There are more than a few major shopping mistakes that people make that are destructive to their health and their wallets. Sometimes I see them when I am shopping and I peek into other shopper’s carts to what they are buying but sometimes people are very frank with me about the challenges that they see themselves facing. Given that I write about food and nutrition, people often talk to me about their food budgets and food selections and often when they know that both are out of control. One such person is a good friend and a fantastic woman who reads this blog and has just as many children. We have discussed our budgets and our menus as well as how these choices affect our children. Her monthly budget is about $1,500 but isn’t set in stone as she spends what she sees herself as needing and shops as things run out. My month budget is $1,100. How am I able to keep my budget under her cost and feed ten children? It is because I know what not to do. Her grocery cart is full of cheap processed food and mine is full of seemingly pricy organic foods. She knows that the food she serves is of the cheapest quality but isn’t sure what else to do because she worries a great deal about her budget. Hence the reason we sat down to chat. What did I tell her? Let me tell you, there are better choices to make and it centers around what not to buy.
If you find these things in your cart, you are paying too much for your food with both in terms of your cash and your health:
1. Sodas. Sodas are deceptively cheap but they eat through the budget leaving you hungry for more without the cash to cover it. Cull the soda from cart and make room for something better, like quality eggs perhaps? See my post on the steep nutrition in eggs, HERE.
2. Fruit and vegetable juice. These are deceptive because they seem so healthy, but again it is a matter of degree. These are still full of sugar but lack the fiber of the whole fruits and vegetables and can easily be consumed in greater quantities because they don’t provide a sense of fullness and satisfaction. What’s more is they also push other things with greater amounts of healthy fats and proteins out of the cart.
3. Crackers and chips. These foods are also filler and this is usually the argument for them. Often people tell me that they save money on meat if they fill up bellies on crackers and chips but the truth of the matter is that carbs stimulate hunger without satisfying and this is the opposite of what you really want when trying to keep a lid on your budget. These cost money in terms of how much more food your family will consume as well as the “investment” you made in the filler foods.
4. Breakfast cereal. This is quick and easy and can be pretty cheap, but again, it stimulates hunger. Have you every watched a child down a few bowls of cereal and still have room for dinner? What’s more is that most breakfast cereals are very high in sugar and while there is an initial rush of energy, they is a downward slide that is just as rushed. If you want stable blood sugar and protect yourself from hunger pains and the urge to snack, then avoid breakfast cereal. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is wrong with breakfast cereals as toxic proteins from extruded grains is not “commonsense”, see more about this HERE. Skip the cereal aisle and leave room in the cart and budget for something else.
5. Convenience foods. This is the hard thing for busy mothers to accept. These foods seem to save time but they are often of poor nutrition and expensive to boot. My friend and I discussed dinner plans once and her family had pizza rolls and soda. My family had raw milk, organic spaghetti squash and marinara with organic ground beef. Her dinner took about an hour of rotating sheets of pizza rolls through the oven and waiting for them to bake. Mine took the same amount of time. I tossed two whole spaghetti squash in the oven and then set it to 400. While that cooked, I browned onion, garlic, and dry Italian seasoning in olive oil. I removed this from the pot, tossed in ground beef and browned it. Then I added back the other seasonings, some salt and pepper and some frozen roasted tomatoes (from my neighbor’s garden). Then I turned the pot to low and walked away for the next half hour. My food was much less work and much less hands on, what’s more is that my dinner ended up costing one third less than my friend’s! My dinner came to a little over twenty dollars and hers cost $35. Her convenient, prepared dinner was not more convenient, not cheaper, not better tasting and not better for you. So what is the benefit?
6. Low-fat dairy. All too often when I peer into other shoppers carts, they make excellent choices in terms of quality meats, organic fruits and vegetables, eggs, and maybe even some bottled kombucha but then I see it…"fat-free” half and half, skim milk, low-fat sour cream and fat-free yogurt. Low fat foods are often full of chemical stabilizers, emulsifiers and thickening agents to provide the texture of fat and they do so very poorly. They also leave you hungry. Buying food that will leave you hungry seems like a bad idea, doesn’t it? And the fat is not bad for you! If you aren’t too comfortable with fat, maybe my post about the benefits of saturated fat will help. You can find it HERE.
So, if you know what to leave out of your cart, just what are you supposed to put in it? Stop back on Monday and I’ll tell you.