This week we are going on a little field trip… to my refrigerator. I know, it sounds so exciting. But I thought it would be helpful to share my tips and tricks for how I stay healthy and reduce food waste as well as discuss the staples that I keep stocked for healthy meals and snacks all week.
I preface this with a caveat that I live alone and most of my meals are prepared for just me. If you are cooking for a family, simply up the volume. My supermarket (Wegmans...the best!) has “family pack” size packages of produce, meats and other items. Costco Wholesale is a great option as well. I currently have a freezer full of organic meat and fish from Costco that will last me a good month or two to get through.
One last thing I won’t discuss here is organic vs. non-organic, which I’ve discussed in a previous post (see here!). I try to keep organic in mind when I shop but price is a big thing for me too. In my opinion, organic shouldn’t be a deal breaker between eating produce and not eating produce. It’s better to eat conventional than none at all. With meat and dairy, I aim to eat organic 100% of the time when it’s doable in my budget.
My Main Supermarket Rules
Before we get into the food bit, there are a few things I try to keep in mind when doing my grocery shopping.
I try to buy only what I need for the upcoming week so that nothing goes bad or is wasted. I hate when things are thrown out because they can’t be used and go bad. As a result, I keep very few condiments in my fridge and normally only enough produce for a week, if that. If I do buy something specifically for a recipe, I make a point to continue to use it regularly until it’s gone. Usually I have to make a mid-week trek to the store for a few one-off things, but I’ve gotten pretty good at determining the right volume of food I need to get me through a week. It has come with plenty of practice.
I keep a list to help me track what I need. A pad of paper hangs on my fridge and when I run out of something, I put it on the list. I try not to buy something again until I’ve completely finished an item, that way I avoid having multiples of stuff in my fridge taking up space. This also decreases waste and saves money. Before I go to the store I review my list and do a quick inventory of my fridge and cupboard to determine if there is anything else I may need to get that I haven’t previously written down.
I don’t go to the grocery store hungry. That is bad news and always leads to me buying more than I originally planned and usually giving into some unhealthy temptation.
Veggies galore. My whole bottom shelf is normally packed with broccoli, green beans, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, zucchini, squash, and peppers. My counter is home to a big bowl filled with sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash. My inventory normally depends on the season (I don’t buy winter squash in the summer) as well as price (asparagus is pretty expensive come fall and winter).
My fruit staples are apples, bananas and avocados. I normally only eat fresh berries during the spring and summer months when they are cheaper. During the fall and winter I opt for frozen berries in smoothies. As with my veggies, what I buy normally depends on season. In the winter I love grapefruit. In the summer I love raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries and peaches. I normally either have an apple or a banana as part of my afternoon snack at work.
For meat, I tend to always have chicken thighs (they taste so much better than chicken breasts), ground beef and fish (salmon and normally another white fish). These days I’m really liking pork chops as well (they are a great chicken alternative!). I try to eat fresh, wild salmon at least twice a week to make sure I get enough omega-3 fatty acids. I also aim to have lean animal protein with my lunch and dinner. When paired with my veggies and a whole grain, it is filling and helps me get rid of any desires for excessive snacking or after dinner sweets. When you’re full your body doesn’t want any of that stuff!
Eggs are one of nature’s most complete foods. They are a fantastic and inexpensive source of protein and have healthy fats too, which are needed for the body to effectively absorb and use said protein. I hard boil at least half a dozen eggs on Sunday for my week. I eat one after I get back from my evening gym workouts to provide the fuel my body needs to repair and recover. I also may take one to work to eat with my apple or banana in the afternoon. Here is a fantastic NY Times article on all the different ways to cook eggs.
My drinks of choice are water, tea and coconut water and unsweetened coconut milk. I use coconut water as the liquid base for my smoothies and coconut milk in my overnight oatmeal and as a substitute for regular milk in other things. I absolutely avoid soda and any juices, which are often just as bad as soda when it comes to sugar content.
I also have a slight obsession with kalamata olives, so you will always see a jar of those on my middle shelf. I love them plain, tossed in a salad or thrown on top of roasted veggies. I don’t eat much salty stuff so olives fulfill that craving for me.
Every week I also buy a jar of kombucha, which is a beverage naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast. I don’t have many fermented foods in my diet, so drink this to help with digestion and maintain a healthy gut. Sounds gross, but it is really good for you! Someday I will try making my own...
There you have it! My fridge is a pretty sparse place by the end of the week, which means that I have accomplished my goal of eating everything that I bought. Sometimes that means I end up throwing together the last of everything into a mix-mash bowl for dinner, though I have to admit that these meals tend to be the most delicious. :)
~Peace, love and healthy shopping~