Becoming a Consious Shopper

photo(14)I have claimed this year to be MY YEAR. The year that I take back my health, wellness, and fitness, to shed those unwanted pounds, and practice what I preach! There are several things that I am utilizing to achieve these goals which include portion control eating (post will follow shortly on that!), daily exercise (another post to follow, so stay tuned), and choosing the right foods to eat.

This sounds like a simple concept, and frankly it is, however, if you are anything like me sometimes you get overwhelmed or distracted and buy items that you don’t need. Below are some simple tips to keep in mind when heading to the grocery store…

1. Outer Limits: AKA stay on the perimeter of the store! This is where you will find many of the healthy food items that you should be adding to your shopping cart or basket. Thank about what is in the outer limits: vegetables, meats, seafood, and dairy. Now, NOT all items in the middle of the store is off limits…there are plenty of great options such as legumes, canned beans, whole grains, and vegetables (no salt added, rinse very well). However, the majority of the center aisles are filled with processed foods, chips, candy, and if you look at many of these items you will find ingredient lists that would rival a great novel!

When buying your fresh produce – remember the old skittles saying, “eat the rainbow”…think of that! Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily!

2. Buy Fresh: Buying fresh and making treats at home will help reduce the amount of additives and preservatives in your food. It is nice to know exactly what goes into your food and your body.

3. Do Not Shop When Hungry: Hunger can be your biggest enemy because that is where you tend to pick up the foods that you do not normally purchase or shouldn’t be purchasing. You will end up spending more money than you anticipated by putting these impulse items into your shopping cart or basket. Think with your brain…not your stomach!

4. Ripe vs. Unripe: Ripe is best, right? Not always…if you plan to use that ingredient that day then Yes! However, if you make a weekly meal plan and shopping list and you shop on Monday but won’t be making guacamole until Wednesday, purchase avocados that are not quite ripe (you can ripen them by putting them in a brown paper bag), but if you buy ripe avocados on Monday, come Wednesday they won’t be looking so pretty. You will end up spending money and then just throwing away these items…not worth it.

5. Plan Ahead: Each week try to create a rough weekly menu and then create a shopping list off of that. I say rough, because you may think that you want a specific dish on a certain day but when that day rolls around, you want anything but what you have listed. I like to create a general menu that cross-utilizes ingredients so if one night I am craving another item on the menu, I can simply make that and not waste ingredients. Be flexible, but have a plan. When you shop with a list, this helps you stay on track and not purchase foods you do not need.

When writing your weekly menu and shopping list, take a look at what you already have on hand…check those cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer. Start by working with ingredients that you already have on hand and go from there. Again, this is another tip that will help you save money, time, and sanity during your busy week.

6. Step Away: Avoid the snack aisle – this will help you avoid purchasing items you do not need. Find healthier alternatives to these items or make them at home with healthier ingredients!

7. Spice It Up: Spices and herbs are your best friend. They help add tons of flavor to your dishes without adding unhealthy ingredients. Look for single ingredient spices and create your own blends to avoid an additives/preservatives that are not needed. If you do find a blend that you like, check to see the sodium level in it…is this something that you can recreate and reduce the amount of sodium? Probably! Get creative and experiment with different homemade blends.

Fresh herbs are also wonderful ingredients to use and can last a while if stored properly. You can also plant little window plants with herbs that you use often like cilantro, chives, rosemary, basil, etc. Both spices and herbs can take any old boring dish to something extremely delicious that your family and friends will want to eat!

8. Certified: If something claims to be organic, all natural, etc…look for the USDA certification! Do not believe everything you read.

9. Labels: Read these carefully – if you pick up a bag of pasta for example and there are 10+ ingredients in it, I would probably put it back and look for something else. I mean let’s be real, pasta should only consist of 3-4 ingredients!

10. Claims: Be on the look out for these – if something says “as much protein as…” and it is something claiming to have as much protein as an egg, why not just eat the egg? Understandable if you have an egg allergy etc., but for the masses…just eat the egg.

11. Samples: Trying new products can be awesome! Trust me I have the privilege to do this quite often, but I have become particular of the items I sample and review. Do not be sidetracked by trying something that is not good for you or something you just do not need.

12. Code Words: Know the code words for certain ingredients like sugar. If you have a food allergies or Celiac Disease or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity know where gluten is hidden, know the other names of these allergens. Educate yourself!

The two images in this post are what typical grocery shopping trips look like for me…loaded with fresh fruits and veggies, proteins, dairy, with whole grains. Each week I create a menu and shopping list and check the items off as I add them to my cart. If it is not on the list, I do not buy it – being on such a tight budget this has been extremely helpful. I have found alternatives to “sweet treats” like buying a large thing of plain Greek yogurt, and freezing a small amount of it with a bit of honey swirled in, then when it is partially frozen I mix in some fresh fruit and have that instead of ice cream!