By Julie Garden-Robinson
NDSU Extension Service Food and Nutrition Specialist
As I was shopping for some cold medication in a pharmacy, a couple of bolts in a hardware store, some cards at a dollar store and tile in a home goods store, I came to a realization: Food is everywhere.
We typically shop for food in a traditional grocery store near our home. Sometimes I am tempted by the food items as I stroll around other types of stores.
If you have even the faintest of hunger pangs, you can grab a snack or a dinner mix before reaching the checkout stand. Unfortunately, not all the food offerings rank high on the health scale. However, with some label reading and comparison, you can make the best choices among the options available.
The variety of food available in retail stores stretches far beyond basic snack foods and beverages. The size of the aisles of food seems to be increasing, and the temptation to buy your groceries, along with other items, as you run errands has become very strong.
According to the 2017 U.S. grocery shopper trend data reported by the Food Marketing Institute, people are “shopping around” more than ever.
From 2016 to 2017, shopping in traditional grocery stores declined slightly, from 85 to 83 percent of households. On the other hand, shopping in convenience stores, natural and organic stores, and ethnic food stores has increased. Online shopping has increased dramatically.
About one in four households shops online for groceries at least some of the time, which is an increase of 50 percent in the last couple of years. About 43 percent of millennials (born between 1983 and 2000) shop online.
“Co-shopping” is increasing. In other words, one person doesn’t do all the shopping for a household. The duties are shared.
In my house, going grocery shopping together is equal to going on a “date” for me and my husband. Yes, we lead an exciting life.
Families are “outsourcing” cooking more often, too. Have you ever picked up a roasted chicken and deli salad for dinner instead of making it at home?
When available, ready-to-eat foods become the evening meal among 67 percent of households at least once in a while. Depending on where you live, you also might see “meal kits.”
I have been tempted by these kits that allow you to simply cook your dinner, even when buying the ingredients is less expensive.
About 88 percent of shoppers believe that eating at home is more healthful than eating at a restaurant. With smart choices, that can be true.
Be sure to take some time in your planning and shopping. Here are some tips from one of our “Now Serving” series of handouts available at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food (see Food Preparation):
• Use store ads for menu ideas. Aim for a wide variety of foods from the MyPlate food groups and then write down menus for a week.
• Save your list of menu ideas, perhaps in a binder, and include the shopping list with the menus. You may want to recycle your menu ideas in a few weeks.
• Consider items on your menu that allow you to cook once and eat twice. For example, have a roast for Sunday dinner and roast beef sandwiches on Monday. Use planned-over grilled chicken in soups, fajitas or other dishes.
• Keep your list on your refrigerator so family members can add to the list during the week. Keep staple items, such as milk, eggs, bread and juice, on the list each week, and add needed items to the list. If you have access to a computer, consider using that when planning your meals.
• If you know the store layout well enough, make a list based on the layout with subheadings, such as “fresh produce,” “canned goods,” “meats” and “breads.” Some grocery stores provide a map.
• Before going to the store, have a snack. Otherwise, adding many items to your shopping cart is tempting.
Here’s a colorful soup that can be made in an electric pressure cooker, on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. The delicious aroma will lead your family to the dinner table.
Savory Minestrone Soup
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 1/2 c. onion, diced
1 c. carrot, diced
1 c. celery, diced
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. black pepper (or to taste)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 c. beef or vegetable broth, reduced sodium
1/2 c. fresh spinach, torn into pieces
1 bay leaf
1 c. elbow macaroni
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (or other white beans), drained and rinsed
1/3 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Add oil, onion, carrot, celery and garlic to a pot and saute until softened. Add oregano, basil and pepper and mix. Add tomatoes, broth, spinach, bay leaf and pasta. Note: Beans are added at the end of cooking.
Electric pressure cooker directions: Set to manual high pressure (HP) for six minutes. Reaching high pressure usually will take six to eight minutes, then allow to cook for six minutes. Allow to stand about two minutes. Release pressure to vent steam. Remove lid and add cannellini beans and allow to warm. Remove bay leaf. Serve in bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Stovetop: Prepare as directed and allow to simmer until softened, about 30 minutes. Add macaroni and beans at the end of cooking.
Slow cooker: Prepare as directed. Cook on low about six hours or high for three hours. Add macaroni and beans at the end of cooking. Cook macaroni until softened.
Makes eight servings. Each serving has 170 calories, 4 grams (g) fat, 7 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber and 490 milligrams sodium.