Playing by My Rules


Everyone has rules they live by.  Rules for parenting, rules for relationships, their own rules for playing games. (C’mon, people! How many of you collect money if you land on Free Parking in Monopoly?)  I have rules for myself for planning meals, grocery shopping, and for cooking. I’m going to outline some of my hard-and-fast rules here and maybe you’ll find a few you would like to apply in your own life.

Shop the Flyers

While I don’t have a grocery budget, per se, I do try to maximize our shopping dollars, so I shop the flyers.  We get all of our shopping flyers on Thursday night, and I make the plan and we do our shopping on Saturday for most of the upcoming week.  I always want to buy the best quality food for my family, so I tend to avoid the discount grocery stores, but buying what’s on sale allows me to shop the premium stores without breaking the bank.  So when seasonal veggies are available they go into heavy rotation. If you can get a whole pork loin on sale, buy it and cut it into roast portions, chops, and cubes. A few weeks ago we bought one for $17 and we will get 9 meals from it for our family of four.  Every few months you can get a whole beef tenderloin, such a beautiful, tender cut of meat, for about half price. Sure it’s a big expenditure at the time, usually around $75, but you get multiple meals from it in the form of medallions, roasts, cubes, etc.. Multi Buys on canned goods can come in really handy for stocking up the pantry, too

No Salt Added

When possible I buy prepared products with no salt added, or at least low sodium.  This is not because I am anti-salt, but because I am pro-salt. I just want to be in control of when and how much of it gets used.  Salt is meant to enhance the flavour of food, not become the flavour of food, and when you’re adding ingredients that are pre-prepared the sodium levels can easily mount up.  Think about a chili recipe: you add ground meat, which is often preseasoned (“seasoned” is supermarket code for salted); canned beans, canned tomatoes, and chili powder, along with all your other ingredients.  All of these often have added sodium, most of which is completely unnecessary. These days, No Salt Added products abound, so I look for them and I use them.

No Deep Frying 

I never deep fry anything at home.  Let’s face it, deep fried food is absolutely delicious.  My thinking on this is, if I start deep frying at home, it a fast slippery slope to eating way too much deep fried food.  It’s not good for me, and it’s not good for my family. And this way, when I go out for dinner I can feel free to fully indulge in all the deep fried food I want: fish and chips, fries, wings, jalapeño poppers. I’m swooning just thinking about it! If you deep fry at home, you will get no judgment from me, but you will not see any recipes for deep frying here. And maybe you’ll see an alternative to deep fried that you want to try out that you will love.

Baked Goods Made at Home  

This rule comes from my desire to control the ingredients of my food again. (I may have some control issues, I don’t deny it.)  If I want to use a whole wheat flour blend, coconut oil instead of butter, less sugar, or add milled flax seed, I can. Everyone needs treats in their life.  If I want a cookie (in our house “a cookie” means two, because who ever eats only one cookie?), I can have the cookie. I’m not saying I never eat store bought baked goods, because I do.  I have a particular weakness for Starbucks’ Peanut Butter Cup cookie. But I have to be careful and read every ingredient label because I’m lactose intolerant, and yes, a little can make a big difference to my comfort level. It’s amazing how many things have hidden dairy.  Did you know brioche has cream in it? I found out from a sympathetic waiter at Boston Pizza who didn’t want me to make a horrible mistake with my sandwich. Thanks BP guy! You get a bonus tip!

The 80/20 Rule

Perhaps my biggest rule is the application of the 80/20 formula.  I apply this in three ways:

  1. 80% Fresh and unprocessed food/20% prepackaged and processed food: I shop around the edges of the grocery store and fill my cart with a lot of fresh produce, fresh meat and seafood, bakery items,  and eggs and dairy. Also part of the 80% are packaged foods like rice, beans, lentils, and canned tomatoes, which are processed but not substantially altered from their original form. Frozen fruit and vegetables also count here because the flash-freezing process preserves them at peak freshness, making them a more nutritious alternative in the winter months when fresh is perhaps not so fresh.  The 20% prepackaged foods are pantry staples like pasta, vegetable juice, deli meat, condiments, cereal, etc., but always keeping in mind Rule 2 (No Salt Added).
  2. 80% Healthy/20% Indulgent:  I believe, for myself at least, that if I follow a healthy diet 80% of the time I can indulge in the special things, like baked treats, cream sauces, and ice cream 20% of the time.  Some people give themselves cheat days, whereas I prefer to spread my indulgences out more evenly so I don’t get too cranky in between.
  3. 80% Eating at Home/20% Eating Out: If it weren’t for my Starbucks habit, this would probably be more like a 90/10 rule, and except for my aforementioned Peanut Butter Cookie habit, it’s mostly tea.  Lots and lots of tea. Otherwise, I eat a lot of veggies and salad at home so when I got out for dinner I don’t feel like I have to have a salad, but I can if I want to because it’s a really awesome salad. When I go out I want to eat the things I don’t already make at home, so that’s when I give in to the allure of deep-fried, golden goodness, in all its many forms, or the various international cuisines with those exotic flavours I love but have no idea how to approach.  Because of my lactose intolerance I  have had to learn how to make a lot of the foods I used to enjoy at a restaurant at home, but fortunately there are a lot of lactose-free products on the market now, so I can figure them out and not feel deprived. (If you’re an expert at any International cuisine, please let me know and give me some tips.  I am always ready and willing to learn. I am actively looking for someone to teach me how to make pierogis.)

Everyone has their own personal Rule book.  What are your rules and why do they work for you?  Please share your thoughts and ideas. Maybe they’ll work for someone else, too.


  1. Mare says:

    Great post! I’ve never thought about rules before, but I guess I do have a couple. 1) make a list, and 2) shop in the morning. I get very cranky if I have to shop at a busy time.


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