Food shopping can be a daunting task for consumers who want to make purchases that are healthy, nutritious and environmentally responsible at a fair price. Shopping discrimination requires research, time and a lot of thought. There are many choices to be made which relate to the following:
Nutritional Content (e.g., calcium, protein, fiber content)
Food aspects that may negatively affect health:
- Salt and fat content
- Individual diet restrictions (e.g., lactose, nuts, gluten)
- Use of hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives
Organic verification (e.g. searching for a 5-point PLU code starting with 9 that means that the fruit or vegetables are organic) as well as recognizing the exact meaning of organic labeling (e.g. 100% organic)
Environmental considerations: (i.e. the commodity grows sustainably, where it originates, how far it moves to hit the shelf)
A new worry which has more recently gained popularity is the dangers of Bisphenol-A (BPA) present in canned goods. Last but not least, let’s not forget three little things called cost, taste, and quality.
There is a wealth of information available relating to food, its nutritional content, health benefits/risks and sourcing. But many of us don’t have time to plow through so much information, and we don’t have time to determine which products and brands meet these requirements at a price we want to pay. Food shopping has the potential to be a full-time job, rather than a weekly errand. It’s easiest when we go into the store knowing exactly which products and brands we want.
As an amateur chef who insists on wellness and a diligent shopper with limited funds, I have started to compile a list of foods that, in my view, satisfy at least two cautious shoppers. I would like to share my observations in this and future papers. I make no promises with respect to these items other than that I have used them, enjoyed them, subjectively decided that the quality is good and that they meet at least one of my wellness, safety, packaging or sourcing criteria.
I hope these shopping tips will make food shopping a little easier for you and motivate some good food!
D’AQUINO Espresso Coffee: I used to buy this coffee from Trader Joes, but it’s no longer in my local store. We explained that “we’re making room for a better product.” As a committed espresso drinker who even uses espresso in my American coffee pot, I was saddened to see this product pulled from the shelves. Coffee has a delicious, full flavor and is priced for what I find to be a borderline price but not a prohibitive price of $6.99 for 16 ounces. This comes in an organic and non-organic form (never tried organic) and has a two-year shelf life.
POMI Strained Tomatoes: These are a great substitute for fresh tomatoes. They are packaged in BPA-free, aseptic shelf-stable cardboard cartons, have a great flavor, no preservatives or artificial flavors, and with the addition of only garlic, salt, olive oil and basil to taste − make a fantastic sauce in a short amount of time. These tomatoes contain 0 grams of fat and 30 calories a serving. Pomi claims it uses seeds that are not genetically altered, and that it practices sustainable agriculture. In my experience, the cost for POMI varies by store. Whole Foods and A&P sells one carton for over $2.50, Food Basics supermarket sells a carton for approximately $1.88, and a local Italian store in North Jersey prices them even lower at $1.49. A typical response to any of my recipes made with these tomatoes is “where can I buy POMI?”
Paul Sorvino Whole Peeled Tomatoes: One day while shopping at the local A&P, as usual, I checked the tomato aisle for a glass jar option instead of the customary cans one sees lining the shelves, expecting of course to find nothing other than the pre-made sauces that come in jars. To my very pleasant surprise, I saw whole peeled tomatoes by Paul Sorvino Foods. They were on sale for $1.49 at a regular price at this particular store of $1.89. I loved the idea that they were a product of Italy and sold in a glass jar (packaging which to my knowledge has not been linked to BPA). They have a two-year shelf life and once opened refrigerate up to five days. The consensus among those who tasted my sauce made from these tomatoes was “it’s really good!” If you find it tart, add a dash of sugar.
Green Way Fat-Free Organic Milk: I am not a milk drinker, but I do need to use it for recipes or with an infrequent bowl of cereal. With talk of hormones and antibiotics given to farm animals, I try to buy organic milk. But the price is often too high, and for the small quantity, I use, it is not worth it. Yet, I noticed that Green Way (A&P’s line of private label organics) offers USDA certified organic milk at a better price (around $3.20 a gallon), which is better than other organic milk that I priced at close to $4 or more a gallon, and it’s a product of the U.S!
BF Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Olive oil consistency varies as widely as wine with similar price variations. I use olive oil in almost every meal, so I have to find one at a reasonable price and a good enough flavor. I know I can’t afford the best grades of olive oil, but BF passes the taste and price test. I’ve bought 34 fl. oz. Most recently at $7.99 (on sale). It is wrapped in a recyclable bottle of wine. Sadly, I have not been able to find information about the company online.
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