I have a confession: I'm a grocery store snob.
I know! Shocker, huh?! I mean, the hubby and I have already thrown down some of our food snobbery when picking out ice creams, or eggs, or a few other select food items.
But this weekend it really drove home the point that I have become a store snob.
I've commented about the beauty that is shopping at Sunflower Market and Trader Joes - I'm blessed to have 2 and 3 respectively within an 8 mile radius of my house and happily drive the distance to go there than the Albertson's less than a mile from my home.
I was using the reasoning that the produce selection and prices were better... Most times I only set foot into a big chain store it's to get chicken at a little better price and a few staples that are stoopid expensive at Sunflower... but this weekend I realized it was something more.
You see, I was feeling less than motivated to get out in the heat and drive around Tucson, so I opted to go to Albertson's instead... it was only for a few things so what did it matter?!
By the time I got home, I really 'got' the difference between the two stores - it's all in the focus.
You see, going through any regular grocery store, I'm struck by the proliferation of 'meals' over ingredients (and the small produce selection to boot!). The huge freezer sections hold the promise a quick and easy (usually nutritionally deficient) meals for whole family, shoving the frozen veggies and fruit to 2-3 sections in the corner... the aisles are filled with boxes, cans and bags that are pre-packaged for your convenience.
Oh sure, Sunflower and TJ's have sections of open-and-eat meals as well... but I can identify all the ingredients on the label... but primarily, there's ingredients. Wonderfully fresh ones that generally didn't travel more than a state or two to get to the store.
Going to a store like Sunflower - There's just more of a sense of purpose and awareness... The checkouts are lined still lined with magazines, only there's a smaller number trying to pitch the latest "Lose 20 pounds by tomorrow" diet plan.
Thing is, I was starting to feel guilty for my feelings. I /used/ to shop exclusively at Albertson's and would defend it to my dying breath... I felt bad for my betrayal, for, well, outgrowing it. Yes, I still have the occasional need to visit, it's just that, a quick visit.
Through my wanderings in the health and wellness blogosphere, my guilt has been absolved. There's been a series of folks writing about the recent pro-food movies such as "Food, Inc." and it drove home why I, as a singular buying unit have more impact than I realize.
(For the record: No, I haven't seen the movies and no, I'm not becoming a vegetarian, and no I don't want to get into a debate of the horrors of food processing.)
Thing is, the megamart (dang have I been watching WAY too much Alton Brown!) of today started as a wonderful way to bring a wide variety of food to the everyday person for a reasonable price. (Reasonable as in you don't have to drive to Florida or California when you have a hankerin' for fresh oranges in the middle of winter.) But it has since devolved into the food marketing guru's fighting for your hard earned dollars (and eventual insurance deductible.)
The brightly colored boxes on the shelves of any random megamart were placed there for one purpose: to get your money... if they don't sell/turn a profit, they go away. Even a slight decrease can trigger it to be dropped from the shelves. If it sells, it stays and/or the store stocks more of the same.
When I frequent a store, and insist on certain things, it sends a message - if my cart is full of produce, a couple of cans of no-salt added tomatoes, and an Amy's frozen entrée, the store Powers That Be get a clue that people with health oriented lives shop there... If my cart is full of soda, chips, and banquet dinners, it signals those same PTB to up the additives!
It's also as impact if you DON'T frequent a store. Choosing to spend my meager food dollars at one place over another, trickles down and can (hopefully) be a catalyst for change.
So, instead of feeling guilty about my preference, I shall continue to be grateful for the choice I have in the grocery arena. Instead of complaining about the sad state of nutrition and food choices available, I'll do my part to vote with my dollars to obliterate the use of food additives, trans fats, HFCS, preservatives, etc., and move back to real food!