Although it’s taken me almost two whole years of college to figure out how to eat properly, while managing my budget, and not spending all day in the kitchen, I think I have finally figured out a few grocery shopping tips so you (and I) can eat healthfully and deliciously.
Canned goods. This sounds like something a 1950’s housewife would say, but canned goods are such a cheap and time-saving way to eat! Canned beans, for example, save you over eight hours of preparation, and are often on sale. There are low-sodium options of almost everything that comes in a can, and you can cut out up to 90% of the sodium in canned vegetables by rinsing them. They’re great for quick salads and soups, and you can store them in your fridge in a plastic container for up to seven days before they go bad.
Fresh whole vegetables. My mom has trained me not to fall for pre-washed, pre-cut lettuce. As tempting as it is to save that time, you often pay more than 3 times as much for prepared fresh vegetables than getting them in their natural form, with their cores intact. Buy fresh vegetables on Sunday morning, like celery, lettuce, and carrots, spend a half hour trimming and cleaning them, and then wrap in a damp paper towel and keep in the fridge in a plastic bag until Shabbat. This way, when you are hungry but don’t want to spend a long time preparing a meal, you won’t have to!
Eggs. Nutritious, delicious, and extremely versatile, you can do almost anything with eggs. Have them scrambled, over-easy, in a frittata, fried and placed on top of a hamburger, or my favorite, in an omelet with any vegetables that you [already have] prepared in your fridge. Alongside toast, eggs can constitute any of your three daily meals or snacks.
Buy in bulk when you can. Buying a box of twelve apples from Costco is the same price as five apples at the grocery store near me. Whenever I’m home, I go shopping in my mom’s fridge and pantry, because it’s much cheaper for her to replace those staples from big supermarkets than for me to buy them for myself in the city.
Know your nutrition. It’s easy to see the bin of Popchips by the checkout counter and think, “hmm…cheap and not unhealthy—sure!” But those $0.99 would be better spent on an orange, which is more natural, filling, and essential in your diet. Know what foods you need to eat regularly, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. Keep boxes of brown rice and whole grain pasta handy for easy, filling carb dishes. Only deviate from those grocery staples for special occasions, or when you are in a real time crunch and need to eat a Luna bar on the go instead of a homemade Panini or salad.
And just for fun, here are some of my go-to foods, for which I [almost] always have the ingredients handy:
Onion soup. Along with all other soups, onion soup is the cheapest way to eat. Water: free; onions: $0.69/pound; bread: $2.50/loaf; mozzarella cheese: $8.50/pound. It lasts for so long, and the more you heat the pot of soup, the more flavorful it gets!
Tuna melt. I always have high-fiber tortilla wraps in the fridge, as well as cans upon cans of tuna. Throw in the mozzarella cheese left over from yesterday’s onion soup and the vegetables you already washed in your fridge, and you have a delicious gooey melt on your hands. You can use tortilla wraps, bread, pita, challah—any carb you want!
Potatoes and cheese. Clean potato, cook in microwave for 5 minutes, slice, sprinkle with cheese, nuke 30 more seconds—YUM! Potatoes are healthy carbs with lots of fiber, and their mild flavor can stand up to a lot of accompaniments. Throw on some scallions, or beans, and you have a quick and colorful dinner.
Here are some of my favorite of Jamie's Quick and Kosher recipes!
Main Image - Tropical Chicken Burritos