I recently posted something about grocery shopping on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page, and a friend chimed in with this woe: “I dread juggling priorities at the grocery store: locally sourced, organic, responsible packaging — not to mention healthy. Shopping has become, I confess, a nightmare of neurosis for me!”
I’m guessing some of you feel this way too–and with the release this week of the Environmental Working Group’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you may feel a new layer of distress.
I can relate. I’ve wheeled my cart down the aisle while competing worries swirl in my head: Is it organic? Natural? Sustainable? GMO-free? Fair-trade? Local? Seasonal? Free of high fructose corn syrup? Can I afford it? Will anyone actually eat it? Suddenly, I’m in a shame spiral of inadequacy and uncertainty–when I’m supposed to be on my relaxing, kid-free weekend morning getaway to the store.
Eventually, I got tired of putting so much pressure on myself. I got tired of feeling like my cart had to look a certain way or that I had to spend beyond my means to “get it right”. (I was also tired of fearing that someone would pop out from behind a store display and demand to know why Real Mom Nutrition was buying conventional, pesticide-laced strawberries.)
So I decided to accept some truths and get on with my life and my food shopping.
Here’s what I’ve accepted:
- I have a budget. I spend more on the things I’m prioritizing right now (for me, that’s milk, eggs, and meat–read why) and less on things I’m not (like spices, butter, and oats). I also reserve the right to change these priorities at any time. I can afford some organics, but not all. And some weeks, when there’s a car repair or steep credit card bill, I will feel the pinch a bit more and buy fewer organics and other higher-priced items. I won’t let those budget constraints make me feel like a bad mom–and I won’t leap to the illogical conclusion that because I can’t afford all organics, my children will be harmed.
- Convenience is important to me. Buying some convenience foods, like pre-washed bagged greens, whole wheat tortillas and sandwich bread, and individually-wrapped frozen fish fillets, makes healthy eating (and life in general) easier. In some cases, that means a longer ingredient list than if I’d made those things from scratch. I read labels and ingredient lists and do the best I can.
- The overall pattern of our eating is what matters. It matters much more than whether something is local, organic, GMO-free, or sustainable. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a top priority–regardless of whether they’re organic, seasonal, or local. Ditto for getting whole grains, eating fish regularly, and using fats like olive oil for cooking.
- I try very hard to be a friend to the Earth but some things have to give. We shop with reusable bags, recycle, and compost our food scraps–but I can’t do it all. Those bagged salad greens and individually-wrapped fish fillets simply come with a lot of disposable packaging.
- I cannot live my life afraid that my food is toxic or poisonous. What I can do is feed myself and my family in a way I know is good for us: with fresh foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables, and with mostly home-cooked meals. (In the spirit of honesty, I’ll also admit that there’s little to no space in my brain right now for worries about the potential toxicity of my makeup, sunscreen, or plastic bags.)
Does food shopping stress YOU out? If so, how do you deal?