The Best Things to Buy at the Grocery Store in June

If you appreciate good food, you’ve probably heard the term “seasonal eating.” It’s a fairly recent food term for a lot of people, but it’s how humans ate for thousands of years before corporate agri-business practices and global shipping made it possible for us to buy corn in December, blueberries in January and Brussels sprouts in February.

You probably also know that eating seasonally, just like eating locally, can be beneficial to your health because it necessitates variety, and that it can also be good for the planet because it reduces shipping.

But have you ever considered that it can also be a boon to your wallet?

Seasonal items are cheaper because they’re more plentiful and frequently require shorter shipping distances (think of those January blueberries, typically coming to your local grocer from South America).

Buying seasonally is a tried-and-true trick among chefs. Not only does it allow them to offer variety on their menus, but it helps them to keep down costs so their rate of return on dishes is higher. It’s a trick you can use at home to help you keep your food budget in check.

Christine Nunn, executive chef at Picnic on the Square, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, and author of The Preppy Cookbook, said seasonal items are very important at her restaurant and when cooking at home.

“Summer is a dream time to get great bargains, and better produce, at both the grocery store and at the numerous farmer’s markets that are sprouting up like weeds throughout the country,” Nunn said.

“At my restaurant … and as well as at home (and especially at my lake house), seasonal vegetables are the star of the plate. Spring onions, first-of-the-crop Swiss Chard, and of course, the gorgeous tomatoes that grow in my home state of New Jersey are always a hit, with minimal cooking.”

Squash, Squash, Squash

Chef Nunn’s favorite, though, is the summer squash and, of course, squash blossoms.

“The yellow squash turn a gorgeous bright yellow with streaks of orange and green that make a great presentation when cooked lightly, as it should be,” she said.

A great use for the green summer squash, or zucchini, is in a quick deconstructed ratatouille, Nunn suggested.

“Also, if you simply take a wide peeler, and lay the squash on a cutting board, you can easily create beautiful, colorful squash ribbons that can be sautéed in either butter or olive oil for about two minutes,” she said. “Add some fines herbs, a quick squirt of lemon juice and some salt, then top either chicken or fish with the squash.”

There are plenty of other great seasonal items you should be on the lookout for this June. These are Chef Nunn’s personal favorites:

  • Patty-pan squash
  • Jersey tomatoes
  • Corn
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raniere cherries
  • Garlic scapes
  • Candy stripe beets
  • Peas
  • Cranberry beans
  • Snap beans
  • Ipswich clams
  • Summer fluke
  • Wild, striped bass
  • Soft-shell crabs
  • Scallops
  • Maine lobster

[Editor’s note: Keeping a budget, especially for groceries, will allow you to start saving money, pay down bills, consolidate debt and reach your financial goals. A sound management plan can also alleviate debt. If you’re trying to cut down your spending and want to see its affect on your credit, you can get two free credit scores every month on Credit.com.]

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10 Healthy Grocery Store Hacks

healthy_eating

If you’re like most Americans, one of the biggest line items on your monthly budget is food. We all need to eat, right? One of the biggest and most common misconceptions is that eating healthy means spending a fortune at the grocery store. With the right strategy, you can save money and improve your diet. These healthy grocery store hacks will help.

1. Stick to the Perimeter of the Store

Have you ever realized that healthy items are kept on the outer perimeter of the store and that junk food is in the aisles? A really easy hack for spending less on food is to stick to the perimeter and avoid getting sucked into the aisle abyss where prepared foods live. By doing this, you’ll only buy whole foods that are fresh and healthy. There is one exception: the frozen section. It can be good to have some frozen vegetables or seafood on hand.

2. Shop at Ethnic and Discount Stores

Many times, shopping at ethnic stores is much less expensive than big name grocers or specialty stores. As a bonus, they have a wide variety of items that are likely healthier than what you’d encounter at a typical American supermarket. If you don’t have one nearby, search for a discount supermarket like Aldi. You won’t find name brand items there, but think of it as an experiment in saving money.

3. Prepare a Meal Plan

Meal planning can be used for healthy shopping, too! It can be even more beneficial, as you want to make sure you’re filling up on the right kinds of food. You’ll want a decent amount of protein, vegetable, meat or both, depending on your dietary preferences, in your cart so you don’t get hungry in between meals. Some people have more success eating six small meals per day — shop accordingly.

4. Use Coupons

Typically, there aren’t many coupons for healthy food in the paper, but there are other places you can look. Whole Foods has an entire online sales flyer, complete with coupons. They may be stuck on a board at the front of the store as well. Other stores have point-of-purchase coupons you should watch for, and it doesn’t hurt to look for coupons or discounts on packages, either. If food is close to expiring, the store may have a discount coupon sticker on it. If you can gobble it up quickly or create a meal later that day with it, take advantage of your good fortune.

5. Compare Prices

It always pays to compare items and prices between stores. I used to shop at Whole Foods, but there was a Trader Joe’s in the shopping center right across the street. It afforded me the perfect opportunity to compare prices between the two if they carried the same type of item. The “healthy” aisle in your local grocery store may be a great option, too.

6. Buy Store Brand

Many stores have been quick to create their own “healthy” brand when it comes to organic foods, and like any store brand item, they’re usually cheaper than the competition. You can give these a try before you buy the high-end brands. You might be surprised at the quality.

7. Buy Whole, Not Pre-Packaged

It’s easy to fall for the “convenience” trap, but it’s always going to be the most expensive option. You’re better off buying kale, romaine or iceberg lettuce than the salad bag kit. You should try to stay away from the ready-to-go salad that costs almost as much as a salad in a restaurant.

Another good example is buying pre-cut fruit and vegetables. It might save you a little time, but how hard is it to chop everything up? Do it all at once and then put it in a container so it’s ready to go for your next meal or snack.

8. Buy in Bulk

Warehouse clubs can save you a lot of money if you know your prices. Buying items like beans, oats, nuts or meat in bulk can be worth it if you have the storage.

9. Buy in Season

You might love strawberries, but the price isn’t as loveable when they’re not in season. It goes without saying, but it’s often not worth buying produce when it isn’t in season. Besides the cost, it won’t be as fresh, as it likely traveled very far to get to your store. You can try a local farmer’s markets for alternatives.

10. Don’t Always Buy Organic

It’s tempting to think you should always buy organic because our minds automatically equate that word to “healthy,” but there are times when it can be unnecessary. For fruits and vegetables with thick skin, such as mangoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes and avocados, you can often get away with non-organic. Fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides include apples, spinach, celery, cucumbers and grapes. For a full list, you can check with the Environmental Working Group.

It’s not hard to shop for healthy food and spend less as long as you’re strategic about it. Hopefully these 10 hacks will help you save more and eat better.

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