$ense and cents-abilities: How to choose and use foods wisely | PCC Natural Markets

Insights by Goldie
$ense and cents-abilities: How to choose and use foods wisely

Sound Consumer | June 2008

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

As food costs spiral upward, food shoppers who place nutritional health first will need to redouble their efforts to get the most food value from every food dollar spent.

The time-honored advice for sticking to a food budget always has been to “shop with a list” of perishable and non-perishable foods you need but also to be as aware as possible of the everyday prices for food so you know a “deal” when you see it!

Remember, too, that you’re in charge of the list, not vice versa. You may come across, say, a favorite bottle of olive oil at a very reduced price that you don’t need today but maybe soon. If you can be flexible — maybe skip something else on the list — you might help your overall budget in the long run — a true bargain.

Some presumed “bargain shopping” patterns are, in fact, not true bargains. If you clip a lot of coupons, checking and cross-checking numerous grocery chain ads, any savings might be more than offset by the extra cost of gas driving to several locations.

Be aware that every time shoppers take one of our free “Walk, talk and taste” tours — offered each month in each PCC store — you receive a discount coupon for your next shopping trip.

This popular consumer education class delivers 90-minutes worth of solid information and advice, and includes great tasting foods for you to sample. (To register, visit www.pcccooks.com or see the PCC Cooks catalog available in stores.)

We respond to your specific interests and needs and, if we don’t have time to cover individual concerns in class or don’t have some information, we follow-up afterwards to help you find answers or solutions.

Recipe sheets from the “Walk, talk and taste” tours include easy breakfast and lunch ideas, soups, sandwiches, snacks and suggestions for easy meals — all from whole, unprocessed ingredients.

Shoppers like the very easy-to-make dips, spreads, dressings, marinades and other quick condiment tips. They perk up simple meals with fresh flavor at very substantial savings compared to prepared items.

We also compare the nutrients, quality and costs between refined, processed foods and whole foods; differences between in-season and out-of-season produce; and why frozen vegetables and fruits may be a better value than fresh. We provide guidance to avoid genetically engineered and irradiated foods.

We discuss the most nutritious forms of soy-based and other vegetarian and vegan food options. Upon request, we even offer simple instructions for home-made soymilk, tofu or tempeh, and fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir and fresh (unpasteurized) sauerkraut. Talk about money-saving super-foods!

With grain prices especially high, it’s a great time to learn basic baking, too. Our tours include tips and resources in the recipe packet.

Most nutrition advisors also agree that the healthiest eating patterns emphasize plant foods, with vegetables and fruits at least one-half of the foods in our daily diet.

Make our Bulk Foods section in our stores your new “best friend”: the savings are terrific, the nutrition solid, and the flavors and textures delightful. Bring your own containers to save ten cents extra. See PCC’s brochures on whole grains and beans for basic cooking guidance.

We also recommend books, such as “American Whole Foods Cuisine” by N. and D. Goldbeck. Soon you’ll be tossing raw or toasted nuts and seeds into your salads and trying various vegetable soups (maybe adding grains and beans from bulk). You’ll see the advantages of cooking extra so you can freeze some for a no-cook day. Remember to munch on fresh, dried or frozen fruits daily — you’re doing great, focusing on plants.

What’s the “other half” of the plant-based diet? For omnivores, we cannot overemphasize the importance of simply skipping meats, dairy and eggs if the only option is “factory farmed.” Sure they’re less expensive but it’s safer and wiser to choose organic or sustainable versions and to eat smaller amounts less often. It’s better than eating antibiotics, steroids (in beef), growth hormones and other chemicals in factory-farmed animal products — the standard fare sold in most supermarkets and big box stores.

In contrast, PCC buyers know the details of the production methods of each of our producers of animal-based foods, organic and non-organic, and have scrutinized them for sale. We do not overlook inhumane treatment of farm animals, nor dangerous conditions faced by workers on factory farms.

Knowledge about food is power. You can use it to protect your health and, by extension, the health of the planet and all life forms that share its limited resources. After all, everything is connected.

More about: bulk, PCC Cooks, produce