My Shopping Cart: Whole Foods Edition

Whole Foods Market

This is the last part in my 3 part series of where and how I grocery shop.  If you haven’t seen them yet, read the Jewel and the Aldi post.  Today it’s all about Whole Foods which I am here to prove doesn’t have to be Whole Paycheck as long as you shop smart.

Full disclosure: I obviously do not do all of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  That isn’t to say it isn’t possible to shop only at Whole Foods, I just find it works best for me and my budget to go to a few different places.  You have to decide what is best for you, your budget, and your family.

Whole Foods Bulk Section

I go to Whole Foods mostly for their bulk section.  They have a huge bulk foods section and buying in bulk is a great way to save money on food that you eat and use often.  It’s also great if you want to try something new but don’t want to buy a whole box or package.  That way you can see if you like the ingredient and won’t waste money or food if you don’t.

Whole Foods Bulk Section

Here is what I usually buy from the bulk section at Whole Foods:

  • whole wheat flour
  • almond flour
  • coconut flour
  • oatmeal (rolled oats, oat bran, steel cut)
  • buckwheat groats
  • cornmeal
  • brown rice
  • hazelnuts
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • pistachios
  • goji berries
  • prunes
  • chia seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • flax seeds
  • popcorn

Now, I don’t buy all of this every single time I go to the store, I just refill as needed.  But you can see that I do purchase a lot of things in bulk.  For me, buying these things in bulk is cheaper.  Do your research though because sometimes (not often) it isn’t cheaper to buy things in bulk.

Whole Foods Bulk Spice Section

Whole Foods also has a bulk spice section that is awesome!  I no longer have to buy a whole bottle of some spice that I am going to only use once and then forget I have.  This saves so much money and your spices and herbs won’t go bad (yes spices can go bad) because you aren’t using them.  I usually get:

  • basil
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • turmeric
  • cumin

Because I’m obsessed with spices, I also get a lot of my spices and spice blends at The Spice House in Old Town.  They have so many amazing blends and I have a hard time choosing!  If you’re in the area you should check them out.  Plus it’s Alton Brown recommended so you can’t go wrong!

Whole Foods Grind Your Own Nut Butter

Other than bulk food, I also get a few other things:

  • organic sweet potatoes (my one organic splurge because to me they taste much better than conventional)
  • 365 brand peanut butter (the 2 lb jar is only $5.99)
  • grind your own almond butter
  • specialty ingredients like coconut cream, Asian/Indian food section things, tahini
  • bulk coffee (I also sometimes get coffee from Trader Joes)

Again, I don’t get these things every single trip just when I need them.

It is totally possible to shop at Whole Foods and not spend a small fortune.  If you do your homework, you can grocery shop here on a budget.  If you look for coupons, buy things that are on sale, shop the bulk food section, and purchase the 365 brand products you can save a lot of money.  And soon you might be able to shop at a less expensive version of Whole Foods.

This is the last post in this series and I hope it helped show you how to grocery shop as well as how it’s easy to eat healthy on a budget and at a variety of different stores.  I would love to write more posts about what I do to stay healthy, so let me know what other roadblocks you face when trying to eat better.  What other things would other glimpses into my life would you like to see?  Let me know in the comment section!

My Shopping Cart: Aldi and Wal-mart Edition

Aldi Logo

Today is part two in my grocery shopping series.  Last week I shared with you what I get when I shop at Jewel and today I’m highlighting what I get when I go to Aldi and Wal-mart.

These two stores get looked down on a lot.  They are associated with cheap/unhealthy food, lower class, and just an overall unpleasant experience.  When I first started grocery shopping on my own I did most of it at Wal-mart because it was cheap and near campus.  There was an Aldi in town, but I avoided it because I had the same misconceptions most people do about it.  I remember shopping there as a kid with my mom.  You had to pay for grocery carts, they didn’t have shopping bags, there were weird tubes of meat and it was kind of dirty.  As an adult I kind of turned my nose up at Aldi and thought I was better than that.

Then I realized how much money one could spend on groceries and I knew I needed to find a way to eat healthy food but on a fairly tight budget.  I swallowed my weird sense of “food pride” and went to Aldi.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You still have to pay for a grocery cart (you get the quarter back once you return the cart) and there aren’t any shopping bags (if you’re like me and have 5 million reusable bags this isn’t too much of a hassle) but the food selection had definitely changed for the better.

produce section at Aldi

Aldi has been shedding their old brand and showing they are just as good as other grocery stores.  They offer a gluten-free line, an organic line, fresh seasonal produce, and a really great frozen foods section.  It is entirely possible to eat healthy nutritious food and shop at Aldi.  Plus you will save money because their prices tend to be lower than their competitors.

produce section at Aldi

My Aldi shopping list varies depending on what I need that week.  What I normally get there each week are:

  • organic honey
  • canned pumpkin (during the fall)
  • 10 lb bag of russet potatoes
  • avocados
  • frozen mixed vegetables
  • big bags of frozen tilapia/swai (for Adam)
  • corn tortillas
  • 2 lb bag of beans (pinto, black, northern)
  • brown rice spaghetti

I buy these things at Aldi because they are much less expensive than if I were to get them at Jewel or even Wal-mart.  I also go to Aldi when I am recipe testing because I can get more ingredients for my money and test more recipes this way.  Aldi does a pretty good job of offering fresh and seasonal produce for a really good price.  I recently got asparagus there for less than $2 a lb and an 8 oz of mushrooms for $1.49.

canned goods at Aldi

I also pick up a few things at Wal-mart each week because the price there is better.  I usually get:

  • half gallon of Silk Unsweetened Almond milk
  • Thai kitchen canned coconut milk
  • frozen vegetables
  • quart sized boxes of shelf stable almond milk and coconut milk (for baking)
  • big jug of extra virgin olive oil

The Wal-mart in my neighborhood does a pretty good job on their produce, but it’s a little bit smaller of a selection.  I can find what I need for a good price at the other stores I frequent.

frozen foods at Aldi

The most important thing I want you to take away from this post is that you can shop at stores like Aldi and Wal-mart and still have a healthy diet.  You might have to search a little bit through the aisles to find the good stuff, but it’s there.  Eating healthy isn’t about shopping at the high end grocery stores and buying the most expensive food there.  If you are able to do that and that works for you, then great!  But for the majority of us it is more feasible to shop at places like Aldi.  Look for seasonal produce, read labels, and keep an open mind when you’re shopping at these stores.  You’ll end up with delicious and nutritious meals and a few more dollars in your wallet!  That’s a win-win in my book!

What are your misconceptions about stores like Aldi or Wal-mart?

My Shopping Cart: Jewel Edition

jewelosco

For the next three weeks I am going to share my grocery shopping with you.  I think it’s important to know how to grocery shop because that’s where healthy eating starts.  I also think that many people have misconceptions about how and where they have to grocery shop if they want to eat better.  You don’t have to go to specialty stores and you don’t have to buy all organic all the time.  If you have the ability and the means to do that, awesome!  But you can have a healthy lifestyle without those things too.

I have four main places that I grocery shop for our household.  Jewel, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Aldi.  I go to these places at least once sometimes twice a week.  I do one big shopping trip on Friday morning and then supplement throughout the week with a few other trips.  This helps me save money and find the best deal on food.

IMG_20150429_081844500_HDR (1)

I’m starting with Jewel because that is where I do the bulk of my shopping.  Not only are they on my block but they also have a good selection.  Before I get into what I buy here are a few quick tips on making the most of any grocery shopping trip:

  • MAKE A LIST!  A list will keep you from just wandering the aisles and throwing whatever catches your eye into your cart. Know exactly what you need for your meals and what you need to restock and stick to your list!
  • Shop early.  I know not everyone can go to the store first thing in the morning, but if you can do it.  There aren’t that many people there, the shelves are usually fully stocked, and it’s quicker to get done when there aren’t tons of people around.  Nothing makes grocery shopping worse than doing it with 500 other people all trying to get the exact same bunch of kale.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask.  In my experience people who work in grocery stores know A LOT about groceries.  They know all the deals, the best time to shop produce, and a few have even given me some great tips on preparing the food I buy.  If you have a question just ask!

IMG_20150429_081812046_HDR (1)

Onto the shopping!  I buy all of my fresh produce at Jewel because they have a good selection and they also tend to have really good seasonal offerings.  No matter what the season though I usually always buy:

  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • bananas
  • cabbage
  • fresh herbs
  • onions
  • garlic
  • apples
  • oranges/pears/plums/whatever other fruit is on sale or in season

IMG_20150429_082153156

Then depending on season I sometimes have squash, summer squash, beets, parsnips, asparagus, leafy greens, or whatever else catches my eye.

I try to stay in season and choose produce that is on sale to get the most bang for my buck.  I also don’t buy the organic versions of these.  At this point in time I just don’t have the financial resources to buy all organic and that is totally fine! Regular broccoli is better than no broccoli at all.  I do however make sure that I wash all of my produce well before I eat it.

Jewel is also where I get canned goods, eggs, and frozen vegetables.  I always make sure to have canned tomatoes and tomato paste/sauce on hand and I get the Jewel brand of these.  The ingredient list is short and simple which is always important and it’s the cheapest brand, also important!  I buy a lot of eggs, at least 24 perhaps more a week, but again I can’t afford to buy organic or cage free at this time so I just get the best that I can afford.

IMG_20150429_082018965_HDR

Finally frozen vegetables.  Jewel has a really big and inexpensive selection of frozen vegetables that I love.  Frozen vegetables sometimes get a bad rap as not being as good as fresh but that is totally wrong.  They are just as nutritious and are sometimes more convenient than fresh.  I keep a good variety on hand to throw into stir frys, soups, stews, salads, or as a quick side.  Some of my favorites right now are:

  • green beans
  • shelled edamame
  • sugar snap peas
  • 3 pepper blend (red, green, and yellow peppers)
  • california blend (cauliflower, broccoli, carrots)
  • chopped spinach or kale

That’s my Jewel shopping trip.  My Jewel also has a really good natural food market, a part of the store that has food you would normally find at say Whole Foods but for less money.  I’ll sometimes get tea, gluten free pasta, and chickpea flour here.

IMG_20150429_081821794_HDR

Next Wednesday I will talk about what I get at Walmart and Aldi.  Yes, you can find healthy food at Walmart and Aldi and save a lot of money.  Have a great Wednesday everyone!

IMG_20150429_082121531

Where do you shop?  What is the hardest part of grocery shopping for you?

Misconceptions About Healthy

I believe that there is sometimes a common misconception when it comes to eating well:  healthy diets must contain organic foods.  They also assume that because of this idea, eating healthy is expensive.  These two ideas about a healthy diet can cause people to shy away from changing their current eating habits.  Either they don’t have the money to buy all organic all the time or they don’t even have access to organic food.  They keep eating the same way and tell themselves this is the only way that they can eat.  I’m here to say that this just isn’t true at all.  I want to help people see that a diet full of delicious and healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive and it also doesn’t have to be 100% organic.

Let’s start with the organic idea.  Thanks to marketing and media, the word organic has taken on the association of healthy and that just isn’t necessarily true.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to bash organic food.  I fully support the organic movement, but not everything you see labeled as organic is good for you.  I have talked before about the “health halo” that words like organic, gluten-free, and all natural assume.  But an organic candy bar is still a candy bar and a candy bar is not doing anything good for your health.  Sure, you can feel good that you aren’t eating pesticides or factory made preservatives, but don’t think that the organic candy bar is going to miraculously change your health.  Be careful in thinking that as long as everything you buy is organic, it’s healthy.  Packaged and processed organic food is still inferior to whole and real food.

Expense is the other issue that hinders people from changing their eating habits.  The fact is organic food is more expensive.  I wish that we lived in a world where organic practices were the norm and everyone could afford it.  Unfortunately that isn’t the case, but that doesn’t mean your health is doomed.  I don’t buy all organic food, yet I still manage to have a healthy diet.  We are on a tight budget and we can’t afford to buy all organic.  Many of you are probably in the same boat.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat well, it just means you have to be smart about how you shop.  When it comes to produce, you can use this chart to choose which foods to buy organic and which you can buy conventional.  Generally foods that you peel or discard the outer layer can be bought conventionally without too much worry.  Because I have a limited budget, I tend to favor those foods a little more.  I buy plenty of bananas and oranges and other citrus, but I also don’t worry too much about buying the other foods non-organically.  I just make sure to wash all my produce thoroughly.  In the end, a conventionally grown apple is still an apple and it will still trump processed food any day.

2013EWGPesticideGuidesml

That same idea translates to other foods as well.  If you can buy organic, that’s great, but don’t stress out about it.  As long as you are avoiding the food-like substances that you can find in the aisles of the grocery store, you can still have a healthy diet.  Check out this post and this post, to get some more tips on how to be a savvy and healthy grocery shopper.  The biggest key is to have a plan and know exactly what you need/want before you get to the store.

When I tell others that they need to eat whole or real foods, I don’t want them to immediately jump to the organic conclusion.  I don’t want people to think that I am saying the ONLY way to be healthy is to eat organically.  It isn’t the only way and no one should feel stuck in their eating habits because of money or availability.  There are ways to eat better, shop better, and ultimately feel better.  It’s totally ok if it isn’t an overnight transformation, as slow and steady wins the race.  When faced with the choice of what food to eat or buy, make the best choice possible available to you.  If that means buying the conventional lettuce, buy the conventional lettuce.  A conventional salad trumps organic junk food every time!

53020130026167

Grocery Shopping Tips

Clearly I believe that one of the components of living a healthier lifestyle is to eat well.  In order to eat well, you have to shop for that better food.  Grocery shopping can be an intimidating task for some people.  There are so many options, so many different choices, so many things that it can be overwhelming.  Where do you start?  What do you choose?  How do you ignore the things that aren’t good for you?  How do you know what is and isn’t good for you?  Whew!  If you are going to live healthier you HAVE to eat healthier and I don’t want you to feel intimidated by that.  I want it to be easy for you to shop and eat well, so I am going to give you some of my grocery shopping tips that help me stick to what I need and bypass everything I don’t.  Some of my tips might not apply to you or your grocery store, but there should be something in my list that will help you out and every little bit helps when it comes to eating better.

grocery-shopping

Make a menu for the week.  Try to plan ahead as much as possible.  I grocery shop Friday morning, so I like to write out a dinner menu through Thursday.  If you can’t handle a whole week just do a few days in advance.  Writing out a menu helps you to think about what ingredients you will need for your meals and what you will need to shop for.

Take inventory of your kitchen and make a list.  Check your fridge, your pantry, and your cabinets.  What things do you have and what things do you need?  I check my supply of dried goods like beans, rice, quinoa, and things like that.  I check  my supply of canned goods like diced tomatoes.  I also check things like potatoes, garlic, and onions as well as spices.  If I am low on any of my staples, I put it onto my grocery list.  Anything that I need for my weekly dinner that I don’t already have also goes on the list.  I also tend to arrange my list in the order that I will shop for it at the store.  For example, I put all my fresh produce on the list first because at my grocery store that is the first thing I get.  This helps to streamline the process as well as helps avoid any aisle that I do not need to be in.  Some people just wander up and down the aisles throwing whatever they think looks good into their cart.  They tend to end up with a lot more food than they need as well as the unhealthier fare that the store offers.  By preparing a list you can avoid all that!

Get to know the store.  Yeah I know this is kind of an obvious tip, but I’m including it anyway.  If you’re relatively new to grocery shopping don’t be frustrated if it takes a little longer to shop.  As you get to know your store and get to know the products offered, your shopping time will go down.

Shop for fresh produce first.  This is a personal preference, but I find that buying all the fresh stuff first is a little easier because there aren’t 5,000 different types of broccoli to choose from.  Broccoli is broccoli and you don’t have to compare ingredient lists or wonder which head of broccoli is better.  Plus I like to try and fill up my cart with good stuff first so it is easier to avoid the “bad” food because there is no room in the cart.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Don’t let the aisles scare you.  A lot of people tell you to avoid the aisles and only shop the perimeter when you are trying to shop healthier.  While it is true that the aisles host pretty much all of the processed junk that you shouldn’t be eating, they also have some really good and healthy staples.  The aisles are where I get my canned/jarred tomatoes, rice, condiments like mustard, and occasionally salsa if I don’t have any homemade in my pantry.  My grocery store has a bulk section where I get all my spices, dried beans, and flour, but you can also find those things in the aisles at your store.  The key is to not go down every single aisle, this is where knowing how your grocery store is set up and what aisles contain the things you need on your list comes in handy.  Only go down the aisles that you need items from and you won’t have to worry about being tempted by the processed food.

Get your meat/dairy/eggs/frozen foods at the end.  I get my eggs, almond milk, and frozen vegetables last so they aren’t sitting in my cart getting warm the whole time.  The frozen section can be another tempting place as it houses all the ice cream/frozen treats as well as frozen dinners.  This is where having a menu planned out will help.  If you already know what you are going to eat for the week you will be less tempted by the convenience meals in the frozen section.  Let’s be honest, anything you make will be a lot tastier and healthier than anything you can get in a box, even if it does seem easier to just throw your dinner in the microwave and hit start.  Just stick to your frozen vegetables and fruit, which usually are in the same aisle so you don’t have to go down any other aisles.

sewardcoopbulk

Get to know the products you use most.  For the foods that you do purchase in packages make sure you know the ingredients and are ok with them.  The first few times you shop this way you might have to spend some time comparing products and choosing the one you feel best about.  Once you get that down you can just go in and choose your regular product.  I know there are a few apps like In R Food and Zipongo let you scan bar codes and compare products based on ingredients.  You can also look up a lot of products online and look at ingredient lists and nutrition facts before you even go to the store so you don’t have to even look at any other product.

Those are just a few tips that have helped me stick to healthy and easy grocery shopping.  Trust me I know it’s really easy to get lost in all the aisles and products offered at the store.  If you prepare as much as you can beforehand it will make your actual shopping trip that much easier.  That way you can just go in, get exactly what you need, and head on out.  My best piece of advice for new healthy grocery shoppers is to take your time.  Plan to spend a few extra minutes at the store when you are first starting out.  It will take some time for you to get used to your store, the products that work best for you, and a new way of shopping.  As time goes on you will get faster and be a grocery shopping wizard!  Just stay calm and know that you are shopping for better health!