Are you confused and overwhelmed when it comes to grocery shopping? Do you dislike grocery shopping? We hear so much about what foods to avoid– but what should we actually buy at the store? Here are some tips to help you demystify food shopping.
First off, make it as enjoyable as possible. I LOVE food shopping, but if you’d rather get a root canal than buy food that’s not pre-made, try shopping at off peak hours, or bring a friend/spouse to make it more fun. Plan your meals for the week, make a list, and get in and out. Remember that you’re doing this to nourish yourself, and that doesn’t come from Chinese takeout night after night. Cheaper, too. BONUS: Whole Foods, Costco, Harris Teeter (to name a few) often have free samples throughout the store, and nothing beats a free snack while you shop.
Tips to Shop for Real Food
- You may be surprised to learn that you have a 75 percent chance of picking a food with genetically modified (GM) ingredients when you’re at the supermarket. At least seven out of every 10 items have been genetically modified. Avoid anything with soy, corn, and wheat, and buy organic where possible to avoid GMOs. We’re still unsure how they’re affecting our health, but we’ve seen a sharp rise in food allergies and autoimmune disease correlating with the release of GMO foods into our food supply.
- Don’t fall victim to shiny, alluring packing placed at eye level: those are the processed food products designed to appeal to your impulse buying urge, and they’re typically the most expensive, too.
- Buy your meat from the meat counter or the farmers’ market, so it’s wrapped in paper. Meat that’s wrapped in plastic and styrofoam (like chicken most often) contains absorbent pads to soak up moisture, and the water weight may be included in the overall weight of the meat. You may be charged for the water weight AND the weight of the meat itself. Happy Money Saver explains how this happened to her.
- As much as possible, avoid buying anything in a box. Shopping the perimeter of the store will help you avoid the temptation of the cookies and crackers (and yes, even your gluten free cookies are processed, high sugar foods). The real foods are typically stocked around the perimeter.
- Buy from bulk bins and save money. Here at Rainbow Grocery in SF, I buy bulk oils (coconut oil & coconut butter), bulk nut butters, nuts, coconut flour, spices/herbs, teas, seaweed and dark chocolate. Skip the grains!
- Shop farmers’ markets to get the most seasonal and freshest produce. Veggies lose their nutrients the longer they sit around.
- Read real food blogs for inspiration. I like Savory Lotus, Food Renegade, Grass Fed Girl, Healy Real Food Vegetarian, Balanced Bites, Nourished Kitchen.
- Don’t buy anything with that has a tv commercial! Caveat: I once saw a commercial for California avocados. Shrug.
- JoIn a CSA (community supported agriculture). You’ll get a fresh produce (and usually eggs too) box delivered to your door weekly! You can also get meat CSAs or participate in a cow share.
- Investigate grocery delivery where you live. That’s one way to skip food shopping!
What to Buy at the Store/Market
Here are the staples I always have on hand, and the list I give to my clients. Keeping these stocked will make your life easier, and all you’ll need to buy weekly are meats and veggies for the week’s meals.
- Organic mixed greens or arugula for quick salads
- Root vegetables & a bunch or either kale or chard
- Tahini, coconut butter, almond butter
- Virgin unrefined coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Raw kraut, a must for probiotics, detox support and enhancing digestion
- Balsamic & apple cider vinegar to make dressings
- Chia seeds for puddings & smoothies
- ginger root to use for tea
- Canned wild salmon. Great flaked with Dijon mustard over salad or ½ avocado for quick meal if you don’t feel like cooking.
- Sardines, smoked oysters (a tin makes good snacks if you like them)
- Organic chicken apple sausage or other organic sausages– easy to slice and stir-fry with greens for a fast meal
- Wild frozen shrimp– very easy to defrost and stir-fry
- Ground beef/bison/lamb (usually have some frozen for quick defrost to make a quick meal)
- Seasonal fruit & avocado
- Spices: cinnamon, curry/turmeric, cumin, rosemary, thyme, oregano
- garlic & onion
- green tea & herbal teas
I decide what I’m going to cook and eat for the week on Sunday; make a list and shop; and do food prep for the week. I typically do 2 small grocery trips a week because that’s easiest for me, but depending on where you live, one bigger trip might be easier. Here in San Francisco, there are many smaller local markets in easy walking distance. And a farmers’ market almost every day of the week somewhere around town!
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.