A Little Look Into Groceries

June 8th, 2009 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

Man, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. As an enthusiastic veg*n, a sustainable/whole foods advocate, a food systems activist, keeper of my very own food forest and cooker of all things herbivorous . . . I tend to have food on the brain. Um, also, I just really like to EAT!

And as a food blogger, I receive a lot of inquiry. People often ask about where and how I shop, whether it’s organic, tips for eating better and tricks for spending less – those sorts of standard questions. But beyond that, a number of readers have asked that I share my actual grocery list. What a wonderful idea!

The problem is, I don’t do the weekly shopping thing like normal people seem to. We live near a local produce market, a Trader Joe’s, and our co-op, so dinner depends on that day’s discounted produce. Yes, I check the market daily (while walking the dogs), and then plan my meals accordingly, on the spot. It’s cheap and exciting, but may not be for everyone.

But we do have our staples, those foundational foods we eat again and again. And every few months (maybe 4-6 times/year) we seem to run out of everything, all at once. So that’s when I get to go grocery shopping — JOY!

Carefully, I comb through my cupboards, fridge, and freezer, marking what’s missing and what’s running low. I compile a comprehensive list, I ponder our possible near-future needs, and then I gather my shopping supplies. 

When I go grocery shopping, I do it up right. It’s an event, and a cherished one. Hours. Dollars. I spend most of my time and money supporting my co-op, but I’ll also swing by Trader Joe’s for a few of their name-brand über-bargains (for example Earthbalance™, Larabar™, and delicious organic fair trade coffee). I buy almost exclusively organic – I’d say 95%. Some things, like black olives and water chestnuts and a few other tinned items, I haven’t found an organic source for. But otherwise I’m always willing to pay a bit more. Honestly, the financial disparity is negligible, and it’s such an important investment!

So, what am I buying?

BASICS! Whole foods. Items with one (or few) ingredient(s). Real food. Like . . .


Sayward’s Grand Grocery List – Summer ’09

  • whole wheat flour
  • unbleached bread flour
  • rapid rise yeast
  • evaporated can sugar
  • brown sugar
  • powdered sugar
  • raw cacao
  • oat bran
  • falafel
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • dried chickpeas
  • dried pinto beans
  • dried black beans
  • green lentils
  • whole wheat spaghetti
  • whole wheat penne
  • nutritional yeast
  • popcorn kernels
  • raw walnuts
  • raw cashews
  • pumpkin seeds
  • raisins
  • dried cherries
  • dark chocolate bar
  • peanut butter
  • apricot jam
  • Larabars
  • olive oil
  • peanut oil
  • canola oil
  • sesame oil
  • spray cooking oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • tamari
  • raw agave
  • molasses
  • maple syrup
  • pickles
  • kalamata olives
  • black olives
  • water chestnuts
  • coffee
  • Earl Grey
  • Jasmine Green tea
  • curry paste (local brand, green and Panang flavors)
  • Earthbalance™
  • silken tofu
  • fancy salt
  • liquid castile soap
  • toilet paper


Supplemented with seasonal fresh produce, this will probably last us well into Autumn. It’s almost all bulk-bought, which requires some foresight. This is what I bring on my great grocery voyage:


img_0646Canvas totes, re-used bags for bulk dried goods, and re-used tubs for bulk liquids

I also pack a pad of paper for notes and calculations, stickers and a pen for careful labeling (you don’t want to be charged for pricey Himalayan salt if you’ve opted for Celtic crystal instead, and you don’t want to get home and accidentally pour powdered sugar into your flour canister!), and a pocket full of clipped coupons.

My groceries may seem simple, but I wield a well-stocked spice cupboard and a slew of secondhand gizmos and gadgets. I’m well prepared to take the mundane and make them magical. And I do! I cook from scratch, all the time, and though it may sound overwhelming or time consuming or even crazy – I promise it’s practical. YOU can do it! But we’ll leave that for another post . . .  

Now tell me, what does your grocery list look like?


  • http://www.annechristensen.com/ Anne

    I think that’s a pretty good grocery list, a great way to start and just add seasonal fruit and veggies. I must say I always feel I spend a fortune on groceries and I don’t ever feel I bring home much FOOD.. I don’t get it..? $60 at a grocery store weekly and that’s excluding my weekly trip to our local farmer’s market where I easily blow through $20 for vegetables mainly. That’s without much fruit or any meat. I buy soymilk ($3.50/trying to cut down on my dairy intake) and free range organic eggs ($5) just because I feel like an asshole for buying cheaper eggs from poorly treated chickens! Otherwise I don’t buy a lot of fancy stuff, no ready made foods. But it’s still a fortune!
    Here’s a thing that I’m very curious about; I like way different foods than my husband does and that sometimes makes grocery shopping and cooking kind of..a problem. I like fresh fruit and vegs, could easily live without meat, and have an affinity for grainy and ‘healthy’ types of foods. He likes meat and dairy and is just not really into ‘healthy’ foods *sigh*. How do you work this out? Cook for 2 people all the time? I’ve lately looked into the raw food diet, and think I would really like – my husband would probably rather die than go raw. Hmmm..any thoughts?

  • Jenny B.

    We are about 95 percent organic too
    We do a CSA farm share and grow our own for veggies and fruits
    we have chickens for eggs
    From the Store:
    Sunflower butter, chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, mixture of dried beans, all raw; almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, whole wheat bread, whole wheat speggetti, raisons, apple sauce, soy yogurt, tofu, almond milk (unless I make myself) and I do buy morning star veggie sausage patties for our 4 year old, which I am always feeling guilty about.

    I wanted to share an amazing super easy recipe with you guys,

    Banana Walnut Pancakes:

    1 banana, 1/4 c walnuts, 1/4 tea cinn, 2 eggs

    beat eggs, finely chop walnuts or put in a food processor, mush up banana (this is perfect for bananas almost going bad) mix everything in a bowl together, use oilve oil as needed serve w/ maple syrup or/and fresh fruit. while cooking pancakes My 4 year old could eat this all day and so could my husband:)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Anne – I feel ya on the price of food. Especially in the last year or so, prices have *skyrocketed*. The only thing I can suggest is to not have a preconception of what you will buy/eat, browse as often as possible (like I said, I check in daily at my market), and shop sales. I’m going to expand on this is the future, but I think that’s generally a great way to cut costs.
    As far as differing spousal palates . . . that’s tough! In my own experience, my husband was eating at Taco Bell daily when we started dating, and now, a few years later, he hasn’t (and will not) touched fast food in ages! We went veg*n from full on carnies about a year ago, and in just that short time his tastes have changed *dramatically*. I’m not saying that everyone will have such an 180º transition, but I do KNOW that it is possible for tastes to change – especially when an ‘unhealthy’ body begins to be nourished. The tongue will catch up!
    As far as ideas, I still eat a lot more raw foods than my husband, so something I like to do is cook us a main dish and a salad. So for example, I’ll make nom nom sloppy bean and spanish rice burritos, which he loves, with a side salad. He’ll eat a big burrito with a small salad, and I’ll eat a GIANT salad, with just some beans and rice sprinkled on top. That way we both win, we both get delicious and healthy foods, etc. This concept also works great with pastas, stews (soup and bread is D’s fave, but think there are ‘soup people’ and ‘not-soup people’), potato dishes, etc. There are tons of omni-friendly ‘healthy’ meals (think about saucy foods that will take over the flavor), like stir fries, Thai curries, Indian stewy dishes, stuff like that. Another great trick for getting whole grains into the diet is to make rice that’s half (or even 3/4) white rice and the rest brown rice. Ease it in slowly!
    Wow, I’m totally rambling. I could do a whole post on this. Hope this has helped!

    @ Jenny B. – Wow, we eat REALLY similarly! =D
    Thanks so much for the recipe! I *love* bananas and am always looking for fun ways to serve them. Thanks!

  • Allison

    That was so fun reading your list. You and I buy almost exactly the same things. Throw in some tahini for hummus and I’m good. I noticed your bag is the People’s Food Co-Op. Would that happen to be the one in Ocean Beach?

  • Meghan

    I tend to plan out a menu for the week and then buy whatever I need for that… but sometimes I get derailed if something is onsale that I didn’t expect, or if the cart at my local grocery store where they put all of the slightly-off produce is full of treasures. I do live within walking distance of several stores and could probably just buy things each day, but I’m afraid I would spend WAY more money that way, and it seems like I tend to spend a ton on food as it is (and I don’t even buy organic for most things… mostly just milk and cheese for my husband!)

  • http://sustainablesourcing.com/ Michelle

    Wow,that’s quite the list! I like to get my salt and peppercorns online @ http://sustainablesourcing.com/

  • Kat

    Well, I found my way back to your site again, and this time with a few more veg*n questions! I’m lucky enough to still have my parents paying for food, and in return I cook lots of veggie-heavy meals (there’s now 3 of them in the house avoiding carbs, and one “vegetarian” living with us who basically avoids red meat — She eats chicken, fish, and dairy) and I keep the fruit basket stocked with whatever I think people will eat (currently bananas, golden kiwis, and white nectarines).

    First off… I don’t get the whole grain thing. I’ve used bulgar wheat a couple times, and I get that you can cook quinoa like rice. But what about sprouting, or “raw” forms of grains? How do you start to incorporate things like that into a diet, and perhaps more importantly, how do you prepare it in such a way as to get picky “steak and taters” guys into it?

    Second off… I would like to try going as vegan as possible as a trial-run. I eat reasonably healthy (with the exception of not getting enough dietary fat, but snacking on avocados is helping with that)… But I simply can’t follow most vegan guidelines. I’m hypoglycemic and need a reasonably concentrated form of protein every 3-4 hours (I buy “orphan” cheeses from the baby basket at Whole Foods for this), have hormone issues where I can’t have any soy or soy-based foods, and am allergic to hemp. (No Dr. Bronner’s for me!) Do you think there’s a feasible, healthy way for me to get away from red meat, commercial soap, and my reliance on dairy? And, on that topic, do you have an opinion on the dangers of soy? I know what it does to MY body, and why I can’t handle it, but I’m still not convinced that it’s the great evil it’s made out to be.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Allison – Yes, tahini! I always have some around (I love hummus!), and I didn’t need any on this particular shopping excursion. But I’m with you there – it’s a staple! =)

    My People’s co-op is in Portland, Oregon. There’s one in Ocean Beach? I wonder if they are related . . . ?

    @ Meghan – I wrote a bit about the ‘off’ produce method you mentioned, which I think is THE BEST way to feed yourself on a budget. Other than that, I don’t shop daily for things like dried goods and shelf-stable items. I’ll replace something if I really need it, like cooking oil, but if it’s a specific veggie or spice or sauce or something, I try to just make due with what I have on hand. Lots of substitutions – lots of creativity!

    @ Michelle – Are you a robot or a real person, haha? Couldn’t tell, but let it through, meh . . .

    @ Kat – Congrats for influencing your family! That’s awesome, for them and for the animals. =)

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say you don’t ‘get’ the grains thing. Are you wondering how to incorporate cooked grains, or just raw sprouted ones? If it’s cooked let me know and I’ll give a more thorough response. For raw, well I wrote a tutorial on sprouting that introduces the technique. There’s a couple of recipes in there as well. As far as SAD-style omnivores enjoying a sprouted raw grain dish . . . well honestly, that might be a hard sell. If you’re not accustomed to healthy foods, your palate will have trouble enjoying them, unfortunately. I’m sure in dealing with your family, you’re familiar with this phenomenon . . .

    Firstly, YES you can be a healthy vegan without eating soy. Definitely! Here’s how you kill two birds with one stone (what a horrible expression, eh?) – nuts! They’ll help you add some of that super-healthy fat, and they’re also a great form of protein. Nuts are soooo good for you, and they are tasty! Try keeping baggies of nuts mixed with your favorite dried fruit on hand. It’s a great source of protein + carbs for that low-blood sugar kick, and totally yummy. PB/almond butter/other nut butter sandwiches or hummus snacks can also be great for quick easy protein.

    For soap, there’s tons of vegan soaps that are also free of hemp and soy. Trader Joe’s even carries a few, I think. I’m sure you can find them online.

    My thoughts on soy are that it’s fine in moderation and in it’s whole food form. A bit of daily tofu, tempeh, or soy milk, is not going to harm anyone. BUT, ‘isolated soy proteins’ and other forms of highly processed soy are cropping up in everything. It’s in almost all processed, pre-packaged food, it makes up the bulk of most fast food ‘meat’, it’s so ubiquitous it’s like HFCS. That much of anything is not okay. But if people are avoiding processed food and using a bit of whole soy products, along with a varied and balanced plant based diet, I have no concern at all. I use soy like that myself!

    Hope that answers your questions. Let me know if you’d like me to expand on anything. =)

  • http://www.annechristensen.com/ Anne

    Thanks for the thoughts on sharing the different kinds of food, it was very inspiration and encouraging for me. I spent the past couple of days pondering what you’d said and how to work it into my life and I’m actually looking forward to it! So thank!
    Kat – I have to watch my blood sugar too, and always have crackers and nuts around. All you have to make sure of is that it’s high in fiber and low in added sugars and the wrong kinds of fat. Dried fruit releases super fast into your bloodstream and will give you a sugar high, but also the sugar low.
    I eat these crackers as snacks: http://www.ggbrancrispbread.com/ (it’s so dry you probably want to eat it with something or you might choke!). Bananas are great too.
    You might also find inspiration here for a diet that works with your blood sugars: http://www.the-gi-diet.org/
    Hmm..now that I’ve linked *twice* I don’t actually know if that’s even ok to do? Yes/No to outside links? :)

  • Allison

    Yes there is a People’s Co-Op in Ocean Beach. I have only been there once as it is about a 20-30 minute drive there from my house. I was so amazed that they had self serve honey that you could put into your own mason jar. I really wish I lived closer so that I could shop there daily but for now I live on farmers market produce which can be a little expensive but makes me feel good about what I am eating. I usually only go to the one on Sunday and so I have to make my produce last a week, but some of it lasts even longer than that and I freeze a lot of my fruit for smoothies. I am so jealous you live in Portland. When I was young my aunt and uncle lived in Oregon and ever since I went to visit them I have wanted to move there. I think it is the fact that both of their houses had wild blackberries growing all over the place!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com Sayward

    @ Anne – Thanks for the advice, and yup, linking is fine as long as it’s in the right context. ;)

    @ Allison – Haha, there are wild blackberries growing *everywhere* here, even on the busy city streets. It’s pretty awesome. =)


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