I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods for the first time yesterday. My go-to store since I started consistently grocery shopping last spring has been Lunds, and while they have a good selection of produce (as well as a fairly good selection of organic and local items), I had been itching to give Whole Foods a try. I put it off for awhile because I got comfortable at Lunds, but last night I decided it was time to see what I thought. I went there alone, which gave me ample time to wander the aisles and explore a bit (I am not a speedy shopper). And let me tell you: it is quite the experience. I might be a bit biased, since I am a teensy bit obsessed with eating well and buying organic and local foods, but I felt healthier just walking through the doors with my cliche reusable bags slung over my arm (side note: for every reusable bag you bring in to use at Whole Foods, you can get either a ten cent refund or make a ten cent donation to a local organization).
They have an amazing selection of organic foods (though not many more local foods than Lunds, and Lunds has signs that indicate which produce is locally grown, whereas Whole Foods does not). It was so nice to be able to walk through the aisles and know that I could find an organic version of whatever vegetable or fruit I wanted. True, organic foods do cost more than conventional ones, but I find the benefits of organic – both to my personal health and to the environment – to be worth the extra dollars (I’ll write more about prices in another post; for now check out this article on the Mayo Clinic web site that outlines some of the basic differences between organic and conventional – not using pesticides is one of my main reasons for choosing to buy organic in every case possible).
The layout was the same as other grocery stores – whole foods (ha), such as produce, along the outer edges, processed foods (chips, crackers, granola bars, etc.) in the middle. Not knowing where everything was resulted in a lot of wandering, but it was a calming experience for me; I feel at peace and in control when I can look at the products, read the ingredients and nutritional information for myself, and select the food that I think sounds the best. I easily spent over an hour filling my cart. The store itself was smaller than Lunds, so if I continue to go there and get used to the products they have and where everything is, I think that amount of time will decrease.
There are a lot of different reasons that we buy the food we buy, and it’s always interesting to me to see what other people are putting into their carts and wondering why they are buying one product over another. The whole thing is just very complex. I often miss the good old days when the cupboards would magically restock themselves every Monday with all the food I wanted and needed; now I have to make those decisions for myself, and factor my budget in, and I often find myself wondering how my mom did it, not to mention all of the other things she did for my brother and I while we were growing up. Kudos to you, Mom…it’ll be awhile until I get to that point.
My basic routine now is making a list once a week right before I go to the store, grouping all of the similar products together so that I know I won’t have missed anything in any one section. I like the method of having a list stuck to the fridge so I can write down what I need as I discover I need it, but my list is generally pretty small still, so the once a week thing works for me. My cooking skills are also still pretty basic, so I don’t need a lot of extra ingredients. I just try to buy a large variety of vegetables to saute together for dinner every night and to use as part of my lunch that I bring to work every day, and a large variety of fruits to snack on and eat for breakfast. Then I throw in some kind of bread and pasta, milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and beans and I’m good to go. As I start creating meals that involve more ingredients, it’ll take more planning, but for now I just grab the things I think I’ll want to eat for the week, and do what I can with them.
I also try to buy at least one new thing every week and do some experimenting with it, just to broaden my knowledge on what is out there to eat and which foods I enjoy preparing and eating. This
week I bought some chard (gross-sounding name, pretty delicious leafy green) and sauteed it up with some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and mushrooms last night for dinner. Simple, tasty, and nutritious. Someday I plan to move beyond sauteing…but for now, just the fact that I am not cooking out of a box is good enough for me.