If you buy generic, opt for less expensive produce in season, or look for ways to cut your grocery bill, you are my kind of person. However, although I’m all about saving money, there are some foods I will not skimp on. Not all ingredients or all foods are created equal and sometimes as consumers we can end up paying for a lot of filler ingredients that add no value.
Sometimes I think we purchase foods out of habit because there is just so much confusing information out there when it comes to food and nutrition. Or sometimes, we have sticker shock and don’t know if the price tag is really worth it.
So today I wanted to share with you the top 5 foods you should not skimp on and why. Check it out…
This is a big one. If you’re not buying 100% maple syrup, the sticky gooey syrup you drizzle over your pancakes and waffles is actually full of artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients to make it look, taste, and smell like the real deal. Real maple syrup comes with a price tag, but that’s because of the time and effort it takes to harvest the sweetness. Can you believe it takes 40 parts maple sap to produce 1 part maple syrup? This translates to 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup annnnd the harvest season is only 4-6 weeks for most trees. That involves quite the post process after harvest while harvesters have to make the most out of the short season. I find that with the real maple syrup, it’s thicker and tastes richer (likely due to this intense process to boil off the excess liquid) and often times people use less quantity because the flavor packs so much more punch than Aunt Jemima.
First things first, always get olive oil in a dark colored bottle. The oil is sensitive to light and heat and by storing/buying it in a clear container; it decreases the shelf life and has a higher propensity to turn rancid. Also interesting, there are studies out there that show that super inexpensive olive oil brands are sometimes cut with canola or another type of oil to reduce the cost of production. Of course, we can’t tell this from looking at it so the best thing to do is choose domestic California oil (California oils consistently perform better in taste and quality tests) and look at the harvest date. Olive oil is not like wine – freshest is best(est). 😉
The nutrient density has not been shown to be different in organic vs conventional produce, but I find that with **some** products, the organic varieties simply taste better. This is true for apples. Not only are apples considered one of the dirtiest foods with many pesticides and insecticides but there is a thick waxy like coating that can be difficult to wash off with conventional apples. In organic apples, I have found the waxy coating to be minimal and it washes right off. I’ve also found the texture to be sweeter, crunchier, juicier.
Nut Butters (and unsalted nuts)
Nuts are a fantastic snack offering a hefty dose of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and micronutrients. In fact, some nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts) are some of the most nutrient dense foods containing substantial amounts of plant-based protein.
Many mainstream nut butters have palm oil, sugar, and salt added to help the nut butter have a smoother consistency. The hydrogenated oils have the most harmful effects but are added to help the peanut butter stay a particular consistency (without a layer of oil on top). I really enjoy freshly ground nut butters from grocery stores and Teddie Peanut Butter – both are free of excessive additives and do not form an oil layer.
Snacking nuts contain varying amounts of salt and often times over 200mg per 1oz serving (size of a post-it note). Also, to prevent the nuts from sticking together, you may find oil added or even a sweetener if you’ve found yourself noshing on a flavored nut. It doesn’t matter if the nuts are roasted or unroasted (I tend to prefer roasted so it has more crunch), but aim for unsalted nuts.
Baking Cocoa and Dark Chocolate
If you are a chocolate lover like me, you know there are a lot of varieties out there and it can be tempting to choose a mass produced chocolate based on the price tag, but often times there is a lot of added sugar and other additives. Sometimes there is so much other junk that the benefit of the chocolate itself has been lost. I also aim to choose chocolate that is Fair Trade …there is a whole market of communities and farmers so in debt to the chocolate industry.
What are some of your grocery splurges that you don’t think are worth skimping on? Do you opt for any of the foods I listed instead of the counterparts? I’m curious – comment below!