I am a busy 20-something vegetarian working for a non-profit. This equates to a limited supply of cash as well as time. What I do have going for me is the ability to choose the products I buy and eat. I do my best to be an educated consumer and make an effort to be cognizant about the food I am putting into my body.
I think there are 3 questions we should always ask ourselves when shopping for food:
Where did this product come from? Was it shipped from overseas or did it come from California?
What ingredients was it made with? High Fructose Corn Syrup = No way Jose! Words I can't pronounce? No Bueno.
Does this company use ethical practices? Do they treat their employees fairly? Do they use pesticides? Are their practices sustainable?
With those little pieces of information we can begin to put the right things in our baskets. We can rest easy knowing that we chose foods that are locally grown, free from pesticides and made with natural ingredients. This doesn't mean we are perfect, we can only try our best - Trust me, I stray from my own guidelines here and there.
The simplest way to shop without label-reading is to go directly to your local Farmers Market. Take advantage of Farmers Markets and stop by regularly to find fruits and veggies that are in season. You are guaranteed fresh, locally grown and often pesticide-free goods. The unique thing about shopping at the Farmers Market is that you have people willing to answer all of your questions. The information is coming directly from the source rather than corporate headquarters. You can often tour the farm if you wish, all you have to do is ask. Talk about knowing where your food comes from!
That same sense of security is not present when you walk down the aisles of a grocery store. Those aisles hold more mystery than information. I prefer shopping at my local health food store because I find it is easier to locate the good stuff. Their selection is usually smaller because they eliminate most of the junk that larger chain stores carry; making it easier on the consumer. You can also save some pennies by buying from the bulk section. You can find oatmeal, rice, flour, you name it! Just scoop it and buy it for less.