Confession: I hate grocery shopping. That’s right, I said it. I’ve always considered myself to be quite the domestic kind. I love washing, sweeping, folding, sewing, hanging curtains and all that comes with keeping a home. Though whenever it was time to cook, I found a takeout menu. Let’s not even talk about when it was time to restock the kitchen. I dreaded walking down the aisles of the supermarket. I suppose I should have prefaced this confession with the fact that I did not know how to cook until maybe 2 years ago. Cooking was like rocket science and brought me great stress whenever I attempted to engage in the activity. Naturally, shopping for food and cooking supplies was a daunting task. I felt I had better and more important things to do with my time. This usually lead to my unhealthy food choices like quick microwavables and eating out too often.
I always wished I could love to cook and know how to navigate the bright alluring aisles with expert eyes and recipes memorized to pick out only what I needed. There were too many times I bought way too much unnecessary stuff that I would never even use.
Then along my journey, I was lead into the plant-based diet for personal health reasons. I found myself avoiding certain aisles – namely, the cereal and snack aisle, meat section, dairy section, and bread section. They used to be the aisles I would overbuy in. Not knowing what to do with a rack of lamb, but feeling deserving I would buy two! Addicted to carbs, I bought soft croissants by the family size pack. And there were always several meals in a bag in my freezer to pop in the microwave on a busy work night. But as I researched more about health and the gut to better treat my patients IBS, acne, fatigue, depression, thyroid, etc, I began to create new shopping habits for myself. While focused on ways to eliminate possible triggers for my own concerns I found myself consistently in the same aisles.
At this point, I am pretty deep in my plant-based journey and have great results reversing my patients’ chronic illnesses. I can confidently promote that there are really only 3 grocery sections you need to consistently shop when going plant-based.
- Produce aisle: fresh produce section should be where you spend most of your shopping time when living a plant-based life. I find that I need to re-stock 1-2 times per week. If I have done a good job meal planning, then once a week is enough. Otherwise, I often have to make a mid-week grocery store run for a few fruits and/or veggies. Be sure to use a dirty dozen guide in order to know which produce should be purchased organic.
- Bulk bins aisle: once you get the hang of the plant-based diet, you will no longer want to pay $15 for a bag of high-end granola or $5 for a handful of sunflower seeds. You will understand how to read ingredient labels and know exactly how to get your money’s worth. The bulk bin section of the market is a great way to save on key staples of your pantry. Here is where you will find beans, nuts, seeds, and grains in huge barrels or in the large suspended containers with levers that when pushed, let the product funnel out. Some markets even stock spices, honey, nut butters, dried fruits, raisins and flours in the bulk section. You can take as much or as little as you want- all priced by the pound. This allows you to also try new foods without feeling you wasted money on a $20 bag of dried figs that you just can’t finish. Some of my regular staples include black beans, lentils, almond butter, amaranth, steel cut oats, and pecans. You will be quite shocked to see how much your bill comes out to when shopping this section.
- Frozen produce aisle: I’m a busy professional. Therefore, as much as I know that fresh produce is the way to go, I’m honest with myself. After a long workday there is no way I am I going to feel like cooking or even juicing for that matter. This is when the frozen produce comes to the rescue. Frozen veggies are ready for the pot. Frozen fruit is ready for the blender. Frozen beans just need some seasoning and water. Sometimes I stock up on meals in a bag that may have something like seasoned brown rice, beans, and cabbage. It is a great way to stay committed to your healthy habits when life gets crazy and the only cooking option involves a microwave.
I hope this helped someone who finds the supermarket to be intimidating at times. Every supermarket is different and I am sure you will need to grab something not in one of these 3 aisles. The idea is to understand both where the healthy food hangs out and that this is where the majority of your shopping should take place. I supplement my weekly grocery store visits with weekly Farmer’s Market trips. I try to do the farmer’s market early on Saturday morning. What I cannot find there, I later pick up during my supermarket trip. More on that later. In the meantime, tell me what your current grocery shopping habits are and on what aisles you spend the most time.