Food Shopping 101

Joe Holder
6 min readApr 13, 2018



You need to make a list, comparison of conventional vs organic is too simple and complicated at same damn time, buy local if you can, bring recipes, and know what you actually have in the house. Yes you can eat meat if you want, just don’t make it shitty and the main portion. Stop worrying about supplements before you figure out the basics.

Also don’t go hungry and let’s try to eat more fresh foods. Read on for more!

You’re going to spend more time eating than you are in the gym.

Most people will spend more time in the supermarket than in the gym.

Yet, while “food shopping” seems intuitive, many of us do not know how to do that let alone cook.

I linked up with Harley Viera Newton and Laura Love to go on a little food shopping adventure at a local supermarket. While both continuously put hard work in the gym (as you can see below), they often have a bit of trouble making decisions in the supermarket (let’s be honest, as we all do).

There are no magic bullets to improving your diet, just strategic action. I’ll never be a fan of excessive and blanket dietary restrictions as we’re all different but just a few ways to make your life easier and create a system of success to help you make better decisions are below.

Take Inventory

  • If you don’t know what you have in the pantry/fridge at home you’re doomed to fail. Food waste is one of the most prevalent problems currently and it often occurs simply by purchasing things we already have which can easily be avoided. Making a list of what you have in your home gives provides a clear understand of what you need to shop for while providing recipe inspo so you can use what is already present in the kitchen.

Don’t Go Hungry

  • EVER. You see the snack aisle and go crazy. Make impulse decisions. Probably a little angry so you just rush through shopping and then forget the most important item on your list. Your brain literally changes when you are hungry as the main hormone responsible for hunger has a negative effect on impulse control and decision making. Be satiated before you hit the market.

Have a List, Choose Foods You Actually Like, and Keep it Simple .

Been mentioning this matter of factly but you actually need to do it. Make a list. You can always add to it but unless you’re giving yourself a structure, and we as humans function better when a slightly rigid structure is present, it will make things tougher in those aisles. Keep it simple, buy things you know you’ll actually eat, purchase nutrient dense foods, and try your hand at a couple of recipes. Here are a couple Plant Based Gang™ recipes to try below.

  • Recipes of The Week

Couple of my favorite recipes from two of my favorite cookbooks, “Plenty” by the team over at Ottolenghi and “Between Harlem and Heaven” by my buddy Chef Joseph Johnson.

Sweet Potato Wedges via “Plenty”

I personally skip out on the creme but recipe can be found here and the full cookbook here.

Roasted Baby Carrots 🥕 via “Between Heaven and Harlem”

1 Pound Small Colorful Carrots Trimmed

1/2 Cup Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped

1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin

2 Teaspoons Ground Coriander

1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Put carrots in a large bowl and toss with the oil, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt. Arrange in a single layer on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Roast the carrots until they tender and spices are toasted, for 15–20 minutes, tossing once.

If you just want to learn about way to prepare your vegetables to retain most of there nutritional value while not being overwhelmed with culinary instructions, check this out. I typically go with a steam or quick saute.

Note: While I’m not “anti” microwave, I still prefer to cook on stove when possible, not really due to nutrtion but just because we have enough exposure Nobody really knows, like with anything, how the consistent envelopment of low electric magnetic fields will impact us.

Another Note: I often get questions about smoothies and the basic way I make my decision is below

1–2 Cups of Greens

1/2–1 cup low sugar fruit that’s local or in season

A handful of nuts or seeds (7–14). An interesting study actually just came out that highlighted benefits that seed protein may have vs red meat.

Plant Protein (optional)

Don’t think of smoothies as this wild concoction of “super ingredients” but instead an opportunity to increase whole food vegetable and fruit intake which most of us do not get nearly enough of. A prevalent issue in this wellness wave is trying to add too many ingredients and only ingesting them briefly instead of testing out a few for a longitudinal duration to see how it effects us. Don’t try new things for the sake of novelty, try them to see what works.

Read the Labels

The shorter the better. Learn to read ingredient lists as new guidelines are about to make their way onto labels here in the 🇺🇸 and also have a base level of awareness regarding which ingredients you should avoid (preservatives, added sugars, and hydrogenated oils are an easy start).

If You Hate People, Shop Online

Look, some people have slight agoraphobia and it’s all good. If you’re in a bigger city, don’t be afraid to utilize many of the different services available that can deliver nutrient dense foods straight to your door. Granted there is no immediate gratification of getting your goods + general limit of options available, but it can allow you to not be rushed in your choices and research food topics as you shop that you may need more information on, especially if you plan ahead.

Throw Some Prepared Foods In

It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to prepare food for every meal on one of those perfectly segmented Tupperware Instagram photos of “Meal Prep Monday”, let’s be honest. If your supermarket has a quality fresh food/prepared bar on hand, don’t be afraid to get a couple meals for those moments where things got out of hand. It’s can be better than the harrowed takeout decision and it can also serve as a snack. We think “snacks” have to be a packaged food when instead just think of it as a smaller meal which typically lends itself to healthier decisions, especially if I’ve prepared accordingly.

Note on conventional vs organic 🤔😬

I’m not even going try to dig into the nuanced debate of conventional vs organic foods because I would do it a disservice of wasting your time because it would end with…it depends? The benefit of the environmental impact between conventional vs organic are not clear cut and depends on distinct crop and even skills of farmer. The nutritional advantage of increase of beneficial compounds seen in organic vs nutritional raised food seems to skew towards organic (in part due to the “stress” organic crops face as phytochemicals are created to fight against predator stress + what is fed to animals) but we aren’t completely aware if that leads to improved health because the differences, while in relative terms can be large, in absolute may not translate to substantial health improvements.

I would say it increases likelihood though.

Again, “absence of evidence” does not mean “evidence of absence”. I personally choose organic when I can and skew towards locally grown goods if possible as well.

What other questions do you have how to pack your shopping cart? Hit me with questions on social or just comment below.



Joe Holder

Founder of The Ocho System™, Plant Based Gang, and Exercise Snacks. Writer for @GQ. Consultant for various, primarily @nike @hyperice @dyson. Views my own