Doing the shopping as a genuine Italian

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How do Italian people do the shopping? Supermarket, Internet, local markets?

That’s an interesting questions! If you plan carefully your shopping list, you will be able to buy the right products to cook healthy and balanced meals although you are short of time, or you need to face any emergencies. 

We usually go to the supermarket once or twice a week; moreover we hardly ever buy food on the Internet (this facility is not spread all over Italy, mainly in small villages), but we often get fresh food from local producers. In my small town, a wide range of choice is provided by the three weekly markets. The busiest market on Friday morning is a kind of social event where people can buy every kind of products (meat, fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, clothes, and any other items) and meet for a coffee. On Tuesday morning, a smaller neighborhood market is held in a nice square: you can buy high quality fruit and vegetables. Then on Wednesday afternoon it is the time of a small farmer’s market in the main square: local seasonal products can be bought. The price is a little higher but the quality is guaranteed.

Unfortunately, I can’t often go to these local markets due to my working times, but I usually go to a small local market on Saturday morning in a village nearby. I fully enjoy the perfumes of the local seasonal products and I spend time on choosing them: I touch and look at them carefully, I ask the seller for advice.

You may really feel a sense of community because people give you advice they say: “This is how I cook it, …”, “You should buy that because …you will be surprise, it is so tasty!”.

Thus I may learn new recipes, I meet new people, and buy plenty of good healthy products.

Well, go back to the supermarket. Have you ever got lost in a supermarket? Have you ever been to the supermarket holding the shopping list in your hand and then bought so many things to carry on for ages? Here, nobody gives you any advice, so you must get into with clear ideas about what you want to buy. 

Things Italian people must have on their shopping list

  • Fresh and dry pasta, rice;
  • Pulses;
  • Walnuts;
  • Extra virgin olive oil and vinegar;
  • Olives and capper to enhance the taste of the dishes; 
  • White meat, fish, and some cured meat for the Sunday lunch;
  • Mozzarella or fresh cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano;
  • More and more vegetables, plenty of vegetables, for instance celery, carrots, onions, garlic to make simple sautéed vegetables;
  • Seasonal fruit;
  • Bread and flour to make pizza;
  • Basil, rosemary, laurel, sages, and thyme, if you on not grown yourself;
  • Salt, peper, lemon.

Let’s go back to the supermarket: how can you manage your shopping among its isles?

First of all, do you ever write your shopping down?

Yes, I do do, definitely, otherwise I got lost among one million offers and I forgot to buy what I really need. Then I do not want the product I buy to expire in my cupboard.

So, what do Italian people actually buy?

  • Eating more veggies and fibers,
  • Being careful with fruit, most of all the one which contains a lot of sugar,
  • Cutting down on fat, unsaturated one is really harmful. We do need to take it at the very least,
  • Drinking more and more water, and cutting alcohol out and sugary drinks,
  • Having a varied diet rich in vitamins,
  • And in general, staying away from sugar!

A healthy life style helps everybody, not only Italian people, so:

  1. The whole family should have a healthy diet
  2. ‘Dangerous’ can’t enter your house.
  3. You mustn’t get embarrassed when you refuse some food: when you say: ‘No, thanks’, it is NO.

Ok, let’s go back to our shopping list.

Before leaving home, you should take notes about what we really need and stand up to discounts and coupons most of all. Remember: we can’t take home “dangerous food”. Then you should plan our meals carefully, and cook food on our own, choose seasonal and local products. Your dishes will certainly be tastier, cheaper and they will be much richer in vitamins. You won’t need to buy food supplements and you will save money. In addition, you should not buy a lot of long life food products: the more you have in your sideboard, the more you may eat and the more you may waste. Have you ever thought about that?

So, let’s write down!

Veggie aisle

Choose everything really colored. Green, red, yellow veggies. Potatoes can’t be considered  a real veggies, as they are tubers and are very rich in carbs. Mushrooms are very good for you: they contain very few calories and  are very rich in fibers.

Always our for seasonal vegetables, they don’t have to be perfect or perfectly polished: a few flaws on the surface, or a little dust means they are really local and organic. Smell them, test their texture: you have to feel they are fresh.

You should go to the supermarket once or piece a week-buy every kind of vegetables, but you will eat those with ashore life, and then the other ones. For instance, buy carrots cauliflower, and salad. You will eat salad first, which is more delicate, and then carrots and then cauliflowers. Do not buy only plenty of salad because at the end of the week, it will be withered. You will have wasted food and money! If you buy several types of vegetables, you will provide your family with varied meals, and you won’t waste anything.

Can you buy frozen food? Yes, only those which do not contain any preservatives, or seasoning. Cold preserves food naturally, but read carefully the nutritional facts on the packages.

Don’t forget to buy plenty of spices, aromatic herbs to make your dishes tastier.

Fruit aisle

This is the first rule: a serving is composed of one piece of big fruit or two small ones. Fruit as watermelon, melon, pomegranate, pineapple, papaya, banana should be weighed-the average serving can’t exceed 150 gr: they are very rich in sugar. You should always buy not very ripe fruit, because it gets sweeter and “more dangerous”.

Don’t buy fruit in syrup, or big bags of shell fruit as almonds, nuts, or walnuts. They are very good for you-they are very rich in omega 3, but they are highly caloric. Dried fruit might be considered as sweet, so leave it at the supermarket.

Bread, pasta and cereal counter

Buy, preferably, whole grain and whole wheat products and buy just the serving you need. Watch out: the tempting fragrance you can smell at the supermarket is part of a marketing strategy to make you feel like buying bread. In fact, supermarkets don’t make it, they just heat up bread which has been produced somewhere else. Don’t let yourself be cheated. I don’t want to take the bread in bags into consideration, because this products contain much more than just bread, salt and yeast. Leave it at the supermarket as well.

Buy high-quality pasta-carefully read the nutritional facts on the packages (Barilla, Molisana and Rummo are the best pasta producers in Italy); be careful with the expiring dates: flour makes a kind of spiderweb which turns pasta into a sticky whole. In Italy, pasta never expires because we eat it almost every day. And do not forget rice, spelt, and barley.

Do not buy any ready food, either frozen or fresh, because it is full of seasoning and sauces.

Prepare a nice sauce yourself: it is as fast and simple as defrosting something from the freezer.

Be careful with canned food as well: read the ingredients because they always contain preservatives and sugar in their liquid: any food-pulses, or grains too.

Meat counter

Buy only white meat-chicken, turkey, lean veal (we also eat rabbit meat, every if it is a pet. It is a matter of tradition. I know you may be shocked, I am very sorry. Every country has its own tradition; this is one of ours and it very old). Dark meat and pork meat are not included in our list-they are too fat. Again: don’t buy anything ready to eat or seasoned.

Prepare yourself hamburgers, meatballs, and meat rolls with simple recipes.

Fish counter

I usually have to skip this aisle as I am allergic to it, but these are a few items of advice I can give you: buy plain frozen fish-read well the package directions. If you dare, I suggest you fresh fish. It is rich in good fatty acids, the omega3. You shouldn’t buy tinned fish-it is often conserved in oil.

What about eggs?

They are a good alternatives to meat. So, always keep half a dozen in your fridge because they are fast to prepare and can save your meal incase of emergencies.

Cheese and dairy produce counter

Here you have to be very decisive because you have to buy cheese and milk very moderately. Buy only fresh cheese, no more than two servings a week. You can drink milk for breakfast, but just buy the quantity you need for one week.

You have to limit cold cuts and deli meat: you are allowed only 1, or exceptionally 2, serving of very lean could cut when you are fed up with meat. Don’t exaggerate with it.

Generally speaking, cheese is very tasty but it makes your food fatter, so Italian people hardly ever add it to their dishes, but sometimes they have it at the end of the meal, which is a very bad habit too!

Watch out for fruit yogurt: you should only buy white one and add some fruit yourself. Fruit yogurt contains a mix of sterilized colored pureed fruit: it is not fresh nor healthy, do not be cheated!

And the tofu? Here, in Italy is not very common: it is eaten by a few vegetarian people.

How can I season your dishes?

Italian people do not use sauces or species a lot. so, we mainly season your dishes with extra virgin olive oil ( we do not use any other kinds of oil but to taste something exotic); in the north of Italy, we also use a little butter (oh my dear, pasta with butter and sage is so toothsome and tempting!!!)

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