As a Dietitian, I am quite fond of the supermarket. I love wandering around the aisles, exploring new products on the shelves. I am partial to label reading and enjoy trying new superfood-y finds from exotic destinations. (A couple of weeks ago I bought a dragonfruit for a small fortune because I just had to try it). Given the opportunity, I'd spend hundreds of dollars at the supermarket each week, and fill my basket with chickpea pasta, bee pollen, kombucha and other pricey ingredients.
However, I live in one of the most expensive cities in the US, and just like everyone else, cost is a factor in my food decisions. Below are my 5 top tips for keeping your grocery bill within reason, without compromising on nutrition:
Incorporate frozen fruit and veggies:
Frozen fruit and veggies are a cheap and nutritious alternative to fresh. Fruit and veggies are flash frozen, which means that they largely retain their nutrients during the freezing process. In addition, they’re picked at peak ripeness making them surprisingly delicious and flavorful. Go for frozen fruit and veggies without added sugar and salt over the sauced-up varieties. I always have a stash of frozen berries and bananas in my freezer for smoothies, and frozen red peppers to add to soups and sauces.
With 2016 the International Year of Pulses, there’s truly no better time to join the bean team! Consider swapping meat or poultry with legumes such as chickpeas, cannellini beans, black beans, or kidney beans a couple of times a week. Canned legumes (without added salt) cost as little as $1-2 per can, and provide 10-15g of fiber per cup (approximately 30-50% of the daily recommendation). In addition, pulses are a rich source of protein, iron, potassium, B-vitamins, folate and zinc which support satiety, metabolism, oxygen delivery, immunity, and muscle building. Add pulses to soups, salads, wraps, curries and casseroles to get your fiber fix and save cash.
Skip the ready-prepared section:
Have you ever noticed that pre-made meals and snacks are always located at the front of the supermarket? This is because these are high margin items, designed to whet your appetite and empty your wallet! Convenience foods such as chopped fruit and veggies and pre-made salads and can be double or triple the cost of the raw ingredients, and typically last half as long. Save money, and enjoy food that lasts longer by buying whole fruit/veggies, and making your own salads, and hot meals.
Seasonal produce is usually cheaper and tastier than the out-of-season stuff. Out-of-season produce tends to come from further away, or has been stored for long periods of time, resulting in a substandard product in both flavor and nutrition. Check out these helpful charts to see what’s in season in your area right now.
Never shop hungry:
Hunger can be the kiss of death for good intentions at the supermarket. When blood sugar levels dip, several hormonal changes take place which make us more likely to come home with a trolley full of treats. Make better decisions at the supermarket by eating beforehand, and sticking to your list.