With the sheer amount of food on sale at discount warehouse stores, it's
easy to lose your focus when shopping. The baked goods, the ready-to-heat
pizzas, the bulk boxes of ice cream sandwiches--and those in-store sample
stations--can lead to a shopping cart full of impulse buys that may or
may not be good for your health. But amidst all the goodies are staples
for a nutritious diet that you should seek out not just because they're
healthy, but also because they're a good deal--with proper storage,
they'll last a long time without spoiling, so you can get the most
out of these bulk-sized foods.
1. Whole grains
Heart healthy and fiber rich, whole grains should be a pantry staple for
anyone who wants to eat well. Look for oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley
or bulger. They're versatile enough that they can be used in a variety
of dishes, so you shouldn't have to worry about them sitting in your
cabinet too long. But just in case, you can prevent long-term spoilage
by putting grains into an airtight container--they'll last in a cool,
dry pantry for about six months and up to a year in the freezer.
Almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios--you can find an abundance
of nuts at warehouse stores. Avoid the salted mixed-nut varieties, such
as the kinds served at parties, and go for plain or dry-roasted, unsalted
varieties. When you get home, put some of the nuts in single-serving bags--although
they're rich in protein and good-for-your-heart fats, nuts also have
considerable calories--so they're ready whenever you need them. Another
way to use them: Make your own nut butter in a food processor. Whatever's
left over can be stored in a clean, airtight container for up to a year
refrigerated and up to two years frozen.
3. Frozen fruits and veggies
The warehouse stores are full of produce, with a sizable selection of organic
options. But if you realistically can't eat all those green beans
or berries before they spoil, you're wasting money, not saving it.
Bulk frozen produce is a great way to get your servings of fruits and
veggies in your daily diet without worrying about spoilage, and like their
fresh brethren, many are available in organic varieties. You can even
find some interesting frozen combos, such as spinach and berries prepacked
for smoothies or frozen veggies and grains, such as kale and quinoa for
a supper side dish or the beginning of a savory lunch bowl meal.
4. Olive oil
Used in everything from salad dressings to sautes, olive oil is renowned
for the monounsaturated fatty acids that can boost heart health. Look
for bottles that have a harvest date or expiration date, which help determine
freshness and give you a gauge for how long the oil will last--generally
the oil retains the most health benefits for about a year from harvest.
Other olive oil producers suggest finishing a bottle around six months
after opening it. Pour some into a dark glass decanter for everyday use,
and store the rest in a dark, cool place--exposure to light can speed
the degradation of the oil.
5. Organic chicken
Skinless, boneless poultry is a good source for lean protein, and warehouse
stores can be a good source for chicken. Organic versions have the added
bonus of a bird free of pesticides or antibiotics. Buy a pack of chicken
breasts and cook some in large batches to be used throughout the week
in sandwiches, casseroles, soups or other dishes; what you don't use
can be frozen in tightly-sealed, freezer-safe bags. Optimum freshness
lasts for about nine months in the freezer, so make sure to write down
the date you froze the chicken on the bag.