Convenience is not the most important thing when it comes to grocery shopping. Whether it’s not healthy, not worth the price, or just straight-up nasty, here’s what you should be leaving out of your shopping cart.
The most important reason to skip buying a bag of cheese and just grabbing a full block is the non-cheese fillers and additives. Just check the list of ingredients on the label of a bag versus a block. The bag will more likely have starchy add-ins, more salt and is higher in carbs; also, want to know why the pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt as easily? It’s because of the ingredient cellulose which is added to prevent the shreds from sticking together (nice of them, right), but ‘cellulose’ can sometimes be known as ‘powdered wood pulp.’ Now, it’s not an unsafe additive and is definitely not going to kill you, so chill. Cellulose is just like any other fiber that our bodies can’t break down, so it just gets passed through. Just be careful when you read labels though, as those green cans of parmesan cheese may say “100 Grated,’ which is definitely not the same as “100% parmesan.”
Unwrapped Food Items That Touch The Cart
Make use of those produce baggies and protect your food from the poop. You read that right. A simple Google search will tell you that about 72% of shopping carts have fecal matter on them (WTF), so don’t buy any unwrapped food that touches the toilet you’re pushing through the aisles. Some stores have antibacterial wipes for the cart handle but we doubt you’re scrubbing the whole thing down with them, right?
Pre-Made Salads And Bottled Dressing
Pre-packaged deli salads and salad kits are a no-no. It’s healthier (and cheaper) to make your own salad rather than buying a packaged kit. The lettuce and other veggies used in a deli salad is what’s going bad – they put other strong flavored ingredients like cheese and dressing in to hide the slightly rotted taste. Sure, it’ll take a little more work mixing your own, but when it comes down to freshness and price, we think it’s worth the extra step of mixing it yourself.
Also, drop the bottled dressing; the much better choice is making your own! You can drop the calorie count from the hundreds to the low double-digits, plus homemade dressing recipes usually only contain about three-five ingredients compared to 15-20 from the store-bought kind. Not to mention how much free space you’ll save in your fridge not having a ton of half-filled bottles.
Top off your gourmet salad with some croutons (homemade, of course) by toasting cut-up stale bread that you normally would have tossed out for the birds.
We know mornings are rough, and sticking a Lunchable in your kid’s brown bag might make your morning a little easier, but be warned: these salt and sugar-filled packs aren’t worth it. There are 26 different combo options to choose from like crackers, pizzas, hot dogs, burgers, nachos, etc., so you may think you’re getting a good deal, but really you’re just paying for the specially molded trays.
The highly processed food is not nutritious – in fact, the deep dish pepperoni pizza has 500 calories, 890 milligrams of sodium and 28 grams of sugar (which is more sugar than your kid should eat all day). Your safest bet is to ditch the Lunchable and give your kid something homemade and healthier.
If you think they’re using fresh meat in that soup then we’ve got some bad news for you. When deli meat gets close to going bad, they cut it up for the deli counter’s soups and chili. There’s no way to tell if it’s been sitting out all day (we think there’s a good chance, though) and don’t forget about the countless customers that have opened up that self-serve lid to smell it, so now you’ve got strangers’ bacteria and germs for lunch – yum.
Impulse Buys At The Checkout Counter
You went through the whole store filling your cart without picking it up and you know the truth is you don’t need it. They don’t even need it, that’s why they pushed it to the front of the store because it’s been sitting somewhere else for months and no one else bought it. They’re banking on your ‘hungry but not really thinking about it’ impulse but you’re better than that, my friend.
Processed Deli Meat
Lunch meat like deli cold cuts, bologna and ham contain lots of sodium, fat, and preservatives like nitrites, all things that can increase your chances of cancer. Instead of the prepackaged stuff, try roasting a chicken or turkey on the weekend (if you’re short on time, you can buy an already roasted one) and slice that baby up for your sandwiches.
Fresh cut meat at the deli or from a butcher is okay if you use the meat by the third day. If you must buy pre-packaged deli meat, make sure you check the dates. When the deli meat is approaching its expiration, it gets packaged up and can be sold within three days. This can create an opportunity for you to buy deli meat that is still safe and quality at a bargain as long as you make a sandwich right away. If the package is vacuumed with a good seal and the air is removed, it’s usually good for up to seven days. So make sure you brown-bag it soon to make sure you aren’t wasting food and money – or eating bad meat.
Name Brand Spices
Blind taste tests will prove that people can’t taste a difference between the fancy brands and the generic ones, so don’t waste your money on the name.
Spice mixes like grill seasoning and rib rubs might seem like a good buy because they contain a lot of spices that you would have to buy individually, but if you go to a health-food store and buy a little at a time, it’ll stay fresher, cost less and you can improvise as much as you want. Growing your own herbs is a cool way of avoiding the store altogether.
Greeting cards are too pricey for what is just generic, bland words. The best way to go is buying in bulk, meaning blank cards that you can have on hand for any occasion. Yeah, you’ll have to get over how bad your handwriting is and you’ll also have to think for a few extra seconds about what to write, but the personal touch is much more heartfelt. You don’t want to waste a bunch of money on a card that’s just going to end up in the trash a few days later anyway.
Muffins, granola bars, yogurt and so on are blueberry packed, right? Actually, you need to check the ingredients because many blueberry flavored items don’t have a single blueberry, only the artificial flavoring. No, none of the nutrients come in that. Add fresh blueberries yourself to get the antioxidants and other health benefits you crave.
Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is good for its monounsaturated fat type which is more likely to be burned and less likely to be stored as body fat. But reducing the fat means they have to add something in its place to make it taste good. And surprise, surprise: that’s lots of extra sugar. All that added fake sweetness defeats the purpose of eating peanut butter and basically makes it worthless healthwise.
The better choice is just using good ‘ol regular peanut butter, but be sure to compare the nutrition labels as different brands can add extra ingredients you definitely don’t need; all it should contain is simply peanuts, and that’s it.
Just because the bottle’s label has some beautiful spring or sparkling waterfall depicted on it doesn’t mean it’s any better than what’s coming out of your own tap.
Obviously, in developing countries where there’s not a safe source of tap water, bottled water is the best option, but in the U.S. our tap water is federally regulated.
Bottled water is basically glorified tap water because about a fourth of it comes from a municipal supply (bottlers aren’t required to list the source on the label). The water is treated, purified and sold to us at a much higher price. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, try a filtered water pitcher.
Apart from tap and bottled water being practically the same thing, there’s also the environmental factors. Most of the plastic bottles are not recycled and transporting the bottles, keeping them cold, etc. burns fossil fuels that give off greenhouse gases. Bottles are more convenient but you can ditch the plastic and go stainless steel. The planet (and not to mention your wallet) will benefit.
Since fewer people get mangos, papayas and star fruit, they’re ordered less frequently. That means they’ve been sitting there longer and (since you’re American) you don’t know how to tell if they’re still good. The best place to get your ‘worldly’ fruit is from a specialty market that you trust.
Gluten-Free Baked Goods
Gluten-free baked goods (like cookies, bread, and crackers) are packed with more refined flours, artificial ingredients and sugar than traditional baked goods. So, if you aren’t diagnosed with celiac’s disease or have a gluten intolerance, just keep in mind that gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthier.
Energy And Protein Bars
Energy and protein bars are a healthy, right? These are usually stacked at the checkout counter (impulse buy!) and are not any more wholesome than a regular candy bar when you look at the calories as they can be very high in sugar and fat.
If you’re actually feeling like you need a boost, a better option would be grabbing a vitamin-rich piece of fruit, a yogurt or even a small handful of nuts. It’ll be more satisfying and less expensive.
Flavored Non-Dairy Milks
If you prefer non-dairy milk for personal dietary reasons, you have a list of options to choose from now: almond, hemp, rice, coconut, unsweetened, flavored, etc. You should be careful with sweetened and flavored varieties, though. Vanilla and especially chocolate versions of non-dairy milk can add extra calories and sugar.
When picking out your milk-alternative, check its protein and calcium content because many are lacking, which means you’ve got to get it in your diet from something else.
Pre-Formed Meat Patties
You’re grilling and need a bunch of burgers (beef or otherwise) and you want to make things easier on yourself by getting pre-formed patties. Here’s why you shouldn’t.
They’re more expensive than buying regular ground meat in bulk and just forming the patties yourself. It’ll take less than 10 seconds to form a flat circle and throw it on the grill, and it if time is your main concern, think again. Pre-formed frozen meat patties have had a higher number of e.coli infection-cases, outbreaks and recalls. We don’t think the seconds saved is worth the money and the e.coli risk.
Pre-Arranged Flower Bouquets
Sure, they look pretty and would be a nice little gift for your bae, but the reality is that they’re less fresh and will wilt faster. Save some money and arrange your own – be sure to pick buds that aren’t open yet since they will last longer.
If you’re pregnant or nursing (or just want to avoid the high mercury content), there are some species you should keep out of your cart. Preditors like king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna all contain high levels of mercury. The better option is to get smaller fish like flounder, sardines, catfish, and salmon that are lower in the food chain and thus have lower mercury levels.
This isn’t on the list to say don’t buy it, but actually to make sure you’re checking if your multigrain bread is legit. Multigrain bread is full of all kinds of good stuff like fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. To check that you aren’t being deceived by packaging, look at the ingredients label. The first and main ingredient should be whole wheat, if it’s not, you better put the imposter loaf down because that’s bread masquerading as healthy – in reality, you’re just getting a few grains on white bread.
Bottled Tea And Flavored Tea Mix
Bottled tea is not any healthier than soda since it can have more grams of sugar, so save your waistline and brew your own and keep a jug at home – it’s cheaper too. When making your own, don’t get flavored mixes. Many of them are packed with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars and artificial flavors. If you like your tea sweet but want to keep calories down, skip the sugar and add fruit juice instead.