Whole Foods from the Conventional Grocery Store

In response to the comments on the Random Reader Question Vol. 5 post, I thought it might be helpful to discuss how to do the whole foods lifestyle if your only option is the conventional grocery store.  First of all, there are usually other options, especially in the summer months.  I urge you to look around.  Don’t assume that just because you don’t live in farm country, you have no access to fresh meat and produce.  EatWild.com is a great resource, and there are others.  You can always go in together with like-minded friends and buy in bulk if the closest source is quite a distance.  Like, last fall I bought a half a grass-fed cow and split it with a neighbor.  I’d have driven 2 hours to get it if I’d had to, b/c it has fed our family for the past six months, and we’re still going strong.  But I digress.  Sorry.  I’m passionate about this, what can I say??

If I HAD to do ALL of my shopping at a conventional grocery store, here’s what I’d do.  Now, mind you, I am not the end all be all on this subject.  This is what *I* would do.  Sally Fallon would probably not necessarily agree.  🙂  But in trying to “keep it real” for mainstream America, these are my suggestions.

1. Breakfast: Cook breakfasts from scratch as much as possible.  No boxed cereals, cereal bars, or (for the love!) pop-tarts.  (Boxed cereal is not as healthy as you might think, even the so-called healthy ones.)  For alternatives, see Healthy Breakfast Ideas.  Don’t skip the comment section.

2. Lunch: Pack my kids lunches as much as possible.  Ideas:  tuna, PB&J (Skippy natural, bread w/out HFCS or better yet, homemade), lunch meats (the ones without nitrates if you can find them), fresh fruit and veggies, whole milk yogurt w/out artificial sugars or colors, water in a thermos.  See School Lunches.  Don’t skip the comment section.  🙂

3. Dinner: Cook dinners from scratch as much as possible.  No hamburger helpers, no “cream-of-fill-in-the-blank” soups, etc.

4. Snacks: Try to eliminate most convenience boxed snacks.  Make your own popcorn on the stove top.  Pretzels and tortilla chips generally have a short list of ingredients, and most are pronounceable.  If you can afford it, buy organic tortilla chips to be sure there are no GMOs.  Also, Trader Joes brand foods do not contain GMOs and they aren’t as pricey as organics.  I occasionally buy Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies.  Have kids snack on cheese sticks, fruit, veggies, yogurt (no artificial crap) as much as possible.  Make homemade cookies and sweets.  Even if you’re using conventional flour, sugar, eggs, you know what’s in it.

5. Skip the fast food. We hardly ever darken the door of a McDonalds anymore, but we do order pizza or cheesesteaks from the local ma and pa shop about once a week.  I figure it’s a compromise.  Let’s face it, sometimes I’m just too tired to cook dinner.  (Like tonight!)

6. Dairy: I would rather have conventional whole milk that is pasteurized with no added hormones than organic milk that is ultra-pasteurized.  Around these parts, Rosenbergers is a good brand.  That’s what I buy when I can’t get to my raw milk sources.  It’s also the brand I buy for half-and-half (for my coffee) and buttermilk when I’m trying to cut corners on the budget or just can’t get to the whole foods store for the grass-fed stuff.

7. Eggs: If budget is an issue, buy conventional.  And eat eggs.  They are still good for you.  If you can afford to buy organic, go for it.  They are fed a little bit better, but they still aren’t outside eating grass and bugs so I wouldn’t break the bank for them.

8. Meat/Poultry/Pork: Eat less of it, for one thing.  Beyond that, I am conflicted.  I originally said that I would probably just buy conventional meats because the organic meat at the grocer is SO pricey, and while there are no antibiotics and growth hormones used, they are still raised in feedlots and overfed.  But the antibiotics and hormones IS concerning, so it really comes down to your budget.  If you can afford it, by all means, buy organic.  But if you can’t, just buy conventional and eat less of it.

9. Veggies/Fruits: Be selective.  I buy some organic produce and some not, depending on price and how it rates on the Dirty Dozen.  I also try not to buy produce from anywhere other than the good ol’ USofA.  During the summer months, try to find local sources if possible.

10. Bread: Make your own, if you can swing it.  If not, buy the stuff without HFCS.  It’s hard to find, it’s spendy, and there is still a lot of other junk in it, but I realize that some families simply do not have time to make bread every week.  It’s not a hill to die on.

11. No sodas, juice, etc. No one needs that junk.  Although we do buy OJ.

What am I forgetting?

Oh yeah!  Thanks to a commenter, I’ll add a #12.

12. Grow your own if you can. Growing produce and herbs is a great way to save money and know exactly what you’re getting.  I don’t have a yard that is conducive to a vegetable garden per say, but this summer I may try to plant a few things that will blend into my flower gardens.  Last summer I took to growing herbs on my deck — a great way to add a boost of freshness to your meals and SO much cheaper than buying them at the supermarket.