Smart & Healthy Shopping

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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!

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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.
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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!

Martha Lee and her husband began working for Paula Deen Enterprises in 2006 until Martha left to pursue a degree in Special Education. She takes a cue from her 1-year-old daughter, Naomi, leaving tiny footprints on the planet. Her blog shares practical, earth-conscious ways to live and parent in the 21st century. Born and raised in beautiful, soulful Macon, GA, Martha and her family now lives in Savannah, where she can be found outside hula-hooping and performing handstands daily.
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Reader Comments:

54321

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

54321

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

By Peggy on November 18, 2012

54321

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

54321

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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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 9:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 7:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 3:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 10:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 10:03 pm