Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smart shopping

As you can remember, this week is Food Week here in the Box!!

These first two days we've discussed what we should be eating (more fruit, vegetables and fish), what we shouldn't be eating (fats and sugars) and how we can plan what and when we eat, therefore reducing cooking-related stress to a minimum. 
Today, we're going to talk about Smart Shopping, how making lists and the way we shop can improve our savings and in some cases, our health. 

First of all, when it comes to shopping, making a list can make this task a whole lot easier. How can you make the perfect shopping list?

1) Now that you have a meal plan, you know what you're cooking each day and therefore, know what ingredients you'll, so write them down!

2) You should make your meal planning according to the items you already have in your fridge, reducing the amount to buy on your next trip to the store. So, now that you have your draft list, shop your cupboards and cross off any ingredients you already have. Keep in mind the amount of each ingredient needed for that precise recipe or if you have more than one meal that needs it. If your memory tends to fail you (like mine recently does, jot down the amount needed next to each ingredient on the list). 
Avoid buying food in bulk, seeing as it's probable you won't use it that week and it could end up in the rubbish. 

3) Now you should only have the ingredients you really need for that week and you should add to that things you need every week, such as milk, cereal and fresh fruit. 

4) Divide the things you need to buy in fresh/dry, refrigerated and frozen. It will come in handy once you're at the store. 

You have now prepared the perfect list! It's time to hit the supermarket!!
Ok, you are now at the store. Where do I go first?? Remember you divided everything into three categories? Well, use this to help you work your way around the shop. It's important to bare in mind that food is refrigerated or frozen for a purpose: to extend the life and safety of the product. If these products are kept at higher temperatures for too long, the bacteria in/on them will begin to multiplicate again, resulting in possible problems for our health. Therefore we must try to keep these products from their respective low temperatures for the least time possible. So, first we should pick up the dry or fresh ingredients (pasta, rice, fruit, vegetables, UHT milk), followed by refrigerated products (butter, pasteurized milk, yoghurts, meat) and lastly, frozen foods (frozen vegetables, frozen meat, fish). 

It's also important to take care of how we place each product in our shopping cart. Avoid putting meat next to or on top of raw foods, such as fruit and vegetables, thereby avoiding cross contamination if the packages starts to drip. 
If you also plan on buying cleaning products, keep these away from all foods, especially raw ones. 

When buying fruit and vegetables, try to choose fruits that are in season, as they are cheaper. Make sure they aren't too ripe, so they don't go bad too soon and avoid fruit and vegetables with bruises or dark-coloured patches. 

Try to go to the store on an empty stomach and fully awake, that way you'll be more aware of what you're buying and be able to compare prices and quality. When buying canned food or cartons, choose packaging that is intact (no dents or holes). 
Check the sell by date and choose those products whose date is as far away as possible. 

Now, we'll take a closer look at how to buy products from each food group:

1. Dairy products. At your local store you should be able to find both pasteurized and UHT milk. When choosing which you prefer, bare in mind that though pasteurized milk "looks better" (usually it's whiter), UHT milk lasts longer and until opened doesn't have to be kept in the fridge. 
When deciding between whole and skimmed products, semi-skimmed or skimmed are the best choices as they have less fat and less cholesterol. 

2. Meat. Choose pieces of meat with the least visible fat possible. Though we usually asociate pork with fat, the actual meat has hardly any. 

3. Fish. When buying fresh fish keep in mind some quality indicators: the body should be rigid, scales are stuck together, shiny and the skin is damp, with no wrinkles, spots and has a normal colour. The eyes should be transparent and shiny and the gills should be pink or red, wet and shiny. 

4. Eggs. Make sure the shells are broken and don't have strange spots. Eggs shouldn't be washed until they're going to be used as they have a substance on the shell that protects them from going bad. 

5. Fruit. Only buy as much fruit as you know you'll be able to eat. It would be a shame for all those delicious berries, oranges and melons to end up in the bin. And think about the money you'd be carelessly throwing away. 

6. Vegetables. Choose those without bruises or dark spots and try to use seasonal vegetables in your menu plans, it will save pennies. 

And there you have it!! You've successfully finished your shopping for the day! Now hurry home, don't take too long or the frozen good will start to defrost!! Tomorrow we'll discuss how food should be put away properly. See you tomorrow!!

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