Monday, May 18, 2015

Breaking the Supermarket Habit - Part 2

Happy Spring Everyone!

I am hoping that as the Farmers Markets are opening and the planting and growing  season has begun, that you all took some time to consider what you are buying at chain supermarkets that you could be buying fresh and locally - and in season.

I'm also hoping to hear from some of you around this topic and these points.  I think we can all benefit from sharing.  This should be an open discussion of what works for you.  Don't be shy! Remember - what works for you might be just the thing another reader needs to hear!  I do believe that, regardless of the demands on your life, you can reach a point where what you eat is at the top of your list of what's important in your life.

Remember at the end of the last post on this topic, I asked you to ask yourselves these questions:

1.  What are your goals in changing your food purchasing and preparing practices?
2.  Do you meal plan?  Do you make a weekly menu?  Do you shop with a shopping list?
3.  Do you have a good idea of what produce is in season at various times of the year?
4.  How often to you cook?  And when you cook, what do you make?  Be tough on yourself.  Reheating a roast chicken purchased from a chain restaurant does not count!

These questions are designed to help you build an actual Profile - for yourself - as to how you feel about, get, and prepare food.  Knowing yourself around these issues will help you in making changes and/or deciding that you don't want or need to make changes.

Question #1 asks you to consider a wide array of your individual attitudes.  People often say to me, "Oh, I really wish that I could be like you.  But I just don't have the time".  I believe that you DO have the time, but you must restructure how you spend your time just a bit.  Or, I hear, "I just am not very good in the kitchen.  I usually ruin whatever recipe I am trying to follow".  See, I think you can learn; I think you take it all too seriously and maybe are afraid to really get started.  Certainly, in this day and age, you have so many resources available to you.  Television, the internet, great cookbooks, other people - these are all learning tools, you have to learn to use them.  Only you can answer the first question for yourself.  I will say that, for me, it is all about delicious, healthy and non- fooled around with food which I can prepare, eat, or at the very least preserve and put up at its peak. It's also about how what I eat is raised.  So for me, anything that comes from big ag/factory farming is out.  You may have other motivations.  Also, I have been cooking almost all of my life.  I like to cook; I like to feed people.  I am most relaxed in the kitchen - even for big meals and special occasions - I like the process.  I think if you are reading this, you are among a group of folks who likes to eat and likes to cook!

Questions #2 and #3 get at some basic practices and some knowledge gathering,  and both are things that I have found to be most practical.  Many of us find ourselves shopping when we are hungry.  Or, we get to the Farmer's Market and we are overwhelmed by all the wonderful things we see - and sometimes, we buy it all up!  And what happens?  Much of what we bought ends up going to waste.  Americans are the biggest food wasters in the world - which is something we should be truly ashamed of, in my opinion  We can avoid a great deal of waste by planning - and this doesn't mean you have to be inflexible. It just means that you are giving yourself an outline, some parameters if you will, to guide your shopping. Take 30 minutes or so before you set out on a food shopping excursion, pour yourself a glass of wine, and consider first each weeknight dinner, the potential for brown bag lunches from each of those dinners, and what will work for something quick on busy weekday mornings.  Then consider what kinds of things (and it's always a good time for treats)  you want to have for weekend breakfasts, lunches and dinners.    And a big note here:  You do not have to buy everything for every meal at once!  If you can get yourself in the habit of food shopping more than once a week, you will also reduce waste.  Many seasonal Farmers Markets pop up more than one day a week at different locations - find out where they are. And, if you have a year 'round market selling local products, you have that benefit as well. 

Realize that chain supermarkets are physically designed to make you buy things you didn't plan to buy; don't actually want or won't end up using.  It is shopping solely from supermarkets, NOT buying most of our food locally and seasonally, that makes us the world's biggest wasters! So do your menus and then your shopping lists for those menus.  If you enjoy using your electronics for such things you can get free applications that will allow you to do menus and develop shopping lists as you go.  Or you can just make yourself a form that works for you, print out copies and use that each week.  And as you do your menus and shopping lists, keep your eyes on the season.  For example, here in Philly local asparagus has been around for a couple of weeks - so I know it won't be too much longer.  Now, along with making all kinds of delicious dishes with asparagus, and eating as much of it as we can,  I know that it's time to start buying some big bunches of asparagus and blanching it, vacuum packing it and freezing it.  Local Strawberries made their first appearance here mid week last week, so we'll be eating lots of delicious fresh strawberries but for every basket we buy to use now, we'll be canning some jam, as well as hulling and freezing the berries.  I think you get the idea.  Be aware of what is truly in season.  In a chain supermarket it looks like everything is in season all of the time.  Break free from that. It's false. And, just to be clear, I am pretty much referring only to produce and meats, poultry and seafood here.  I don't buy "food in boxes".  By this I mean those products that are combinations of multiple 'food' products, often with several of them being dehydrated, meant to make a perfect side dish, or dinner just by adding water, with ingredient lists that are high in sodium and high fructose corn syrup - because your noodles or rice need to be sweetened - and a couple of lines of unpronounceable ingredients at the end of the list.  And I don't buy blister wrapped poultry or meat.  And, lucky me, I live somewhere where I can easily get fresh fish and seafood. Support your local growers and producers and say no to flavorless, sprayed, often GMO laden, "year 'round" produce.  Besides, once you realize what a wonderful treat it is to have something that actually tastes good - like it is supposed to - and was grown well and is at the peak of its flavor, you'll be hooked.

Question #4 the last question that I asked you to consider really gets to the heart of making time for meals - both preparing them and eating and enjoying them.  Nobody has a perfect record here.  I have found myself with a refrigerator and larder and freezer full of all sorts of great stuff, and still dialed the local Chinese takeout.  Stuff happens.  What I want to share is that I do it less and less - it is a big "treat" and that's a good thing.  In our house brown bag lunches from left overs are pretty much the only way to go.  But still one of us may just have a day that needs some gooey cheese fries from the local sandwich shop.  The bottom line is that most of what we eat we prepare ourselves or we grow ourselves or we purchase it from growers, producers and ranchers who  know - either directly or by doing some research. For us, it is most enjoyable to get to know the folks from whom we buy our food.  Chain supermarkets just do not offer that level of personal relationship.  It is generally not part of their marketing strategy and often, they do not even have folks on staff who can answer specific questions.  The way of shopping, selecting and preparing food that I am describing does take us back to an older time and another way.  So does growing some of your own food. But most of all, so does preparing meals at home from fresh, seasonal, safe ingredients.  The act of actually cooking and sharing good meals with those in your life on a regular, ideally daily basis, is something we all need.    We need - not just to escape the tyranny of the supermarket's mass produced "food in a box" -  we also need to stop, relax, enjoy and share.  I honestly believe that our good health as well as our enjoyment of our lives will benefit from both.  Remember how good Grandmom's food was?  

Let's hear from You.

"Know where your food comes from"