I couldn’t believe what my friend said the other day. “When you come over, we can go shopping and you can show me how it’s done.”
Brain freeze! That came as a bit of a shock to me!
What could be easier? You go round and put fruits, veg, nuts and good protein sources in your trolley, then you pay :-)
But of course it’s easy to assume that everyone knows what you know. If you’re used to having cereals, sandwiches and pizza as your staple diet, the fruit and veg aisles can look a bit daunting…
Okay, most people can manage apples and oranges but there’s also a lot of unfamiliar stuff… what do you do with asparagus or celeriac, sharon fruit or kumquats? My favorite for confusing checkout staff has got to be the cherimoya or “custard apple” — guaranteed to get a minute of stunned silence followed by “what’s this?” :-)
5 tips for healthier shopping and stocking your kitchen
So, here are my top tips for stocking, shopping and preparing healthy meals. And for making it as painless and efficient as possible. They’re aimed at folks trying to eat more naturally on the Happy Guide diet but they’ll work for any diet you choose.
Go food shopping twice a week or more if you can
Fresh food quickly loses vitamins even sitting in the fridge, so you want to keep the minimum you can and shop as often as you can. For me, twice as week is a compromise I’m happy with, but if you walk past the store every day… even better.
Keep a stock list
Everyone’s stock list is going to be different depending on how many mouths there are to feed and other personal circumstances. My stock list is very simple and is only for my son and me. This list is roughly what I have in the house after I’ve been shopping:
Fruits: 12 bananas, 6 apples, pears or oranges, 6 “other” fruit portions, the equivalent of say an apple… Blueberries, mango, grapes etc. Fruit generally needs to be bought in advance as a lot of it is intended to ripen at home. Don’t forget lemon or limes to make classic salad dressings.
Salad vegetables: 2 bags of mixed baby salad leaves — spinach, watercress, rocket (arugula) etc. 2 salad vegetables other than leafy greens — tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, cucumber, salad onions (scallions) etc.
Vegetables for cooking: 2 or 3 (depends on pack sizes) vegetables for steaming or roasting — asparagus, carrots, broccoli etc. My preference is to steam most things except aubergines and parsnips, which are great roasted with a drizzle of olive oil. I always have onions in as they’re the start for so many classic and easy meals like stews or shepherd’s pie. In fact, the 3 veg I always have in are celery, carrots and onions.
Starchy vegetables: new potatoes, floury potatoes for roasting or fries. sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash.
Fats: e.g. olives, olive oil, coconut oil, beef tallow, butter, duck fat, nuts, avocado.
Store cupboard items: Basmati rice, cans of sardines and wild salmon. Various different sauces and chutneys for livening up meals. Celtic sea salt and black pepper mill (used rarely).
Sources of protein: eggs, meats, fish, seafood. I have my meals planned for the week, so a scan of my plan and I know what I need.
Dairy: 1 large pot of plain live (bio) goat’s yogurt. Good for snacks with berries. Brie and Gouda cheese are a good source of vitamin K2.
Fresh herbs: Great for adding fresh and interesting flavours to spice up lunchtime salads and evening family meals. Very nutritious too! — mint, dill, parsley, coriander, basil, thyme etc. Perennial herbs like sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and mint are easy to grow, food forest style.When it’s time to go shopping, a quick scan in the fridge and fruit bowl using my stock list and I know pretty much what I need. I know it looks like a lot, but most often the actual list of things I need to replace is quite short. The list changes slightly depending on what’s in season.
Don’t be too specific
Your list should say “2 salad veg, 2 other veg, 6 apples, 3 other fruits” etc. You don’t need to be specific about some of the optional stuff until you get there. Then you can go by instinct in the actual choosing. What makes your mouth water when you’re looking at all the fruits for example?
Go for best quality at the best price
Choosing quality comes with practice. After a while you can spot a top quality fruit or veg at a hundred paces. Many fruits (but not all) are ripe when the skins give slightly when pressed e.g. kiwi, mango, papaya (paw paw), cherimoya — apples and sharon fruit are notable exceptions. Oranges are best when the skin feels slightly loose. Watermelons are very tricky. It takes years of practice to test for ripeness by the tapping and listening method but I always leave them for about a week at room temperature and then they’re usually perfect.
Do a bit of research to find out what’s in season in your local area. Chances are it’s these that’ll be on special offer at your market. Every September I hold out until figs hit 25p each then it’s BUY BUY BUY! :-)
Get as much organic produce as you can for your budget. Go for the best eggs — the nutrition of eggs varies greatly depending on what the hens eat. The best eggs are pastured, free-range, from hens pecking about naturally all day.
Make a meal of it
The Happy Guide diet is a framework, a crystal clear mental map of your daily healthy diet. Within that framework, you get to choose your favorite meals, what veg you prefer, what fruit, what salads etc.