-pronation than a racing flat. 

The women’s model weighs around 179grams whilst the mens is 235grams.

These shoes are not too pricey, around $100USD. Grab your pair here: https://asics.tv/3boPP14

 

Shoe 3: New Balance 1400v6 

The new version 6 of the 1400 shoe has had some upgrades! The upper is now lighter in weight, yet maintains the same firm structure to optimize stability for a racing flat. This can be hard to find in other racing flats from other brands. An important feature for those with wider feet, is the roomy upper. New Balance tends to make shoes that suit wider feet, so I always take this in to account (I have an extremely narrow foot). The REVlite foam is continued from the older versions. It is well cushioned to the preference of many road racers, so New Balance have intelligently kept it on board as a key feature to this shoe. The Fantom Fit support cage allows for a secure midfoot fit according to New Balance, however it still maintains breathability, being constructed from a synthetic air mesh. The new tongue design also improves the fit of this shoe, compared to the old models. They took this from their track-specific footwear which I found very interesting. Faster shoe = better fit and vise versa….

This is the heaviest shoe I’ve looked at so far, weighing in around 240grams (7.2 ounces). Like most of the racing flats, it also has a 10mm heel to toe drop. Also the cheapest pair so far, these guys retail for $99.99 USD. Grab a pair here: https://bit.ly/2y9NrwW

Shoe 4: Adidas Adizero Takumi Sen 6

These are a great pair of lightweight racing flats. They are super responsive, have a low heel to toe drop, and according to Adidas, acquire a “foot-hugging fit”. The Lightstrike cushioning is designed from EVA, however this particular EVA recipe has drawn from basketball shoe foam, allowing for optimal energy return particulalry through the midsole. A bit like the Nike Next% described earlier. The upper is made from a single-layer celermesh which is new to this shoe model and has a seamless appearance. It fits a little bit like a built-in bootie, which is super cool. It is lightweight, breathable, and holds the foot in nice and snug. 

The outsole is made from “quickstrike rubber”, allowing for a fast and sleek toe-off with good traction. The shoes are designed for speed! A US Size 9/UK Size 8.5 mens weighs in around 197 grams. They are a little heavier than the Nike Next%, but lighter than the Asics and New Balance options. Saucony wins in the weight department for 5k racing shoes, however. For some more quick stats, the 5mm midsole drop suits the flat and fast style and design of this Adidas shoe. It is designed to be responsive to the individual’s biomechanics and optimize energy return. 

One thing to note from some feedback is that the toebox fits narrower at front than previous Adidas racing flat models. So if you have particulalry wide feet, maybe consider trying this on in store, or looking at the New Balance option or Brooks options. 

These guys sit more mid-range in pricing, at $160USD. Grab a pair here: https://bit.ly/2QMeaWD

Shoe 5: Saucony Type A9

This shoe stands out because it is super lightweight, weighing in around 170 grams. This is largely thanks to the SSL EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam midsole, which also absorbs shock well and thus suits the road and track environments. The soft, minimalist upper aligns with the overall lightweight design of this shoe. The lowest heel to toe drop, at just 4mm, makes it suited to its label as a super-speedy road racing flat. Saucony have taken into account the importance of a road racing shoe that works well in varied weather conditions, with a wet-grip upper rubber, and lugs in the forefoot rubber for excellent traction when the athlete pushes off with their toes. 

I would keep in mind however, that the upper fit is tight. I experienced this trying the shoe on, however once my foot was inside the shoe, the toe box had plenty of room (too much for my extremley narrow foot in fact!). The shoe is also not optimal in the rain in terms of water absorption. However, many are willing to compromise this for an ultra-lightweight racing flat. 

Similar in price to the Asics and New Balance, they come in at around $80- 100 USD. Get your pair here: https://bit.ly/2WHgORh

So, what are the best shoes for running a 5k?

I can’t pin down exactly what the best shoe is. It is very much up to the individual and their needs. What might be my ultimate shoe may differ for another athlete. I see this all the time in the sport, it is very natural. However, to be more specific, needs include the fit, current training level/position, mileage, race goals both short and long term, advice of an experienced running shoe expert (in Australia and America, I take advice from my coaches, sports podiatrist, physiotherapist and running shoe specific stores like Running Science or Pace Athletic). I have personally used the Asics Tatherzeal, Asics DS Trainer and Racer, Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next%, Nike Air Zoom Streak 7 and Asics Gel Feather-Glide. These have all worked well for me. If you like a low heel to toe drop and minimal stability, go for the Nike Air Zoom Streak 7. Cushioning, I’d say the Vaporfly’s. For good stability, a bit of support and speed, either of the Asics are the go. In saying this, it has been a while since I have done a road race as I am a collegiate athlete. 

 

Best 5k running shoes 1I decided to speak to my Australian coach Gary Howard, co-founder of Australian running group Run Crew (see https://www.runcrew.com.au/) to gain some insight from someone who has been on the scene as an experienced athlete and coach for quite some time. I very much respect his opinion! The coaches at Run Crew are bloody brilliant. Specializing in distances from 800m-ultramarathons, the coaches here tailor the training to your needs, and will write online programs for you no matter where you are in the world. They also run sessions in Sydney which I attended regulalry when I lived in Sydney, and smaller coordinated groups around Australia I believe. 

Gary explained that he generally found (from experience and studies) that most are better in Vaporfly, but he has seen the Nike Streak LT be a good shoe if the individual is conditioned appropriatley to wear it. He mentioned that some good in between shoes are the Nike Streak, New Balance 1400 (discussed above) and Adidas Takumi Sen (also reviewed above). Thanks Gary for the input! Give Run Crew a look if you’re interested in joining the squad or obtaining an online runninng especially during this unstable time where we all have to socially distance from each-other for the greater good of society.)

Again, it’s all about the individual preference. I like to gather as much information and research as possible (from reliable, experienced human sources and online). I also can’t stress the benefit of trying a pair on and going for a light jog around the store if possible, and getting your foot mechanics assessed by a qualified podiatrist. This is how you ensure the optimal shoe and runner team fit. Ultimately, you’ll run a better 5k. Happy running!

5k Meal Plan: Your ultimate guide to fueling and hydrating for 5km

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Whether you’re about to run your first 5km race or you’re a seasoned pro, making sure that you’ve got energy on board and avoiding stomach upset is the key to performing your best. From personal experience, I found that it was crucial to train my stomach to be comfortable with eating specific foods 2 hours before the race. This ensures optimal performance and no G.I (gastrointestinal) problems. In terms of making sure we have enough energy and fuel on board, if a decent meal is eaten the night before, and a few hours before the race, the human body has enough energy for up to 80 minutes of endurance activity. This means “bonking”, or in other words, running out of glycogen stores for muscle recruitment is not so much of an issue for shorter races like a 5km or 10km. 

What should I eat the night before a 5k race?

A decent meal which includes a quality form of carbohydrates is really important to take on board the night before a race. It ensures our body is stocked with energy to recruit for the race the next day. Since most road races are run in the morning, here are some examples of dinners to eat the night before (tried and tested!) and breakfasts for 2-3 hours before the gun goes off! 

Personally, I like to keep it simple stupid. The night before some of my best middle to long-distance track races I eat a very simple take on fried rice:

  • Long grain low G.I rice, the Dongara kind normally (the most important component, complex carbohydrates)
  • Tuna/Salmon/Chicken or pork (lean protein, not a big fan of red meat the night before a race)
  • Shredded carrot, steamed green beans (some simple veggies)
  • ½ a small avocado sliced (Fats)
  • Topped with soy sauce, a dash of sweet chili sauce and lemon juice + salt/pepper (for flavor!)

For the morning of the race, I like to stick with a mix of simple and complex carbohydrates. We want energy to be easily accessible and be enough to keep you satiated on the start line and throughout the race. For example, I generally eat oats, maple syrup/honey/brown rice syrup, and a banana  2-3 hours before the race. This is my go-to breakfast before some of my major 5 and 10km road races. 

  • ½-¾ cup of oats, cooked on the stovetop so they are well done. This decreases digestion time.
  • 1 teaspoon of honey, or maple syrup (slightly more if using the latter option)
  • Chopped banana on top
  • Dash of cinnamon

Toast with banana and honey is also a very good option if you’re not a big fan of oats. I like to stick with white bread or sourdough the day of the race, rather than a grain bread or wholemeal/wholewheat, as this can cause stomach upsets. 

How long before a 5k should you eat?

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If it is an early morning race, I’d recommend a larger meal, and possibly a small dessert of some sort the night before, just before heading to bed. This is because some races have a gun start time around 7 or 8 am, meaning eating 2 hours beforehand requires an early rise, which might not be as convenient for some participants. However, it is recommended if you’re desiring to hit that personal best time, that you plan to eat around 2-3 hours before the race. 

For evening races, it is slightly more flexible. Eating a solid, well-balanced breakfast or brunch 8-6 hours out, another meal 4 hours out, and a snack 2 hours out to top up energy stores will ensure you are ready. 

It is crucial to train our stomach to become used to the food we intend to eat before we race when in a running context. Before race day, plan to do some of your harder workouts with the same foods on board, sticking to the same eating timings. See it as a race day simulation in a sense! The stomach can even learn to digest food closer to race time. I can now eat porridge an hour before I run, and not experience discomfort. 

Should you run the day before a 5k?

This is very much up to the individual and the coach. The best way to test which will work best for you is to try a 20-30 minute very easy jog the day before a 5km specific workout or tempo run. Do the same with taking a rest day the day before either kind of workout also. Track how you feel in a journal or online software for the period in which you carry out this test. This will allow you to gauge whether it’s best for you mentally and physically to either take rest or run the day before the race.

Personally, I have done both. I prefer to take a rest day 2 days before the race and jog 20-30 minutes with 4x 100m strides the day before the race. This is more for mental preparation over anything. No actual fitness gains will be made at this point. 

Is it OK to drink coffee before a 5k?

It is absolutely ok to drink coffee before a 5km, or any race or sporting activity for that manner. In most cases, it is actually recommended as it can have a slight performance-enhancing effect if the individual times their ingestion correctly to the event start time and duration. Caffeine can cause an upset stomach, better known as G.I distress for runners if the athlete is not used to coffee when training. However, if the individual is able to take on board coffee, their awareness, alertness, focus can increase and their perception of effort may be decreased. What’s not to love about that? I’m a big fan of coffee before racing.

Here’s an even niftier trick you can consider yourself which I came up with whilst out on a long run. I practice this regularly to get the optimum race-day advantage. As a regular coffee drinker, many would agree that we become slightly immune to the effects of coffee over time. Considering this, I only drink decaffeinated coffee and tea, or no coffee at all, 3 days before a race. Whether it is a placebo or not, I can’t be sure, but I know I definitely feel the caffeine effects when I drink coffee on race day after no coffee for a few days. On the day of the race, if it is an early start time, I take on board 2 shots, and if it is in the evening, up to 3. I’m buzzing and ready to go!

How long before a race should I drink caffeine?

Caffeine has a pretty short-acting effect, so from personal experience, I like to have 1 shot an hour out from the race, and another shot 30 minutes before. I take these in caffeine strips such as Revvies (https://www.revviesenergy.com/) in which each strip is equivalent to one shot of coffee. This reduces any chance of stomach upset which might be experienced if a coffee, particularly one with dairy milk, is ingested too close to the gun time. However, the stomach can also be trained to take caffeine on board close to a race. I can have a black coffee with a dash of milk up to 45 minutes before an event, as long as I ensure I get to the bathroom before the start, this is no issue for me. I’m firing and ready to run fast!

How much should I drink before a 5k?

Water is important for any person undertaking exercise, particularly hard efforts. However the 5km is no marathon in distance, so water doesn’t need to be taken during the race. A large glass of breakfast and small regular sips up until the race start is recommended. I often find people get nervous and sip on too much water before a race, creating a gluggy, uncomfortable feeling in their stomach. 

Again, practice this. Make sure the day and night before the race you are on top of your hydration, and you’ll be right to go the next day!