Down the bayou, when you go to the market to purchase foodstuffs for your family, you are “making groceries”. Everyone seems to have their routine in the grocery store. Some people make lists, some people like to take their time and mosey through all of the aisles. Me, I used to time myself. I’d go the Kroger 55 at some early-morning hour on a Sunday (and probably Tuesday and Thursday–at the very least) and time my trek, trying to best some previous time. I used to strongly dislike going to the grocery store but we’ve made nice since then. The grocery store is your friend. Just don’t be that guy who pulls the cart behind him! I effing can’t stand that guy. Lookin’ at you, straight dudes who, for some reason, find pushing the cart emasculating. Ridiculousness.
I hear all the time that people would eat more healthful foods…except they can’t afford it. Or it’s too hard. Or it takes too long. Or they don’t know where to start. Don’t be mislead, my sweet pals!! Eating fresh, clean, delicious foods can be affordable, easy, and fast as the dickens.
I’m going to have a whole blog on both organic foods and GMO’s so I won’t get too involved right now. As far as organic foods go, the more fragile the food, the more likely you are to need organic. So while you might want to get organic versions of your leafy greens, maybe don’t worry so much about sturdy-as-fuuuu broccoli and cauliflower. Please just don’t think that “organic=healthy” across the board. Organic only means that nasty chemicals weren’t involved in growing the food (hopefully). That doesn’t mean that everything in your “organic grocery” is good for you. There are still plenty of processed foods and chemicals involved in many of those items. The idea here is that a bunch of carrots, an onion, some kale, garlic and whole wheat pasta will still be cheaper by the serving than a frozen meal. And you can control what goes into the dish.
The first thing you need to know about making groceries is what to get. Do you know how to make a well-rounded meal? Various bits of chicken in a bucket followed by jaunty brown bits of something calling themselves chocolate doesn’t count. Do you remember the food pyramid? It’s actually been replaced with My Plate. This is a new system that values vegetables over everything else! Huzzah! So it’s vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and a bit of dairy (if you choose). The literature is far more comprehensive than the pyramid–even when they got sassy and turned it on its side. A good general rule is to have at least two vegetables, a grain and a protein. And if you can get lots of color in, awesome. Don’t be shy of foods you’ve never tried. I can still remember how exciting artichoke night was when I was a kid, even though the first time, I was confused/terrified. Take a stroll around your produce aisle and really look around. That’s how you learn that red peppers are usually more expensive than green and that winter squashes are a “treat”. Things like carrots, green onions, cilantro, yellow onions, and spicy peppers have always been cheap in the areas where I’ve lived. Same with giant leafy greens that are so good for you. Spinach in the plastic box may be $5 but an enormous bunch of collard or turnip greens will be 99 cents. So use your noodle and your inner Scrooge McDuck a bit.
I know that some of you may live in a food dessert. That is, a place where you don’t have access to a grocery store or farmers market. In places like these, most food comes from fast food restaurants and gas stations. It’s an awful situation wherein fast food restaurants prey on people without other options. It is infuriating. If you’re in a situation like this, I’d encourage you to grow as much of your own food as possible. If you don’t have a yard or balcony or window with light, see if you have access to a community garden or if you can arrange a trade with a pal who has a yard. And if you don’t know anything about gardening, ask this dude. He is the absolute best. Growing food and/or herbs is a good idea for all of us, to be sure but it can’t always be done.
Most of us have access to a chain or family grocery. You can bet your sweet bippy that stores like Albertsons, Kroger, Vons, Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, A&P, Brookshire, Publix, Super One, Wegman’s, Piggly Wiggly, WHATEVS, will have a weekly ad. If it makes you feel like a grandma to pick up the ad on the way in, you could check the store site before you go in to see what’s on sale and make a note on your list. Oh, I’m sorry, does this seem like a task all of a sudden?? Don’t worry, all the work is on the front end. It’ll probably only take a few visits of this sort to illustrate the pricing trends. These sales are often marked in the store, as well. And don’t be afraid to join your store’s “club”. It can save you sooooooooo much money.
You may have noticed that I’m advocating buying lots of fresh produce. It’s a good idea. Usually, the only frozen things I buy are frozen vegetables. I can be lazy, too! But flash-freezing does a good job of retaining nutrients in vegetables and fruits. Don’t buy any of that canned junk. Lookit my face. Don’t. Here’s a simple article about fresh versus frozen. So frozen isn’t always the worst.
Usually, after I get all of my precious, precious produce, I’ll get one or two more expensive things I call (to myself) luxury items. This could be kind of vegan sausage, some miso paste, a super fancy legume of some sort, some vital wheat gluten, or another whole grain that seems expensive until you realize how many servings are in the box. Just to illustrate the makin-groceries-don’t-gotta-break-the-bank point, I’m including a receipt and photo from a recent grocery trip. (n.b. The “Dang Myeon/Gold” item is sweet potato glass noodles. I live in Koreatown, okay??) I *may* have gotten a weird face make for $1.99 but everything else is food. And the Italian squash listed is a zucchini.
Those are purple potatoes! They are amazing! Plus, grated purple potatoes + grated golden beets + broccoli = an unexpected Mardi Gras breakfast (avec a fried oeuf).
I’ll admit that 22 cents for a broccoli crown of that size is pretty bonkers. But that’s the thing! Something delicious is always on sale. Just take your time at first. Look around. There’s way too much to say about this in just one post. Thankfully, there are more days than just today. So we’ll get to it 🙂 In the meantime, ask me ALL OF THE QUESTIONS! I never tire of discussing food. As always, mes petits choux, thank you for visiting my kitchen x