Tips for grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis

Featured Articles

A woman, shopping with rheumatoid arthritis, is smiling as she pushes a trolley in a supermarket.

Eight tips for grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis

Living with rheumatoid arthritis can present unique challenges. Still, it shouldn't hinder your ability to enjoy everyday activities like grocery shopping (assuming you like shopping, of course). You can make the shopping experience more comfortable and manageable with a few simple strategies and adjustments. In this article, we will explore valuable tips for grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis that will help you easily navigate the aisles and minimize discomfort.

Tip 1: Plan ahead and organize your shopping route

An arthritis flare is no time to wander up and down every aisle in your grocery store, so it's essential to have a plan of attack before you even get there. Planning out your route through the grocery store will allow you to avoid extra walking and help combat the forgetfulness that comes with arthritis brain fog. Take a few moments to create a shopping list organized by store sections. This will save you time and energy by allowing you to move through the store more efficiently, reducing the strain on your joints.

Tip 2: Embrace the convenience of online grocery shopping

In addition to in-person shopping, online grocery shopping can be a great backup plan, especially during arthritis flares. It provides a convenient and accessible option for getting groceries without leaving your home's comfort. Online grocery shopping allows you to browse and select items from the comfort of your couch, and you can have your groceries delivered right to your doorstep, saving you the physical effort altogether.

While online grocery shopping offers convenience, it's also important to note the benefits of in-person shopping. In-person grocery shopping can serve as exercise, helping keep your body active and joints mobile. It also provides opportunities for social interaction, which can benefit your overall well-being. Therefore, consider balancing both options based on your specific needs and circumstances.

By planning ahead and organizing your shopping route, you can minimize unnecessary walking and fatigue. Additionally, online grocery shopping during arthritis flares can provide much-needed relief from physical exertion. Listen to your body and make choices that best support your comfort and well-being.

Tip 3: Choose the right time to go shopping with rheumatoid arthritis

Picking the right time to go grocery shopping can significantly impact your experience. Avoid peak hours when stores tend to be more crowded, as it can be challenging to maneuver through aisles or wait in long lines. Instead, opt for quieter times, such as early mornings or weekdays, when the store is less crowded, making it easier to navigate and shop at your own pace.

Did you know that Google Maps can provide real-time information about how busy a store is? By searching for the store on Google Maps, you can see a graph displaying the popular times throughout the day. This feature can help you plan your trip and visit the store during less crowded hours, minimizing the need to navigate busy aisles and wait in long queues. Using technology like Google Maps can make your grocery shopping experience more efficient and comfortable.

Tip 4: Use mobility aids and assistance to make shopping with rheumatoid arthritis easier

Don't hesitate to use mobility aids like shopping carts or baskets with wheels. These can provide stability and support, reducing the stress on your joints. Additionally, consider requesting assistance from store personnel, who can help you reach items on higher or lower shelves. Some grocery stores and shopping malls offer motorized scooters or wheelchairs for customers with mobility challenges. 

Even if you don't usually use your walking frame, wheelchair, or mobility scooter all the time, it's helpful to ensure you have them on hand while you're out shopping, just in case you find yourself in need. 

Tip 5: Streamline checkout with a mobile card reader

Making the checkout process easy and less painful is essential for grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis. One effective way to achieve this is using a mobile card reader instead of cash. By opting for electronic payment methods, you can avoid the need to handle coins, count bills, or fumble with a wallet, reducing strain on your fingers and wrists.

To further enhance your grip and make it easier to handle payment cards, consider adding a layer of masking tape to the side opposite the magnetic strip or chip. This simple trick can help build up the thickness of the card, providing you with a more secure grip and making it easier to insert or swipe the card without dropping it.

Many stores now offer the convenience of mobile card readers, allowing you to make payments with a simple tap or swipe of your modified payment card. This technology enables you to complete transactions quickly and efficiently, minimizing the time spent at the checkout counter and reducing the strain on your joints.

When managing your finances, mobile payment apps on your smartphone can further enhance convenience. These apps allow you to securely store your payment information, so you can simply use your phone to make contactless payments at the store. This reduces physical effort and provides a more hygienic option in today's world.

By embracing the convenience of a mobile card reader and electronic payment methods and implementing a grip-enhancing technique with masking tape, you can make the checkout process easier, faster, and less physically demanding, allowing you to focus on a smoother transition from the store to your next activity.

Tip 6: Optimize bagging and packaging

Heavy grocery bags can strain your joints and exacerbate arthritis pain. Request assistance from store employees to bag your items in manageable quantities, spreading the weight across multiple bags. Alternatively, invest in reusable grocery bags with comfortable handles or use a rolling cart to transport your purchases to your vehicle. Remember to lift with your legs, not your back, to minimize strain.

Tip 7: When shopping with rheumatoid arthritis embrace convenience options

Take advantage of convenience options offered by your grocery store. Look for pre-cut fruits and vegetables, ready-to-eat meals, or frozen food options that require less preparation and reduce the strain on your hands and wrists. Choose lightweight packaging whenever possible to minimize the effort needed to open and handle items.

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment about shopping with rheumatoid arthritis! It's important to address a common concern regarding the availability of pre-cut fruits and vegetables in stores. Some critics argue that selling pre-cut produce is harmful to the environment due to increased packaging waste. However, it's crucial to understand that for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, cutting up fruits and vegetables can be a challenging task. It is for me when I have an arthritis flare-up.

People with rheumatoid arthritis often face difficulties in handling knives and exerting the necessary force to cut through tough skins or dense produce.  While some may have someone available to assist them, only some have constant access to help. In such cases, pre-cut options become a necessity to maintain independence and ensure a healthy diet.

Although the higher cost and use of plastic packaging are valid concerns, it's essential to recognize that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis have the right to choose the most independent option for their needs. Being shamed on social media or faced with petitions calling for the ban of pre-cut produce is unfair and disregards the challenges faced by those with rheumatoid arthritis.

Efforts should focus on finding sustainable solutions, such as exploring more eco-friendly packaging alternatives or encouraging stores to offer bulk options for pre-cut fruits and vegetables. This way, individuals with rheumatoid arthritis can have access to convenient options while minimizing environmental impact.

It is important to foster understanding and empathy, recognizing that for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, pre-cut produce can be a lifeline, ensuring they have access to nutritious food without depending solely on others. Let's support the rights and choices of those with rheumatoid arthritis while working towards more sustainable options for everyone.

Tip 8: When shopping with rheumatoid arthritis pace yourself and take breaks

Grocery shopping can be physically demanding, so you must pace yourself and listen to your body. Don't hesitate to take short breaks between aisles or sections of the store to rest and alleviate any discomfort if needed. I certainly do. If your store has a seating area, consider using it to rest before continuing your journey home or to whatever other destination is on your to-do-list.

Grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis can be made easier with these practical tips and adjustments. By planning ahead, choosing the right time, using mobility aids, optimizing bagging and packaging, embracing convenience options, and pacing yourself, you can enjoy a more comfortable and efficient shopping experience. Remember, listening to your body and making modifications that suit your specific needs is essential. Don't let arthritis stand in the way of a fulfilling shopping experience.

Bonus: shopping with rheumatoid arthritis FAQ

Can I use online grocery shopping services if I have rheumatoid arthritis?

Absolutely! Online grocery shopping is an excellent option for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. It allows you to conveniently order groceries from home and deliver them to your doorstep, reducing the required physical effort.

How can I carry my groceries without straining my joints?

Consider using reusable grocery bags with comfortable handles, or invest in a rolling cart to transport your purchases. Distribute the weight across multiple bags, and remember to lift with your legs, not your back, to minimize strain.

What if I need assistance in the store?

Feel free to ask for help from store personnel. They can assist you in reaching items on higher or lower shelves or provide support in bagging your groceries.

How can I minimize discomfort during shopping?

Choosing the right time to shop, utilizing mobility aids, pacing yourself, and taking breaks are all essential strategies to minimize discomfort. Listening to your body's signals and adjusting your shopping routine accordingly will help you navigate the store with less pain.

"Grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis may come with challenges, but it's a journey of strength, resilience, and finding creative solutions."

Article by
Alicia B. Mayberry

Alicia B. Mayberry, the author of "Tips for grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis," is a technical content writer residing in Texas. She defies the challenges posed by autism, anxiety, depression, and rheumatoid arthritis to write for a variety of publications in the healthcare and wellness sphere.


Grocery shopping with rheumatoid arthritis can be made easier if you follow a few practical tips!" | © luciano/Adobe Stock