1. Shop the periphery of the grocery store. The dairy, meat, and vegetable aisles tend to be located on the four walls of the store. Shop the center aisles for only those packaged foods you've written on your list and absolutely do not want to make yourself: bread, jelly, crackers, toilet paper. I have big ideas of making my own own crackers and cookies and canning my own jelly. It doesn't happen so I buy these.
2. Read the label on every thing you buy that comes in a package. Avoid corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, bleached, enriched flour, and food dyes. Avoid products with more than 6-10 ingredients and if you or your kids can't pronounce some of them, pass. Most grocery stores stock organic or at least clean, all natural packaged foods. Don't be fooled by the words all-natural. There's no regulation on this so read the ingredients. Check out Self Magazine's list of the best packaged foods each year too: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/2009/09/healthy-food-awards-shopping-list. Here's my list too. I get them all at Publix:
Back to Nature cookies, granola, and crackers. These are really delicious versions of traditional favorites like Ritz, Wheat Thins, Oreos, and Chips A-Hoy, but they are all natural and have only a few ingredients.
Arnold Bread Whole Grain. I buy the organic whole grain wheat or honey oat or honey wheat and their whole grain English muffins. This bread has a lot of fiber and protein.
Grape Nuts and other Post cereals: few ingredients, whole grains, usually no corn syrup or hydrogenated oil, but read the label. These are usually high in fiber and protein too.
Eden Organic canned beans. They are made with sea salt and kombu (a sea vegetable but you can't taste it. I think it's for thickening) and their cans don't include bpa plastics.
Stonyfield Farms yogurt
Organic Valley milk, butter, and cottage cheese. Organic dairy really is much healthier than conventional, even conventional that claims not to use growth hormones. Organic dairy has higher levels of good fats and low levels of the bad fats. Check out the Cornucopia Institute's ratings of organic dairy producers and this article about organic dairy.
If you use margarine, get Earth Balance, NOT Smart Balance. It comes in sticks and a tub and is great for cooking, baking, and on toast and muffins.
Use olive oil rather than vegetable oil like Wesson or Crisco.
Polaner All Fruit jellies and jams
Smucker's Natural peanut butter
2. Buy fresh or frozen veggies and fruit. Buy the precut if you are really short on time even though these are more expensive than whole. If you end up throwing away whole fruit and veg because you can't get around to preparing it (I'm notorious for this), you haven't saved any money. Recycle the packaging though :-) Frozen fruit is great for smoothies. Check out this article about storing fresh vegetables and fruit. Here's a list of what's worth it to buy organic. I figure that spending a little money on organic now saves me health care costs later.
3. Write a menu a week ahead. Include breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the kids. This takes me a whole evening to do, but is worth it because if I don't know what I'm going to prepare before I get home, I haven't shopped, I'm not into it and then we just go out. Include nights on the menu when you think you do want to go out or when you will need to get take out because of other time commitments. Check out this article from Self Magazine on healthy snacks: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/2009/06/30-healthy-snacks
4. Let the grocery store do the cooking for you: rotisserie chickens are great. My husband eats this with frozen veggies and white rice. I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Same with a slab of salmon or other fish--throw it on the grill, or more usually for me, in the oven at 400 degrees and it's done in 20 minutes. I put nothing on the fish but olive oil and salt and pepper. Buy wild caught if you can. It tastes MUCH better and is way better for you. Check out last week's post for a site on healthy fish choices.
5. Get the kids involved. Kids like to prep and cook and shop and are likely to eat what they've picked out. It might take longer, but it becomes part of play time. There are some great kids cookbooks. I confess I like the old fashioned Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. You can get it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. There are plenty of more contemporary books too. I also like Jessica Seinfeld's book.
6. Buy whole grains: brown rice, old fashioned oat meal, quinoa, amaranth, pearled barley (not technically "whole," but good in soups and stuff), millet. All these are even delicious for breakfast with real maple syrup, not the corn syrup kind like Mrs. Butterworth. Again, it's more expensive, but is actually cheaper because you only need a tiny bit. I add whole grains to soup, which I make a lot because it's easy and makes a ton. We eat it for leftovers and lunches. Whole grain pilafs are good and easy too: just some onions, green peppers, carrots, and garlic cooked mixed in with the grains. I often add something sweet too like raisins or dried cranberries.
7. Buy nuts and dried fruits as snacks. A little goes a long way.
8. Have a bowl of fresh fruit sitting on the counter.
9. If you have time, cut up fresh veg and leave it in the refrigerator for snacks. I buy the pre cut like carrots and celery to just grab for work or snacks. Buy some hummus for dipping or use peanut butter or cottage cheese.
10. Portion control. I actually measure out a cup of yogurt, half cup of fruit, half cup of cereal, half cup of ice cream. I don't always only eat the recommended serving, but at least I know what I'm getting.
11. Finally, a few no cook or quick ideas:
get a crock pot and don't pay attention to the recipe instructions to cook veggies first. Just throw everything in. There's tons of recipes online. Crock pot is good for cooking beans or grains overnight or during the day too.
you can throw anything into a wrap and people will eat it. Slather it with hummus or even mayo and you can make beans, leftover meats and veg and grains and beans taste delicious. Add some cheese and you've got a quick lunch or dinner
make salads with the pre-washed organic spinach or lettuce mixes and buy other pre-cut or shredded veggies. Open a can of beans, rinse them, and throw them on top with some cheese or even shredded or diced meat if you are into that and again, a quick, no cook meal.