Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Groceries

I was planning to write a grocery post even before I stumbled upon this site exploring what a week of groceries looks like around the world. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let the link do most of the talking - but I was really struck by this photo essay. Some countries seemed to cook everything from scratch, others had a lot of packaged foods (I think it was Japan that it looked like there were a lot of small packets of seasonings, and was it just me or did the Australian family have a TON of meat?), and overall I was sort of shocked that many of the families didn't have much produce. The most humbling were the families where they only had a few bags, rice and a few other things, for the week.

In June 2006, I took a May Term course offered by my college in Luxembourg (tiny country a little smaller than Rhode Island, sandwiched between Belgium, France, and Germany.) The month-long biology course I took was a comparative study of nutrition, health, and aging in Europe and the United States. It was so interesting to visit grocery stores, nursing homes, vineyards etc. in Europe and learn firsthand how they live. Every Friday, class let out before lunch and we were free to travel Europe until Sunday at dinner. On the weekends, we visited Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam. Paris was probably where I noticed food culture the most - I loved seeing people riding their bikes or walking home from work with a small bag of the fresh food they needed that day or a baguette sticking out of their backpack.

In America, I think it's much more common to make one big grocery shopping trip every week or every other week. I know I have weeks where I try to stretch our pantry ingredients and freezer to avoid going to the store. Even when I don't do that, I plan our meals out at least a week at a time. My dad, on the other hand, makes stops at the grocery store almost everyday. He has made friends with a lot of the employees, whom he introduced me to the last time I went to the store with him.

I used to love grocery shopping, but since moving to North Carolina, I feel like I've been struggling to really fall into a perfect grocery routine. Each week before grocery shopping I legitimately think about how much I miss HEB, our grocery store in Texas. HEB was very upfront with pricing, there is no membership club card, so the price you see on the shelf was the price you paid. A few months ago, I stood in front of a shelf of pork tenderloin at Harris Teeter for a good 5 minutes trying to figure out how much I'd be paying (they were BOGO that week, but there were at least 3 prices on the sticker.) Eventually, I had to go ask the guy at the meat/seafood counter for help. And I wasn't the only one who was milling around the pork tenderloin shelf looking lost.

We buy a fair amount of our produce from farmer's markets, and I'd like to increase that, because it really is so much cheaper (which was NOT the case in Texas, so at least that's an improvement.) And whenever I'm at Target, I'll swing through the food aisles because they have great prices on a lot of frozen and dry goods. What this all brings me to is that I'm planning to do a little bit of grocery comparison shopping. I'm coming up with a list of about 20 basic items that we buy often and am planning to go to a few stores and price everything out. My hypothesis is that at the end I'll find that I need to visit several stores in order to get the best prices/selection...I'll definitely update with the list I come up with and my findings.

How do you feel about grocery shopping? Do you plan your meals for the week in advance or as they come?

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