Make a Plan
Recently, one of my podcast listeners commented they wanted more brands of foods or a tangible grocery list to work with. “What foods do you buy when you shop?” This simple question was a difficult one for me because I’m not a great list writer, but I do plan. Eating healthy does require some planning and a trip to the grocery store. Everyone has their method of planning meals and shopping. Mine is to decide on the meals I plan to prepare for the week or upcoming weekend activities. For example, this weekend I have visitors coming to my house I am planning some plant-based meals that will be familiar to my houseguests. I’m making pasta with lentils and veggies, so I know I need whole wheat noodles, tomato sauce, onions, broccoli, spinach, red bell pepper, and mushrooms for the pasta sauce. I will also serve a green salad, a whole grain bread, and an in-season fruit — maybe watermelon. If asparagus looks good, I will get that as well. Right now corn is delicious so I will get a bunch and cook it for dinner, and then use it for snacks out of the fridge during the weekend. The point is to have an idea of the meals you want to prepare and come home from the market with those ingredients.
Stock the Pantry and Freezer
As far as list writing goes, I often write it and forget it on the counter, but the act of writing it helps me organize my meals and look in the pantry to see what needs to be restocked. I typically shop once a week so I only have to go to the market, unload bags, and put away everything once. I know many people go daily (which is great), but I live outside of the city, so weekly shopping works better for me. I do keep my pantry, spice rack, and freezer well stocked for those times that the refrigerator is bare. My basic pantry staples are canned and dried beans (all types), lentils (red and green), diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, canned green chiles, and jars of salsa, peanut butter, and homemade jam. Additionally, there are the grains – quinoa, brown rice, and oats. I also have some seeds – chia, hemp, and flax, but once I open them, I put them in the fridge. Of course, there are other things lurking on my shelves that I use occasionally such as dried tomatoes, olives, pickles, and artichoke hearts. The point is to try and keep your pantry stocked with items that can be made into a quick meal for those times you haven’t made it to the market or made a plan for dinner. Everyone encounters this problem at some point, especially when they’re up against the dreaded “what’s for dinner” question. But having food in the freezer and pantry means you can still successfully make healthful meals without running to the market. My sisters tease me because I will open the fridge and say “I’m out of food” and then walk in the pantry and come out with ingredients to whip up a meal. My definition of “out of food” is very different from how they perceive as being out of food.
Cook enough for dinner and then some
Cooking “big” as I call it works for me because it enables me to ensure everyone at the table gets their fill (plus extra people staying for dinner is never a problem) and leaves leftovers for lunches and often another dinner. Sometimes, if there isn’t enough for a whole meal the next night, I save it until the end of the week when we have a “hodge podge” meal which is when I bring out all the leftovers to finish them up. Another option is to freeze the food for later lunches or dinners, but some food items freeze better than others. Be sure to date it so when it resurfaces you know how long it has been in the freezer. Personally, I tend to freeze and forget foods, so I’m working on getting better about turning my freezer items over. Additionally, leftovers can also be re-purposed. For example, leftover rice can be turned into a lettuce wrap filling or vegan chili beans can be served over potatoes if there isn’t enough for everyone to have a full bowl. Plus, often by “cooking big” one night, you have a break from cooking the second night (except when your family stands by the mantra ‘leftovers for lunch,’ which means not much for dinner the next night).
Read labels and buy whole foods
As always, label reading is important when filling your grocery cart especially when filling your cart with new foods that fit into your new plant-based lifestyle. The ingredient list shows you the most abundant ingredient first, e.g., whole grain flour on bread which is great. Then look for other words that may mean milk, eggs, sugar. You can also look at the allergen list to see if milk and eggs are listed, meaning its in the food item. If you are truly avoiding all animal protein foods (meats, dairy, eggs) there should be little to no saturated fats listed on the label. If you are trying to lose weight, fat has 9 calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and proteins that only have 4 calories per gram. I know “low carbs” and high protein is a popular method to lose weight; however, carbs in the whole sense (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) are the preferred energy source by your body and brain. Regarding protein, you can get enough from legumes, tofu, and whole foods. Try to fill your grocery cart with more items from the produce aisle and dry bean aisle and less from the snack and processed foods sections. I have heard many tricks to accomplish this such as ‘shop the outside of the market” or “don’t eat anything from a box”. If that works for you, great! Just try to buy, prepare, and eat more fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
If you don’t like to grocery shop!
Try the new service that markets are offering where you can order and purchase your groceries from your computer and just stop by and pick them up. I suspect there are services that deliver as well. I have experience with the E-cart because recently I was giving a presentation for an employee wellness seminar. The organizer purchased everything on my list and I just stopped by and picked it all up. It was convenient. The downfall was that it was hard to estimate volumes for raw produce. For example, I only needed one bushel of radishes but we didn’t know how many pounds that would be. Needless to say, I had WAY too many radishes. The solution would be to shop in person and keep your receipt so you can know what your normal poundage of fruit and veggies are. For dried beans and canned goods, a good option is Amazon Prime, and for fruits and veggies, local farmers often have services to deliver their produce to your door. There is no one way to get your groceries, so pick what works for you.
As always, keep up the good work and try to enjoy the adventure into your new healthy lifestyle. Continue to be plant powered!
VegHead Speaks, Episode #6 “What’s In My Grocery Cart” can be heard at https://anchor.fm/veghead-speaks/episodes/6-Whats-in-my-grocery-cart-e1qm6p/a-a4dvaa (or on Spotify, Castbox, RadioPublic, Breaker and Googe and Apple Podcasts)