Nowadays, most people don’t shop at just one grocery store; they might buy produce and meat somewhere different than granola bars and milk. I encourage this practice whole-heartedly. Knowing what you like and who supplies it are some of the first steps to shopping like a Foodie because it means you’re paying attention to product, flavor and price. It’s time to get picky.
Being a Foodie with a Life means you have an incredibly busy week, every week. I’m with you. Cooking doesn’t mean time consuming, but being organized is a must. Pick a day and time to cook. From that investment, you’ll be feeding yourself and loved ones for a week.
Before you leave the house to go grocery shopping, have a plan but be realistic. Pick two healthy recipes that work together and make a list of the things you’ll need for the week. Read some recipes and plan to have a source of protein (beans, roasted chicken), a base (pasta, sautéed veggies) and an accessory (good cheese, pesto, olives or fig jam). Now you’ll have something to work with during the week and you won’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel everyday. From there, we’ll stock your fridge with versatile options that get a meal to the table in no time.
Rule #1: Be picky but look at prices.
Produce: Talk to the produce staff. They know better than anyone how crisp the apples are or when the melons came in. Buy whatever veggies you like, keeping in mind the time it will take to cook. That means if you buy a bag of fingerling potatoes, know it will take 30-40 minutes to roast. Plan to do that on your cooking day. Walk the produce department as if you were blind. Touch and smell the products available. Where did it come from? Is it organic? Is it on sale? Find your happy balance to these questions. Try to keep it in season as best you can.
Rule #2: Always have fresh greens on hand.
This rule will aid cooking faster than any other ingredient because it’s a base. You can keep it simple with lemon juice and olive oil or make it a meal with canned tuna, capers and olives.
Rule #3: Herbs and citrus are your friends.
Pick up some lemons, limes and 2 fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme, oregano, basil, etc). These items will liven up meals and refreshments with minimal effort (orange spritzer with lime anyone?).
Protein: What are your dominant proteins for the week? Salmon, roasted chicken, rack of pork? Buy accordingly but make sure you have staples on hand for impromptu needs (eggs, beans, tofu). Remember, you don’t need them all. Pick one or two.
The middle of the grocery store: By now, it’s been all fresh food, so as you venture into the center of the grocery store there are some things to remember.
Rule #4: Read labels.
Go for ingredients you can pronounce. Think of your food as nourishment, not a science experiment. These are not main ingredients; they are more like additions – artichoke hearts, sauces, roasted peppers, mustards, olive oil and vinegar.
Deli/Bakery: This is a possible Foodie mecca. Good cheese, artisan bread, bulk olives and sweet treats should stud the shelves of your local grocer. When buying deli meat ask questions about quality. You’re looking for low-sodium content in sandwich style meats, minimal process and a texture that feels natural. Many companies who manufacture turkey breast, for example, take all the pieces, odd, ends, grind it up into a glue-like paste, and pump it full of a salt-water solution. That’s why when you eat low quality sliced deli meat there is no texture. This is not food for a Foodie. The good stuff will be more expensive. If the price is hard to swallow, buy a little less and supplement ingredients by adding more veggies.
Rule #5: You should be able to see the back of your fridge.
Buy enough perishables (meat, seafood, veggies, fruit,) for the week. By Thursday or Friday, depending on how your workweek runs, you should be able to see the back of your fridge. This is a good indicator that you’re shopping smart, using what you’ve got and not buying too much.
Next step will take you back to the kitchen to discuss How to Cook Like a Foodie (and still have a life).