Guide to Grocery Shopping

Find yourself spending a lot and coming home with less food than you expected? Learn to buy the right things and stay within your budget by adopting these habits.

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.

Shop the Perimeter  

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.

Stay Out of the Danger Zones

Think of the departments (dairy, produce, meat, and so on) as separate stores within the supermarket. You wouldn’t shop at every store at a mall the same way, would you? You know better than to idly browse through a jewelry store, don’t you? So apply the same approach to the grocery store. Target the sections that are safe to browse through-the produce section, primarily-and steer clear of the dangerous sections (the candy, ice cream, and potato chip aisles).

Shop with a 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. Shopping with a list has benefits beyond speed and spending. By lashing yourself to the discipline of a well-planned shopping list, you can resist the seductive call of aisle upon aisle of junk food, thereby saving your home, your family, and yourself from an overload of empty calories.

Food-Shop on 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 anything that isn’t moving, says Blake. 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.

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 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.

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. They often cost less, are tastier, and have less risk of pathogens such as E. coli.

Buy Organic

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. However, if organic is too pricey for you, don’t worry; organic or not, fruits and veggies are key to a healthy larder.

Stock Up on Canned Beans

Although they may have a bit more sodium than we like, that’s easy enough to get rid of with a good rinse in the sink. 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.

Spend Some Time in the Condiment Aisle

With the following basic ingredients you have the underpinnings for wonderful sauces, low-fat marinades, and low-salt flavourings. These delightful flavourings enable you to stay away from the less-healthy condiment items, such as mayonnaise, butter, stick margarine, creamy salad dressings, and so on: flavored ketchups and barbecue sauces (look for sugar-free varieties), horseradish, mustards, flavored vinegars, extra-virgin olive oil, jarred bruschetta and pesto sauces (luscious spooned atop salmon and baked), capers, jarred olives, sun-dried tomatoes, jarred spaghetti sauce, anchovies, roasted red peppers, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, hot pepper sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, walnut oil, teriyaki sauce, jarred salsas, and various kinds of marmalades.

Cross Off Corn Syrup

Reject foods and drinks made with corn syrup. Corn syrup is a calorie-dense, nutritionally empty sweetener perhaps even worse than refined sugar. A shocking number of foods and drinks are thick with it, including such apparently healthy foods as fruit juices, pre-made spaghetti sauces, and even bread. If a food has corn syrup in its first four ingredients, then it lacks the wholesomeness and healthiness you want.

Choose Strong Cheeses

Instead of American, cheddar, or Swiss, pick up feta, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a soft goat cheese. These strongly flavoured cheeses will satisfy your yen for cheese without damaging your waistline.

Buy Plain Yogourt and Flavour at Home

Pre-flavored yogurts have oodles of sugars that destroy any healthy benefits they once had. If you add a teaspoon of all-fruit jam at home, it’ll still taste yummy, you’ll consume far fewer useless calories, and you’ll save lots of money.

Buy Healthy Add-Ins for Plain Cereal

These include raisins, fresh berries, dried berries, almond slivers, pumpkin seeds, sesame sticks, and bananas. The best breakfast-cereal strategy is to buy unsweetened cereals and then add in your favorite flavors. That helps you bypass all the empty sugary calories-and lets you enjoy the cereal more.

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