A personal journey into better food labeling.

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The food we buy matters.

As our food systems become increasingly
complex, the food we choose to consume affects
not only our own health, but also the environment,
our ethical framework, the Earth's biodiversity,
and so much more.

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But much of the data of our food purchases remains
hidden to us as end consumers. Food labels only give us
a basic snapshot. And pushes for better labeling are met
by slow-moving governments and companies resistant
to change.

This isn’t good enough.

We, as consumers, deserve
to know more about our food.

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So, I went on a mission to come up with
something better. For 10 weeks, I carefully
tracked all of my grocery purchases in hopes of
creating a better and more visual look into my
food purchases.

A label 2.0 sorta speak.

Here’s what I found.

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Data Overview

Over 10 weeks, I visited a grocery store 18 different times:

290 Total products purchased
$842 Total dollars spent
$47 Avg dollars spent per store visit
16 Avg products purchased per store visit
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Buying Habits GMOs + Organics
44%

Contain GMOs

23%

Are Organic

Stores most poular visited
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Large chain
8 visits
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Corner bodega
10 visits

The products traveled all over the world to get to me.

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173 Products had location info
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117 Products had no location info
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40% of total products had no location info
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My location
Product location
(size of circle represents # of products)

Over 10 weeks, I consumed 3,548 unique ingredients.

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Here they are, sorted by their popularity:

145
Salt
122
Water
91
Sugar
72
Sunflower Oil
69
Canola Oil
68
Citric Acid
62
Spices
61
Xantham Gum
43
Sea Salt
43
Red Delicious Apple
40
Cherry Tomatoes
39
Lemon Juice
38
Garlic
37
Onion Powder
36
White Wine
36
Eggs
36
Spinach
33
Cream
31
Turmeric
28
Rice
26
Soybeans
26
Cranberries
26
Carrots
25
Mint
25
Almonds
25
Black Pepper
24
Soybean Oil
24
Shallots
23
Wheat Flour
22
Expeller Pressed Canola Oil
22
Palm Oil
22
Milk
22
Ascorbic Acid
21
Cultures
21
Organic Carrots
21
Edamame
21
Carrot
20
Durum Wheat Semolina
20
Apple Cider Vinegar
20
Black Pepper Extract
20
Zucchini
20
Onions
20
Elderberry Juice Concentrate
20
Modified Starch
19
Corn Starch
19
Butter
18
Non-Fat Milk
18
Distilled Vinegar
18
Salmon
18
Chervil
18
Orzo Pasta
18
Whole Wheat Flour
18
Folic Acid
18
Yogurt
18
Riboflavin
18
Enzymes
18
Fish Stock
18
Cod
18
Wheat Maltodextrin
18
Rice Starch
18
Soy Sauce
18
Parsley
17
Niacin
17
Sesame Oil
17
Ginger
16
Onion
16
Thiamine Mononitrate
16
Reduced Iron
15
Brown Sugar
15
Mustard Seed
15
Oleoresin of Paprika
15
Mayonnaise
15
Sesame Seeds
15
Scallions
15
Kale
15
Cabbage
14
Potato Starch
14
Raisins
13
Glucose Syrup
13
Wheat
13
Avocado
12
Vegetable Rennet
12
Shrimp
11
Rosemary Extract
11
Rye Flour
11
Enriched Flour
11
Green Peas
11
Flaxseed
11
Corn Grits
11
Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
11
Rye Sour
11
Millet
11
Malted Barley Flour
11
Rye Malt
11
Rolled Wheat Flakes
11
Crushed Oats
11
Crushed Rye
10
Whole Green Peas
10
Soy Lecithin
10
Compressed Yeast
10
Red Onion
10
Tomatoes
10
Rice Vinegar
10
Organic Black Beans
10
Filtered Water
10
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10
Crushed Barley
10
Vanilla
10
Organic Potatoes
10
Organic Onions
10
Organic Celery
10
Olive Oil
10
Ascorbyl Palmitate
10
Inactive Yeast
10
Organic Lentils
10
Cracked Wheat
10
Molasses
10
Calcium Carbonate
10
Active Yeast
9
Broccoli
9
Tofu
9
Chinese Broccoli
9
Rice Noodles
9
Cheese Cultures
9
Maltodextrin
8
Tomato Paste
8
Green Chili
8
Paneer
8
Red Bell Peppers
8
Cocoa Butter
8
Nonfat Milk Powder
8
Green Onion
8
Calcium Chloride
8
Tomato Puree
8
Peppers
8
Chickpea Flour
8
Ghee
8
Vegetable Powder
8
Tomato Juice
8
Spring Onion
8
Sodium Bicarbonate
8
Oregano
8
Vinegar
7
Celery
7
Organic Kiwi
7
Garlic Powder
7
Phosphoric Acid
7
Cayenne Pepper
7
Salt
7
Honey
7
Cilantro
7
Cashews
7
Cauliflower
7
Lima Beans
7
Basmati Rice
6
Sulfur Dioxide
6
Goats Milk
6
Organic Alcohol
6
Organic Wheat
6
Organic Soybeans
6
Organic Soy Sauce
6
Tahini
6
Pepper
6
Roasted Red Peppers
6
Roasted Garlic
6
Baby Arugula
6
Rosemary
6
Thyme
6
Roasted Butternut Squash
6
Red Quinoa
6
Wheatberries
6
Organic Grade A Milk
6
Vitamin D3
6
Whey Protein Concentrate
5
Baby Spinach
5
Dextrose
5
Pumpkin Seeds
5
Natural Vanilla Flavor
5
Shiro Miso
5
Whey
5
Guar Gum
5
Semisweet Chocolate
5
Chocolate Liquor
5
Chickpeas
5
Leavening
5
Locust Bean Gum
5
Pre Gelatinized Potato Starch
5
Lentil Flour
5
Invert Sugar
5
Acetate
5
Chives
5
Shredded Carrots
5
Quinoa
5
Cheese Culture
5
Green Bell Peppers
5
Red Wine Vinegar
4
Black Beans
4
Starch
4
Shrimp Salt
4
Rice Powder
4
Corn Syrup
4
Green Leaf Lettuce
4
Mirin
4
Thai Lime Leaf
4
White Pepper
4
Mung Bean Noodles
4
Garlic Chili Sauce
4
Fried Garlic
4
Cumin
4
Alcohol
4
Peanut Butter
4
Spearmint
4
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4
White Cabbage
4
Red Thai Chili
4
Dijon Mustard
4
Organic Pasteurized Milk
4
Lactic Acid
4
Red Cabbage
4
Alcohol
4
Wheat Starch
4
Dry Roasted Peanuts
4
Basil Leaf
4
Rice Paper
4
Baby Corn
4
Unbleached Wheat Flour
4
Tapioca
3
Microbial Rennet
3
Belgian Chocolate Chips
3
Mustard Seeds
3
Malic Acid
3
Raspberry Flavor
3
Raspberry Concentrate
3
White Wine Vinegar
3
Raspberry Vinegar
3
Vanilla Extract
3
Raspberries
3
Peanut Oil
3
Peanuts
3
Pecans
3
Dried Cranberries
3
Penicillum Roquefortii
3
Pasteurized Milk
3
Arabica Whole Bean Coffee
3
Bleu Cheese
3
Frisee
3
Redina
3
Red Mustard
3
Mizuna
3
Tatsoi
3
Red and Green Chard
3
Tango
3
Lollo Rosa
3
Yeast
3
Red and Green Romaine
3
Red and Green Oak
3
Baby Red Leaf
3
Baby Green Leaf
3
Natural Flavors
3
Mushrooms
3
Pine Nuts
2
Cheese
2
Grated Hard Cheese
2
Jasmine Rice
2
Pasta
2
Egg
2
Yellow Bell Peppers
2
Grilled Onions
2
Basil
2
Microbial Ferments
2
Sunflower Seed Oil
2
Vegetable Enzyme
2
Lactic Culture
2
Asparagus
2
Artichokes
2
Black Olives
2
Ferrous Gluconate
1
Kaffir Lime
1
Triticale
1
Barley
1
Buckwheat
1
Dried Cane Syrup
1
Brown Rice Syrup
1
Chicory Root Fiber
1
Whole Flax Seeds
1
Walnuts
1
Oat Fiber
1
Vegetable Glycerin
1
Soy Lechithin
1
Cinnamon
1
Evaporated Salt
1
Mixef Tocopherols
1
Moncalcium Phosphate
1
Peanut Flour
1
Nonfat Milk
1
Balsamic Vinegar
1
Potassium Benzoate
1
Aspartame
1
Caramel Color
1
Carbonated Water
1
Cyanocobalamin
1
Cholecalciferol
1
Potassium Iodide
1
Biotin
1
Chromium Chloride
1
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
1
Kalamata Olives
1
Copper Gluconate
1
Zinc Oxide
1
Niacinamide
1
D-Calcium Pantothenate
1
DL-Alpha Tocopheryl
1
Phosphate Sucralose
1
Red Gaba Rice
1
Green Curry Sauce
1
Coconut Cream
1
Eggplant
1
Palm Sugar
1
Green Curry Paste
1
Lemon Grass
1
Galangal
1
Sweet Basil Leaves
1
Coriander
1
Mozzarella Cheese
1
Dicalcium
1
Galanga
1
Coconut Powder
1
Corn Flour
1
Coriander Powder
1
Vegetable Blend
1
Morning Glory
1
Banana Flower
1
Coconut Shoots
1
Dried Basil
1
Brown Jasmine Rice
1
Thiamin Mononitrate
1
Organic Cane Sugar
1
Crushed Bartley
1
Cracked Wheat
1
Spice
1
Pasteurized Cream
1
Garlic Puree
1
Prepared Black Beans
1
Chum Salmon
1
Maple Syrup
1
Caramelized Sugar Syrup
1
Farm-Raised Uncooked Shrimp
1
Sugar Snap Peas
1
Water Chestnuts
1
Bean Sprouts
1
Swiss Cheese
1
Grape Tomatoes
1
Green Onions
1
Spring Mix
1
Dehydrated Onions
1
Iron
1
Sodium Phosphate
1
Thiamine
1
Mononitrate
1
Caffeine
1
Whole Grain Oats
1
Oats
1
Hard Red Wheat
1
Rye
1
Brown Rice
1
Ferric Pyrophosphate
1
Potassium Citrate
1
Medium Chain Triglycerides
1
Sale
1
Annatto
1
Vitamin D3
1
Tricalcium Phosphate
1
Acesulfame Potassium
1
Carrageenan
1
Sodium Hexametaphosphate
1
Potassium Chloride
1
Magnesium Phosphate
1
Cellulose Gum and Gel
1
Natural and Artificial Flavors
1
Dipotassium Phosphate
1
Crystalline Fructose
1
Alkalized Cocoa Powder
1
Milk Protein Isolate
1
Calcium Sodium Caseinate
1
Vitamin A Palmitate

Awards

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Over the 10 weeks, I purchased all sorts of groceries. I crunched the numbers, and gave out
awards for the best of the best, and the worst of the worst.

The Good
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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Cut and Peeled Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Organic Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

The Not-So-Good
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Unhealthiest Overall

Butter

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Most Caloric Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Fattiest Product

Butter

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Saltiest Product

Stacy's Pita Chips

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Sugariest Product

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

I carefully tracked all my own grocery purchases with hopes of coming up with a better way to make sense of it all. Where does my food come from? What are my healthiest and unhealthiest choices? Which foods have GMOs? I created a dashboard that shows me all of this information and more.

It's my dream label.

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My Dream Label

Select a week to see its data
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  • $78Spent
  • 438Unique ingredients
  • 25Products Purchased
  • 18Ingredients/ Product
  • 11Unique Locations
  • 14With No Location
  • 8377Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 68%

    Contain GMOs

  • 12%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 3

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Organic Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Inner Peas Baked Green Pea Snack

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Organic Eggs

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Most Caloric Product

Organic Eggs

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Fattiest Product

Organic Eggs

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Saltiest Product

Thai Shrimp Gyoza

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Sugariest Product

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tips for Week 3

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The Good

Lots of veggies and salads. That'll do the body right.

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The Bad

Just one fruit? And a Kiwi at that?

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For Next Week

More fruits please. Also - are you low on coffee?

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  • $89Spent
  • 345Unique ingredients
  • 31Products Purchased
  • 11Ingredients/ Product
  • 23Unique Locations
  • 8With No Location
  • 8945Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 32%

    Contain GMOs

  • 35%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 5

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Jasmine Rice

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Most Caloric Product

Organic Whole Milk

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Fattiest Product

New Zealand Organic Cheddar Cheese

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Saltiest Product

Thai Shrimp Gyoza

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Sugariest Product

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tips for Week 5

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The Good

Apple streak! Another week of fantastic fruits.

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The Bad

Eggs and Whole Milk are high in cholesterol. Just be mindful.

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For Next Week

Let's up the salad. I mean, why not?

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  • $97Spent
  • 314Unique ingredients
  • 26Products Purchased
  • 12Ingredients/ Product
  • 15Unique Locations
  • 11With No Location
  • 8945Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 42%

    Contain GMOs

  • 42%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 10

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Organic Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Lentil Soup - Amy's Organic Soups

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Most Caloric Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Fattiest Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Saltiest Product

Vegetarian Pizza

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Sugariest Product

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

Tips for Week 10

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The Good

Cut and Peeled Carrots are one of the best low-cost sources of nutrients!

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The Bad

Just one fruit? And a Kiwi at that?

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For Next Week

Looks like you may need to stock up on some staple items.

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  • $32Spent
  • 179Unique ingredients
  • 11Products Purchased
  • 16Ingredients/ Product
  • 3Unique Locations
  • 8With No Location
  • 8945Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 45%

    Contain GMOs

  • 0%

    Are Organic

Products Purchased in Week 1

Click on a product to see its details
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Fruits

No fruits this week.
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Snacks

No snacks this week.
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Staple

No staples this week.

Awards for Week 1

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Cut and Peeled Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Cut and Peeled Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Cuban Style Black Beans

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Most Popular Ingredient

Water

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Unhealthiest Overall

Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice

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Most Caloric Product

Spicy Thai Shrimp Fried Rice

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Fattiest Product

Spinach Mushroom & Cheese Quiche

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Saltiest Product

Cuban Style Black Beans

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Sugariest Product

Cut and Peeled Carrots

Tips for Week 1

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The Good

Cut and Peeled Carrots are one of the best low-cost sources of nutrients!

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The Bad

No fruit is no good. Make sure to get some soon. An apple a day..

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For Next Week

Looks like you may need to stock up on some staple items.

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  • $101Spent
  • 427Unique ingredients
  • 29Products Purchased
  • 15Ingredients/ Product
  • 14Unique Locations
  • 15With No Location
  • 8945Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 66%

    Contain GMOs

  • 24%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 6

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Organic Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Wild Salmon with Orzo Pasta, Spinach & Zucchini

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

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Most Caloric Product

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

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Fattiest Product

New Zealand Organic Cheddar Cheese

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Saltiest Product

Pad See Ew

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Sugariest Product

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

Tips for Week 6

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The Good

Carrots are one of the best low-cost sources of nutrients!

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The Bad

No fruit is no good. Make sure to get some soon. An apple a day..

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For Next Week

More fruits please. Also - are you low on coffee?

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  • $73Spent
  • 297Unique ingredients
  • 30Products Purchased
  • 10Ingredients/ Product
  • 22Unique Locations
  • 8With No Location
  • 8377Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 40%

    Contain GMOs

  • 17%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 4

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Canola Oil

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Unhealthiest Overall

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Most Caloric Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Fattiest Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Saltiest Product

Stacy's Pita Chips

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Sugariest Product

Baby Spinach & Greens Salad

Tips for Week 4

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The Good

Someone's got a case of the apples!

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The Bad

More snacks than veggies? That usually is not great.

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For Next Week

Looks like it's time for you to get back on the cheese train.

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  • $66Spent
  • 266Unique ingredients
  • 27Products Purchased
  • 10Ingredients/ Product
  • 18Unique Locations
  • 9With No Location
  • 4771Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 33%

    Contain GMOs

  • 26%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 9

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Kiwi

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Healthiest Overall

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Red Delicious Apple

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Unhealthiest Overall

Organic Eggs

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Most Caloric Product

Organic Whole Milk

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Fattiest Product

Organic Whole Milk

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Saltiest Product

Stacy's Pita Chips

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Sugariest Product

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tips for Week 9

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The Good

Apple trilogy! A third straight week of fantastic fruits.

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The Bad

Ice cream sandwiches are tasty. But enjoy in moderation.

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For Next Week

Let's up the salad. I mean, why not?

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  • $125Spent
  • 504Unique ingredients
  • 40Products Purchased
  • 13Ingredients/ Product
  • 20Unique Locations
  • 20With No Location
  • 8945Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 40%

    Contain GMOs

  • 13%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 2

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Cut and Peeled Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Butter

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Most Caloric Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Fattiest Product

Butter

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Saltiest Product

Stacy's Pita Chips

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Sugariest Product

Nuts About Raspberries & Chocolate Trek Mix

Tips for Week 2

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The Good

So many fruits and veggies! Well done I say.

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The Bad

Frozen food alert! Try going fresh a bit more.

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For Next Week

You're looking good. Normal course of business works.

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  • $108Spent
  • 454Unique ingredients
  • 39Products Purchased
  • 12Ingredients/ Product
  • 28Unique Locations
  • 11With No Location
  • 8377Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 44%

    Contain GMOs

  • 26%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 7

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Green Giant Baby Cut Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Water

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Unhealthiest Overall

Organic Eggs

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Most Caloric Product

Organic Whole Milk

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Fattiest Product

New Zealand Organic Cheddar Cheese

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Saltiest Product

Crunchy Curls Lentil & Potato Snack

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Sugariest Product

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tips for Week 7

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The Good

Someone's got a case of the apples!

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The Bad

Eggs and Whole Milk are high in cholesterol. Just be mindful.

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For Next Week

You're looking good. Normal course of business works.

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  • $83Spent
  • 324Unique ingredients
  • 32Products Purchased
  • 10Ingredients/ Product
  • 19Unique Locations
  • 13With No Location
  • 8377Farthest Mileage traveled
  • 2 Stores
  • 38%

    Contain GMOs

  • 28%

    Are Organic

Awards for Week 8

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Best Price-To-Nutrient Ratio

Organic Carrots

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Healthiest Overall

Organic Carrots

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Most Popular Product

Red Delicious Apple

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Most Popular Ingredient

Salt

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Unhealthiest Overall

Brown Jasmine Rice

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Most Caloric Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Fattiest Product

Crunchy Salted Peanut Butter

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Saltiest Product

Crunchy Curls Lentil & Potato Snack

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Sugariest Product

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Tips for Week 8

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The Good

Apple streak! Another week of fantastic fruits.

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The Bad

Eggs and Whole Milk are high in cholesterol. Just be mindful.

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For Next Week

Looks like it's time for you to get back on the cheese train.

The Future

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By carefully tracking my own grocery purchase data, I was able to gain a better and more visual understanding into how I consume groceries: where they come from, which ones have GMOs, which ones are the best and worst for me, and so much more.

I believe the food industry has much to gain from giving consumers access to this data, in terms of helping people make more informed choices and ultimately increase trust in the places where they shop.

Interested in learning more? Email me. And help spread the word:

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