How To Be Confident When Grocery Shopping For Your Family

“Wouldn’t it be great if you had a trusted field guide who could take you by the hand and walk you through every aisle of the grocery store, explain the health benefits and concerns of each food group, and then offer tips for selecting the best, most nutritious variety of each?”

 How to feed your family real food and be confident about it

Feeding our families is tricky business today. As I sit here writing this, I’m overwhelmed. What questions should I highlight in this piece? 

“Is it better to buy organic or local?”
“What foods are on the dirty dozen list again?”
“Should we buy cage-free or grass-fed?”
“The packaging looks 'green' and healthy, and it says it’s 'made with natural ingredients,' but it uses partially hydrogenated oils—didn’t I read that those are unhealthy?”
“This product says it’s organic, but it has 23 grams of sugar in it—that can’t be good, right?”
“Or,” and this is a big one in our house, “how do we store these very expensive organic blueberries? Last time they spoiled so quickly.” 

The Real Food Grocery Guide isn’t going to answer every possible question, but it will give you a solid base of information so you can be confident about what you’re feeding your family.

The author, Maria Marlowe, is a certified integrative nutrition health coach who wrote The Real Food Grocery Guide to “serve as the manual I wish I had when I was making the switch to real, nourishing foods that support health—the stuff our bodies were actually designed to eat in the first place.”

Here are three areas that I found most beneficial.

1. The section on produce has been a game-changer for me and is the reason I decided to buy this book. I read an advanced digital copy last summer via NetGalley, and when I got to the produce section, I knew I had to own a hard copy of this book. My daughter loves fruits and vegetables and is always willing to experiment with new foods. But we’ll often stand in the produce section with puzzlement. If we want to buy papaya, what do we look for? Well, Marlowe tells us to look at the color. It should be mostly yellow or orange-yellow. The body should have a slight give, but the neck should be firm. Brown spots on the skin won’t affect the flavor. She also tells us the most nutritious varieties to purchase, how to store it (properly storing produce is a big money-saver), and even how to cut it up and eat it.

2. Buying fresh food and eating healthy can feel expensive. Marlowe offers many ideas for saving money while shopping for healthy foods. Two online options that were new to me were and

3. Oils—Cooking with oils has befuddled me for years. (Please don’t laugh—I really don’t enjoy cooking.) I know that vegetable oil is bad for you and olive oil is good for you. But you can’t cook with olive oil because it has a low smoke point. (What is a smoke point anyway?) Marlowe answers that question and walks you through all the different kinds of oils, what to use when, and what phraseology to look for on the label.

4. The last section that I think is super helpful is the chapter on packaged foods. In this chapter, Marlowe defines the buzzwords that often show up on the packaging. What do labels such as Fair Trade, Local, and Natural mean and how does it affect the food we’re buying?

She also explains why it’s better to read the ingredients list when you are deciding if a food meets your standards for healthy eating. She also includes a large graphic of a Nutrition Facts panel that breaks down what all the sections mean.

I purchased the physical copy of The Real Food Grocery Guide because I love physical books, but it might be better to own the ebook version. Then you can pull it up on your phone when you are standing in the grocery store trying to remember what fresh okra should look like.

You can purchase your copy of The Real Food Grocery Guide at Amazon.

Do you have a favorite book that helps you with healthy-eating? Please let me know in the comments. I’m always looking to add to my TBR list.

Book Review: The Dinner Plan

The Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies for Every Schedule

By: Kathy Brennan and Cardine Campion

Reader Problem: You are in need of dinner ideas that suit *your* schedule.

Solution: The Dinner Plan. A cookbook written by two women who understand the struggles the modern family faces in dinner time prep.

The Dinner Plan has 135 recipes and the cookbook is divided into Main Dishes and Sides Dishes. It’s then further divided into Fish & Shellfish, Chicken & Turkey, Beef & Pork, Eggs, Rice, & Meatless, Pasta, and Soups, Sandwiches, & Dinner Salads. The Sides are divided into Vegetables, and Starches & Grains. There is also a section called The Forgotten Meal which is the snack kids eat between school and dinner. 

The Dinner Plan || One Book Blog

Brennan & Campion have created 5 categories of meals.

  • Make-Ahead—Dinners that can be put together in advance when you have a bit of extra time.
  • Staggered—Meals that reheat well and can be eaten by family members at various times in the evenings when everyone is going in different directions.
  • One-Dish—Meals that can be made in one dish. (Those are a big hit in my house because the kids appreciate not having 6 different pots to clean up after dinner.)
  • Pantry—Meals that can be made with items that are standard in most pantries. 
  • Extra-Fast—Dinners that take 30 minutes or less. 
  • Each recipe in the book is tagged with at least one of the five categories. Some fit into multiple categories. For example, Creamy Lentils is tagged with the Make-Ahead & Staggered labels, fulfilling 2 categories.A few recipes fit all categories. Skillet Chicken Parm is a recipe that is tagged Make-Ahead, Staggered, One-Dish, Pantry, and Extra-Fast. That would be a great recipe to have on hand.

One thing I found particularly useful was the instructions and photos for spatchcocking a chicken. I’m not much of a cook but I have been wanting to try this method for some time. And I think with these instructions and pictures, I’m going to be able to do so.

In addition to teaching us how to spatchcock a chicken, there are other additions, such as:

  • 10 Gadgets for Greater Kitchen Efficiency
  • Home Alone—Meals from the book that you might enjoy cooking just for yourself.
  • Celery Matters—On celery
  • Lifesavers—Condiments to dress up a dish.
  • The New Dinner Party—Tips for a great dinner party
  • Playing With Proportions—Increasing the veggie to meat ratio in your meals
  • And several others.

I’ll be honest. It’s not a cookbook I would purchase for myself, simply because I’m not fond of cooking and cookbooks are not my thing. But if you are into cooking, the recipes look mouth-watering (the photography is great!) and the way the book is organized will be very useful to the home cook who is looking for some new recipes to try.

The Dinner Plan is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.