I used to look at grocery shopping as how can I get in and get out as fast as I can. I got in the routine of buying the same food items and what was the fastest and easiest to cook. I ended up with grocery bags full of prepared foods from the deli, microwavable-boxed foods, and maybe an occasional piece of fruit or bagged lettuce. Grocery shopping for me was an inconvenience and just plain boring. Even if I ventured out and found a recipe that I wanted to make, I would have had to go to three grocery stores to find all the ingredients. I didn’t have the time to do that. Grocery shopping can be confusing and overwhelming. Over the last ten years of mastering food preparation and grocery shopping I have come up with several strategies to make it fun, east, fast and affordable!

Here are the basic rules I follow:

1. Shop the perimeter of the store to avoid the processed foods down the center isle.

  1. Shop the produce section first to ensure that you purchase plenty of fruits and vegetables. Our meals should consist of half of a plate of produce on a daily basis. I like to buy what is in season and I strive to buy what is organic. Non organic produce is full of pesticides and herbicides that are toxic to the body and can disrupt hormones. Look for the number on the produce to start with the number “9”. For example “9035” on the sticker on an apple will mean it is organic. If the number starts with “4” or anything else it is not organic.
  2. Choose free range organic certified meats. Look for “grass fed” meats, “organic free range” chicken, “cage free or pasture raised” eggs, “no nitrate” deli meats, “wild caught” fish.
  3. Shop for organic raw nuts and seeds and omit chocolate covered or sweetened nuts and dried fruit.
  4. When purchasing whole grains look for quinoa, wild rice, amaranth or other ancient grains, or flaxseed as choices. Stay away from white rice and wheat.
  5. Dairy should be raw and organic whenever possible. Look for “raw organic” cheese and “full fat” dairy options. Fat free options will have added preservatives and sugar. Chose unsweetened options when going for almond milk or coconut milk. I prefer to stay away from all forms of cows milk.
  6. Frozen fruits should be organic without extra flavorings.
  7. Avoid most the center isles.Shop the produce section first to ensure that you purchase plenty of fruits and vegetables.

2. Always read the labels. Foods that have a lab must be preserved and therefore have added preservatives to keep them sustainable and last long. These preservatives are added sugars and food colorings and chemicals that are dangerous. So if you do pick up food on the shelf, always read the labels. If you don’t know whats in it- don’t buy it!

3. Keep away from sugar. I stay away from anything that doesn’t have naturally occurring sugars in it. Anything that has added sugar, I do not buy.

4. Save a buck. Most grocery stores have coupons and sales. Keep an eye out for things that are on sale that you can buy in bulk and freeze for the future.

5. Don’t go to the grocery store hungry.

6. Plan your meals for the week and only buy what is on the ingredient list. It is easy to get sucked into what is on sale and sitting on the end caps of the isles.

7. Plan out time to make the trip to the grocery store. Take time to enjoy your experience or even make it a family outing. Get everyone involved and excited!