Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

The Problem With Shopping

on June 29, 2012

If I had my druthers, everything edible I buy would be:
• organic
• whole grain
• locally grown/raised
• sustainably grown and responsibly/humanely harvested
• free of artificial colors and flavors (and for that matter, free of natural colors and flavors)
• not loaded with sweeteners of any sort
• packaged responsibly

A frequent “finger food” for the babies when they were smaller was elbow macaroni noodles which I had to buy at Whole Foods because I wanted whole grain, organic macaroni. For whatever reason, in spite of the growing consumer base for organics and the decades-older “trend” (I thought) toward whole grain products, in mainstream stores it is difficult to find the two attributes combined.

And I live in one of the best areas for this stuff. I’m 5 miles from Berkeley, California, where health trends are very broad-reaching and persistent…that is, many people in this area have been at  their various “alternative” food-buying practices for decades. These aren’t “trendsters”, they are the lifestyle sort of vegans, raw food devotees, locavores, wild foragers, etc.

I find it strange and disappointing that my local Raley’s—a store that rides the line between mainstream supermarket and Whole Foods by providing a moderate selection of organics and bulk foods—only stocks two shapes of pasta that meet the criteria of organic and whole wheat: penne and rotelle. And I think it goes without saying that there is only one brand to choose from. This is the same at most local stores I found. Honestly, I don’t really care about the shape of the pastas I eat, but my girls did: they found the elbow macaroni infinitely easier to pick up when they were self-feeding newbies, and macaroni is also sized right for a tiny human. Penne is so much bigger, and babies tend to stuff a whole piece of food—whatever size presents itself—into their faces.

I have to make a lot of choices when shopping. It takes me a longer than it used to, before I collected a long list of must-haves and would-really-likes. I occasionally have to choose either whole grain or organic, and increasingly that choice is organic. But even more often, I just circle through three local stores to get what I need, rather than try to get everything at one place. When I am organized, this does not add time or significant mileage, I just go to a different one of the three each week.

For instance, one week, it’s Raley’s for most things, including all these organic things: fresh fruits/veggies, milk, cheeses, bulk oatmeal, flours and convenience staples like canned beans. They also have fancy cereal for an occasional change of pace, and basic junk treats like Diet Coke. (I’m not a purist.)

Next week, Costco. Now, just about nothing here is going to be locally produced, so as this is the newest druther on my long list, I’ll have to rethink most Costco purchases, but for now: coffee, organic soy milk (convenient cases of 12 quarts that don’t need refrigeration for $15 or so!), organic frozen blueberries (missing from the freezer on my most recent trip…don’t know if I should grieve yet), occasional large blocks of organic cheese, etc.

The next week Trader Joe’s. Same nonlocal problem though. Fresh and frozen organic veggies and fruits, OJ, chocolate, junk food (try their chocolate croissants, found in the freezer section…you have to proof them overnight before baking but they are incredible!)

Of course now it’s summer, and buying locally is incredibly easy—farmers’ markets galore!—unless you keep leaving town and missing them! Aargh. We haven’t been to the market in 4 solid weeks because of trips and recreation. I’m jonesing to grab more big batches of berries and peas before they disappear.

We also started a garden, but found out how woefully underplanted we were as each crop that comes into fruit (and/or veg) is pretty much able to be consumed while standing next to the pot.

Our plum tree is a delight every year, in spite of our inadequacy in staving off tree enemies (trenemies?) like aphids and leaf curl for good. This year looks to be low yield though, due to a late pruning on my part, which had the tree redirecting its energies toward healing its wounds instead of fruiting like crazy. No matter…next year should be a bumper crop!

In any case, I do believe that I am “voting” with what I purchase, so it’s worthwhile to me to find what I really want to purchase instead of compromise. I also plan to learn more with my family about where all our food really comes from, so we have a clear picture of how nature—with us in it—really works.

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