14 Tips for Grocery Shopping & Natural Cooking
+ (14 Bonus Tips)
If you’re trying to cook and eat healthier foods, you may be overwhelmed with planning and executing those meals.
It can be difficult to navigate through the many options to find the right meal plan for you and your family. A great place to start on the road towards healthy cooking is with natural foods.
Natural can mean different things to different people, but generally describes food that is as whole as possible, the way that you would find it in nature, and which has little in the way of additives and processing.
To get you going on this journey, here are 14 tips for shopping and cooking with natural foods.
7 Easy Tips for Grocery Shopping
Many modern grocery stores are enormous centers with nearly endless options of fresh and packaged foods. Marketing departments at each company spend lots of time and money to entice you to purchase their goods. Don’t get overwhelmed by the options or the distractions.
Shop the perimeter of the store: This is a tried and true tip to get you away from packaged foods. The outside edge of the grocery store typically includes produce, dairy, meats and baked goods.
Read ingredients and nutrition labels: A good rule of thumb for natural foods is the ability to recognize the names of the foods in the ingredients list. Avoid preservatives, such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT), quick guide to nutritional Labels.
Know what you can freeze: If there’s a great deal on strawberries, you can pick up that large container and freeze half of it for smoothies later. Some fruits and veggies are better for freezing than others, so keep that in mind at the store.
Be wary of “low fat” varieties: Low fat often means high sugar. Although it can sound healthier, low-fat items are often heavily processed and can be less healthy overall.
Make a list: You should make a well researched shopping list. Plan for specific meals but also plan for snacks and try to have many healthy things on hand.
Don’t shop hungry: It’s so much easier to justify a box of sugary cereal when your stomach is growling. Eat before you go (but not too much) and stick to your list.
Consider shopping locally. Co-ops, farmer’s markets and actual farms are some of the best places to purchase foods. These are often sustainably farmed, they have a smaller carbon footprint and they’re as fresh as can be.
7 Tips to Cook your Meals With Natural Ingredients
Once you’ve packed your grocery cart, you may decide that part was easy compared to actually cooking the foods.
If you prepared properly, you should already have a list of great meals and snacks to whip up. The trick is making sure you follow through.
Make your own soup bases and stocks: Use leftover chicken bones and veggies to create soups and stocks from scratch rather than buying them at the store. They’ll be healthier and allow you to use food scraps.
Easy Chicken Soup from Leftover Chicken From chow.com
Make easily accessible snacks: Chop up fruits and veggies and have them ready to go in the fridge so that you’re less tempted to grab processed varieties.
Consider crock pot meals: Almost nothing is easier than throwing a bunch of healthy foods into a slow cooker and coming home to a completed meal. Easy crock pot meals from cookinglight.com
Prep on a slow day: Perhaps Sundays already include a family dinner. Plan a few meals that can be prepared in advance and knock them out on Sunday while you’re already in the kitchen. You can freeze and simply heat up on your busier days.
Keep sides simple and delicious: Pick a vegetable you like and roast or sauté it with a little olive oil and some seasoning. This is a quick and easy way to fill out your plate.
Use the right pots and pans: A darker pan is better for meats and potatoes and lighter pans are better for baked goods. Using the best cookware for each food will help ensure a quality product.
Plan things out in the morning: Before you leave for work or school, parboil veggies and lay meats out to thaw. Roasted meats and vegetables are easy meals to cook and can be prepared quickly if you think ahead.
The Bottom Line in Healthy Eating is Preparation:
Above all else, having a meal plan and sticking to a list will do wonders towards helping you to execute a meal plan with natural foods. Sit down with your family and discuss favorite meals and try to recreate them with natural options. Your body and your family will thank you.
7 Easy Kitchen Shortcuts (Bonus Tips)
With these 7 easy kitchen shortcuts, you will be able to improve your cooking efficiency, move freely through your recipes, and find joy in the process of both cooking and eating.
- Read the Entire Recipe:
Many of us have fallen victim to this simple but often overlooked tip read the recipe the whole way through before beginning to cook.
Nothing is more frustrating than getting partway through cooking only to realize you are missing an essential ingredient or don’t have enough to finish the recipe.
- Be Organized:
Watching cooks prep a meal on TV looks effortless because of the prior organization all recipe items are organized and within arm’s reach, and ingredients are prepped and ready for each stage of cooking.
By recreating this at home and making an assembly line of sorts, you can be ready when the pan is ready, and you can focus your attention on the pot in front of you.
- Prime Your Tools:
Using a dull knife to try to prepare a meal will cause frustration and squashed items. Knives lose their sharpness over time and need to be sharpened every time they are used, a tip that many cooks forget.
Make sure your knives are nice and sharp each time you cook, and you’ll be able to slice and dice your way through a recipe with ease.
- Combine Steps:
Measure and combine ingredients that will go into the recipe at the same time and have them waiting in small bowls to toss into your meal when needed.
If you have a few items that need similar preparation, such as a few onions that need to be diced, perform each prep step on the onions only once.
Slice the ends off all the onions, then peel them all, then dice them—you’ll spend less time on each task and you’ll be able to move on to the next task faster.
- Keep Food Fresh:
Reaching for an ingredient only to discover it is rotting or too soft can be maddening.
Make sure to store food correctly so that it lasts longer and you aren’t throwing out items that you paid good money for.
Store tomatoes at room temperature, and upside down if possible it prevents moisture and air from exiting the stem.
You can also keep sliced fruit from browning by tossing it with a little lemon juice after cutting, thus saving you an extra step come dinnertime.
- Reheat Properly:
Learn how to properly reheat leftover food, and you’ll waste less and enjoy your leftovers more.
Microwave leftover pizza with a cup of water, as the water will put moisture back in the air and will help prevent the pizza from drying out.
A similar method applies to warming or heating bread place a damp paper towel over the bread and make sure to use the lowest power setting to end up with a perfectly warmed loaf.
- Use Shortcuts:
Find more joy in cooking by eliminating steps you dislike whenever possible.
If you hate peeling and pressing garlic, buy already peeled and minced garlic in a jar to eliminate that annoying step. Hate the end of meal cleanup?
Try to clean up as you go and wash pots and pans as soon as they’re done being used in order to avoid the a dreaded dish pileup.
Using these tips and tricks can help your kitchen become more efficient and enjoyable, making mealtime more satisfying and cooking less of a chore.
7 Tips for a Healthy and Easy Cooking (Bonus Tips)
For busy individuals or families, finding time to cook a full and healthy meal can be a challenge. The truth is that if you follow certain tips and guidelines, it is much easier to cook.
- Buy Pre-cut Vegetables:
Yes they may cost more, but pre-cut vegetables are a busy person’s friend in the kitchen.
You can find them pre-packaged at the grocery store or you can go through a salad bar at a deli and pick out the amounts of specific vegetables you would like, which works well for dishes such as a salad or a stir-fry.
This can save a tremendous amount of time in the kitchen.
- Love Your Grill:
A grill can be a great tool when looking for easy healthy meals. While it’s heating up, get your prep work done.
While the meat is cooking, make the rest of the meal and in no time you will have dinner on the table.
While summer is the perfect time to grill outside, it can be a year-round cooking method as well.
- Keep Staples on Hand:
If you keep certain staples on hand, you can mix up a quick meal in no time at all.
Add a protein and veggies to make a complete meal or, in a pinch, make a meal out of the staples themselves.
Your kitchen and pantry staples should include flour, olive oil, salt, broth, beans, pasta or brown rice, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and eggs.
The French and many revered chefs refer to it as ‘mise en place’, which means that you set up and put in place everything that you will need to make a meal before you actually start.
This includes all of your ingredients, measuring utensils, cut-up meats and vegetables, cooking dishes, and trash can. Once you start cooking it will be a stream-lined process and it will help a meal come together with ease.
- Cook Once for Multiple Meals:
When you cook a meal, make a large batch and freeze servings for a number of other meals. That way you have a quick and healthy meal at your disposal the next time you are just too tired or busy to start from scratch.
- Purchase and Use a Whole Chicken:
A whole chicken can be a great item for multiple meals. If you have time over the weekend you can roast your own, which is more economical.
Most grocery store delis, however, offer full-cooked chickens that you can purchase and take home for a quick meal.
Use the leftover chicken to put into salads or soups for the upcoming week, and use the bones to make a healthy and nutritional stock. You can freeze the stock to use for future meals.
- Make a Smoothie:
Smoothies have become a popular breakfast item, but they can also be handy at other times when you need a quick on-the-go meal for surprise guests for instance. Fruit is a go-to staple, but also try throwing in some veggies such as celery, cucumber, or spinach.
Add almond milk and/or water, a scoop of protein powder or even a handful of nuts. In mere seconds you will have a very healthy treat that you can take with you.