Grocery shopping is now one of the most stressful tasks and persons may wonder why. There are two main reasons: financial constraints and not being aware of how to make healthy choices in the market, supermarket or wholesale stores.
Our dollar has less value today than last year, and less money is available to buy the same amount of food items. To be able to choose healthier foods, it is important for consumers to learn how to read labels and shop wisely.
Here are some shopping tips:
Decide on a shopping cycle. This should be based on payday and when shopping is convenient. A food budget should be decided upon and should be less than 50 per cent of income. A shopping list should be prepared based on menu and items that are in storage areas - cupboard, refrigerator and freezer.
Never go shopping when hungry or feeling 'peckish'. Persons tend to choose more convenience or ready-to-eat foods because they are thinking about satisfying their immediate craving or need for food. When shopping, one should not be in a hurry, so that labels can be read and prices can be compared for value. Shop with a calculator or simple 'pocket' adding machine to keep track of bill.
Take advantage of bulk buying - five pounds or more for less money. If bulk amounts are too much for your household, make purchases with a close friend and share the cost. Be on the lookout for specials in the supermarket such as buy-two-and-get-one-free sales. Please note that these specials are most times available on near-to-expire goods, so be careful not to buy too many and use them before the expiry date.
If purchasing in open market, compare prices and look at produce carefully for bruises, blemishes, extra dirt, freshness, etc. Observe sanitation in shopping areas for pools of water, garbage, flies or rodents.
Do not buy foods in dented or swollen cans. Contents may have harmful microorganisms that could cause illness.
Check labels for expiration. Use by or best before dates because some items may start losing nutritive value and quality after those dates. Labels should also be checked for number of servings per container and prices to ensure value for money.
Read the nutrition facts on label for the total fat/cholesterol/sodium etc., percentage of various nutrients in the item, number of servings per container, serving sizes and the calories per serving. Calories are based on servings and not on entire container. Read ingredient list to choose the appropriate item to purchase. For example, wholewheat bread, the first ingredient should be wholewheat flour and NOT enriched wheat flour (enriched flour is flour with vitamins etc added). In the ingredients list, the first five ingredients are most dominant in the product.
Foods should be purchased based on nutritive value. For example, canned mackerel is a good source of protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acid, is convenient, inexpensive and can be served at all three meals.
Let us take advantage of having less money, and make healthier food choices by thinking nutrition when we go food shopping. 'Mek we tun we hand and mek healthier meals!'
Marsha N. Woolery is a registered dietitian/nutritionist in private practice and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.