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How to Grocery Shop Like a Hunter-Gatherer

Posted: 11/13/11 11:26 AM ET

Just because we don't have to actually pick, gather, milk, hunt or fish for our food doesn't mean that we can walk into a market in a daze and load up the cart without thinking. We have to be as vigilant as if we're out on the savanna scouting for the next meal. We need to be modern hunter-gatherers.

Just like the hunter-gatherer who learned which poisonous mushrooms, plants, seafood and other seemingly edible foods to avoid, if you want to live a long, healthy life, you need to get educated and learn what food products to avoid and what foods to pounce on.

The ultimate goal of the hunt is to bring back organic, real foods that contain the biochemicals that make cells, tissues, hormones, neurotransmitters and so on. In other words, real foods could be (theoretically) picked, gathered, milked, hunted or fished. Processed foods don't contain the biochemicals the human body needs to rebuild, but they do contain toxins; a twofer. You used to be able to hunt the perimeter of the store, but not any more. Now, no matter where you look, you're going to see tantalizing food products conveniently placed within reach -- even in the produce section. Think historically. If it wasn't eaten prior to 150 years ago, it's not good to eat today. This includes soy and products made with soy. Men in particular should avoid soy and flax which both contain phytoestrogens, which tamp down testosterone.

Hunter-gatherers didn't leave a secure camp to procure food without making sure that they were well fed for the taxing hunt ahead of them. Before you go food shopping at the very least have a real food snack so you can think with your head and not with your growling stomach.

Hunter-gatherers had their strategies and knew how much food they needed to survive between hunting/gathering expeditions. Getting your kitchen together requires two steps: Staples and perishables.

Stocking your pantry with staples can take a few shopping excursions. Your list may look like this:

Olive oil
Coconut oil
A variety of vinegars (rice, red wine, balsamic, apple cider)
Prepared mustard
Non-GMO spices (course black pepper, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, dried basil, dried oregano, onion powder, cumin, parsley)
Sea salt
Shoyu (real, naturally fermented soy sauce)
Stevia, raw cane sugar, unpasteurized honey
Grains (brown rice, amaranth, steel cut oats)
Beans and legumes (black beans, lentils, peas)
Tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes
Coconut milk
A variety of nuts to store in the freezer
Green tea and herbal teas

There are no "healthy" mayonnaises on the market today. Once in a while we have to "pick our poisons." (Learning how to make mayo isn't that hard, it just seems hard.)

Once you have your staples, weekly shopping can focus on fresh, perishables. Buy whole foods. Food products with fat removed are highly processed and generally contain sugar and chemicals to replace the "mouth feel" and satisfaction of natural fat.

Think about your week, how much food you need to survive between the meals you plan on eating out. Zero in on proteins, fats, non-starch vegetables, complex carbs and hydration.

Your list may look like this:

Protein

Rib eye steak
Bone-in chicken breasts with skin
Wild caught salmon or other fish/shellfish
Canned tuna fish (not every week)
Small fish like anchovies, herring, and sardines
Pasture raised eggs

Fats/protein/carbs

Peanut and/or almond butter
Raw or organic whole milk and cream
Whole milk yogurt
Cottage cheese
Raw or organic butter
Raw cheese (generally these are imported cheeses)
Avocados

Non-starchy veggies

Lettuce and other veggies for salad
Any green veggie to eat raw, cook, or juice
Mushrooms

Complex carbs

Fruit (Bananas, berries, lemons, apples, grapes, etc.)
Spelt bread, freshly baked whole grain bread, or whole grain tortillas
Starchy veggies (potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, corn)
Trail mix

Hydration

Purified water if you don't own a home purification system
Mineral water such as Pellegrino
Coconut water
Coffee is dehydrating, among other problems. If you drink coffee, buy organic, Swiss-water-decaffeinated.

Prepared foods in gourmet stores that cater to the organically minded can be pricey. Find the prepared foods that best serve you. For example, you may want to take hummus with carrot and cut up bell peppers to work for a snack. Ratatouille or salsa can make a simple roasted chicken a lot more interesting. Having prepared soup in the freezer to defrost on the stove on simmer can be pampering after a long stressful day at work.

When you get home from your hunt, freeze any meats and fish that you aren't going to eat in the next day or two. Animal and fish proteins immediately begin to oxidize in the refrigerator. The goal is to eat fresh food. So only freeze foods for a week, two on the outside.

Today for the first time in the history of human kind we have at our disposal an array of foods that humans have never had. Historically, even monarchies and the ultra-wealthy could not eat the vast variety of foods we commoners now have available to us. Strive to only eat real food, but have fun with it too. Zealotry has no place in a well-balanced life. Dark chocolate has heart benefits, and is always in my cart. Whole Foods offers small bags of home made gourmet potato chips. I don't buy them every week, but they are fun once in a while. Do your best and don't worry about the rest.

 
 
 

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