I absolutely love doing the supermarket shopping. My family (and my boyfriend) actually think I am a freak sometimes because I will get home and be like “Morning Fresh is 50% off so I got three, what a great deal!!” I swear as I get older I am becoming more like my nonna (she is well and truely prepared for if some reason every supermarket shut down).
I live with my family of five. We are all adults with big appetites. We also have two additions (Bruno and my brother’s girlfriend Jewlia). Between the seven of us there is a lot to stock up on. I have decided that I am going to keep this post quite general. If you want one that is more based on nutrition, then I will do that one separately. Obviously the way you do your shopping is going to be different to how I do mine but I hope that I can provide you with some useful information and ideas.
To start off I am going to give you an idea of the way we eat. My family doesn’t generally get takeaway. We cook dinner almost every night. We eat a diet that is filled with fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, grains, nuts, seeds and packaged snacks. Most people in the house snack on fruit so we always have a lot of fresh fruit on hand. We also LOVE chocolate and ice-cream so that is purchased every week without a doubt. We are an Italian family so needless to say we go through cheese like no tomorrow (usually my mum, sister and boyfriend). Each of us have our own diet so I have to keep that in mind when I go shopping for everyone. I will also mention that the shopping I am referring to is the “big shop” but there will be occasions during the week when we have to duck in and get something (like more milk…or chocolate if it is that time of the month).
I do the shopping at the start of the week (typically a Monday). So that morning I will think of the kinds of things I want to make for dinner during the week. Before I even get to the shops there is a process I like to call “stocktake.” I go through both fridges, the freezer and the pantry and see what we already have on hand. I find checking the freezer to be particularly helpful so that I know what meat and fish we have frozen that we can use.
When I know what we have I start writing the list (being sure to add anything I will need for the recipes I am making that week). I can’t go shopping without a list. I use the ‘notes’ section on my phone and delete items as I purchase them. I also check the bathrooms, the laundry and kitchen cupboards to make sure there is enough of everything (washing liquid, toilet paper, cat food, spray and wipe, serviettes). Then, I send “the text.” We have a family text message so every Monday I will write in it “Supermarket needs” and from there the requests will roll in. My brother’s never changes, I honestly think he just copies and pastes it from the week before…with an odd addition every now and again.
I add all the family items to the existing list, grab all the green bags we have and head straight to the shops. There are four key places I will go to – the fruit/vegetable shop, the deli, the bulk health food store and the supermarket. I will go through what I like to get from each of these individually for you:
The Fruit and Vegetable Shop: The girls at our local one have become my friends. I am there at the same time every week and they always make me smile. I like to purchase produce that is in season (most of the time). It is a really cost effective way to shop. Like I said, we eat a lot of food so I will list a few of our current staples – avocado, berries, bananas, capsicums, zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potato, regular potatoes, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, apples, endive, onions and garlic. I know it sounds like a lot but we buy all of that nearly every week. Every vegetable and fruit contains different micronutrients so the more of them I can get into my family’s diet the better.
The Deli: Arguably one of my favourite parts of the shopping. This is where I stock up on cheese, gourmet crackers, pasta, grains (spelt, freekah, buckinis), olives, sundried tomatoes, marinated eggplants and artichoke hearts. The antipasto ingredients make for delicious additions to salads and my family eat cheese by the block. You can buy pasta from the supermarket but I love all the Italian brands available at the deli.
The bulk health food store: This is where I get most of our nuts, seeds and dried fruit from. We store our nuts and seeds in jars at home so I like being able to buy the right amount that will fit into our jars. This means that there are less half empty packets lying around (this drives me crazy). I also think it is great if you just need a little bit of something for a recipe because it is so much cheaper than buying a full packet from the supermarket. In terms of dried fruit, I like buying this from the health food store because they have a large variety and they source from companies that don’t add any additional sugar or oil to the fruit. So if I buy sultanas I know that is all I am getting.
The supermarket: Now I know that some people swear by the phrase “only shop the parameter” but I think there is actually so much goodness hidden in the aisles. You just need to know what to look out for. Let’s start with the parameter.
The parameter: When I go into the supermarket I take a right and go straight to the fresh produce section. I load up on all the packaged and washed lettuce. Just being honest, I am lazy when it comes to washing greens so if I want to have greens in my diet they need to be washed for me. I will also use this opportunity to buy fresh herbs for any recipes I am making (they are usually “2 for $5”). I will then work my way to the meat and fish section. Again, what I buy depends on what I am roughly planning to make for dinner throughout the week. In terms of the fridge I will buy milk (full-cream and almond) and yogurt (Greek and coconut). Heading over the freezer I will stock up on frozen berries (the best), ice-cream (because balance) and frozen veggies because I find them so useful during the week if I need to put something together really quickly.
The aisles: We actually get a lot of our pantry staples from the aisles such as canned chickpeas, tea, rice, butterbeans, peanut butter, almond butter, chocolate, spices, tamari, canned coconut milk and lentils. As you are probably aware, there are so many different brands for the same item and it can be difficult to decide which one you want. In the next section I am going to talk a little bit about interpreting the back of packaged items.
When I have finished all the shopping (generally takes me an hour) I will load up the car and head home. For me, the worst part by far is unloading and putting everything away. It is so time consuming but I have to say very satisfying once it is all done. I always make sure I rotate all the produce we already had to put that at the front so it is first to be used (nothing worse than wasting food in my opinion).
Reading and Interpreting the back of a Packaged Product
To finish off I wanted to talk in a bit more detail about reading and interpreting nutritional labels on packaged food items. The reality is that a lot of our food these days is processed but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Imagine if every time you wanted some rice you had to harvest it! However, it is important to acknowledge that there are a lot of companies out there with very clever marketing teams. Health claims are plastered all over the front of products and honestly they can be very intriguing. I used to place a lot of faith in what was written on the front of the label without giving consideration to what is actually contained in the product.
I have to be honest and say that in the past I have taken the interpretation of nutritional labels too far. I was so fixated with every single thing that was written on the back. It was an unhealthy obsession. It went from being “mindful” to being “overly obsessive.” I don’t recommend or wish this for anyone. The following information is to help you make informed decisions of the products you purchase. It is by no means a “rule book” or “holy grail” it is merely some guidelines and ideas.
Dietician, Marika Day, spoke to the ‘Keep it Cleaner’ girls on their podcast a couple of weeks ago. She shared a few tips to help listeners interpret the labels on popular supermarket items, many of which I do myself. Now I do not suggest doing this for every product at the supermarket. It can be counterproductive and extremely time consuming. If you are buying a block of chocolate or a packet of chips that you know are not nutritionally dense but for pleasure don’t bother. Reading the labels is important if you are purchasing something you are going to be having more frequently because you will be consuming much more of it.
Marika recommends starting by reading the ingredients on the back. The ingredient that is listed first is the one that is going to be found in the highest concentration. For example, if you are buying almond butter you would hope that the first ingredient listed is almonds. Look for lists that are short and don’t contain too many ingredients.
In terms of what to look for in the nutrition information panel, start by looking at the serving size (often very different to our portion sizes). It is okay if you eat more than the recommended serving size, it is just important that you are aware. For example, a chocolate pudding may look really low sugar but the serving size might be one tablespoon (very sneaky). In terms of sugar, 4g = 1 tsp of sugar. So if a product has 8g of sugar per serve then that is 2 tsp of sugar per serve. Remember to take into consideration what you’re eating. The sugar could be naturally occurring from dates or lactose. It really depends on the product you are purchasing. If you are buying an ordinary peanut butter, it would be concerning if there were 8g of sugar per tbsp because you know that sugar isn’t coming from peanuts themselves.
To sum up todays post I am going to pull out five key takeaway pieces of information:
Make sure you check what you need before going to the shops.
Always take a list (there is something really fun about ticking things off).
Buy fresh produce that is in season.
If you are looking for a new staple, check out the ingredient list before purchasing.
Don’t take the nutrition labelling too literally – if you’re buying something to be consumed as a treat don’t make yourself guilty by reading the back. Just eat it and move on.
I hope this post was helpful for you! Please let me know if you want posts specifically about nutrition, the fridge, panty staples and meal prepping. Happy shopping!