Ahhh…the local food market, something I should go to more often myself.
An over abundance of generally local, in-season, often organic, sometimes biodiverse and always a variety of very healthful foods.
I’m fortunate enough to live in Vancouver and have access to the famous Granville Island Market.
It’s unfortunate though that many people view the slight increase in cost you’ll find at a market, as a burden towards eating healthfully.
You don’t however, absolutely need to go down to the farmers market once or twice a week, to eat healthfully. You can easily find some healthful foods walking the perimeter of your local grocery store too.
Instead, I like to view it as a treat to head down there and find the items on our grocery list.
The Grocery List
One of the most important habits I’ve discovered towards weight loss and management is that of the weekly grocery list.
I started doing this habitually about 4 years ago, and it works like a charm to plan your meals out a week in advance.
I’ve heard a lot of people refer to this as ‘The Sunday Ritual,’ because for most people the most convenient day of the week to do this is Sunday, but you can really do it any day of the week.
Years ago, we used to head to the grocery store weekly with an eye for what’s on sale, or what we feel like at the time, often trying to craft recipes in our heads with what we’ll do with it all.
We’d load the cart up with good foods still, buying bags of peppers, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, apples, fresh fruit and lean proteins.
The problem was that we would often over-buy, so things would go to waste, we’d have to stuff our groceries into the fridge somehow (no small feat when you live in 630 square ft…).
The second problem was that we’d have to figure out each and every night what we were going to cook, scouring cookbooks, or often ‘winging’ it, dinner would often take fifteen to twenty minutes longer to complete.
More frequently we would get to the end of the week and find that we had stuff left that didn’t really go well together too.
The solution was simple, make a grocery list a weekly ritual.
Once a week, we sit down for fifteen minutes with one or two cookbooks — we have at least 20-25 to choose from, it’s taken years to find really good ones, a few of which I’ll share below — and draw up a grocery list, picking anywhere from 4-7 recipes typically depending on our plans for the upcoming week, the size of the meals and how much food we still have left in the fridge or freezer.
You could start with one or two days and see how it goes...
Typically we pick a different protein for every meal — though sometimes there is overlap — and one to three veggie dishes, depending on the recipe size and variety of that dish.
We’ve also discovered that we prefer — to keep things quicker and more simple — to choose one simple dish and one more complicated dish.
For example, if the protein dish is complicated perhaps we’ll make a simple broccoli, tamari, sesame oil/seed side dish, or steamed cauliflower with salsa, or fresh salad.
This may work the other way too, perhaps the veggie dish is something a little more complicated, so we do something easy like pork or beef tenderloin on the BBQ or dijon roasted salmon or seared tuna.
Two of the easiest combinations:
1) Salads with Lean Protein – Spinach/Apple/Quinoa/Walnut Salad with Turkey Sausage for instance.
An easy way to go here is pick a leafy green — grab one of those pre-washed packages even — with a fruit, a handful of nuts, and an additional veggie (bell pepper, cucumber, etc…) and a lean protein.
Make a quick dressing combining some mustard, with 1:1 quantities of any healthful oil (olive, walnut, flax, avocado, etc…) and any vinegar (apple cider, red wine, white, rice, etc…).
The mustard acts as an emulsifier, which helps easily combine the vinegar and oil upon stirring.
2) One Pot Meals – Casseroles, Chili, Stews, Stir-Fries and Curries would all fall into this category, typically you have mixed in lean proteins (ground meat, or chunk meat) with lots of veggies in a 1:3 to 1:5 ratio.
Sometimes there are legumes, and an easy post-training meal is to pour these one-pot meals over 1/2 cup of a starchy carb like brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, cous cous or amaranth.
The End of the Ritual
Then we go grocery shopping, and when you know exactly what you want, you’re in and out in a flash.
When you return home, if you want to save time, then batch most of your prep work together into that same 1-2 hours on a weekend — get the kids involved!
Chop all of your veggies at once and separate them into tupperware or preferably glass containers.
That way when it’s 6 PM on Tuesday night, and you don’t feel like cooking, you can skip the prep part and just start cooking, making something that would have taken forty minutes, now twenty or twenty-five.
The second thing you can do is cook your lean proteins. We leave this as optional though.
Cooked poultry, beef, pork, bison, etc, will all keep for a reasonable amount of time in your fridge. It is easy to add to salads and one-pot meals in this form at the last minute, just to heat it up.
I like my beef and bison medium-rare though, so I cook it fresh. Meat is juicier in my opinion when cooked the day of.
I also find that cooked fish and some seafood, can really smell fishy after a while. It’ll last a few days sure, but fish just tastes better fresh and maybe the next day as a left over.
Fish and seafood also cook really quickly anyway.
- Weekly – Ritualistically, plan what you are going to eat for the upcoming week.
- Make a grocery list and aim to stick to it when you get to the grocery store
- Prep, Wash, Cut and put all of your vegetables into containers for storage in the fridge or freezer
- Prep and cook some or all of your lean proteins (Optional)
Some Recommended Cookbooks
- Gordon Ramsey’s – Healthy Appetite
- Jamie Oliver’s – Food Revolution
- Johnny Bowden’s – Healthiest Meals on Earth
- John Berardi’s – Gourmet Nutrition V.2
- Michael Smith’s – Best of Chef at Home
- Sarah Raven’s – In Season (Organized accordingly to what’s ‘in-season’, which I like)
- Claudia Roden’s – Arabesque (For great Middle Eastern/Northern African cuisine)
- Vikram Vij’s – Vij’s at Home (For great Indian cuisine…)