Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shopping.... the bane of my existence

Whew, yesterday was grocery day, and I survived it. If you love grocery shopping, please raise your hand!

For me, it's a necessary evil. I must be the world's most inefficient human, because it takes me FOREVER to get organized to go grocery shopping. First I have to menu plan. Which is tricky, because I also have to take into account who's going to be here when, and what activities are planned. Then there's my other problem.... have you ever been hungry for something, say, pasta, when you sit down to plan the menu? You get the menu all planned, then you realize you've put pasta in some form or another on the menu 3 times!

I TRY to plan: a soup day, a vegetarian day, a fish day (depends what else we might be having), each week. Yeah, doesn't always work out. Sometimes I realize I planned porkchops twice. Since DC loves them, I try to get them on the menu often. So anyway, forver. Takes me forever.

Next is making the grocery list. Even though I make the list with the recipes in front of me, I still forget things. (I blame my son. I think he is sucking the IQ points right out of my head!) Once I get the list made, I feel a lot better! I don't know why it seems like such a herculean task.

I suppose it's because I have to make 2 lists, one for the Teeter and one for Whole Foods. I have go to two stores to get what I need. That's partly because some things are available only at one place or the other. The other reason is that I'm picky (s0me would say compulsive) about the quality of the foods I purchase. I'm using "quality "loosely here, for lack of a better term-- I'm considering the whole food production chain and what is practiced or not practiced so I'm just using the word "quality" as a catch-all. I do not in any way mean to imply that I feel other food choices or foods are "inferior" to the ones that I make or buy.

Good heavens, isn't the cost of groceries is unbelievable? Last year when I was in Chicago, I didn't cook much, so I didn't buy lots of groceries. Since I was last buying a week's worth of groceries for a household, the prices seem to have practically doubled! Canned beans are now more than $1 per can, which I had never seen before. I try to be economical-- I buy the store brand on stuff that doesn't matter, like sweetened condensed milk. (I have compared the store brand ingredients and nutritional info side by side with the Eagle Brand and they are identical.) And I take advantage of store specials when I can. I do buy some "luxury" items like fine cheeses and crystallized ginger, but not all the time, and it could not possibly account for the huge increase in cost.

I know many of you out there are geniuses at saving beaucoup bucks by clipping coupons and taking advantage of what's on sale. I do that as much as I can, but for most of what we eat, I've never seen a coupon. If you know of a source of coupons for stuff like Kashi products, Ezekiel bread, organic vegetables, and tofu, LMK!! I do tend to compare prices between the identical item at the Teeter vs. at Whole Foods. De Cecco Pasta, for example, is always cheaper at WF, as is Tropicana orange juice, milk, and cream. The WF 365 store brand unsalted butter is the best deal in town at $1.60 per lb. As is the EVOO. Fruit is variable; sometimes it is cheaper at WF, sometimes at the grocery. It's always better quality at WF than at the Teeter.

I read a book (many, actually) about best ways to shop and how to shop more economically. One thing that was recommended, which I don't do, is to track the prices of everything you buy at the grocery. Yes, I mean put those data in a spreadsheet every week and track them. This is so you will know when a store special is really a "good deal" so you can stock up. I have started saving all of my receipts thinking I will get around to that oh-so-scintillating activity. Actually, I think it would be really interesting! I used to be a Sam's club member, and tried to buy things at Sam's as much as possible. Then one day I compared the price of orange juice between the Walmart Superstore and Sams, and it was MORE at Sam's!

So here is the list of things I will ONLY buy at WF: milk, butter, cream, cream cheese, eggs (free-range), meat, poultry, and seafood. I will buy cheese at the regular grocery, e.g., shredded cheddar as well as sour cream. I only buy 2 kinds of yogurt: Stonyfield Farms or Fage Greek yogurt, I'll buy them wherever I find them. As far as fruits and vegetables go, I buy most fruit at WF simply because it's fresher and tastes better. I do buy lots of vegetables at the regular grocery, but I ALWAYS buy organic celery, as celery is one of the most heavily-pesticide-sprayed vegetatables, as are peppers. I prefer to purchase organic or at least locally grown peppers when I can afford it.

So why do I only buy these things at Whole Paycheck? It's not just that I'm stuck on Whole Foods. It's because WF will not sell meat, poultry, or dairy products that are produced with antibiotics, supplemental growth hormones, or fed on animal by-products. I'd buy my groceries anywhere that would give me that guarantee.

The introduction of all those additives into the general food supply worries me greatly. Particularly the antibiotics, as I am deathly allergic to some. Though I will say I eat meat from restaurants all the time and am still alive to tell the tale. But I feel the less exposure, the better.

Like many other things, it comes down to a matter of cost. I'm fortunate in that, complain though I may, I am able to choose whether to buy additive-free foods. Not everyone is in that situation. And the way prices are rising, I may not be able to continue to have that choice. I feel that ALL food should have to pass the guidelines WF uses. There are so many things our government could do to make our food supply safer. I just may have to write to Obama, and give him a piece of my mind.


  1. I like grocery shopping about 85% of the time. I actually shop at 2-3 grocery stores each week, so I try to be really organized. I look at the grocery ads each week and try to buy the sale items as much as possible - my main grocery store runs sales every week on organic produce which makes it much more affordable.

  2. Fresh food products prices in Southern California aren't that expensive (since we grow stuff year round and almost anything grows here, also we have Mexico literally less than a couple hours) so for fruits and vegetables it's cheap (of course I'm talking about non-organic here) same thing goes for meat.

    Depends where you shop to the Hispanic stores here have crazy cheap specials, and so do some of the Asian grocers it just depends.

    The only really expensive stuff is housing here.

    I agree on organic products and grass-fed/ free-range meats, etc. is better but it's not in everyone's budget (atleast in my household)

  3. I love to grocery shop, and I go to at least 3-4 different stores to get the best prices. I plan my menu based on whats on sale, especailly veggie sides and desserts, muffins, etc. I dont like to grocery shop when I have children with me, thats when I end up spending a gargantuan sum! THANK u for installing my button!

  4. I have to make a menu for 2 weeks at a time as that's when we go for groceries. We only go to one store, during the summer months we will get our veggies and fruit from the local farms.

  5. I love grocery shopping and can take hours. I love to browse! I wish I had a Whole Foods! I am so jealous.

  6. Depends on my mood whether or not I want to go. If I plan on trying a new recipe I'm excited...other than that its mundane.

  7. I hate grocery shopping, but maybe that's because I don't plan menus or make lists. I just toss whatever looks good in my cart and then figure out the menu when I get home. It makes life exciting and I get to be creative with my food. BTW, a can of beans here cost 46 cents. Back in Chicago (5 years ago) they cost around 89 cents, so they're probably more than a $1.00 now. I don't shop at Whole Foods much (because of the prices) but they have the best banana bread! It's $3.99 for a little loaf. I totally love the lasagna (from the deli), but they're always out of it.

  8. Since we have Wegmans, the shopping has become not just a chore, but an Experience. We go as a family every Saturday, have yummy pastries for breakfast, and then pick up groceries. I'm usually terribly unorganized, don't plan meals, and pick up whatever catches my eye. Then, I put together my recipes at home with whatever ingredients I have. It does make the process creative, but sometimes I have to go back to the store to pick up one thing or another that I just must have and forgotten about.

  9. For me, grocery shopping is a dangerous thing. (1) Because I love perusing all of the aisles. (2) Because I rarely have a list (unless I'm baking). And (3) Because I love food to the point where I'm just taunting myself by grocery shopping. However, when I'm in a rush and don't have time for a leisurely stroll up the aisles, grocery shopping can be the bane of my existence, so I completely understand where you're coming from!

  10. Elyse and Kendra: my kindred spirits! If only it were the browsing kind of shopping, where you can just take your time and stroll around, I would like grocery shopping. I'm always trying to get in and out as fast as possible, not forget anything, attempting to calculate price per oz. so I can see which one is REALLY the cheapest, reading labels, and stressing about the $$!

    Donna, Sara and Bunny: My hat is off to you both. Bunny, I am in awe that you can do 2 weeks of planning and shopping at once. Donna and Sara, I'm amazed at how organized you are- monitoring the specials at 3 or 4 different stores!

    Reenie-- hooray, at least someone likes to grocery shop! Want to come and do mine, too??? WF is great, and so is TJ's; I'm sorry you're marooned with no yuppified food chains nearby.

    Natasha and Gloria: OMG, you must be creative geniuses! Wait, I know from reading your blogs you ARE creative geniuses! If I went with no list, and tried to figure out how to use the things I had bought, I would probably make 20 more trips to the store to get that one ingredient that would complete my masterpiece!

    Nathan: how lucky you are to have the variety of produce and at such great prices! Even so, I can tell you are just a naturally good shopper. Yeah, it's the pits that the organic stuff is so expensive. I needed cannellini beans recently and could not find them anywhere except WF. Not even dried. And wouldn't you know it, they were completely out of the regular 365 brand canned ones, and only had the organic ones. I think my 2 cans of beans ended up costing me $4 or something-- so much for planning a money-saving meal! Of course, I could have decided to substitute regular kidney beans, but the first time I try a recipe I like to use the ingredients it lists, so I can figure out if I want to change it. Yeah, I'm kooky that way.

    Thanks all, for stopping by to visit, and for listening to my whine. :)


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