Top 5 Things to Look Out For When Grocery Shopping

When grocery shopping there are usually a few things that people will factor in when making purchasing decisions:

  • price (how much am I willing to spend?)

  • quality (how healthy is it for me?)

  • taste (do I like to eat it?)

  • shelf-life (will it last me awhile?)

  • quantity (will I get a lot out of it?)

  • versatility (can I use it in a number of ways?)

  • environmental impact (how is it packaged or grown?)

In addition to all of these factors, sometimes we also have the added influence of our partners or family members preferences - talk about the need to compromise! I myself have encountered this in my partnership; fortunately over the years we have come to understand what our individual preferences are and where we can meet half-way (hint: I tend to be the picky one).

Because organic and specialty products can sometimes cost an arm and a leg (just a metaphor, don’t worry), figuring out which foods are really necessary to spend the extra money on and which are less critical to have been something I’ve explored over the years.

So today I wanted to dive into the top 5 things I look out for when grocery shopping.

  1. EGGS

As a vegetarian, I know that one of my best sources of protein comes from the eggs I eat. I also know that not all eggs are equal, and that depending on the type of eggs I buy, the quality can vary quite drastically. When buying eggs I will usually look for either free-range (chicken is not in cage and gets to be outdoors) or free-run (not in cage, but sadly no outdoors) and ideally organic (chickens are not fed food with pesticides or antibiotics). These eggs will tend to be more orange in colour and more full of nutrients. In addition, the chicken is under much less stress and has better living conditions than caged chickens.

2. DAIRY

I am not a die-hard cheese eater, but when I’m craving it, you better believe I will eat it! So, usually when I am at the grocery store I will pick up a block of cheese to make sure I have it on-hand when my body is calling me for a slice. Similar to eggs, by purchasing organic cheese, I feel more confident in the animal welfare, environmental impact and quality of nutrition. Because the cows are fed a better diet and not given antibiotics or hormones, and are under less stress, this means the nutritional value of the cheese is improved. I look out for words on the ingredient list that include: modified milk ingredients and added colours. p.s. the same goes with butter!

3. BREAD

There is definitely a time and place for bread - so I always make sure it is in my pantry! Although bread has gotten a bad rep over the years, the truth of the matter is bread is not always bad for you. The other truth is a lot of bread in the grocery stores isn’t great for you. By buying quality bread, you can get excellent minerals, vitamins, fibre and energy (not to mention deliciousness). My rule of thumb, buy bread that has ingredients you can read and understand. I often will keep my eye out for preservatives, added sugar and artificial flavours and colouring - these are completely unnecessary. I love buying bread that is made from sprouted or ancient grains.

4. DIRTY DOZEN

The reason people buy organic produce (fruits and vegetables) is because they have fewer pesticides, are often more fresh, better for the environment, and more nutrient dense. Although there are many benefits to buying organic, it can be unrealistic to do so when navigating personal budgets. That is why knowing which foods are the most likely to be heavily sprayed and treated is helpful for choosing when to buy organic. The best way to figure out which foods to buy organic is to follow the Dirty Dozen list. This list outlines the top 12 fruits and vegetables to watch out for pesticide use.

5. PACKAGED GOODS

For many, packaged goods whether it be cereals, snack bars, crackers, or cookies serve the benefit of being a convenient way to have an easy meal or snack available. Unfortunately, grocery stores are lined with packaged goods that are filled with ingredients that are far from real food. The trouble here is that these chemically engineered or artificial ingredients take more than what they give our bodies - meaning we get little real gain from the food that we are eating. When buying packaged goods, I will look out for the following: artificial flavours, artificial sweeteners, preservatives (i.e. BHA, BHT), colouring (i.e. Blue 1, Caramel Colour), corn syrup and refined cooking oils (canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil).

So although being flexible and not agonizing over every food that we put in our mouth is important for being able to maintain balance in our lives, I also believe that feeding ourselves with good quality ingredients is of importance. Hopefully this list gets you thinking and helps you navigate the grocery store just a little bit easier!

Andrea Zimmering