{ healthy grocery shopping tips }

The typical American consumer hits the grocery store at least twice a week. Why, then, does it feel like we never have anything to eat at home? Follow the advice below to make sure you not only have a well-stocked pantry for healthful eating, but are buying the right products at the right time in the right way. One of the things I like to do before even setting foot in the store is evaluate what I have in the fridge, pantry & freezer to use for meals that week. While doing that I like to clean out any "old" or "unhealthy" stuff that is in there. Starting "fresh" each week with a clean refrigerator helps ME.

1. Rule number one: Buy fresh food! There is no simpler, no easier, no plainer measure of the healthiness of your food than whether it comes in boxes and cans or is fresh from the farm or the fields. If more than half your groceries are prepared foods, then you need to evolve your cooking and eating habits back to the healthy side by picking up more fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, juices, and dairy.

2. Shop the perimeter of the store. That's where all the fresh foods are. The less you find yourself in the central aisles of the grocery store, the healthier your shopping trip will be. Make it a habit -- work the perimeter of the store for the bulk of your groceries, then dip into the aisles for staples that you know you need.

3. Plan your meals. Use your Feed ME meal planner pad. Look through your fridge, pantry & freezer & see what you have left that you can use for meals during the upcoming week. You can type a few ingredients into google and it will produce a variety of recipes you could make from those products on hand. Planning your meals out in advance keeps your grocery costs down and helps you avoid take out food during the week.

4. Shop with a list. Use your Check ME grocery shopping list. Organize your shopping list based on the tip above -- that is, by the sections of the store. This will have you out of the supermarket at the speed of light. By keeping yourself to the discipline of a well-planned shopping list, you can resist the seductive call of aisle upon aisle of crappy junk food, thereby saving your home, your family, and yourself from an overload of empty calories.

5. Food-shop with a full stomach. We're sure you've heard this one before, but it's worth repeating. Walking through the grocery store with your tummy growling can make you vulnerable to buying things you shouldn't. If you can't arrange to shop shortly after a meal, be sure to eat an apple and drink a large glass of water before heading into the store.

6. Buy a few days before ripe. There's no point in trying to buy fresh vegetables and fruits for your family if the bananas turn brown and the peaches mushy two days after you get them home. Buy fruit that's still a day or two behind ripeness. It will still be hard to the touch; bananas will be green. Feel carefully for bruises on apples, check expiration dates on bagged produce, and stay away from potatoes or onions that have started to sprout. If the produce on the shelves looks a bit beyond its peak, don't walk away; ask to speak to the produce manager. Chances are, there's a fresh shipment in the back just waiting to be put out on store shelves. For a real taste treat, if you're going to eat them within the next couple of days, pick up a bunch of vine-ripened tomatoes. There's just no comparison.

7. Buy in season. Sure, it's tempting to buy strawberries in December, and once in a while that's fine. But fresh fruit and vegetables are best when purchased in season, meaning they've come from relatively close to home.

8. Buy organic whenever possible. Sure, it costs a few dollars more. But a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organically grown fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally produced foods.

9. Buy frozen. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often flash frozen at the source, locking in nutrients in a way fresh or canned can't compete with. Stock your freezer with bags of frozen vegetables and fruits. You can toss the veggies into soups and stews, microwave them for a side dish with dinners, or thaw them at room temperature and dip them into low-fat salad dressing for snacks. Use the fruits for desserts, smoothies, and as yogurt toppings.

10. Stock up on canned tomato products & beans. Here's one major exception to the "fresher is better" rule. Studies find that tomato sauces and crushed and stewed tomatoes have higher amounts of the antioxidant lycopene than fresh, because they're concentrated. Canned tomatoes are a godsend when it comes to quick dinners in the kitchen. Warm up a can with some crushed garlic for a chunky pasta sauce; pour a can over chicken breasts and simmer in the crock pot; add to stews and sauces for flavor and extra nutrients.
Beans can be mixed with brown rice, added to soups and stews, pureed with onions and garlic into hummus for dipping, or served over pasta for a traditional pasta e fagioli.

11. Avoid products containing: Aspartame, Acesulfame K, Dextrose, Evaporated cane juice, High fructose corn syrup, Hydrolyzed protein, Maltose, MSG, Niacin, Partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, Sucralose. Thanks Shane for that list!

So what are you all cookin' up this week?


JW said...

You are awesome! Last night I used yoru Fit Me and Feed Me Planner - I'm all set for the week! My dinner menu this week...

Tofu Stirfry
Lentil Stew
Bean/Rice Burritos with Grilled Veg
Annie's Mac&Cheese with Salad
Vegtable Soup

:) Jana

LobotoME said...

Hi Jana! Glad the lists are helping you! I don't know what I'd do without mine! It is really a motivating factor when you see a bunch of blank spots in your fitness list - there are only so many days I can be a slacker before I CAN'T STAND it anymore. I've been trying to throw one "new" thing in there each week - a new trail run, or a new yoga class, etc. To keep it fresh~
Thx for sharing your menu. Are you guys vegetarians? I notice no meat, but lots of veggies....

J :)

Anonymous said...

i was just trying to think of my dinners for the week last night...I didn't do so well. why are some weeks seemingly harder than others?

I might need to borrow jw's plan this week.

oh, and great post : )

debbiem said...

great post! Thanks!

What do you cook for your family each week Jen? Would love to see your meal planner!

LobotoME said...

Hi! I would scan my FeedME sheet from this week but I can't get my scanner to work with my mac. ugh.

Anyhoo -
Meals at our house this week...

M - chicken & veggie fajitas with black beans
T - halibut with lemon on grill, couscous (use leftovers for lunches), grilled asparagus
W - flat iron steak & BIG salad (with veggies, beets & almonds)
Th - salmon on grill with lemon & dill & sauteed kale (w/garlic).
F - whole wheat pasta, frozen ready to go shrimp, can of organic, diced tomatoes, goat cheese & fresh basil.
Sat - At our adventure race - chicken & bean burritos from ZIA (finish line food)
Sunday - Father's Day BBQ at my folks house

This is pretty much what we eat each week during the summer - throw meat on the grill, throw veggies on the grill or make a big salad. I usually make a big batch of couscous or brown rice one night to use throughout the rest of the week. Super easy. No recipes needed!

debbiem said...

NO WAY - Will your daughter eat those meals or do you need to make something different for her?

LobotoME said...

Hi Debbie - Yes, she eats all of that. She even loves kale (& steak). Since she turned like 2 1/2, we've started to feed her what we eat. That's what's for dinner. I imagine that sooner or later all kids will eat it if they are hungry enough. I try to involve her in the preparation too - For example, I'll chop up all the veggies for the salad and she'll mix them all in with the salad mix with the salad tongs and add the goat cheese, almonds, & such. Or while I'm working on dinner she will set the table.

J :)

Anonymous said...

yum, too bad I am in Seattle or I'd be at your back door inviting myself over for dinner!

amy m said...

How much do you spend a week on groceries? That seems like an expensive grocery list - yummy but expensive!

LobotoME said...

Hi! I do spend a lot on groceries - probably too much...but I really feel it is important to feed My body & my families body with the healthiest, freshest food and I would rather skip other things if need be. But, a lot of these things I had already.

For example, I had the salmon & halibut in the freezer from Will's fishing trip in Alaska last summer. We had the pasta & diced tomatoes in the pantry. We had the basil & dill from the herb garden.We had the shrimp in the freezer leftover from another recipe months ago. We had the goat cheese leftover from last week.

So in addition to bfast items (fresh fruit, eggs, milk, oranges, plain yogurt, etc.) and lunch items (multi-grain, sprouted bread, turkey & cheese) this is what I bought this week.
Flat iron steak - $7.40
Kale - $2.99
Cucumber - $1.27
Peppers - $1.44
Beets - $2.69
Salad Mix - $3.49
Tomatoes - $3.02
Avacadoes - $5.07
Chicken - $6.75
Asparagus - $3.74
( + Huge bag of organic frozen mangoes for smoothies - $19.00)
$37.86 in dinner items this week.
my total grocery bill was around $100 this week plus another $50 in monthly vitamins/supplements. I usually spend around $125-150/week on food. Which seems high for a family of 3....I do know people who only spend $50/week. Not sure how they do it!

Please remember, I'm not perfect. Some weeks we eat the same thing everynight - grilled chicken and a salad or we eat out 1-2x on busy work weeks. This is a good "ahead" of time planning week example. It is also ME still trying to recover from the boatloads of cupcakes I ate in NYC 2 weeks ago!

What's important to remember is to give our kids healthy OPTIONS and to spend time eating with them. Some people have family breakfasts, some family dinners...do whatever works for YOU but be PRESENT while you eat with the kids. Enjoy that time together.

ps - Denise, I'd love to have you & your family over for dinner! :)

Anonymous said...

I so agree with you. I love to get a good deal or sale on my food but truly, I have no problem spending $6/gallon for my organic milk or the like. Food is our fuel - I'd rather spend more for quality and organic food than less for lesser quality and non-organic.

Sarah said...

Good food doesn't have to be super expensive ... if you shop in season. And my latest meals are centered around some variety of bean - a really cheap and incredibly healthy source of protein. Falafel, white beans in pasta, beans and rice, black soybeans with couscous and veggies ... so many options! Canned beans are good, but if you have a pressure cooker, dried beans are super cheap and cook up really fast. And the secret I've heard to avoiding the (ahem) flatulence aspect of beans? Eat a small amount at any one time (like 1/2-1 cup), but make beans a regular part of your diet. The more often you eat them, the more your body adjusts. I'm all about the beans this summer. My husband's a trooper - he'll often grill up a piece of meat to go along with his side of beans/veggie fare!