To keep your shopping simple and fast in a supermarket, go straight to the fresh produce, local bakery, and bulk sections, eventually to the grains, groats, and flour sections, if no bulk grains and flours are available. Occasionally, you may need to go to the refrigerated section for some soy products. The rest of the supermarket does not need to exist: you will not need anything from there. Also, shop for fresh produce at farmer’s markets whenever you can, it is much better than organic supermarket produce.

Avoid processed foods

Obviously, fast foods, processed sweets, and soda are absolutely not suitable for human consumption (although some people like to use soda to clean the toilet bowl). It is best to forget that they exist. After just a few weeks of eating non-processed, plant-based meals, you may not like processed foods any more or at least you will get rid of the cravings. The palate really changes and discovers real tastes once you stop corrupting it with junk.

Always choose simple, unprocessed products. The simpler, the better. The best food products are fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, whole grains and groats and dried legumes. With the knowledge you will obtain from Creative Frugal Healthy, you will be able to turn them into delicious meals in a healthy way as well as to store them safely.

Canned foods are not any good either. They are not only processed and often contain excess sodium, but a tin can by itself and especially its inner lining is not healthy when in contact with food. The same refers to plastic packaging, especially when in contact with liquid or wet rather than with dry foods. A glass jar is always a better choice than a can or a plastic container. It can also be saved afterwards for a healthy food storage container. It can be difficult sometimes, especially in case of soy products. I still use miso in a plastic container because I cannot find low sodium miso in a healthier packaging. I encounter the same problem with tempeh and tofu. However, I use these products only occasionally and do not eat them every day.

I do not buy any processed sauces or dressings as they usually contain oils, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, a lot of sodium, preservatives, MSG, and other undesired ingredients. It is better to learn how to make your own simply from plants.

Avoid white flour and white flour products such as breads and, obviously, cakes and cookies. Also, it is better to choose brown rice over white rice. Always choose whole wheat pastas. White flours and white rice are highly processed and contain much less nutrients, especially much less fiber.

Reading labels

Always watch for added sugar, salt, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, MSG, hydrogenated oils, etc. That seems obvious. If you follow the Creative Frugal Healthy cooking advice, you will not need to read too many labels anyway, as you will use almost no processed foods.

In case of miso, choose the low sodium product and always watch for the number of servings per container. Some manufacturers give the amount of sodium per serving as tiny as a teaspoon and if you overlook it, you will end up with 7-10 servings and a very high sodium soup.

Make sure that dried fruit you purchase is unsweetened and unsulphured. Bulk sections of health food stores may offer some good selection of dried fruit.

Remember to choose only low sodium and sugar-, high fructose corn syrup- and glucose-fructose syrup – free pickles. It is the best to make your own fermented pickles.

Shopping list

It is a good idea to shop with a list. In my home we keep a list available for the whole week in a common place at home. This way we can easily add whatever we remember or whatever we run out of.

My typical shopping list comprises of: tomatoes, parsley, kale, spinach, collard greens, lettuce, dandelion greens, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, oranges, apples, carrots, beets (roots and greens), celery, either stalks or root, onions, garlic, lime. It sometimes lists eggplants, okra, dill, cilantro, cabbage, cucumbers, mushrooms, legumes: red kidney, black, white, pinto, black-eyed peas (cowpeas), lentils (red, green and brown), chickpeas, split peas (yellow and green) – always dry, never canned, and grains/groats: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, rye, millet, quinoa, as well as flax seeds and ginger whenever they run out. Occasionally, we buy rutabaga, miso, tempeh, high quality mustard (in a glass jar), as well as spices and herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaf, herbes de Provence, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice. Spices usually last for very long, even if I use them a lot, I do not use all of them at once.

Herbs can be very cheap if purchased in bulk. An average 5 grams (1 pound = 454g) glass container of spices or dried herbs costs about $2.50-$5.00. If you buy it in bulk, 5g costs about $0.20 – $0.80. You may consider investing in some basic spices and dried herbs in glass containers, save the containers, and keep refilling them. It is also a nice gift idea for a person starting up on a healthy diet based on homemade foods. Another option is buying empty glass containers or saving mustard jars. Remember that spices and herbs should not contain any additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate) or salt. Unfortunately, many of them do. Read the labels carefully, especially for spice mixtures. It is always a good idea to buy spices and herbs individually and mix them by yourself. This way you know for sure what you eat. Also, if you buy whole spices and grind them at home, they will have a better aroma than the spices purchased ground. You will use smaller amounts of them in your dishes.

Keeping fresh potted herbs at home is also great. They do not require much attention, are great companions (plants grow better if you talk to them), wonderful antidepressants (just look at how they grow and you cannot help but smile), and a beautiful decoration for your home.

It is also good to be open to new options. Sometimes certain foods are on sale and you may save some money by deviating from your original list and buying what is a good deal. Creative Frugal Healthy gives you the ability to combine ingredients and the flexibility to create meals rather than strictly follow recipes, will enable you to make quick decisions regarding food choices, and to take advantage of sales. Example: you were planning for a zucchini and carrot stew for dinner, but eggplant is on sale. No problem, you may switch the vegetables at any time.

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