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Buying food is something most people take for granted. But could you improve your shopping skills? Could you save time and reduce your environmental impact. Here’s what some of the experts say.

Planning is half the battle

Shopping starts with good planning. “What shall we eat today?” must be one of the most frequently asked questions. But you certainly don’t want to be asking it when you’re already in the supermarket. The very best approach is to sit down once a week and draw up an eating plan for the week. It’s good to have a plan even if you don’t stick to it absolutely. Include your favourite dishes, but be adventurous and try out a couple of new dishes every week too. You can plan your shopping to include any special ingredients you need for them. When you’re planning your week’s eating you’ll want to include any food products in your store cupboard or fridge that are coming up to their best-by date. And finally it’s a good idea to know what fruit and vegetables are in season and therefore likely to be cheaper, fresher and tastier. And then it’s time to write that tried and tested shopping aid – the good old shopping list.

When you’re shopping, best buys in fruit and vegetables are usually what’s in season at the time. It will taste especially good and fresh and will probably be a lot cheaper. Local and regional products are often fresher because they haven’t spent hours and hours on the road. Buying seasonal food also means you’ll be eating an interesting and varied range of fruit and vegetables and maybe you’ll even discover products you’ve never thought to try before.

Check for freshness

Keep your eyes open and use other senses like touch and smell when you’re shopping. Fruit and vegetables should look fresh and juicy not tired and sagging. Check the cut ends of stalks, if they’re dry and withered, it’s safe to assume that it’s been a long time since that item left the farm. Leaves shouldn’t be wilted or yellowed and especially not brown and rotting. Fresh fish has clear, protruding eyes (not dull and fallen in), its skin should be covered in a transparent slime and the fish shouldn’t smell unpleasantly. Fresh pork is a deep pink colour; not pale pink or dark red.

 

Compare prices by checking the basic price. That’s the price per kilogram, litre, 100 grams or 100 millilitres which must by law be displayed on every package. This lets you compare products sold in different size packages without doing complicated mental arithmetic. It’s often more economical to buy the jumbo pack, especially of food basics like sugar or flour, but only if you’re really going to use so much; if some of it lands in the dustbin, you’ll be wasting your money not saving.

Bear in mind that cheap food could be cheap at the expense of animal welfare, environmental harm or the exploitation of people in third world countries. Consider whether you can afford fairtrade food or organically grown produce.

Source: Dr. Claudia Müller, www.aid.de