Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grocery A GoGo

Grocery shopping has become streamlined in the ol' Deli-cheese household. (And, no. We do not eat deli cheese. A student called me "Mrs. Delicheese" as a mispronunciation and I've loved it ever since.) Mind you, this doesn't always mean cheaper, but compared to our old days, the food we're stuffing our faces with are, on average, a heck of a lot healthier.

So, I thought I'd put together a few of the tips that I use that have made grocery shopping easier in this world of gluten-free/non-GMO/free range/non-dairy blah-dee-blah.

- Tip #1: Look for this awesome little logo on products if you're looking for a non-GMO certification.

It means that not only does this company not use GMOs, but they funded the project to fight GMO legislation. It's also neat to see the companies that have pumped thousands and millions of their own funds INTO the legislation. See, even when something says "organic", it doesn't always mean that the product is free of GMOs -- especially if it contains corn (one of the most highly modified products out there!). So, when I look at the cereal aisle in the "Organic & Natural" area of Hannaford, it reduces the selection by 75%. Makes it a heck of a lot easier. By the way, our favorites are Nature's Path Organic Heritage Flakes (kinda like Wheaties) and Corn Flakes (non-GMO corn AND under 5 ingredients!), as well as their granola bars. Sure, I could make these, but I just don't have time these days. (By the way, although Kashi is now working to get GMOs out of some of their products, I'm wary until I see a 100% change.)

- Tip #2: Bring a list of the dirty dozen/clean fifteen (or an app on your phone) along with you. It's handy to know which fruits 'n veggies you can buy on sale or cheaper as non-organic and which to skip over for the expensive stuff.

See, I'd stock up on nothing but fruits 'n veggies if my budget allowed, but we also need quick meals (like pasta with sauce...which we have at least once a week...and you can't have sauce without parmesan). So, I always grab organic apples and bananas (and sometimes pears) to put in our lunches, and organic lettuces, carrots, celery -- I know they're some of the dirtier items, so I buy them organic.

Others that we use ALL THE TIME, like sweet potatoes and onions, aren't as pesticide-laden, so we buy those in bulk on the cheap (and sometimes at Aldi where most things are cheaper). When asparagus is on sale, we grab that (non-organic) since it's on the Clean Fifteen and you can do SO MUCH with it.

Otherwise, when farmers' market season rolls around, we have found that a lot of farmers use organic practices but don't pay the MAJOR CHUNK OF CHANGE to become certified, so we reap the benefit of asking. Although, it's hard to avoid sweet corn from a farm stand even if you're not sure about its GMO or pesticide upbringing.

- Tip #3: Marketing is a tricky thing. Take, for instance, the story of an egg...

So, whenever possible, we purchase pastured eggs. How long this term will be unsullied remains to be seen. But, for now, I feel good about our egg choice. And we've been using a lot of eggs since becoming part-time vegetarians.

We've also been raised to think that because something is lower-fat, it's better for us. Not always true. So, with our attempts at getting a more "real" diet (one closer to our ancestors who lived a hundred years ago), we're trying to ease into drinking more whole milk. It's a transition, and I'm still purchasing 1% from time to time, but we're gettin' there. We've also made a switch (90% of the time) to Stonyfield's organic whole milk vanilla yogurt. No more Greek, (okay, I sneak the OCCASIONAL Chobani) since it's always made to be 0 or 2% fat.

It makes us think a heck of a lot more about what we buy before we buy it. Not everything in our house is organic. For example, our Paul Newman pizzas aren't, but there's a trade-off that we agree with their fundraising practices. (I'd like to make more homemade pizzas, though.) Regardless, we've had a tough time finding veggie burgers that a) don't taste like grass and b) don't have GMOs. Just because something's labeled "all natural" or touted as a "health food", use your own judgment and choose what's right for you and yours.

- Tip #4: Budget for the long haul. For us, this works. I plan on spending a certain amount every two weeks rather than going for a handful of items every week (or several times a week). Because if we do the latter, we inevitably end up getting way more than we planned to get. You know, you just have four things...four simple items on your list. Then, you end up leaving with a full cart and wonder, as you stand in line staring at it, how. The. Hell. That. Happened?!

SIDE NOTE: The look on my mom's face when she saw us buying one of our "hauls" lately...priceless. Yeah, we're usually pretty closeted about our organic purchases, mostly because of that inescapable argument that it's SOOO much more expensive. (It really costs us the same exact amount as it did back in the day when I used to go to Walmart; I used to shamelessly grab impulse items. New sweatpants with my Lean Cuisine (I seriously used to eat that crap!)? Don't mind if I do.)

So, yeah. Buy two breads, put one in freezer. Buy organic milk -- it lasts longer. (And, of course, for the obvious reason. Duh.) Double- and triple-check expiration dates. Plan on lots of salads for a week, week and a half...then make the husband deal with cooked veggies and the like. (Since he's the one who's more apt to cry over a lack of lettuce than am I. I'm a tough broad, after all.) If you notice produce starting to spoil, freeze it -- ie clean and chop your asparagus or broccoli, steam or par-boil it briefly, cool it down and throw it in a baggie for the freezer. Done and done.

What about you guys? Got any awesome grocery tips? Do you prefer a once-a-week trip or do you push it as long as you can? Do tell!

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