Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Adventures in healthy grocery shopping, Take 1...

Good day, all! Yesterday afternoon I had my first experience of attempting to stock "real foods" in our house for my 10 day real food pledge. How did I do? Read on, dear friend...

I left work around 3 pm, using some comp. time, so that I would have plenty of time to shop and not feel rushed. Those of you with children know what I mean: DIVIDED ATTENTION. It's a wonder I leave the house fully dressed each morning with my kids constantly clamoring for attention when I'm trying to focus on tasks at hand. And in the grocery store, this inevitably means that you get out to your car with the bags and realize you forgot to get 3 crucial ingredients for dinner that very night but you mysteriously have a package of Little Debbie cakes that you know you didn't put in the cart.

So anyway, I was blissfully ALONE with my list and the thoughts running through my own head as I headed into one of the big grocery store chains in this area. This store in known for being fairly "crunchy" in its volume of organic food, so I figured I'd find (most of) the crazy stuff I was looking for there.

*picture me wandering through an aisle muttering "agave nectar?" under my breath*

I can sum up my experience into these simple points. Shopping for non-processed food:

(1) Takes longer. Looking for wheat crackers made with 5 or fewer ingredients? Good luck.

(2) Also takes longer to check out.



"Ah, ok."


"Red onion."

"Ok. And, what's..."

(3) More expensive. $9.99 for a tiny container of real maple syrup? Ouch.

(4) Society is working against us. It is not always easy to find even simple things that haven't been processed to the very inch of its life. Ever look at the list of ingredients on a typical loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread? Do it. You will be shocked.

(5) All of the stuff you will read about eating real food will tell you to shop at the periphery of the store. I didn't really put a lot of thought into that, but that is in fact what happened just based on what I was looking for. Fresh produce, meat, fish, and dairy products all line the edges of the store. I've never been particularly adventuresome in this area, but that is now changing:

"Um, excuse me. I'm looking for pork...*consults list* shoulder?"

"Yes, we have some over here."

"Those are all 7 lbs. and up and I need 3-3 and a half pounds. Is there like a...substitution system for pork that I don't know about?"

"We can cut one of these in half for you."


"Sure, come to the meat counter."

The meat counter. I felt like the next step was to head back to my homestead.

The other things on my list were also fairly close to the edges of the store. Frozen foods, for some vegetables that weren't in season. The baking aisle for spices, bagged tea and honey. The beverage aisle for carbonated water. Cereal aisle for rolled oats. The only time I dipped into the middle of the store was to get shampoo for the kids, and then to the canned food aisle for black beans and pureed pumpkin. Oh, and whole wheat pasta in the ethnic food area.

I was sweating my total, but I did the very best I could to pare back what I got. I selected regular vanilla yogurt to make my overnight oats instead of the Greek that I wanted, and I didn't get any fresh mint, figuring we could grow some this year in our garden and I could experiment with it then in a much cheaper way. My one splurge was pumpkin pie spice ($4.99 for the tiniest container you can imagine) to make Pumpkin Fluff Dessert Dip. My total?


I let out a sigh of relief. I was hoping to come in under $70, but I knew I would certainly be way above $50. I got enough food for 4 dinners (more if you consider leftovers), many breakfasts and some items for lunch that should last about 2 weeks. I was pleased.

When I got home, I had the house to myself for about a half hour. I prepared and put some Spinach and Cheddar Mini Frittatas in the oven, so that I could have those for breakfast on and off for the next several days. I was told that they keep well in the refrigerator. I also brewed iced tea and made the pumpkin dip. I was on fire.

When my family got home, they were very curious about my endeavors. Mike and I were planning to split some leftovers from dinner the past 2 nights. Although the kids ate those two dinners, they weren't overly thrilled about reprising their cooperation. Each child spotted the new bag of apples and asked for one. I was pleased. Then they asked after the frittatas. 

"Eggs and cheese? Oh yes! But what's that green stuff?"

*pause as I consider whether or not to tell them the truth* "Spinach."

I might as well have said that the frittatas were seasoned with Anthrax. They backed away in horror.

"Spinach?! Never mind." 

"It's GOOD, trust me. You can't even taste the spinach in eggs."

They were dubious, but agreed to try a frittata. Next thing I knew, I was sitting down to my leftovers and glanced over at the kids' plates. They were empty. Henry was requesting seconds.

My children ate spinach? Board up your windows everybody, the pestilence must be coming next!!

This, my friends, is a GOOD feeling. We'll see where these 10 days take us, but I'm excited! Tonight, we're having black bean patties with pineapple rice. Mike gave me a look when we realized that we will need to bust out our seldom used food processor for this shindig, but I was not dissuaded. I'm tired of hurriedly throwing together odd-tasting, artificial food during the work week. Next!

This morning, I heated up one of the frittatas and had a piece of toast with, get this, REAL BUTTER! *halo* This is living, people!

I will keep you apprised of how things are going, here in the continuing saga of Life of a Catholic Librarian: The Children Are Forced To Eat Brussels Sprouts.



  1. You can bake your bread in a crock pot. Seriously. Google it. You can also make your own crackers, but I think making granola bars would be easier and taste better.

    My goal for when HB goes to school is to start adding more homemade versions instead of processed stuff. No cafeteria there so I have to make his lunch. This will be way easier than trying to churn out lunch for three people two of which crawl up my leg like they are dying.

    Also this summer because Hubby will be gone a good part of the time and I have no interest in large shopping trips with children, I've decided to get a box of seasonal organic fruits and veggies delivered to my door. I'll have to think outside the box (ha!) to come up with new recipes for things I don't normally cook like beets and turnips. I love adventure. It's my artsy side.

    1. Bread in the crock pot? I will look into this! And the delivered fruit/vegetable share sounds awesome. There is a Farmer's Market here on campus every week during the season, and I'm planning to visit it every single week!

  2. Great Job by the way. It's always so tough at first.

  3. I am so proud of you! I love it when I hear of someone "getting real"!

    And you are braver than I am .... I have never, ever talked to the people behind the meat counter. My cookbook will say "ask your butcher for the bones" but I'm so afraid they don't do stuff like that anymore and will just laugh at me.

    The longer you do it, the more time and money savers you will find. Like with yogurt, my money saver is to buy plain -- it's simple to stir a teeny bit of vanilla and some brown sugar into the quart, if you like that. Me, I do jam. :D (SOMEtimes I make my own yogurt, but I will not lie to you -- i haven't in months. Even though it is easy and takes "virtually no time or effort at all.")

    Homemade crackers are much easier than homemade bread, IMO. No kneading or rising. I like this recipe: You can replace some or all of the flour with whole wheat, and sprinkle seasonings on them if you like. The only drawback is, they are so much better than boxed that they never last two days. I am afraid I could never do what I do without dedicating all my time to it -- between the cooking from scratch for every meal, the baking, and the dishes it all creates, I spend more time in the kitchen than on any other chore.

    Well, good luck, and here's to finding many other delicious things the kids will gobble up!

    1. Thanks Sheila! I knew you would have valuable insight, I was eagerly awaiting a comment from you. :) Very excited about this recipe, I will definitely try it! And awesome suggestion about the plain yogurt. So much better to mix in your own stuff!

  4. Do any stores near you carry spices in bulk? There is a chain here in the southwest that does and it is my preferred way to buy spices. I can buy as little (or much) as I want and I don't have to worry about it clumping up because I'll have used it before that happens.

    1. Oh interesting, I'm not sure. Not at the stores I shop at, but there are other stores that might. I did find out that Pumpkin Pie spice is simply a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cloves, so I could even make my own!


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