Home of the original Whole Foods, Austin is chalk-full of health food stores. In my own little area of town, we are getting a brand new Sprouts in the coming months…right across from Randall’s!
Before I continue, I need to come clean in that I dread going to the grocery store and do not get excited about a Sprouts, Whole Foods, or even a Trader Joes. And, even among people I know who do anticipate a new store’s opening, their main complaint about these types of stores is that they are so much more expensive than your average HEB. It’s no secret that eating healthy and deliciously on a budget can be hard to do. “Readers Digest” recently ran a list of what to “splurge on” and what to “save on” and I found it interesting and educational. I hope you do too!
Honey. Cheap honey may be cute in its bear-shaped container but it’s also probably full of corn syrup.
Coffee. “Consumer Reports” says Gloria Jean’s and Newman’s Own coffees may be more expensive, but are hands down better tasting then other supermarket brands.
Pasta. You don’t have to spend a whole lot more for chefs’ picks like Barilla or DeCecco and by doing so you will avoid the often mushy mess you end up with when buying cheaper brands.
Extra-virgin olive oil. Always check for a regional seal of certification on the bottle and keep in mind that 50 percent of the olive oil sold in the U.S. may be full of cheap filler oils.
Vanilla extract. True vanilla, with its 200 flavor notes, is your best bet. My favorite isn’t from any store, but from Mexico!
Chocolate. Opt for real dark chocolate and avoid the tempting dollar bars that often combine 20-plus ingredients to make their bar-shaped amalgam of brown chemicals.
Ground beef. Avoid those “time saving” ready-made frozen burgers, as E. coli is more prevalent in them then in ground beef. Besides, is it really that difficult to form your own patties?!
Cheese. Are you melting or mixing your cheese? Then go cheap! They melt better and you’ll save money.
Everyday oil. When cooking with oil you can usually substitute vegetable or regular olive oil for the much-more expensive extra-virgin olive oil, which isn’t recommended for high heat cooking anyway.
Wine. In a blind taste test, both consumers and wine experts liked more inexpensive wines as much as, if not more so, their pricey counterparts. The Bogle line is one of my favorites.
Baking mixes. A “Consumer Reports” study showed that Duncan Hines brownies from a box are just as good as ones made from pricier gourmet mixes.
Bottled water. Don’t be fooled by the foreign or natural sounding name. Nearly half of all bottled water in the U.S. comes straight from purified municipal tap water, not some natural spring in Oregon or France. You can feel safe buying a store-brand label or better yet, avoid on all that plastic waste and use a simple in-home filter.
Frozen produce. It’s cheaper than out-of-season fresh produce and is often higher in nutrients and better tasting. Frozen broccoli is said to have 35 percent more beta-carotene by weight then fresh broccoli. Here’s a short list of what’s in season when:
Spring: apricots, artichokes, asparagus, strawberries, sweet peas and watercress.
Summer: berries, cherries, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, figs, melons, okra, peaches, peas, plums, rhubarb, summer squash, tomatillos, and tomatoes.
Fall: apples, cranberries, dates, figs, mushrooms, pears, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, winter squash.
Winter: Brussels sprouts, fennel, grapefruit, kale, limes, radicchio, tangerines, turnips.
BOUGHT. NOW WHAT?
Once you get home with all your groceries, where’s the best place to put them to ensure maximum life?
Cheese, covered butter, and all dairy products should go on your refrigerator’s top shelf.
Cooked meats and leftovers should go on a middle shelf.
The bottom shelf, which is the coldest, is ideal for eggs, raw meats and poultry, and seafood.
The door of your refrigerator is its warmest part so use it for less temperature-sensitive items like condiments and salad dressings.
Drawers are best for produce, but not all produce, and it does matter what you put in the same drawer, as some emit a gas that may accelerate the ripening of other produce next to them. In general:
Apples, berries, broccoli, carrots, celery, cherries, grapes, leafy greens, and zucchini.
Avocados, bananas, garlic, kiwi, lemons, limes, melons, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, potatoes, tomatoes, and onions…although…I do refrigerate my onions because it prevents them from making you cry when you cut them!
SELL BY & USE BY
How long does food stay fresh? Dr. Oz’s “The Good Life” warns readers that terms like “use by” often aren’t regulated and even the “sniff test” isn’t reliable because many illness-causing germs don’t always have a scent. Here’s a guide to go by:
In the fridge
1-2 days – raw ground meat
3 days – opened salsa or pesto
3-4 days – roasted chicken, Chinese takeout, cooked veggies, prepared chicken or tuna salad
3-5 days – raw steaks, chops, or roasts; opened deli meat
1 week – cooked rice
3-4 weeks – opened hard cheese, eggs (if they float in cold water, they are old)
5-7 days past “sell by date” – milk
1-3 months – butter
In the Freezer
1-2 months – hotdogs, lunch meats, bacon, sausage, fully-cooked ham
6 months – butter, hard cheeses, nuts
1 year – steaks, chops, roasts
In the Pantry
2-4 days – fresh bread
1 year past expiration date – dry and unopened dry pasta, crackers, and cereals.
1.5-2 years – solid chocolate
20 years – canned soups and veggies
Wow! That’s a lot of info coming from someone who hates to go grocery shopping! Let me know if you have any other tips or tidbits. Happy listing, shopping, bagging, unloading, and putting away! See why I detest grocery shopping! Can’t I just have this guy shop and cook for me?