Grocery Shopping 101

When I first cut processed foods from my diet, grocery shopping became a nightmare. There was no such thing as a quick trip to the store for bread and milk. I found myself wasting hours reading labels trying to find “clean” foods. Thankfully, supermarkets in NYC are much smaller than they are in the suburbs so I’m not faced with nearly as many options, but reading every label on every brand of bread is exhausting!The good news is that once you get past the learning curve, grocery shopping becomes easier. Here are some helpful hints to help you navigate.

Shop the perimeter:  Most grocery stores have a similar layout. Produce on one side. Dairy and eggs on the other. Meats and fresh baked goods in the back. That’s not to say that everything in these areas is OK. Flavored yogurts, shredded cheeses, pastries, lunch meats, etc. all lurk in these areas. And that’s not to say that everything in the other sections is off-limits. Frozen fruits and veggies (so long as there’s nothing added) are a great option as are 100% whole grain pasts, brown rice and (some) canned beans. But in general, if you stick to produce, plain dairy, quality meats and fresh whole grains, you’ll be set.

Shop often:  I realize this may not be an option for everyone and that I am blessed to live within 4 blocks of 5 grocery stores (not to mention bodegas). I am at the grocery every other day buying just one or two fruits and veggies. Why? Fruits and vegetables taste best at the height of ripeness so I prefer to buy them when I am ready to use them, not a week before. After all, no one wants to eat a salad made with old, wilted lettuce.

Another reason I like to shop frequently is that it allows me to shop based on what I’m craving. I’m not much of a meal planner because I have no idea on Sunday afternoon what I’ll want for dinner on Thursday. I could plan to have chicken and rice, but what if on Thursday all I want is a big bowl of pasta (which I don’t have because I didn’t plan for it)? I’m much more likely to order unhealthy take-out in this scenario.

Keep it simple:  There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Stick with foods you know and love, just look for healthier versions. For example, tuna, yogurt, peanut butter and oatmeal were staples in my diet long before I went unprocessed. I simply looked for better options (Wild Planet tuna, Once Again nut butters, Bob’s Red Mill oats and plain yogurt – Fage Greek and Maple Hill Creamery). For bread, I started buying fresh, locally baked bread and Ezekiel English muffins.

If you’re used to eating Poptarts for breakfast every day, it’s unlikely you’ll wake up on October 1st craving a green smoothie. Instead of trying to make huge changes in your eating habits all at once, think about things you eat on a regular basis and start by looking for cleaner versions of those items.

Do you love hot dogs? Try Applegate Farms (on Ezekiel hotdog buns). Is cereal a morning must? Try Uncle Sam’s, Erewhon, Barbara’s or Nature’s Path. A case of the munchies? Pop your own popcorn by putting a few tablespoons of plain kernels in a brown paper bag and throwing it in the microwave for 3-4 minutes. You can then add your own salt and butter (or nut butter, cinnamon and honey!). Making your own popcorn is a hundred times better than anything you’ll get from Orville Redenbacher. Buy fresh or frozen produce instead of canned. Look for eggs from pastured chickens and organic dairy products. And fill your cart with all the fresh fruit and veggies you want!

Find a Farmers’ Market:  Farmers’ markets are the best! Just about everything you’ll find there will be fresh, local and in season. What more could you want? More often than not, the money you spend there goes directly to the farmers and the workers and not into the pockets of big business corporate shareholders. Better for your health. Better for the economy. (And generally better for your wallet.)

Give up:  You aren’t going to find an unprocessed ketchup or mayonnaise so just don’t bother. Believe me, I have looked and looked. Same with salad dressing. You could make your own. Or, if you are lazy like me, try some of these alternatives: fresh tomatoes or marinara sauce for ketchup; Greek yogurt or avocado for mayo (tuna + avocado is delicious!); olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper for salad dressing.



22 August 2012. Tags: , , , . Healthy Living.


  1. cdallke replied:

    Thanks for sharing. I just recently went “clean with my family this week and it has not been easy when shopping. Good to hear from someone else on this. Crystal,

    • Becca replied:

      Glad you found it helpful! Best of luck with the transition to “clean.” It’s well worth it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: