Last week I shared some of my favorite meal planning sites. This week I’d like to share some ways for you to grocery shop a little more effectively. Most people know the basic layout of their grocery store pretty well and a shopping list is a must. Do you organize it into aisles? Frankly, neither do I. Wish I did…
But I do this. Have you heard of shopping the perimeter? I tell kids there are sharks in the middle of the grocery store (yes, they are still naïve) so we have to venture in wisely and carefully. We stick to the outside and come away with more healthful products that way. Why? Because that’s where most of the unprocessed foods are.
I start off strong in the fruits and veggies at my local Pick N Save. I try to set a portion of my budget just for fruits and vegetables so that I can enjoy what I’d like and stay within budget. I understand they can be pricey but armed with a budget, sales flyer and a plan, I usually come in under budget and with a great selection.
Next is the bakery. Day old items are a great bargain but I still often choose pre-packaged whole-grain or multi-grain breads that list “whole-wheat” as the first ingredient. I also look at fiber content, trying to get something with 2-3 grams or more per slice. It IS possible! Aldi’s even has a brand of white-wheat that is whole-grain with 3 grams of fiber! I carefully avoid the cupcakes, monster muffins and the carrot cake that is my true downfall and wind my way to the meat department.
I’ve already pre-selected a few items I know are on sale for my family and head for those first. Sometimes stores have unadvertised specials so keep an eye out for those too! (Sign up for Pick N Save’s email list on their website if you want to get some extra notification of deals every week.) I select lean cuts of meat, chicken breasts and I recommend enjoying fish 2-3 times per week for heart health.
Dairy has a host of strange things in it, doesn’t it? Eggs, flavored juices and regular orange juice. That’s not dairy to me, but we’ll go with it. I understand it is a breakfast food so they group it together. But you’ll find the milk here and please always choose skim (fat-free) or 1%. I know the difference between 1% and 2% doesn’t sound like a lot, but here’s the breakdown of fat per cup of milk:
1 cup of skim milk = 0.20 grams of fat/83 calories
1 cup of 1% milk = 2.37 grams of fat/102 calories
1 cup of 2% milk = 4.83 grams of fat/122 calories
1 cup of whole milk = 7.93 grams of fat/149 calories
–source is USDA food database at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/list
Please also be aware there is no difference in calcium between skim or whole milk! The only difference is the fat content. So try to choose skim or 1% as much as possible. The fat and calories really add up!
Other great choices in the dairy department include low-fat yogurt and low-fat cheeses. A handy tip to remember when selecting cheese to cook with is to choose something sharper and with more flavor so you can add less to your recipe with great results.
The frozen foods department doesn’t have to be dangerous! I know lurking there are a lot of sodium and fat-laden ready prepared meals but you can also find frozen vegetables and fruits. They are a great option instead of the high sodium count and sugary versions in the aisles.
It sounds like I’m totally against pre-packaged meals. They are full of salt and sugar, depending on the type and calories and fat are very high as well. But used sparingly on nights when the family will be rushing around is certainly is a better option than eating out. Try not to rely on them too much and not only will your wallet thank you but your waist as well!
There are things I know you’ll have to venture into shark-territory for such as cereal, peanut butter and jelly, etc. Make the trips in sporadic and brief. I know I sound like a general giving orders here but the reason those foods tend to be there are that they are more processed, meaning fewer nutrients, more fat, calories, sodium and sugar.
So those are my hints this week. Enjoy your day!