A Week’s Shopping

We returned from our trip a little over a week ago and, because we had purposefully done little shopping before we left town, we had to restock our kitchen. Aside from a few meats that held over well in the freezer, we needed most items, including vegetables, fruits, and snacks. We’ve tried to be more conscious of what foods we buy with the idea that we want to control what goes into our bodies. We also have to work on a budget, however, and we only allow ourselves to splurge occasionally and on certain items, primarily organic vegetables, leaner meats such as bison, preferably locally farmed, and specialty cheeses. The first two are for healthier eating to control the ingredients; the cheeses are simply because we both love cheese and often use it to add flavor, so it is a simple way to vary our ingredients.

For restocking our kitchen and a week’s worth of meals, our basket included the following:

Meal Necessities

Non-GMO eggs    $4.68
Extra lean ground turkey    $5.97
Boneless chicken breasts    $11.18
Pre-made (in-store) crab cakes    $11.96
Organic broccoli    $1.77
Lettuce     $2.98
Brussels sprouts     $2.48
Organic bananas    $1.12
Cheddar cheese block    $5.57
Petite diced tomatoes    $0.98
Tomato paste    $0.56
Italian pasta sauce    $6.28
Potatoes    $1.27
Potato gnocchi    $3.62
Spaghetti    $1.00
Burger buns    $2.98
Bread    $2.28

Total: $66.68

Snacks

Organic carrots     $1.74
Crackers    $2.56
Quinoa snack bites    $4.99

Total: $9.29

Non-Essentials

Texas toast    $2.74
Goat Cheddar Cheese    $7.77
Organic orange juice    $4.49
Sour cream     $1.34
Brownie mix    $1.98
Potato chips (2 bags)     $6.68
Dr. Pepper (12 pack)    $4.00

Total: $29.00

Making a list like this allows me to see how our shopping has changed, in many ways for the better. For example, the only two canned items we bought were the tomato paste and diced tomatoes, which we bought to make a spaghetti sauce. (We froze half of the small can that we didn’t use to ensure we could use it for our next round of spaghetti.) We are not skilled in making our own sauce with fresh tomatoes, so this is the best option at the moment. Compared to our shopping a year ago, however, this is a huge change. Many of our recipes called for canned vegetables and we easily bought ten cans of vegetables for every fresh vegetable that made it into our kitchen. Along those lines, now a week’s meals include unpackaged potatoes, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, and broccoli for fresh side dishes. We’ve moved away from bagged or canned vegetables to limit the salt and preservatives that come with them. We usually purchase more fruit in addition to bananas, but we had a few apples and lemons leftover from the previous week that were still fresh. Next week will likely add in apples, oranges, lemons, and more bananas.

This variation also shows us that we have altered our diet as well. The majority of our side dishes before were boxed or centered around potatoes. While potatoes are a versatile vegetable, they are high in starches and are thought to possibly cause inflammation. This has not been proven, but we wanted to move away from such a high-starch diet to be on the safer side. My partner has rheumatoid arthritis and changing our diets has been one of the more difficult aspects of managing her symptoms. Introducing more greens and fresh options without added ingredients for something like a simple side has not only made our meals healthier but has inspired us to be more creative in how we treat our foods. Now we look for seasonal options like butternut squash or do our own take on foods that we can easily get elsewhere but want to make at home such as french fries.

We also didn’t buy any frozen meals or lunch meat in case we had no leftovers from the night before. I decided to challenge myself to come up with a healthier meal instead of a sandwich or wrap. It would be more difficult than I had thought because, as I didn’t realize until I went digging in the pantry, buying less stuff and meal planning can cut into what’s available in the kitchen, In other words, we bought just what we needed and didn’t leave anything to chance. So I had to rethink my strategy: Twice last week and once this week I have made the cheaper version of a tapas vegetarian lunch. The vegetarian aspect was a consequence of having bought only enough meat for meals and cutting out lunch meat from our diet. Instead, I simply made a small collection of my favorite foods and put them into containers. The lunch can be any combination of the following items: sliced cheddar cheese; sliced organic carrots; dressing or salsa for dipping; wheat thins and hummus; organic green apple and peanut butter; dried, unsweetened cranberries; nut mixture from HEB’s bulk aisle (often fresher than pre-packaged); and quinoa snacks.

Some of the items are non-essentials such as Dr. Pepper, but those last us a good while and are so we feel like we have something special every now and then. Outlining our grocery purchases like this makes it much easier for me to see how our shopping and diets have changed over the past six months. It’s incredible how a little change here and there can wind up altering how you think about something as basic but significant as grocery shopping. Now it seems like second nature to read the ingredients, go for the fresher option, and eat healthier.

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