The Jessamyn Perfect Storm: When Food and Shopping Collide

I love grocery shopping. It probably stems from my love of shopping in general, but the combination of food and shopping is like a Jessamyn Perfect Storm. I remember being a kid and tricking my mom into letting me ride in the cart (even though, let’s be real, I was way too old to be riding around in the toddler seat of a grocery cart). She would give me a baby apple juice (yes, my obsession with miniature food and beverage stems from these childhood experiences), and together we would plow through the aisles of our local grocery store.

When I moved into my first “adult” home, one of the things I was most excited about was doing my own grocery shopping and emulating “real adults” who wrote detailed grocery lists and filled their stainless steel, commercial grade refrigerators with bushels of fresh meat and produce. This extra fresh meat and produce would quickly be turned into vast and delicious healthy meals which would be served family-style with my roommates, and we would live as one big Bohemian take on a Norman Rockwell painting.

This dream, like most fabrications created from episodes of Everyday Italian and the Barefoot Contessa, was quickly shattered by reality.

For starters, I  have never had a refrigerator that is not perpetually one step away from complete and total disaster. Granted, because they are my parents and they’ve had years of experience in food safety, Tangela and Jesse have wrangled the fridge drama which plagues most people who have jobs, children, or anything short of obsessive compulsive disorder. I, however, am still trying to keep my refrigerator under control- about once every two months I’ll be overcome by a need to purge my fridge/freezer, and am shocked by leftovers which have taken up month long residencies in the corners of my vegetable crisper. Maybe one day I will be the sort of person who eats leftovers in a timely fashion, and doesn’t hide half used cans of tomato paste behind her Brita water pitcher. That day, unfortunately, is probably not today.

In addition, my roommates and I have never resembled a Norman Rockwell painting. We tend to look more like the Bad News Bears. And since I now live alone, I usually eat most of my meals in bed and use my kitchen table as a desk.

Furthermore, and most importantly, I never come traipsing into the kitchen effortlessly carrying two paper bags featuring gorgeous farm-fresh vegetables brimming from the top which I then neatly place in my organized refrigerator (Thank you, Ina Garten, for filling me with false hope). Typically, I’m struggling up the stairs to my walk-up apartment, laden with a series of mismatched reusable shopping bags containing a hodge podge of groceries, which range in necessity from ‘on the grocery list’ to ‘it just looked so tasty!’

At this point, I need to minimize the number of ‘it just looked so tasty’ purchases made in a given grocery expedition. Not to mention that I, like most students who live and die by federal loan refunds, need to stick to a very strict monetary budget. I’m not kidding, one of the hardest parts of living a healthy and world-conscious lifestyle is making it work with a limited income. Just so you know, it’s not a coincidence that poor health increases in relationship to decreasing socio-economic status. But I digress.

However, I’m an eternal optimist and I still believe my healthy lifestyle can be achieved. My first step is, of course, my new grocery list. However, I think I need to start planning out my meals before I go to the grocery store. This is something I’ve always been wary of doing for a multitude of reasons (limits my creativity, I’m a lazy ass, etc), but I think it will transform my eating habits because it will take the guess work out of my meal preparation. Typically, all of my meals are a giant question mark up until 1-2 hours before their preparation. By planning ahead, I’ll be giving myself the flexibility to try out new recipes which I don’t usually budget enough time to prepare on a rushed week night. Also, I think it’ll be an interesting way to work with my financial budget.

Here’s my initial spreadsheet. As you can see, I’m planning to work on a Sunday-Saturday meal plan. I typically grocery shop on Saturdays or Sunday mornings, so I will probably maintain this shopping schedule. However, a big part of my new plan is to spend more of my energy and resources at the farmers Market, which means working around a new travel schedule as it’s much more difficult to run out to the farmers market when I need emergency carrots. There are several farmers markets in the piedmont triad, but I primarily shop at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Winston-Salem Downtown Market, and Krankies Farmers Market. What are your favorite items to buy at the Farmer’s Market?

In addition, I’ve included a column to log the points values of my meals. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to rejoin Weight Watchers, and the points will help keep me on track with my goals. While I still maintain that diets are not healthy, I think Weight Watchers is a really great method of discipline for those who have difficulty policing themselves. In my experience, the support gained from the Weight Watchers community is very difficult to replicate, and I think this support has been a crucial element in my most successful health periods.

What do you think: How do you feel about meal planning?

Also, on a completely unrelated note, what’s this about Verizon getting the iPhone? Does this mean all the smartphone apps and features which my family and friends are constantly yapping about will finally gain relevance in my life?

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Filed under food, goals, grocery shopping, grocery stores, meal planning, shopping, Weight Watchers

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