Smart & Healthy Shopping

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Smart & Healthy Shopping

By Martha Lee

Grocery shopping with two small kids is no easy feat, so I have quickly had to learn how to get in and get out of the store without a meltdown (or two) and with enough healthy groceries to last our new family of four for a long while.  There are a few tricks of the trade when it comes to bringing home healthy goods for fair prices and fast dinners, and I’ve got it down to a science.  The “rules” are pretty simple: buy fresh, keep a well-stocked pantry for go-to suppers, and shop the perimeter.  With these simple rules put in action, you can make grocery shopping even with two or more kids a breeze…well, most of the time, anyway!

1. Buy Fresh
There’s no easier way to make a meal taste delicious than by using the freshest ingredients.  I’m always checking expiration dates and buying the freshest meats, seafood, and produce around.  Nothing beats a Saturday morning trip to the Farmers Market, but if time doesn’t allow, the produce department in my local store is my go-to.  I always try to stock up on greens and fruit – both can be used in smoothies to make nutrient-rich meals fast and easy, but that’s a topic for another day.  The rule here is it’s good to have at least one green and *only* one starch (like potatoes, beans, or rice) on the supper table.  Three or four greens can be stretched out over a week’s time easy making trips to the grocer less frequent – a win win!

As for buying fresh meat, this is typically my one splurge. Just because it’s on sale, has a coupon, or is “manager’s special” does not necessarily mean it’s going home with me.  I steer towards wild-caught fish and healthier meats like Paula’s endorsed Springer Mountain Farms for the health benefits they provide (ie. humane conditions, no use of antibiotics and pesticide free) and for their sustainability to our environment.
2. Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry
I’ve learned through express shopping (aka shopping with kids) that there are a few basic pantry staples that always need to stick around the house.  Aromatic flavors like garlic, lemon, celery, and onion are always good to have on hand.  Just cut up those basic flavors or other fresh herbs to give your meal that “oomph” that they need to add a burst of fresh flavor without spending a lot of money.  Chicken broth, bouillon cubes, cream of ¬¬you-name-it soup, and canned tomatoes are also always good to have around too.  With these items, soups, stews, gravies, and sauces can be made in no time flat.  I also like to season well, so The Deen Brothers Funky Chicken Spice and Paula’s House Seasoning (available by calling 866-95-PAULA) are staples around my house.  They dress up any meal without reaching for any other spice in my cabinet.  Time saver?  I’ll take it.

3. Shop the Perimeter
All of the freshest ingredients are on the outer walls of the grocery store.  On the end of every aisle, sale items try to lure us down each row looking for items we don’t necessarily need.  After becoming a “perimeter shopper,” I’ve found that most of the food in the inner aisles is just junk anyways, filled with fillers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients that we think we want but certainly do not need.  Avoiding these fillers by snacking wisely on nuts, fruits, and other healthier options keeps the bad stuff out of our carts and the good stuff in our bellies. Think of all the money you can save by avoiding the inner aisles except to stock up on pantry essentials!

I wish they taught this stuff in classrooms across the country – or at least the ones I was in throughout high school and college!  I basically lived off of tuna salad during my college days because I refused to eat the ramen noodles in the pantries of my friends.  So college kids, bachelors, and new moms take note! Grocery shopping to eat well doesn’t necessarily have to be out of reach.  You just have to know how to shop!

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Reader Comments:


Mary, check the freezer section! Frozen veggies are much healthier than the canned alternative and are affordable too.

By Martha Lee on February 12, 2013


Enjoyed this site. I shop the perimeter of grocery stores as well. Grew up poor.........throw little away!

By Peggy on November 18, 2012


I cant grow veggies in my apartment bldg., and am disabled so money is very very very scarce. I wish I could afford fresh vegetables instead of canned. The canned ones have so much salt too, and if you don't get it with salt it tastes awful. Any recommendations for me on how to get fresh vegetables without braking the bank?

By Mary on November 18, 2012


Just curious... I loved Jamie's show - Home For Dinner -when can we expect new episodes??

By Susan Dregier on October 13, 2012

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