Has grocery shopping become full of stress and worry? Here’s how I learned to relax.
I asked a question about grocery shopping on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page one day, 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 can relate. I used to wheel my cart down the aisle while competing worries swirled in my head: Is it organic? Natural? Sustainable? GMO-free? Fair-trade? Local? Seasonal? Can I afford it? Will anyone actually eat it? I’d fall into a shame spiral of inadequacy and uncertainty.
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”. So I decided to accept these truths and get on with my life–and my food shopping:
I have a budget.
I spend more on the things I’m prioritizing right now (such as bulk local meat) and less on things I’m not (like spices, butter, and oats). I also reserve the right to change these priorities at any time. And some weeks, when there’s a car repair or steep credit card bill, I feel the pinch more and buy fewer higher-priced items. I won’t let those budget constraints make me feel like a bad mom.
I don’t buy all organic.
I’ve visited both organic farms and conventional farms and talked to farmers. I’ve researched the topic of organic food for magazine stories.
The approach I settled on is actually one I picked up from a scientist I interviewed about organic food: I buy what looks the freshest and best AND that I can afford. That might mean organic berries one week and conventional the next.
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 more packaging and 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. (You might also like: What I Make From Scratch)
The pattern of our eating is what matters.
The overall pattern of our eating matters much more than whether something is local, organic, GMO-free, or sustainable. Here’s what I aim for in our house:
- Lots of fruits and vegetables, regardless of whether they’re organic, seasonal, local or not
- Whole grains, such as brown rice
- Heart-healthy fats, such as olive oil for cooking
- Fish regularly
- Some meatless meals each week
- Some sweets and treats, because balance is important!
I cannot live my life afraid that my food is toxic or poisonous.
I’m tired of online fear mongering around food and refuse to let it rattle me. I do my own research, look at the evidence, and tune out sensational claims and headlines. Read: Why I’m Tired of “Foods You Should Never Eat” Lists
I 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. Because eating nutritious foods is good for you–but stress, worry, and fear is not.
And remember: These are my choices. They may not be yours. And that’s okay! We all care about our health and our families and are doing our best.