Thursday, February 9, 2012

Paleo/Primal Food Shopping with Jes

Food shopping.

I've had a couple requests for a blog post on grocery shopping... Paleo/Primal style!  Buying quality foods and ingredients does not have to expensive.  There is also no need to be OCD with coupon clipping.  You just have to be smart about it.  I mainly get food from three sources: farmer's market, the web, and grocery stores.  I'll discuss each in detail.

At the end of the post, I also included pictures of my refrigerator and pantry.

Farmer's market:  Definitely my favorite place to get fresh ingredients when I have cash and when I am up before noon on Sunday's.  It's a great place to buy local ingredients and support local farmers.  Unfortunately, they only come once a week on Sunday morning's, at least in my neighborhood.  Once I buy everything I want, I like to enjoy a fresh, whole free-range Rotisserie chicken afterwards.  
  • Organic, grass-fed/free-range/etc meat.  This is where you get quality organic grass-fed beef (and at some farmer's market, fresh!) for the price of corn-fed beef (check out grass-fed vs. corn-fed).  The beef I get is super lean, 95/5, better in quality, and cheaper, than the same at Whole Foods.  The vendor at the California Ave Farmer's Market take credit card too (via Square)!  Even if you are on a tight budget, please buy quality meat.
  • Fresh, in-season produce.  I try to get most of my fresh produce here, but I am limited by how much cash I have.  Food is cheaper, fresh, and in-season.  You can probably sample most of it beforehand, too.  There's also variety.  The grocery stores near me do not carry Thai basil, Thai chili peppers, ung choy, Asian stuff, spaghetti squash, etc, so I get them here... and organic too.  If you're on a tight budget, check out MDA's article on Foods You Don't Need to Buy Organic.
  • Certified humane, ethically raised, actually free-range, organic eggs.  After I read "The Conscientious Omnivore: Eggs," I started splurging on high quality eggs.  They are naturally higher in omega-3s, lower in bad cholesterol, and the poor chickens can keep their beaks.  Protein quality is also better, too.  Anyway, these eggs are expensive.  They are around $8 at Whole Foods and $5 at the Farmer's Market, which is how much I used to pay for eggs anyway.
  • and if there's still cash left in my wallet, fresh Kale chips!!
2. Hello meat! or the web:  I like to buy oils, some dry ingredients (usually in bulk), and kitchen tools online... especially off of Amazon!  If you do not have an Amazon Prime account yet, I highly recommend getting one... especially if you are a student (or have a .edu email address) since it's free!!  Along with free instant movies and such, the best part is free 2-day shipping or upgrade to 1-day shipping for $4, and free returns.  They also have a neat subscribe and save option.  I do not know what I would do without it.  

Grocery stores:  This is where I get pretty much everything else and last minute ingredients.  My favorite grocery store is Whole Foods, probably because I live in walking distance.  I also like Trader Joe's (especially the salted creamy almond butter and cheap almond meal!).  I visit Whole Foods probably >3 times/week.  Food from the farmer's market gets eaten up fast!  I pretty much buy everything organic and I do look at the weekly specials.  I generally do not have a shopping list.  I just kind of plan around what is on sale and try to make something out of it.  Here are some tips for those on tight budgets, in order of priority (from Whole9):
  • Splurge on quality grass-fed/free-range/organic meat.  Put your money into clean protein resources.  This includes eggs.  MDA has a great post on top ten protein sources.  Another good read is MDA's guide to chicken.
  • Buy produce in season.  They tend to be on sale.  I love Whole9's guide to vegetables and fruits.  For those too lazy to open it, "extra nutritious" produce include: organic kale, broccolini, carrots, organic bell peppers, onions, bok choy, asparagus, and pretty much any organic leafy greens.
  • Fats.  Avocados may be a little pricey but coconut milk is cheap and provides 72g of fat/can.  Also, save up the pan drippings from bacon or whatever animal.  This is awesome for cooking!  Also have other fat options available.  I still think you should get your oils online.
  • Pre-made "fresh" Food.  I wanted to add this on there since buying too much of it adds up very, very quickly.  A lot of the pre-made guac, salsas, cut up fruit, entree bar, are more than $8/pound (at least at Whole Foods)!  My best advice is invest in a food processor and allocate like 30min to1 hour on Sunday to chop/mix/whatever everything up.  Just some of the benefits of making your own food include: saving $$, controlling the ingredients, and if you're a decent cook, tasty meals.
  • To continue on stuff that adds to your bill quickly: trail mixes, nuts, dried fruit, fancy kale chips, energy bars, cheese.
  • For sauces or basically anything in a can or container, READ THE LABELS!  My first check: is it organic and gluten free?  Gluten is in almost everything.  It can be sneaky and be present in stuff like chicken broth/stock and believe it or not, even in deodorant!  Next, look at the ingredients.  If there is something on there you cannot pronounce, it is probably one of the 3024902349023 synonyms for sugar or some corn-based by-product.  Also, if the list is ridiculously long, it's probably bad too.
3. <3 avocados! To my luck, they were on sale!  Even when they're not on sale, I still buy them.  I probably spend the bulk of my time in WF selecting avocados to time the ripeness perfectly.

4. Check your eggs!  Make sure they are not cracked, especially if you're going to pay $8 bucks for them.

5. Sampling freshly-ground almond butter.  The engineer in me.  Just avoid the bread/pastries section.

My Paleo/Primal kitchen.. at least the areas concerning food storage:
6. The refrigerator at the start of the week.

7. My freezer of meat and ice packs. ~30lb of meat.

8. The pantry area.

9. Lastly, I know this image has been all over Facebook, but I really do think it's a great reference.

As you can see, I like stuff sent to my door, sampling, and going to the farmer's market. I know of some people who get fresh, in-season produce sent to their homes biweekly. I'm not sure what program that is though, but I am interested. I will have to look into it.

Related Posts: Recipes | A Day in Jes' Belly, Strict Paleo for Half a Month | How to Eat Clean when Surrounded by Free Food (esp for you engineers) | Binge Day.

This was a long post.  I hope you guys find it useful.  I will be competing in the Sac Throwdown this weekend!   Wish me luck!  Post to come soon!