Adventures with Ami: Grocery Store Field Trip

As a little girl I remembering zooming through the grocery store with my Mom.  Most of the time hanging off the end of the cart slowing down only to grab the items we needed.  As a Mom with a toddler in the cart myself years ago, I too hurried along to get what was on my list and get out of there.  The grocery store was never a destination for learning.

In an effort to improve my health and become plant-based, I made it a point to make a field trip out of going to the grocery store.  We all make time to go to the dentist or get our hair done, a manicure or other personal appointments.  I say, set aside an hour or two to take a tour of your grocery store.  Learning how to navigate your local market, especially when it comes to selecting the foods that make up your whole foods plant-based diet is as important as any other appointment that we make for ourselves.  Make an adventure out of the grocery store!

When planning your grocery store field trip, you can check with your favorite store to see if they offer any type of formal tour.  Here in the Midwest, Hy-vee stores have dietitians in each locale and Whole Foods Markets have Healthy Eating Specialists in their stores as well.  You can call and set up a store tour with them if you’d like some guidance.  Check with your local grocery store to see if this service is available to you.  You don’t have to have a tour guide though. It can be for informational purposes or you can make it a shopping trip for the items you need to prepare the foods that you will eat during the week.

One concept that I find useful is spending some time in a few departments to learn more about what you’ll find there.  You can also take with you, a list of items that you want to learn more about.  Perhaps look for a oil free salad dressing or salt-free spice blend, figure out where the lentils are or find a non-dairy milk to try. I also recommend taking along a notepad to take notes in case you come up with any questions for the Engine 2 Team while you are there.  I often learn something new every time I lead a grocery store tour with one of my students.  Products that may have once been E2 friendly can change their ingredients over time. You may want to do a field trip every 6 months or so just to see what’s new.

The Produce Department: This is where I do most of my shopping; however, you can also purchase frozen fruit or vegetables as well.  Take a look around the produce department.  Look for items you may want try.  Sometimes there are placards describing an item of produce, which can be really helpful.  Other times, I have been known to look up an item on my phone or just take it home and try it.  Whether you are feeling adventurous or picking the same four vegetables that you always have, it doesn’t really matter which variety of greens, veggies, potatoes etc. that you choose.

Also take time to tour the bulk department if your store has one.  Here you will find all kinds of beans, grains, nuts and seeds.  There are so many different types of grains and beans to choose from.  Look around and maybe take a few notes about what you see.  Sometimes the bulk department can be cheaper, other times, simple staples like rice or lentils may be less expensive in the general grocery aisles on sale.

In the main aisles of the grocery store, put your newly acquired label reading skills to work.  Look for a pasta sauce that meets the label reading rules.  Did you find one?  If not, look for crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes or tomato sauce with no salt added.  Find a whole wheat pasta too.  Do you know where the quinoa is?  What about the non-dairy milks?  Have you found the cereals used in Rip’s Big Bowl?  Spend some time with the condiments.  Find your favorites and read the labels.  Are there names you cannot pronounce in the ingredients?  Can you find a better ketchup?

Take your time and make your way through the store using the skills you learned from The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Challenge Facebook group, The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet book or one of our E2 events that you attended.  If you can’t find something, just ask.  Grocery store clerks know better than anyone if they carry a product and where to find it.  Unsure of an product?  You can always take a photo of the nutrition facts to check when you get home if you have a cell phone with you.

As adults, we often spend many hours searching for a great doctor, orthodontist, hairstylist, mechanic etc.  We read reviews online, talk to our friends and do our homework before letting a contractor into our home.  Getting serious about our health and learning about sustaining a whole foods plant-based life warrants a field trip to your grocery store.  You may see it with brand new eyes.