When my plane lands in DC one of the first things I think about is when I’ll head over to the organic market that just opened near our condo. I’m not hungry, I have no idea what he’s got in the kitchen, and no plan for all the things I might impulsively buy. I just love that market. I love its big produce section, the “Little Free Library” right inside the door, the illogical layout that has me wandering through some of the same aisles three times without intention (but hey, how did I miss this whole granola shrine?!), its friendly staff, big drink cooler with kombucha right by the check out, and random assortment of soaps, oils, cleaning products, and pet foods that I mostly don’t need but will browse anyway. I go in with no plan and come out with a few extras and I’d only say that affects our monthly “food budget” if we had one. Which we don’t.
Shopping here and at other small markets makes me happy. I go through the aisles slowly, debate which organic brand of tortilla chips to try (the lime and sea salt option from Late July just stole a piece of my southwestern heart), and stop to stare at a floor to top-shelf display of dark chocolates. *Rubs hands together and drops basket* I don’t go in with a plan because then I wouldn’t find the gems. I don’t rush through it and “only stick to the list” because that would not make me happy. Some days I have to do that because we have plans or we’re shopping for a specific meal idea and on those days I’m not as happy. But I deal with it.
Real talk: I love grocery shopping, I don’t like planning for it. (I also dislike putting the groceries away.)
As a dietitian, I dole out the following home cooking tips plenty of times and this little anecdote shouldn’t discredit them. “Select a few recipes you want to try this week,” and “grocery shop with a list,” and “shop the produce section first!” are all great tips. They make sense. THEY WORK. I used to make lists, I just don’t anymore. Those tips are effective in developing new habits that may suit your health needs. But we are all different humans with different personalities and in different stages of life. And sometimes what works for you won’t work for me, and vice versa. If you want to cook more at home and never have food to cook, then start with those tips and use them for as long as you want. If eat out so often, enjoying the great food options near you, would rather eat those, and it doesn’t leave a hole in your wallet? Power to ya.
My point is this: it’s okay if you don’t shop with a well thought out plan and/or grocery store strategy every time. (And it’s okay if you do! Fist-bump to the planners!)
Yes, the way that foods are displayed in a store is backed by a whole lot of marketing money and yes you may be at risk of being Big Food’s next victim. But if you shop around and take your time, you’ll SEE the other options. We’re always rushing around and trying to do things quickly, and if you’re in a place in life where grocery shopping needs to happen like five minutes ago, then this approach may stress you out. But generally it takes me less than 20 minutes to get in and out with what we need for about five days, and maybe 30 if I’m all zen’d out and mesmerized by the chocolates and oils. And I think there are plenty of things we devote 30 minutes to, so why not add “getting food to feed myself with” to that list? Right.