Having recently moved, my new neighborhood supermarket is Safeway in addition to a small, great local produce stand. I find myself accomplishing my supermarketing tasks very, very slowly. Not only do I try to enjoy the time without kids (when I am able to escape to market without them), but I am stuck on the labels. I look carefully.
Granola bars: the 70% organic CLIF bars run over a buck a pop but a box of the Quaker Oat bars ("now made without high fructose corn syrup" the box boasts!) will give you 8 for $2, if on sale. The economics are compelling. The kid CLIF bars usually run about $0.75 each, still significantly more than the ones I usually consider "candy bars" more than anything. I struggle. Do I have time this week to make my own (this one being the favored recipe so far)? The wrappers. I think about the wrappers. Can we make an art project out of the wrappers? Make a reusable shopping bags for holiday gifts?
Cereal: this is a treat in our household. The poor children beg for it. I sometimes look past the high fructose corn syrup (why do Rice Krispies need HCFS as a sweetener?) and reason that the iron-enrichment is worth it. Why not? On special, we could get two boxes for a few dollars, compared to the one box of my preferred brand of "natural" cereal. What are your preferred O's? Does it break the bank?
Lunch Meat: Oscar Mayer was on sale. And, as I was humming "my baloney has a first name, is O-S-C-A-R....", I was thumbing the list of ingredients: ham, water, sugar...... sodium nitrite. Is sodium nitrite bad? Well, it could be. But, it also does good in preventing botulism. To be sure, though, the meat processing industry have indeed found ways to make us lunch meat that do not include sodium nitrite. I've seen it at the store "No Nitrites", but it's just a bit too expensive.
Then, the bread: we have had long conversations about our decision-making process on the bread. We look for lower sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, more whole grains, no enriched processed white flour (but wonder bread can be so good!). We look for loaves under $5, please! Under $2! There are so many things to consider.
Between choosing these four items and whether or not I buy them, I could easily spend 45 minutes. It is a balance, and we all have our own ways that we juggle the cost, the convenience, and the health impacts. What frustrates me to no end is how much I feel bombarded to buy the cheaper varieties, which often end up being the less healthy options. How easy it is, though: cereal for breakfast, meat sandwich for lunch, granola bar for snack. That's half of the day's meals, taken care of with just a few dollars and a few boxes. It's not a decision I feel good about. To eat out of stuff that has been previously wrapped no longer feels right to me. That's just me.
When I go to the market, I wonder: why is it so hard to buy whole fresh foods? Why do many factors push us to buy the convenient food, the cheaper food? How can I continue to afford the whole food if it is priced higher than the processed food? All of these things, I wonder, in my love/hate relationship with granola bars, cereal, lunch meat and bread. It's a luxury to be armed with all the information we have, to have the time to ponder these questions, but I know I'm not the only one thinking about these things.