Shopping smart at PCC

PCC’s nutrition educators Rita Condon and Goldie Caughlan

by Goldie Caughlan and Rita Condon, former PCC nutrition educators.

Budgets are for more than planning how to spend your money.

Goldie and Rita approach budgets in three ways: budget your money, time and nutrients.

Save money when you:

  • Shop more from bulk foods.
  • Cook more “from scratch.”
  • Use more plant-based proteins.
  • Eat foods more in-season.

Save time when you:

  • Cook for planned left-overs for ‘fridge or freezer.
  • Freeze separate portions, i.e., extra rice, beans or casserole portions for easy re-heating or restructuring new menus.
  • Know that wholesome convenience foods, such as canned beans or canned peppers, or nutritious dried herbs, actually can be nutritional and economic bargains as well.
  • Add fresh salad veggies and fruits for easy meal-making.

Save nutrients when you:

  • Buy, clean, store and use produce as fresh and in-season as possible.
  • Choose frozen produce when off-season vegetables and fruits are in recipes. For example, frozen corn or beans are more nutritious mid-winter than “fresh” ones. So are frozen (or even dried) summer berries or soft fruit better choices than “fresh” ones, picked days or weeks earlier and hauled long-distances, with frequently heavy nutrient loss.
  • Choose certain canned foods (such as tomatoes in off-season) that are more nutritious (and more economical) than “fresh.”
  • Know where to get the highest food values from all categories of foods: which produce choices, which dairy foods, which meats have the best food values — and why.
  • For example, the darkest greens deliver highest quantities of vitamins A and C and other important anti-oxidants. The deepest colored orange, red, yellow and golden vegetables and fruits do the same thing.
  • Know that eating the whole fruit or the whole vegetable is a better food value than always just using the juice — although fresh and fresh-frozen or fresh-chilled juices are excellent food values — and surpass canned versions.

If you are overspending your nutrient budget, keep a tight rein on fats — especially highly processed fats, refined sugars and highly processed foods.

Don’t forget — plant-centered eating is for everyone.

Regardless of what type of eating plan we may tend to follow, the experts agree that plant-centered eating is the healthiest over-all.

That does not necessarily mean eating a vegetarian diet. It simply means concentrating first on eating widely from the whole marvelous spectrum of plants, including vegetables and fruits, legumes (meaning beans, peas and lentils), grains and grain-based products (especially whole and unrefined), and nuts and seeds. Then add moderate amounts of the “rich” foods — such as dairy, eggs, meats and fish — if you choose to do so.

Why the emphasis on “plant-centered” foods?

  • Many long-term, debilitating diseases — including diabetes, heart disease and numerous others, as well as colon diseases, and many cancers — are associated with lack of fiber from too few fruits and vegetables and over-processed grains (plus too little exercise).
  • Nutrients, including powerful and important anti-oxidants that help promote healthy, vigorous immune systems, are mostly plant-based — from brightly colored vegetables and fruits, and the natural plant-based oils of nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • Plant-based foods contribute important minerals, including iron, calcium, zinc, potassium and others, as well as whole complexes of many b-vitamins and other micro-nutrients.
  • Legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds can contribute large quantities of proteins in the diet and are exceptionally economical compared to proteins of animal origin.

To learn more, we invite you to take a free Walk, Talk and Taste class at PCC. We’d love to help you get back on track — or just brush up on your “three-way budgeting” — to help you spend your money, time and nutrients wisely.

Look in your store’s Co-op Information Center or online for our product guides on soy foods, tofu, tempeh, cooking oils, nutritional oils and natural sweeteners. Other topics include guides for buying and using legumes, grains and other foods. View all PCC’s product guides »

Consider taking one, or several, of the tasty, fun and deliciously educational PCC Cooks cooking classes. They make great gifts. Bring a friend, your spouse or significant other. There are great classes for children, too!

Have a nutrition topic suggestion or a question? Write us at

Walk, Talk and Taste

Whether you’re new to shopping bulk or you want a refresher course, sign up for one of our free Walk, Talk and Taste classes at any of our ten locations.

Our team of nutrition educators will show you how to maximize your savings while enjoying great nutrition and flavor.

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