A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

5 Tips to Smart and Healthy Grocery Shopping

It's June already! Who knew that was going to happen so quickly? It's always at this time of year where most of us realize the summer is rapidly approaching [for Atlanta, it's already here!] and we start trying to frantically diet with hopes of getting 'beach body' [yeah it's a thing] ready. This is a good thing in most cases, but for me,  I've never been great at doing any sort of super specific diet. So what do I do? For starters, I go grocery shopping! 

Tip #1 LOAD UP ON FRUITS AND VEGETABLES [and organic/local if you can swing it!]: You might be saying, thanks Captain Obvious! But it's amazing how stuck in our ways we get when it comes to eating healthy things.  I'm a victim of this: I always have spinach on hand, and I like to stick it in almost every meal I make, since I'm not great at eating a variety of greens.  But any health guru will tell you that having a variety of colors of veggies inevitably brings in a variety of vitamins and all the other healthy essentials. Meals start to get really boring if you keep using the same ingredients, so make sure you liven things up!

Here are the veggies and fruits I bought on my most recent trip to Whole Foods [see above].  Whole Foods is a VERY dangerous place for me.  I immediately want to cook and eat healthier when I go there [wonderful!] but then I end up spending over $200 in one trip [not so wonderful!].  Nevertheless, on this trip I was definitely fruit starved [we already had a fair bit of greens in the fridge] so I went for all my favorites at this time of year, lots of berries and the first batch of local peaches [YUM!].  I also had some other recipes in mind when it came to the vegetables [asian stir fry? bruschetta? yes!], but I tend to just buy things that look good to me, and then figure out what I'll make with them later on.  It allows me to get crafty and creative in the kitchen [tongue twister anyone?] and take absurdly colorful food photos.

TIP #2 CHOOSE YOUR PROTEINS WISELY: I so badly want to try out being a vegan, but I love my meat too much [no innuendos here!]. I also find I have a much easier time eating fewer or no carbs if I can have meat in my diet, so that's a good thing, right? On any shopping trip, I go for chicken breast and shrimp, which are two perfectly healthy options, but this time I decided to skip on the red meats [no steak? BUT I LOVE STEAK!] because although it can be healthy if you choose the right cuts, I can live with just having it occasionally.

So instead I opted for a nice filet of mahi mahi. I simply grilled the fish [and portioned it out- we'll get to that shortly!] and had it with some quick pickled zucchini I made earlier that day. [why no carbs? well I had an appetizer of bruschetta prior, so my bread fix was already satiated]. Another great source of protein is greek yogurt, but since I loathe yogurt straight out of the cup, I like using it in sauces I make [in lieu of things like cream and other dairy products]. For when I'm in a rush, I also like to go for a frozen bean and chicken burrito, which is a great protein source. Nuts are another favorite, and are probably my #1 snack choice [our house has lots of nuts, 'nuff said]. 

TIP #3 PORTIONS:  This is absolutely the most important thing you can take away from this post.  I'm a huge proponent of eating whatever you want and not starving or limiting yourself on the things you can have, but I just know that for me, I have to measure out what I'm eating.  When I come home from the grocery, the first thing I do is whip out the ziplock bags and food scale [I have this one, but any digital scale is great] and get to work.

I weigh out my proteins so that each baggie has enough for each person to eat about 4 ounces [since I mostly cook for two, my bags tend to weigh between 8 and 9 ounces]. If I'm planning to have leftovers for lunch the next day, I'll sometimes tack on an extra 3-4oz. per person, but then I make sure to write on the bag that there are extra portions. This not only helps me keep my eating in check, it also helps me save money in the long haul.  I find that I can go to the grocery much less if I just portion things out and don't cook everything at once.  It's a lot less wasteful in my opinion, and my most favorite trick.

TIP #4 BUY A LITTLE OF WHAT YOU LOVE: This goes back to my feelings of not limiting yourself to what you can eat.  For my family, Sunday mornings means pancakes and bacon.  It's just a fact.  Time may pass, the seasons may change, but Sunday pancakes and bacon will live on.  It's something I treat myself with, and look forward to and there's absolutely no crime in that! So after probably a month of trying to stay away from bacon, I saw that Niman Ranch [an awesome meat purveyor] was selling their pepper bacon, so I went for it!

I also am an Italian cook by heart and my favorite brand of organic pasta was on sale, so it was time I had a little farfalle in my life.  I got a box of low sodium organic mac and cheese [which I promptly cooked after this grocery trip] and some stevia soda. Drinking soda is something I struggle with, and I've been good about not having it at home for a while. But when I start to crave it, I opt for the stevia version that's made without any of the harmful sugar substitutes, so just natural stuff here.  I also opted for a loaf of french bread, which isn't necessarily figure friendly, but the tomatoes and were looking so good, and I just made an amazing parsley and almond pesto, all of which were screaming for bruschetta. But even when I make that, I always remember to slice up just enough for an appropriate portion size, because bruschetta can disappear VERY quickly in this house...

TIP #5 BUY ONLY WHAT YOU NEED:  This is the hardest one for me to follow, but I'm really working on it. I've learned not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, because then I just start craving all kinds of things and picking up way more than I have any reason to! But for a cook, it can be so tempting to pick up lots of new ingredients that are looking particularly delicious.  But I have to stick to what I know I need; usually that's just fruits, vegetables and proteins, but on this trip I had to stock up on some other essentials, which is why this was a pricier excursion than usual.

I was completely out of extra virgin olive oil [a good healthy fat], along with peanut butter [ok, not as good for you, but I got the natural stuff, and I use it sparingly!], coffee, parmigiano reggiano cheese [I can live without a lot of things, but this is not one of them] and wine [yes, for me, wine is something I love to drink and cook with, and no diet will keep me from it, sorry!]. For all these items, I only buy them once every couple months, because they last a long time, so when thinking of my grocery budget, I have to keep that in mind, so I don't feel like I'm spending my entire life savings in one shopping trip!

I could ramble on about food all day long, but for me, being healthy is a lifestyle choice and not a diet plan.  Hopefully taking you through my weekly grocery shopping has given you a glimpse at what shopping healthy looks like in my house!