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Let’s face it: we’re not perfect. Some of us are just starting our real food journey. Sometimes we need a break from the kitchen. Sometimes we’re in a phase of life where we can’t do everything and some convenience is helpful. Last week we talked about 10 things you shouldn’t buy at the store. And while generally, buying packaged and pre-made foods is not the best plan, sometimes we just need a break. Today we’re going to look at 10 items that are okay to buy from the store.
Keep in mind most of these are not excellent nutrition or perfect options. I’m not recommending a steady diet of store-bought foods. But when you just need something easy, these are some better options.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with cheese (as long as it’s actual cheese — not “cheese food product”). Although normal store-bought cheese won’t be grass-fed or raw, at least it’s a real food. Plus you can serve it simply in slices or cubes, on crackers, or in sandwiches. We rely on cheese a lot when I don’t want to cook or we’re out and about. Look for hormone-free varieties, which can be found in most grocery stores. Imported cheeses are often grass-fed and raw even if they don’t explicitly say so (I have found these at Costco).
2) Frozen fruit and vegetables
These are so helpful for a wide variety of meals. Frozen veggies go into soups, as part of a stir-fry, or served as a side dish. Frozen fruit can go into smoothies, be an “as is” snack (especially for teething babies), or even make a quick fruit salad. I always have these on hand (choosing organic where the fruits/veggies are on the ‘dirty dozen’ list). These are great any time, really, and are not much of a compromise (especially off season).
Okay, they aren’t nourishing. But they usually have few ingredients and no preservatives. I like to buy them every now and then if we’re having a rough time, and serve them with cheese and meat. Perfect meal? No. But it gets the kids fed and makes them happy. Just make sure to check the ingredients because a few brands have corn syrup or soy in them, but most don’t.
4) “Natural” Macaroni and Cheese
Any brand that has actual pasta and cheese in it is okay. I found the Annie’s organic in a big box at Costco cheaply. A 15-count box lasted us two months (and I’m a little sad that wasn’t longer, honestly). Make it with real butter and whole milk (ignore the instructions; use 4 tbsp. butter and 2 – 4 tbsp. whole milk) and add some ground beef or cooked chicken and it’s not too bad. Pair it with some steamed veggies and fruit slices and you’ve got a pretty healthy meal.
5) Sourdough bread
Sometimes we all just need a little bread! Sourdough is the one type that’s usually safe, because it has minimal ingredients and it naturally lasts longer due to the soured grains. Make grilled cheese or other sandwiches, serve bread and butter, or even hot sandwiches or stuffing! It’s an easy meal component.
6) Yogurt (plain)
I like to buy either Trader Joe’s European style or Dannon plain, because both of these brands are only cultured milk. They don’t have pectin or guar gum or any of those additives. Dannon can be found at any store. Just make sure it’s whole milk and plain. This can be eaten plain (add a little fruit and honey if desired) or add to smoothies. It’s nourishing and easy, and if you get brave, you can use either as a starter culture to make your own yogurt at home.
7) “Natural” lunch meat
Look for brands like Applegate farms — ones that are free of nitrites, nitrates, and other preservatives. Use them to make sandwiches or just to eat plain. My kids love uncured pepperoni and cheese slices. Add a banana and you have lunch.
8) “Natural” hot dogs
These, too, are awesome. Look for brands that are uncured and free of nitrites. Serve on a slice of sourdough, mix into mac’n'cheese, or just serve plain. You can even make pigs-in-blankets (and they can be made ahead of time and frozen) for an easy lunch on the go.
Look for crackers with minimal ingredients, and no soy or canola. Many health food stores have decent ones. Serve with cheese and/or lunch meat for a quick meal. If you can eat it, add some nut butters too (another item you can buy at the store — just make sure it only contains nuts. You can add honey and sea salt at home if you like).
10) Brown rice pasta
If all else fails, have pasta for dinner. Brown rice is low in phytates and phytic acid, so if it doesn’t get soaked, it’s not a tragedy (that’s why you should choose it). Pair with meat and sauce, or have BLT pasta (I’ve been making that for lunch lately). There are lots of ways to serve pasta with nourishing ingredients! You can buy regular brown rice, too, and use that for stir-fry or Mexican Rice.
With these simple ingredients, you can make food very quickly and easily, that is not too bad! It’s good to know there are options on days when you are busy or sick or just plain tired.