9 Summer Foods You Should Never Buy at the Grocery Store
What's one truly enjoyable summertime activity? Eating, of course! And, it can be a truly special experience during this time of year. Foods like tomatoes, berries, watermelon, corn, melons, and stone fruits are at their peak during the summer months. Thanks to a proliferation of farmer's markets and CSAs (community-supported agriculture), customers have access to unique regional varieties of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Supporting these institutions puts dollars back into the local economy, reduces the need to transport food long distances, and benefits small-scale farmers and artisans.
And although we can't rely on farmer's markets for the entirety of our shopping list, the Meatless Monday team suggests some foods that you should just avoid purchasing from grocery stores during the summer months—for your health, your environment, and your wallet. These foods may be too salty, too sugary, or too expensive. So skip the premade lemonade, canned soup, and these other seven other grocery store staples.
They're good to have in your pantry during winter, but buying canned soup during the summer isn't the best plan. Canned soup contains a lot of sodium, as it acts as both a preservative and flavor enhancer, but too much of the stuff can leave you feeling puffy and bloated. The good news is that you can easily make healthier versions of soup at home using any leftover vegetables from your most recent shopping trip. It can be hot (vegetable soup) or it can be cold and refreshing (cucumber soup or watermelon gazpacho)—the choice is yours.
Sure, they're a staple of trail mixes, but dried fruit contains a shocking amount of sugar. During the summer, when nature's bounty is in full force, try opting for fresh fruit from your local grocery store or supermarket. If there's a local farmer's market nearby, even better! Some small farms offer unique varieties of fruit that are unavailable other times of the year.
Remember the classic lemonade stand? Kids could earn a few dollars making their own refreshing lemonade using three simple ingredients: sugar, water, and lemon juice. However, lemonade purchased in the grocery store typically includes high fructose corn syrup and other preservatives. It's also more expensive than making a big batch on your own. Plus, it doesn't taste as refreshing!
Fresh herbs like basil, oregano, parsley, and rosemary add a tremendous amount of flavor and brightness to grilled vegetables, pastas, and flatbreads, but these ingredients can be expensive at the grocery store. Because they're pre-picked and packaged, their flavor starts to fade and they rarely last for more than a week in the fridge. If possible, try growing your own herbs in planters throughout your kitchen or in a home garden. That being said, if you don't have the time/patience/space to grow your own, freeze whatever herbs you do purchase by blending them into a paste and freezing them in ice cube trays or plastic bags so you'll have them all season long.
Kids and adults alike crave a cold, refreshing ice pop on a sweltering summer afternoon. But you don't have to shell out extra dough to buy premade ice pops at the grocery store. All you need is a simple popsicle mold in order to turn fruit juice, fruit purée, and yogurt (dairy or non-dairy) into beautiful frozen creations. Need some inspiration? Try these gorgeous fruity mango, chia, popsicles and be sure to impress your guests—no matter what age.
Frozen Waffles and Pancakes
Pancakes and waffles are great summer morning treats, but part of the fun is cooking these breakfast staples in your own kitchen. If you need some inspiration, try making these vegan chocolate chip pancakes or cinnamon whole wheat waffles.
As the temperature climbs, it's crucial to stay hydrated. Pickles are very high in sodium, and consuming too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and cause the kidneys and liver to work harder. Although eating pickles in moderation is fine, consider slowing down consumption during the summer. If you want that sharp, refreshing flavor of pickles, try making your own using whatever vegetables you have on hand.
Pre-Sliced Fruits and Vegetables
We know they're tempting, but it's best to avoid those plastic containers of pre-sliced fruits and vegetables. Although they do save a little bit of prep time, they're usually double or triple the price of the unprocessed ingredient. Plus, after they're sliced or chopped, many foods start degrading in quality and flavor.
Whenever you go to a cookout, you're bound to see a bowl of potato salad amongst the spread. Potato salad is a cool and creamy side beloved by all, but the store-bought varieties often include loads of mayonnaise and even some sweeteners. Thankfully, you can easily whip up a potato salad at home, using fresh ingredients purchased from the grocery store or farmer's market. Try mixing up with this recipe for mayo-less potato salad with coconut "bacon".
Hungry yet? Well, the summer won't last forever, so it's time to get cooking. Try exploring your local farmer's market, and experiment with seasonal fruits and vegetables that you've never seen or tasted before. This is an excellent way to introduce more plant-based foods into your household. And who knows, you might discover some new favorite ingredients.