Shopping for REAL food at the Grocery store

So you’ve purchased as much as you can locally, but you still have to fill in some gaps to make a meal, right? That’s completely normal! I make a weekly trip to the local grocery store too!

So you’ve purchased as much as you can locally, but you still have to fill in some gaps to make a meal, right? That’s completely normal! I make a weekly trip to the local grocery store too!

Shopping at a grocery store can be tough because processed junk screams at you from every direction (yes, even at the healthiest store like Whole Foods which I hear they have great commercial refrigeration to keep all their healthy food chilled and frozen). It’s also confusing to have to choose between 6 different brands of milk or every style and flavor of yogurt you can imagine all claiming to be healthier than the next. It honestly leaves my head spinning.

I have some tips and tricks that have helped me navigate the weekly trek to the grocery store. Alright let’s begin!

Treat the inner aisles of the store like enemy territory!
That’s right! When I go to the grocery store I can usually count on the perimeter of the store having everything I need. Your store might be a little different but my loop usually goes like this:

First Stop: Produce.
When I walk through the doors of my grocery store I am greeted by the produce section. Heres what I usually purchase:

  • Apples- I try to buy these locally but they are no longer in season in Northern California and we LOVE apples. So if they look good and are priced decently I will buy them. Organic only of course because apples are on “The Dirty Dozen.”
  • Carrots-We eat a lot of carrots around here and it’s tough to keep up. I’ll buy the 5 pound bag of organic carrots because whole carrots make a delicious real food snack.
  • Sweet Potatoes- We eat sweet potato fries about once a week. We all enjoy them, especially Henri.
  • Avocados-I usually buy two or three a week. We love Mexican food around here and avocados are a wonderful healthy fat. I don’t always purchase organic because I don’t think it’s necessary but this week I did because the organic avocados looked so much better!
  • Bananas-David and I both eat a banana daily. They make a great snack for Henri too. I usually buy 12 to 14 bananas a week. If they are starting to look a little brown, I peel and slice them and stick them in a freezer bag. Perfect for a smoothie!

So that’s what I tend to buy in the produce section but of course I have more fruits and veggies I purchase from the farmers market too!

Next Stop is the MEAT COUNTER:
I usually don’t have a lot to buy here. We already have a freezer full of grass-fed beef (actually our parents freezer-thanks for helping us store it Paul and Pauline!) so I don’t buy any beef from the grocery. I also try and purchase my chicken from the Farmer’s Market but in a pinch I will buy a whole, organic chicken from the grocery store. So what do I buy on a regular basis?

  • Salmon: If the wild caught Alaskan Salmon is on sale I will purchase a couple pounds and take it home and freeze it.
  • Shrimp: Every once in awhile, as a treat, we eat some kind of shrimp dish.
  • Halibut: This week Alaskan Halibut was on sale so we bought some. David loves halibut. I’ve never cooked it at home before so i’m looking forward to trying it.

After the meat counter I move on the the DAIRY SECTION where I buy:

  • Organic Plain Whole Milk Yogurt-David eats yogurt with homemade granola almost every morning for breakfast. I buy Straus Family Creamery yogurt. I chose this brand because they are local and they allow their cows to graze on pastures instead of keeping them confined indoors all day. We purchase whole milk yogurt because the fat helps you absorb Vitamins A&D in the milk, as well as the calcium. It is also more satisfying and filling. We can eat less and feel full longer.
  • Milk: We used to purchase milk from the grocery store but we now purchase it from a local farmer. If I were to buy milk from the grocery store I would either buy Straus Family Creamery, Organic Valley grass-milk(this is different than regular Organic Valley), or Supernatural Kalona. With all of these brands I purchase the full fat variety. If these brands are not options for you I would choose milk based on the diet of the cows and the pasteurization style. Try and stay away from milk that is ultra-pasteurized because that’s just code for ultra dead. Low temperature grass fed milk is going to be your best choice.
  • Cheese: We have a seller at the farmers market who sells wonderful, raw, grass-fed cheese but it’s pricey. Because we eat SOOO much cheese we also purchase cheese from Whole Foods and Traders Joe’s. My favorite cheese is the Organic New Zealand Grass Fed Cheddar from Trader Joe’s. It’s around $4.99 a block, which is a steal. I’ll also purchase Rumiano’s Grass Fed Cheddar from Whole foods and Kerrygold Grass Fed Cheddar from Whole Foods.

And after the dairy section I turn the corner and land in the BULK SECTION of my store. Here I buy:

  • Nuts: I like to purchase a variety of nuts so we have an easy healthy snack. We usually opt for almonds, but sometimes we get walnuts or pecans.
  • Rice: I buy Organic Brown Rice in bulk. I cook it as a side at least once a week. I cook it in our homemade bone broth to add extra flavor (more to come on homemade broth!).
  • Oats: I used to buy granola in the bulk section, but I started looking carefully at the ingredients and noticed it contained lots of sugar and bad oils (vegetable, canola or soy) I didn’t want our family eating. I’ve since started making our own granola and it is super simple! Recipe to come…
  • Maple Syrup: I purchase Grade B organic maple syrup because it contains more minerals and nutrients than Grade A maple syrup.

Of course there are other items I purchase when I need them for a specific recipe like dried beans or quinoa but this list is my “usual” buys.

I also stop and grab some:

  • Salsa- We love salsa as a side on everything! I’m hoping to can my own salsa from our summer harvest of tomatoes but for now it’s a weekly purchase.
  • Tortillas: We buy the Ezekial Sprouted Grain Tortillas. Unlike most tortillas they don’t contain any gross vegetables oils and because they are sprouted they are much more digestible. Plus they are much higher in protein than traditional tortillas.

Alright, at this point I have gone around the entire perimeter of my grocery store and I’ve purchased everything I need for a week of REAL food eating. There are some things I will quickly go into enemy territory (the aisles) for such as organic spaghetti sauce or a new box of peppermint tea, but for the most part the aisles are nothing but trouble…they are just too tempting for me.

Do these tips help? Did I miss anything? Leave your comments below!


  1. Fascinating food for thought… pardon the pun! What I appreciate is you taking the time to walk us through how you actually do this… that’s what makes a good idea work.

  2. Tracy Gage

    I had a friend talk about “the outer isle” shopping about 15 years ago…have been doing it ever since. We are located in Oregon on the California border and in our neighboring town in northern California they just re-opened and expanded Wild Rivers Market. It is a super amazing place to shop healthy! Great article! A lot of people don’t understand how to eat and articles like this help. Thanks for sharing.

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