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How I Shop for Food Now That I Live Clean

I wish I could say that I’m a bargainista, but I’ve always valued convenience more than price. When I first lived on my own, I bragged about my “good buys” purchasing generic macaroni and cheese boxes for $0.29 each and ramen noodles by the carton at the local drugstore. However, that was nearly two decades ago when we all believed that eating non-fat was healthy. Now that I try to consume most of my meals organic and plant-based, wholesome food shopping is a priority. While I spend much of my living clean adventure time in Whole Foods or health food markets, I enjoy spending time visiting other places to purchase food.

Local Farmer’s Markets
Why didn’t I realize the benefits of local farmer’s markets earlier in life? They are fun, fast and cheap. Last week, I bought eight bags of produce, which cost me less than $30. This is the biggest bargain yet. Because I’m organic conscious, I try to purchase products with no pesticides or added toxins. However, there are some items that don’t need to be purchased organic. The Environmental Working Group titles these “The Clean 15.” These food items are relatively “clean” and carry the least pesticide residue. I hold this list handy when shopping for produce. I’ve found that every few towns on the Connecticut shoreline host farmer’s markets at least throughout the summer. I also remember seeing downtown farmer’s markets when I lived in the midwest. Check the Department of Agriculture in your local state for more information.

Farm Share Programs
For a minimal membership fee, local farms offer weekly baskets of fresh produce to pick-up. The benefits include lower priced fruits and vegetables, oftentimes more fresh than grocery store produce because it’s handpicked hours prior to pickup. The local farm by my house doesn’t sell organic produce. However, they claim to “believe in a sustainable way of life…and spray only when necessary.” I’m excited to join.

Traditional Grocery Stores
More and more traditional grocery stores carry organic lines. In Connecticut, Stop & Shop carries produce, cheese, meats, dairy and packaged goods under the Nature’s Promise brand. Depending on the store, there can be a lot of options. I’m also a fan of their delivery service, Peapod. The produce is almost ripe and lasts several days.

Whole Foods Market
I’ve said it once and I will say it again, I love Whole Foods. But then again, I take it for what it’s worth: a wholesome food market. I don’t assume that every product in stock is worthy to buy. I still read labels. But they make it a lot easier there. The NON-GMO (non-genetically modified) brands are highly visible. The organic and local produce is well-marked. And the personnel is largely well-informed and helpful, making my shopping experience easy.

Wholesale Clubs
While the organic selection is somewhat limited, the pricing on what exists is phenomenal. At a Boston BJ’s, a big box of organic baby kale was just $2.49 and blueberries less than $3. They also sell some traditional organic brands like Stonyfield Organic dairy products. More of these big-box wholesale clubs are buying organic brands, so check out the ones nearest you. I’ve found good carrots, salads and some fruits at our Connecticut BJ’s.

Do you tend to shop for more for convenience or price? What are your priorities when grocery shopping?

14 Comments

  1. Jacki Broze

    Just began reading your articles. I try not to purchase GMO foods and buy organic whenever I can. I do most of my shopping at Trader Joes. (Bill works there, so the employee discount is nice.) Heather is in town with the twins and we’re going to make food for her twins in my Nutribullet. Hoping to hear good news all the time about you.
    Jacki

    • Caryn Sullivan

      HI Jacki. Thanks for the good wishes. We are doing well here. I love the Nutribullet. Its easy to shove a bunch of fruit and then hide some veggies and blend for older kids. For babies, it is awesome for pureed food. I’ve seen some good organic foods at Trader Joes. I don’t shop there often because it is a little further than the Whole Foods, so let me know some of your favorites. Have a great fall and thanks for following the blog.

  2. I love farmer’s markets! We have a great one every Saturday, I try to make it weekly but often fail. Boo!! I think I’ll start making sure I go, bc farm fresh produce is always better.

    I also wish that we had more farm shares around here. Every summer I look and we don’t have any… it makes me sad, bc I have friends who take advantage and I am always jealous of what they get to bring home. Mmmm

    • Caryn Sullivan

      I agree. It’s awesome to shop at farmer’s markets but I, too, often miss it. I have a few friends that have their own small gardens and the produce is super fresh and often huge. I don’t have a green thumb, but have often thought about trying that, too. Imagine going in your backyard and picking tomatoes and other veggies for dinner.

    • Caryn Sullivan

      I know. I love them, too. I’m sorry there aren’t any near you. Have you considered starting your own garden. (I’m one to talk because I’m a little scared to do it.) I started this summer with those herb pots and it actually worked for a few weeks. I think I cut off the herbs too fast because no more grew. Oh well…learning one step at a time.

  3. I need to find a farmers market now that I’m off for a few weeks – thanks for the inspiration!

    • Looks great. However, I must be honest and say I feel the last picture looks like a supplement ad. I also think we are about to get hit with a supplement to purchase. This is fine if we knew this from the beginning. The journey was pure which I like, but if this is to pimp a supplement in the end then it kinda takes the purity out of it. That’s just my opinion. I’m a fan and will remain one.

  4. I was VERY spoiled by living in Los Angeles. We belonged to a CSA and I had innumerable options for healthy food, including a year-round farmer’s market. Moving to a small city in the Midwest two years ago ….where “salad” is defined as gelatin with unidentifiable floating objects in it… has often been an adventure in frustration. But at least I can get all of the summer squash I want for free from people at work who sneak into the kitchen and leave it on the table with “please take me home” signs on them.

    I lost six months of exploring time to the polar vortex but slowly but surely I am starting to find resources so that I can eat cleaner. So, I haven’t given up hope, yet!

    Thanks for sharing this on the #SITSsharefest!

    • Caryn Sullivan

      You words are definitely understood over here. I’m lucky in CT to have the options of Whole Foods, Farmer’s Markets and CSAs, but it wasn’t always this way. I used to love to travel to LA where I could get healthy snacks at every corner. Not that I always took advantage of it, but I knew it was available. Good luck on your adventures finding fresh foods.

  5. Always love how you take a trip down memory lane in many of your posts Caryn. Ahhh the day of fat free. I lived on low fat ramen noodles out of a hot pot, twizzlers, diet coke and snackwells devil’s food cakes in college and thought I was healthy!

    I joined an organic CSA this year and love it! We’ve tried new veggies, some with success and some with hopes to find a better recipe for next year. I also have a small raised garden bed (5’x2′). It is SUPER easy. I literally planted 4 cherry tomato plants and then a few favorite veggies and herbs from seed–was able to get organic soil, plants and seed at our local garden center. Truly hardly any weeding and it has just magically grown. My daughter loves it and will eat basil and mint right off the plants as we search for “red, juicy strawberries and tomatoes” in “my garden” as she calls it. I am seriously the least dedicated or educated gardener out there, so if I can do it, anyone can! And it is great to go in your yard and pick a few veggies for a snack or meal! I say give it a try!

    • Caryn Sullivan

      Katie – you are inspiring me to plant my own little garden. I always think of gardening as such a commitment. How did you learn how to do it? Home Depot courses? YouTube channels? Family?

  6. Dan and I made a raised garden this year from buying cedar at Home Depot. I will blog about it soon (likely before next Summer). It’s really has been easy and it was awesome fun for the kids. We have grown so many tomatoes that we can donate some of our produce weekly to a local food shelf. Definitely give it a try … talk about cheap!! Love ya.

  7. There’s a place in Rhode Island that has an indoor farmer’s market through the winter. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I wish we had something like that where I live!

    • Caryn Sullivan

      That’s awesome. I will have to check it out. RI is only a hour from me in CT. Not that I can make it a weekly trip, but it sure would be fun for a quick winter adventure. Thanks.

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