More savvy shopping: tactics for buying right

At the butcher


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how to be a savvy shopper and I included shopping lists and tips on how to make food shopping (and cooking) easier and more enjoyable.  

How to be a savvy shopper  

Today, I am revisiting some of this, with particular emphasis on what to look out for when choosing food.  

Let’s face it, what you want for yourself and your family and what the food manufacturers and marketeers want are invariably two different things!  

This means that you have to plan food shoppingscrutinize food labels, read between the lines and take most health claims with a pinch of salt.  

Here’s brief guide to the most commonly used marketing slogans and “emotives” – and what they really mean.  

Get label savvy  

The good news is that there is plenty of choice, even in supermarkets. If you add in what  independent food shops (such as bakers, fishmongers, butchers and green grocers), (farmers) markets, specialist food shops and health food stores have to offer. it really is not that difficult, with a little knowledge and planning, to fill your kitchen cupboards with delicious, nutritious foods.  

Off the back of a van ...


Here are my savvy tips for navigating the aisles …  

1. Make a list and stick to it  

For fruit and veg and other fresh produce, use generic terms so you don’t limit yourself and you can buy what looks good. Don’t put anything in your trolley or basket that was not on the list, unless of course you genuinely forgot to add it. If you are shopping with your child you could write the list together. Don’t give in to tantrums for sweets, biscuits etc.: it shows your child that this is the way to get what it wants. Not a good thing in life!  

2.  Avoid foods that contain added sugar  

Read the label: this includes honey, syrup, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, maltose and other “-oses”. Sugars that won’t play havoc with your blood sugar levels include fructose and blue agave syrup, but only choose products where these sugars make up a very small proportion of the ingredients.  

3. Avoid foods that contain additives, preservatives and other chemicals  

To make this easier, carry a list of good E numbers:  

colours: E101 = vit B2, E106 = vit A  

antioxidants: E300-304 = vit C, E306-309 = vit E  

emulsifier: E322 = lecithin  

stabilisers: E375 = niacin, E440 – pectin  

As a rule of thumb, natural, wholefoods have a very short list of ingredients. More importantly, if you don’t recognise an ingredient as “food” or you feel you need a chemistry degree to understand the food label, than give this product a wide berth!  

3. Avoid processed juice and fruit juice drinks  

Don’t be fooled by the manufacturers’ claims that the drink has been “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. These products are in essence no more than sugary water and have little or no nutritional value. If you buy fruit juice, stick to freshly squeezed products in the chilled cabinet with a short shelf life.  

4. Choose wholefoods over refined and processed  

This means brown rice, wholegrain bread, whole vegetables not ready prepared, a lettuce instead of ready-washed salad leaves. This is not only cheaper, no vital nutrients will have been lost in preparation.  

Don’t be fooled into thinking organic processed foods are fine; the ingredients used may be better quality, from certified origin and E number free but organic squash, pizza, crisps or cake are still squash, pizza, crisps and cake – and probably laden with fat and sugar which add nothing to a healthy diet.  

5. Watch out for 95% fat free!  

Fat phobia is misguided, it is the type of fat that counts. These low fat products invariably have sugar, + other things, added to make tem “tasty”. Also, avoid reduced fat products where the real thing is naturally high in fat. For example butter: check to see what’s been added instead.  

6. Variety is the spice of life!  

And the key to good nutrition … and it makes meal times more interesting. Have you tried bulghur wheat, quinoa, beetroot or sprouted seeds?  

What steps can you take this week to make lasting changes to the way you shop for food?  

Do you want some help? Or share with me one thing you would like to change in your environment to enable you to shop more healthily?  

Leave a comment or contact me at  or  

Happy shopping!  


One response to “More savvy shopping: tactics for buying right

  1. Brilliant aide memoire of natural e-numbers from @stefangates!
    Natural #Es: E160a comes from carrots, MSG sugar beet, E150a sugar, E140 grass, E100 turmeric, E160c Paprika, E160d tomatoes, E162 beetroot.
    Add to my list of good E numbers for super savvy shopping!

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