Shopping the Perimeter

Go whole!  Try to make sure that majority of your food is unprocessed, whole, fresh, organic*, & in season.

When you went grocery shopping the last time where did most of your groceries come from?  The perimeter of the store?  The aisles?  An equal mix of the perimeter and aisles?  When we go grocery shopping we try our hardest to stay on the outer perimeter of the store.  If we venture into too many aisles we end up with things like Oreo cookies and Mac and Cheese in our cart.  I’m not saying they aren’t yummy occasionally, but on the whole those are things we try to avoid.

Go whole!  Try to make sure that majority of your food is unprocessed, whole, fresh, organic* (natural if organic isn’t available), and in season. So how do we tackle our shopping?  We start with the produce section.  Now, if you are fortunate enough to be able to shop in a Whole Foods or Earth Fare, the store is set up with that in mind.  We buy our snacks, sides, breakfasts in the produce section as much as possible.  By the time we are done in the produce section we have filled 8-10 reusable produce bags, added a melon to the basket, and probably a couple of plastic produce bags.  Our cart is nearly full by this point and our list is almost completely checked off.

After the produce section we hit the bulk bin section.  If you have never shopped in the bulk section it is a little like being in a candy store (and there are even sweet things in this section).  You can try lots of new things for relatively little expense and you don’t have to buy a lot of the product (we have all been stuck with a huge box of something that we really did NOT like).  We usually replenish our stock of quinoa, oats (steel cut for morning oatmeal, and rolled oats for homemade granola bars), spelt flour, almonds, dark chocolate chips, long grain brown rice, whole wheat couscous, black beans (the baby loves them), pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and veggie pasta.  Just recently we tried amaranth (a grain) for the first time and we only bought exactly what we needed for the recipe.  Turns out we liked it, but if we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have felt the guilt over not using something we paid valuable money for at the store and wasting food.  Next time you are in a grocery store with a bulk section check it out.  One of our favorite things to do when we go out of town is to stop by and make a snack/trail mix.  You get to pick your favorites and you know it hasn’t been sitting around for months in a warehouse.

Ok, so remember how I said that our cart is usually pretty full and our list almost complete after the produce section?  Usually, after the bulk section we only have a handful of items left to gather up.  We try to eat fish once a week (while nursing I watch my mercury intake) and meat once or twice.  We check out the in season fish and pick up whatever looks good (and is low in mercury) and then pick up whatever meat we are going to eat (organic is a must in my book).

Finally, we grab some almond butter, jelly, almond milk (chocolate for my husband, unsweetened vanilla for me), yogurt (for the baby), whole wheat or spinach pasta, some low sugar cereal, fresh baked bread from the bakery (or frozen Ezekiel bread) and head for the check out line.

Did you notice that the only “aisle” foods were pasta, cereal, and jelly?  That is fairly typical for us.  Occasionally if we are craving chips we throw in some veggie chips, but that is pretty much it other than dried spices.  When we get home our veggie drawers in the fridge are overflowing, there are fruits and vegetables all over our counters, and our pantry is stocked with grains.  All of those fruits and veggies make it easy to grab a quick and healthy snack even with an infant!

Next time you are at the store, think about shopping the perimeter.  If you go down the aisles, think about whether there is a fresh alternative – you will be impressed with the flavor difference.

*Organic foods aren’t always in the budget.  They are expensive.  Do the best you can and stay tuned for a post on which foods you should really try to buy organic and which don’t matter as much.