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Lose Weight for Less with the 6 to 1 Grocery Shopping Method

Experts reveal how buying just 21 versatile grocery items each week using this viral Tiktok trend can transform your health, budget and life

Necessity is the mother of invention… or of helpful TikTok trends. With food prices up in recent years, people have embraced a clever grocery shopping strategy that promises to save money… helping us tighten our belts in more ways than one. It’s called the 6 to 1 Method. This flexible food-shopping framework challenges us to buy 6 different vegetables, 5 fruits, 4 proteins, 3 starches, 2 sauces and 1 fun item each week to build the bulk of our meals and snacks. (Quantities can be expanded based on household size.) “The 6 to 1 Method has changed my life,” says creator and chef Will Coleman. Keep reading to learn all about the 6 to 1 Method, including how people are using it in their real lives and how the concept helped Phoebe lose 142 pounds!

People are hungry for a way to save on groceries

We’ve all grumbled about growing grocery bills lately. But high food costs can actually harm our health. According to the International Food Information Council’s annual survey, 91% of people saw an increase in food prices last year and 30% revealed they were forced to make less-healthy food choices as a result. That’s a tough pill to swallow, given that 43% of people also said they wanted to lose weight. And what we toss into our cart has consequences. In one small study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, people who ate ultra-processed (often cheaper) foods gained 2 pounds in just two weeks. That could mean 50+ pounds a year.

Why the 6 to 1 Method is gaining popularity

This playful approach offers gentle guidelines instead of strict rules on portions or servings. Forget the old food pyramid or the pie-chart meal plate. The best healthy-eating tool may be to simply picture 21 wholesome items in your shopping cart. And it seems to work for everyone. “I’m saving lots of money on groceries, and I’m getting in and out of the store fast,” says Coleman. He adds, “I’m most surprised about the many audiences it’s reaching: single folks, people who have kids, people who are vegetarians. It’s such a versatile method.”

Know the 6 to 1 Method basics

The 6 to 1 Method is super easy. Just grab 6 veggies, 5 fruits, 4 proteins, 3 starches, 2 sauces and 1 cheat item for the week. Users can scale up or down based on their needs. If chicken is one of your proteins, you might buy a single breast or a family-size tray; one apple or multiple bags of apples. Some items (like a gravy packet) are single-use, while others (a bag of rice) can contribute to multiple meals. Plus, you can always use extra items in your freezer, pantry and spice rack to round out recipes.

How the 6 to 1 Method is evolving

The 6 to 1 grocery shopping method started as a way to save money, but it evolved to help many people achieve their health goals. Today show dietitian Natalie Rizzo, RD, tried the 6 to 1 Method and says, “I do think it can help with weight loss. It encourages you to live in moderation. And it definitely can reduce cravings or binges.”

TikTok doctor Emi Hosoda, MD, who lost 100 pounds in her 50s, says, “This method is helpful if someone is eating mostly processed meals and wants to convert to more whole foods.” The plan prioritizes produce and protein, both of which are proven to support weight loss. In that study mentioned earlier, people shed 2 pounds in two weeks when they focused on these foods. (Click to learn how eating more protein in the morning can help with weight loss.)

“What I’ve been hearing a lot is that people with diabetes or who struggle with overeating or undereating are using this plan because it’s so healthy.”

Chef Will Coleman

How the 6 to 1 Method works in the real world

People are also discovering unexpected health benefits from using Coleman’s shopping hack, including better sleep, balanced blood sugar and more energy. “My entire mission is to get folks back into the kitchen,” he says. “If you’re stocking your fridge with more fruits and veggies, it’s inevitable that you’re going to eat a more healthy diet that will lead to a healthier life.”

Skipping impulse buys and sugary snacks has other benefits too, like saving money and reducing waste. And when busy mom Jennifer Reagan used the 6 to 1 Method to maintain a recent 40-pound weight loss, she noticed benefits from eating more fiber-rich produce. “I easily lost 4 to 6 inches of bloat around my waist,” she says. “As an older woman, fiber has become the holy grail.” Reagan, who runs LowDoughFamily.com to feed her family of four for under $100 a week, found the plan helped with meal prep. “Many of us think of meal planning as this complicated sudoku puzzle. But the 6 to 1 Method gives us enough structure to get started.” (Find sample meal plans to feed a crowd on her site.)

How to fill your cart using this slimming method

  • 6 vegetables: Dr. Hosoda recommends avoiding high-sugar options like corn and potatoes and choosing low-glycemic veggies like cabbage, spinach and cauliflower.
  • 5 fruits: Frozen can save you time for breakfast smoothies. Dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Everyday Snack Tray, tried the method and says, “Making sure you’re actually using those veggies and fruits during the week is key to having success with this plan.”
  • 4 proteins: Reach for a variety of options such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, beans or legumes. Dr. Hosoda recommends lean, grass-fed options. And that protein isn’t just for meals: Largeman-Roth adds, “For women who are trying to lose weight, planning for healthy, filling snacks like Greek yogurt, nuts and seeds is key to success.”
  • 3 starches: Largeman-Roth recommends whole-grain cereals, multigrain bread and farro. And Dr. Hosoda often tells patients trying to lose weight to eat complex grains like wild rice or buckwheat.
  • 2 sauces: Here’s where the flavor comes in with sauces, spreads and dips. Dr. Hosoda advises seeking out low-sugar, low-sodium dressings and condiments. Coleman’s favorite go-to options include hummus, tomato sauce, salsa and pesto.
  • 1 fun item: To dodge deprivation, Coleman tried kettle chips. Rizzo bought peanut butter pretzels. And Dr. Hosoda says she would choose almond milk ice cream.

Ready to have fun with this plan? Just start by counting 6-5-4-3-2-1! Need more meal inspiration? Keep reading to see what type of meals people are building with this method. Plus, an amazing weight loss success story at the end.

4 shoppers share their 6 to 1 Method meal ideas

  • The plant eater: Natalie Rizzo, RD, made fruit and Greek yogurt breakfast smoothies, farro grain salad with veggies for lunch, and bean enchiladas or fried rice with tofu for dinner.
  • The dietitian: Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, tried salmon and asparagus with brown rice and teriyaki sauce, then peanut butter soba noodles with chicken and hoisin sauce.
  • The chef: Will Coleman made Cobb salad, shrimp and grits, meatball pasta and pizza grilled cheese. Find his e-book with shopping lists and meal ideas on his site.
  • The money-saving mom: Jennifer Reagan bought London broil steak, chicken thighs and breakfast sausage, plus colorful veggies like sweet potatoes. The best part of the method? “Trying new sauces.”

6 to 1 method success story: Phoebe Martinson, 59

before and after photos of Phoebe Martinson, who lost 142 lbs (6 to 1 method)
Phoebe Martinson

While parking in her new, comfy recliner evening after evening, Phoebe Martinson began to feel doomed. Stiff, sore and overweight, she remembers thinking, I am on the same path as my dad who went for a nap and never woke up at 62 years old…

As a busy pastry chef, Phoebe never ate breakfast and consumed too much sugar. Ready for a change, she started exercising. Although she hadn’t heard of the 6 to 1 Method yet, she used its principles of eating more whole foods. She says, “I stopped going out for fast food. I figured, I’m a chef. If I can’t feed myself, I shouldn’t be in the business.”

Eating whole foods helps Phoebe drop 10 pounds in a month

Phoebe whipped up filling meals like mushroom, onion and spinach omelets. She enjoyed salads with chicken or prawns and Skinnygirl Asian Sesame Ginger Dressing. She roasted more veggies, snacked on fruit and nuts and purchased quinoa. “I had no problems with cravings. My whole body started to work better.”

Phoebe dropped 10 pounds in a month and 100 pounds in nine months. She says, “I went from size 4X to 12!” Like the 6 to 1 Method, Phoebe says, “There was never a diet. I just changed the way I looked at food, and I cut out the extra stuff.” The payoff: “My whole mental health has changed. I have self-esteem and hope for an exciting future.” Now, Phoebe is also a wellness coach. Find her community on Instagram @phoebe.gets.fit. She says, “I wanted to save my life, and I have!”

—additional reporting by Diane Herbst

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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