As the cost of living rises around the globe, people are feeling the pinch in household expenses. A common pain point is the rising price of groceries, and being aware of your shopping habits can have a wider impact than you think. How do we continue to care for our health when a head of lettuce seems to get more expensive each supermarket visit? What small changes can you make to see the most benefit?
Being mindful of supermarket psychology is one way to keep costs down. Taking a few minutes to prepare a shopping list before entering the store could be the difference between coming away with exactly what you need or more than you intended. You’ve probably already heard that you shouldn’t go shopping on an empty stomach… If you can, resist the obvious trappings of the ‘last minute’ grab items stocked at the checkout as well as the enticement of the product displays – and it might help to know there’s more to your supermarket experience than meets the eye.
Rebecca Rupp of National Geographic wrote in her article ‘Surviving the Sneaky Psychology of Supermarkets’ that “especially popular items are routinely located in the middle of aisles, so that even the most single-minded buyer has a chance to be distracted by alternatives.” Rupp explains that supermarkets are often laid out so the flower shop and store bakery are near the entrance, greeting you with greenery and buckets of flowers and the enticing smell of freshly baked bread. She also notes that the mists of water appearing to freshen vegetables spoil them faster, and certain Pantone-colour bananas sell better than others.
Shopping around for ‘uglier’ alternatives can provide both cost savings and health benefits. You’ll find an abundance of seasonally appropriate offerings at local farmer’s markets, which can run cheaper due to their availability, and with more nutritional value, having spent comparatively less time between harvesting and eating.
Nutritional therapist Amelia Freer says “seasonality means variety, and variety of produce means variety of nutrients. It is this variety that can help to protect us against the risk of nutritional overload or deficiency and is at the heart of what we mean when we talk about ‘balanced’ diets.”
As a cost and quality experiment you could try the ‘ugly’ or ‘wonky’ fresh produce that doesn’t meet all the aesthetic requirements of supermarkets. Subscription services have sprung up in recent years as a way of combatting the global problem of food waste.
Paying attention to the nutritional makeup of your meals is another way to look after your health, while only buying what you need. Consider, for example, how you’d get your vegetable intake during the winter months. While it may be tempting to save on time and have a salad, making simple seasonal swaps like shopping for broccoli and pairing it with canned tomatoes for a pasta bake can prove to be a significantly more cost-effective option.
Don’t shy away entirely from canned and frozen fruit and vegetables as a source of nutrition, but be aware that some fare better than others during this processing. Studies have found that spinach, for example, loses 100 percent of its vitamin C content in seven days if stored at a room temperature of 20C (68F); it loses 75 percent if refrigerated. Carrots, conversely only lose 27 percent of their vitamin C content when stored for a week at room temperature.
While this makes a case for being selective about the most effective way to source your vitamin C plant sources, it has been found that foods with more vitamin A and E, which are found in high amounts in canned tomatoes, handle the heating process prior to canning remarkably well in terms of the nutritional value they still offer by time of consumption.
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This calls for a plan of action! How will you tackle health on a budget?
By Keren Cook, NatureBee