3 Tips on How To Grocery Shop Like an Adult
With enough sodium to preserve an entire cod, Ramen is a sorry excuse for food. If your freshman 15 has held you hostage all the way through graduation, you likely have Ramen and his buddies, kegs and shots, to blame for the empty calories you’ve been loading up on for four years.
You’re not alone; everyone relies on crap food in college because it’s cheap and easy. But now that the post-college real world is starting to set in, eating dried noodle product is just not going to cut it. You’re going to need fuel not fluff and since those student loans don’t pay themselves, this culinary upheaval will need to be done on a budget.
Lesson 1: Nutrition Basics
Much of the confusion about how to feed yourself properly comes from the skewed, money-driven way that food has been presented to you. Diet companies are a business and look for ways to capitalize on the fact that a) everyone eats and b) Americans eat too much of the wrong shit. Spending any portion of your first real world paycheck on diet junk is a waste.
To eat well on a budget, you will need to consume a balance of real food in portions that alleviate your hunger and maximize the nutrition you get per dollar spent. Think about basic nutrition in four sections:
proteins, produce, dairy and carbohydrates.
Your proteins, essential to building and maintaining muscle, amongst other functions, will likely be the most expensive and they include meat, beans, tofu, eggs and nuts. Produce (fruit and vegetables) will vary in price depending on where you live and are vital to your diet as they supply your body with all kinds of vitamins and nutrients to keep it alive (also their high water and fiber content keeps you feeling full longer).
A great way to save on produce is to know what fruit and vegetables are locally in season as those things will be much cheaper (i.e. peaches in December will rob you of your wages fast). Dairy, like milk, yogurt and cheese, provide certain vitamins and minerals, most popularly calcium to keep that sexy skeleton strong. Dairy products can be expensive but you don’t need tons of dairy in your diet to keep your body happy. A full serving of cheese is 1 ounce, roughly the size of your pinky knuckle, so a small amount should last you a while.
Carbohydrates, like pasta, bread and grains, are complex sugars that provide your body with energy. Buy whole wheat varieties and eat them in the proper serving sizes. They may cost more than their white processed counterparts, but in the long run, they keep you fuller longer and if you consume the proper amount, will hang out in your pantry for long enough to be worth the initial tiny investment.
Lesson 2: Supermarket Sweep
First, set a food budget based on a three meal/two snacks per day formula. Plan to shop for the entire week at once (because certain items are often cheaper in larger quantities), then hit the market.
You should know, most supermarkets are not just happy-go-lucky food vendors. Rather, they (and their partner food brands) are in the business of trying to entice you to spend as much money as possible on their products every time you pay them a visit. For instance, more expensive brand name items are placed at eye level, with comparable cheaper stuff on the bottom. You can avoid the pit falls by coming prepared with a list of items you need and by scanning the shelves to compare prices on similar items.
Now it’s time to tackle the list. Decide on the proteins you will want to cook for the week (tuna sandwiches for lunch, chicken breasts for dinner, maybe some chickpeas to roast for a midday snack?) and knock those out first as they are most expensive. The amount of protein you buy should come out to about 25% of your budget.
Hit produce next since prices vary widely. Spend about 50-60% of your budget on these colorful guys. Read up on how to tell if different fruit and vegetables are ripe so that you don’t waste money on inedible produce. Move on to buying your carbs and plan to spend about 15% of your budget here. Buy a few different kinds, a bag of brown rice, some quinoa, whole wheat pasta and pita bread.
This way, you shop once and can reach for any of these whenever a carb is necessary to round out a meal. Move on to dairy, which should comprise about 10% of your budget. Dairy is highly perishable and hard to freeze, so buy a little at a time and check expiration dates. Throwing away a carton of expired milk is like tossing two bucks in the dumpster. If you’ve got a few dollars and dimes left over, buy some interesting spices and herbs to add to your soon-to-be adult meals or treat yourself to a chocolate bar for old times sake.
Lesson 3: Store to Save
The act of going to the supermarket is only half of what “grocery shopping like an adult” entails. The other half involves a refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Since you’ve invested a good chunk of money into a week’s worth of groceries, make sure you know how to properly store everything so it lasts to its full potential.
Don’t be afraid to freeze. Some things, like lettuce and cheese, are a no-go for the freezer. But other items, like bread, berries and certain vegetables, can be frozen if you don’t anticipate using them before they spoil. The less you toss, the more you save.
This may seem like a much more difficult task than throwing a dry cage of noodles and a flavor packet into a pot of water, but it is definitely worthwhile. It takes some know-how and practical experience, but shopping like an adult doesn’t have to be expensive. Now, continuing to eat junk because it’s cheap, that gets expensive once your body realizes you’ve been abusing it with toxins and calls it quits.
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