Navigating the Hazards of Foodland – Shopping Tips

January 13, 2010 in Diabetic Menu Item, Foodland, Foodland Chronicles, Nutrition, Shelf Life by Joyce Bunderson

This is a slightly strange subject for me to write about, since I don’t love shopping – (an understatement). I just gave myself a few seconds to ponder the question of why I don’t like grocery shopping and discovered in my neatly buried memories a few reasons.

•    The first buried memory is one of discouragement about how processed foods have taken over so much shelf space, and the frustration I feel when I think about my friends trying to navigate through the horrors of Foodland. My list is organized to get through the shopping experience quickly. Once in a while, I’ll slow my pace to read a label, but often I skip it, as it’s too discouraging to read about what is being sold as food. Anyway, I generally spend as little time as possible in the shelf canyons of processed substances, concentrating on the produce aisles and butcher counter instead.

•    If you’re a dietitian or nutritionist, people want to inspect the contents of your cart. Others act like stealth pilots, trying to avoid your seeing into their cart. In all honesty, I have neither the interest nor time to look. I used to teach nutrition classes in a town and then attempt to do my family’s grocery shopping in that same town. I finally learned that it would be a shorter net time involved with grocery shopping if I drove to the next town. You’d be surprised how many questions a teacher might have to field during their shopping experience.

•    Another problem is that the aisles are never wide enough to zip around without getting into a traffic jam. Most often I come upon two families of 5 people each who haven’t seen one another for 20 years. My latest ‘grocery traffic jam’ almost made me laugh out loud. To begin, I want you to know I was in America, where we drive on the right side of the road. I have had the problem in other countries, when walking on the sidewalk and in the grocery stores, but this was in America. A lady guided her cart up to the front of mine, which was facing forward on the right side of the aisle, where I was momentarily stopped.  She said, “Excuse me.” I looked at her, with maybe a hint of confusion on my face, and backed my cart a few inches and pulled my cart to the left and went around her – she then took off in a forward direction along the left of the aisle. Go figure. I wondered if there were hidden cameras, or if I had stepped into a space warp and landed in England without knowing it.

One of the techniques mentioned in the January 1, 2010 Dr. Grandma's Newsletter called Twenty Thoughts on New Year's Resolutions about moving toward a healthier year is to stock up your pantry and snack locations with foods that support your goals. It’s going to be difficult enough to get all the tempting and junk foods out of the house, but you must replace it with good stuff.

Hints for grocery shopping:

  1. Making a list: It may seem like a baby step, particularly if you’re a seasoned shopper with a good memory, but if you rely on a list, you can zip into the market, quickly snag the items you need and be on your way home. The list offers protection against impulse shopping.
  2. When designing your shopping list, think about the need to buy some foods that can conveniently be eaten outside of the home. These should also double as in-home snacks, Include items that you can stash in your car, briefcase, pockets, or purse. I’m sure that you can come up with ideas that are just perfect for YOU. These are some that would work for me:
    • fresh fruit (I especially like Clementines for winter snacks, they’re not as messy as oranges – but easily peeled navel oranges are a close second runner-up)
    • baby carrots
    • nuts
    • dried fruit
    • muffins (Dr. Grandma whole grain, no-sugar Muffins Your Way)
    • hard boiled egg
    • small can tuna with little pop-top lid
    • a whole wheat toastie or slice of whole wheat bread.

    Think about what will work for you and get it on the grocery list.

  3. I like the small sandwich bags and even smaller snack bags; they’re perfect for dividing up regular size packages into just the perfect snack size to carry along.My chocolate chip story: I’ve eaten chocolate chips after meals for decades. Once when I used to take the train to my job at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, one of my ‘train buddies’ was on a weight-loss pursuit. She learned that I eat chocolate chips and decided that was a good plan for her too. About a month later she told me that it was not working at all. I asked about it; she then told me that she was bringing a quart jar each Monday filled with the chocolate chips and having to take the empty jar back on Friday.

    I think she forgot the part about my having three chocolate chips after each meal to tell my taste buds, “That was a good meal, your mouth now tastes like dessert and your eating is finished until the next scheduled meal or snack.” The point of this story is double. First, if you feel that it would help you to have a chocolate taste in your mouth, you may want to consider putting the chips into the tiny bags or only bringing enough for a week. Second, if your relationship with chocolate is such that it is going to scream for your attention all day long, get it out of the plan. Why set yourself up to suffer and/or fail?

  4. You may want to go through an envelope and sort for coupons. If there are items that you wisely choose to use, this is one way to save. I rarely use coupons at the grocery store; because my experience is that the items that coupons apply to are for processed foods. I guess is that the food processors can offer the coupons because they have large profit margins on processed food. If you have coupons, you may want to put them right near your checkbook or credit card with a paper clip – it’s so easy to get home, only to discover you never turned them in.
  5. You don’t need to remember which fruits and vegetables are in season, because you can glance at a couple of market fliers. The fruits and vegetables advertised are usually the ones in season. It can also remind you that it is time to make a certain recipe.
  6. If you’re struggling to have the family eat more fruits and vegetables, try some items that may be a little more costly, but will actually be eaten. Fruits that can be eaten without too much effort are good to have around. During the winter, Clementines, bananas, navel oranges, kiwis, some berries, grapes and pears. Pineapples are in season in Mexico or Hawaii – I usually cut the entire pineapple and then it’s ready in the refrigerator; pour into a plastic tightly lidded bowl and a great snack is on its waiting. A little cut pineapple in a plastic bag, maybe even with a toothpick or small disposable fork, will travel nicely for lunch.
  7. I keep a list near the kitchen and one on the computer, where I may be planning to try a new recipe. Before going to the market, I’ll transfer the kitchen list to the computer list; that way it’s easy to organize by location in the market. Note: one of my goals is to stay in the market only as long as needed.
  8. The bulk of your time may be in the produce section. Become familiar with different fruits and vegetables. Maybe buy something new that you will become familiar with – a ‘goal to try something new,’ is one habit that you might enjoy.
  9. When you buy the produce on the large displays, they are usually in season. Well, now days, that means in season somewhere in the world. What that means is that it is often at a lower price and the quality is at its peak.
  10. Try to think about how much you can use and how long the item will last. If you buy too much, the extra nutrients will end up in the landfill. This might nourish the rats and seagulls, but not you and your family.
  11. For everyday meals, I often buy frozen chicken and/or fish in the large family package. I can get the quantity price, then dip into the frozen bag repeatedly for the two of us. The other benefit is that I’ve got it on hand and don’t have to run to the market.
  12. In warm weather, be sure to have an insulated bag or ice chest to protect your refrigerated and frozen items, in case you face too long a delay before you get it home.

    What started out as a reflection on my feelings toward shopping has turned into a list of tactics for getting through the experience quickly and safely (nutritionally and financially). Perhaps some of these tips will be helpful to you. Perhaps you have others you can share with us in a comment.

    A colorful shopping cart leads to a colorful dish.

    A colorful shopping cart leads to a colorful dish.

    A colorful serving dish is the result of a colorful shopping cart.

    A colorful serving dish is the result of a colorful shopping cart - Smoked Salmon Salad, with beets, cucumbers and red peppers.