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New Year... New You

Grocery Shopping Tips for Healthy Eating

By Stacey Strout Stabenow

Every year it is always the same song and dance when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to eat better and save money. However, we never seem to stick with it. Let’s face it, days are busy. Everyone knows that afternoons and evenings can get downright crazy! Suddenly it’s 6 o’-clock and there’s no plan for dinner. That means another rushed trip to the grocery store, a takeout burger, or phoning for pizza. This all sounds familiar, right? Before we know it, it’s February and we’re back to our old habits and have completely forgotten the passion we felt when we started. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Instead, imagine having the ingredients and simple recipes you need to get healthy meals on the table each night. This plan sounds nice, right? Believe me, it can be done. Kick the crazies out of your evening so you can focus on the important stuff. It’s not hard. The trick is to be prepared and to stock your kitchen with good healthy food and a way to use it.

Making this change does require a commitment. It really all comes down to planning. So, carve out a little time to make a plan for the week. I personally like to sneak to the kitchen with a cup of coffee and my computer before the kids are up on Saturday mornings. There you can cruise your favorite cooking sites, blogs, worn family cookbooks, and favorite magazines for recipes.

Keep a couple of things in mind when you’re choosing recipes for the week. First, look for a variety of proteins and seasonal produce, and avoid recipes that rely on packaged and boxed ingredients. Stick to recipes that use common ingredients and those you’ll continue to use. Fancy ingredients don’t necessarily create delicious meals. Surprisingly, the simple recipes with the fewest and freshest ingredients can be the tastiest — and healthiest too!

Then, try to include a variety of cuisines and proteins in your menu. Maybe Mexican food one night, lasagna the next, then a light meal of fish and couscous, rounding out your week with a fun Friday night of grilling. Mix it up and add some excitement to the menu. Look for recipes that remind you of your family’s favorite restaurants. Try choosing one or two meals that would make great lunch leftovers like lasagna, meatloaf, and tacos. You can even double these recipes and freeze them for another night. If you can do that once or twice a week, you’ll have your freezer stocked for nights when you may be tempted for takeout.

In the first few weeks, remember to keep it simple. Do not go crazy with complicated recipes and millions of pots and pans each night. Remember the key to success is to start out small. In the first week or so, plan 2 or 3 meals with leftovers. This will keep you from burning out too fast and overbuying and wasting ingredients. Then, commit to adding more and more recipes to the coming weeks.

It is also important to involve your family in the process. Ask for input with meal choices and list-making and then employ their help with the shopping and cooking. Kids love being empowered and are very helpful. My 10-year-old loves to help with the menu — always wanting to find recipes that mimic what he orders at his favorite restaurants. And my 5-year-old writes out our menu, decorates it and prominently displays it each week. They both take pride in their jobs and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how helpful they are. Giving each child a role in the process not only helps keep the motivation going, but gives them a sense of responsibility, teaches them the importance of making healthy choices, and encourages them to try new things.

Half the battle of eating well is making it through the grocery store mindful of your list. It is essential to stick to the perimeter of the store where you can focus on fresh and not get caught up in the madness of the boxed and bagged. The biggest trick to master is following your list, but still being flexible enough to score the freshest and best ingredients and save when something is on special.

This comes in very handy in the produce and meat departments. Choose the freshest produce and meats, not necessarily those on your list. In other words, don’t feel like you have to buy the asparagus if it doesn’t look good. Choose a fresher and brighter alternative like broccoli or green beans.

The same is true in the meat department. If you are planning on grilling pork chops but chicken is on sale, buy it instead. Substituting cuts of meats on sale is a great way to save money. Plus, if they’re deeply discounted you can always buy in bulk and freeze. Don’t be so strapped to your list that you can’t take advantage of a good deal; but at the same time, don’t buy ‘junk’ that is not on your list.

This year, commit to making a couple of these simple changes. Keep it realistic for your lifestyle and don’t try to completely change everything about your eating habits. Soon you’ll find it has become your way of life.

Stacey is a wife, mother of three kids, and is the one responsible for feeding her family. She is also involved in her community, the kids’ schools, work outside the home, and has little time to figure out what’s for dinner. Every week she makes the time to pore over cookbooks, magazines, and the internet to plan meals and the shopping list.
After 13 years of planning her family’s meals, she wants to share them with you. Visit: