I can not express how excited grocercy shopping makes me, when I spend the majority of my time at home, with a house full of kids. It becomes my mini-vacation/shopping extravaganza. On my husband’s day off, we load up the kids in the van and head off on a treasure hunt for food, making several stops for certain items we can’t find anywhere else.
It didn’t used to be so complicated. Walmart or the local grocery store would buy us more than enough, in half the time. I still relish the simplicity of it. I didn’t, however, enjoy it as much as I do now. It may be the fact that I get excited over local and organic or that I’m actually using my money for the betterment of ethical farmers/small businesses that aren’t following shady practices to turn the most profit from my purchase. In the end, the food is just more beautiful.
The vibrant colors of vegetables never held as much meaning as when they are laid out on a table before the farmer that grew it. And though I miss the lingering smell of homemade soap among the tents at a farmers market, when I have to go to a grocery store, my eyes have become trained to notice the little signs that tell you where the produce was raised before being shipped to market. Life changes when you start to pay attention to what you eat.
So where do you shop when you can’t rely on Wal-Mart anymore? My number one pick for both ethics and being incredibly budget friendly is Trader Joes. It is the mainstay of our grocery shopping repertoire and keeps grocery shopping simple, especially when they offer packaged macaroni and cheese that isn’t full of artificial preservatives and colorings. When you’re tired and pregnant, mac’n’cheese can be heavenly. Next we go to Whole Foods because we can’t find organic, grass-fed milk or dairy products anywhere else that isn’t ultra-pasteurized. Overpriced though they may be, you are supporting small businesses who don’t want to put profit over quality and a store who adheres to a growing list of things they absolutely won’t allow in any of their products.
Finally, we visit a little farmer’s store off the side of the road that we found while driving around one day. They sell local honey and produce, organic gardening supplies, and the most beautiful pesticide free Christmas trees in winter. I treasure every visit and have come to know the animals by name.
Yes, we still need to go to a chain grocery store for some things, but we stick to our own rules about what we want to avoid in our food. Discipline is key to health, and, after eating clean for a while, you begin to notice how bad you really feel after indulging in anything processed or full of sugar. These are the things I inevitably am drawn to among the snack and deli isles; namely a delicious piece of plain wedding cake in the discounted plastic, single-serving containers.
I have left out two other, very important options. The soap smelling farmer’s market that I referenced before is truly worthwhile. We used to live in a farm to table culture and knew where the majority of our food came from. Here you can again pay the very person, or family, that raised or grew it. Not only can you ask about their practices but also contribute to a person’s way of life, boost the local economy, and refrain from furthuring the unsustainable and highly polluting practices of major food manufacturers.
I saved my favorite for last, which is a co-op, where you pay a fee (usually one time) to join a group of people who pay the actual farmer(s) and have the produce, meat, and/or dairy delivered to you, or at a local pick-up point. This is similar to a farmer’s market in benefits yet allows for a long-standing relationship to one or more farmers in your local area. All you have to do is go online and search for local co-ops or what local farms are around you and what they offer.
While we are not part of a co-op yet, as it can get very pricey, we are very happy to be putting more thought into where our food comes from. Remember that one size does not fit all, find out what works best for you. All it takes is a shift in thought and change in habit, and it will yield an increased enjoyment in fresh food.