There are lots of universal truths in life.

…the Laws of Gravity and Thermodynamics (can you tell I’m back in school?).

…Murphy’s Law.

…the fact that it ONLY rains on days you leave your umbrella in the house.

…your kid gets sick on the day you have a giant presentation at work.

…and finally, you can’t always make it to the farmer’s market or the co-op’s mini-market.  And as much as we’d all like to buy everything locally, the truth is, we can’t.

That’s where having a little “grocery-store savvy” comes in.

Go organic when you can.  The key to buying organic is getting the biggest bang for your buck.

Here are some things to remember when buying organic produce:

-Invest the most in what you eat the most.  For example, if you eat a ton of yogurt, it would be prudent to choose organic.

-Think about WHAT you’re eating.  Does it have a thick skin you peel like a banana or an orange?  If so, skip the organic ones.  Most of the pesticides remain in and on the skin, and in removing them, you’re removing much of the bad stuff.  On the flip side, soft produce (like berries) or with a skin you eat are wiser options to purchase organically.

-Think about WHERE your food comes from.  Produce from different areas of the country often have different kinds and amounts of pesticides.  For example, strawberries are one of the food with the highest amounts of pesticides–buy organic!

Grocery stores have really jumped on board with the ‘eating local’ movement.  Be sure to check out all the produce sourced from local farms, sometimes as close as five miles away!

We’re now coming to the end of summer; enjoy all the late summer and early fall produce hitting the stores now, like squash and pumpkins!

Remember to buy produce as in-season as you can.  While figs aren’t local to Western New York (ha!), they’re in season for a short time and it’s now!  Grab some!

Again, choose local or organic when you can.  When you can’t, choose to support brands you know to be farmer/consumer-owned and higher in quality.  For example, Cabot is a co-op itself!  It’s 100% farmer-owned and all-natural.

Here are some helpful hints to remember when shopping at any grocery store:

-Shop the perimeter.  Think about it:  the produce, dairy, deli and bakery sections are all on the outside, and much of the pre-packaged items are in the middle on shelves.  Stay on the outside and only venture in for must-haves!

-Read labels.  Note serving size, calories, sodium, fiber and sugars.  You’d be surprised how little fiber might be in that loaf of bread you’re holding, or how many sugars are in that “fruit on the bottom” yogurt you picked up.  To be “whole wheat” it has to say “100% whole wheat” and the first ingredient needs to be “whole wheat flour.”

-Buy the least processed, least packaged items you can.  When possible, choose a loaf of bread from the bakery and organic meats.  The “organic” dry-goods sections of stores now have great options in terms of canned goods, cereals, soups and granola bars.  You still have to read the labels, but they are typically better than their counterparts in the regular section of the store.  Opt for “old-fashioned” or steel-cut oats instead of instant.  Make your own granola bars instead of buying them.

With just a little bit of know-how you can find REAL food at your favorite “big box” grocery store!


Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician.  She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related.  She is currently living with her husband, Andrew, an East Aurora native, and their giant dog in a hotel while they house-hunt in the area.  You can find her at