Tag Archives: grocery shopping

Eating as a Non-Vegetarian- Lime and Garlic Marinated Porkchops with Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Ok, I admit it: I like meat.

I don’t eat it very much. In fact, I eat it pretty infrequently. I rarely purchase it.

But I like it. I like the way it tastes. And there are very few photos of piglets that will make me feel guilty about enjoying a slice of bacon.

However, what I can’t come to terms with is what happened to the meat before its arrival at my dinner table. It arrives after inhumane mammalian brutality, hundreds (if not thousands) of travel miles, and undocumented harm to food workers.

All because I wanted a slice of bacon.

Yeah…that’s not ok.

I’m reaching a point in my life where I can’t bear to purchase meat that’s been produced in ways I can’t stomach. I mean, my ancestors ate meat- but the meat they ate is not the meat I buy at my local grocery store.

As regular readers of this blog know, I can pontificate on this topic for pages and pages. But all I really need to say is that in order for me to eat meat, I need to be prepared to find meat that was harvested from animals who were raised humanely.

Yes, it will be expensive. But that’s the price of being an omnivore in the 21st century first world.

ANYWAY, since yesterday was the most beautiful day ever (seriously, anyone who wasn’t in the North Carolina triad yesterday missed out on a gorgeous Southern spring day), I decided to make my girlfriend a spring-y dinner of pork chops and quinoa.

So where does an ecologically conscious Winston-Salem resident go when they want fresh meat?

Whole Foods Market, of course.

Whole Foods has a remarkable devotion to the sale of sustainably produced food items AND (probably most importantly) to crafting and maintaining solid relationships with farmers and ranchers. Since the food chain from farmer to consumer grows with every congressional bill and ‘science innovation’, it is more important than ever for us to support companies who strive to cut out the millions of middle men who get in the way of Americans eating food which doesn’t go against the evolution of our bodies.

As far as meat sales go, Whole Foods adheres to the stringent guidelines of the Animal Welfare Rating Standards, which are produced by the Global Animal Partnership. Basically, they have a 5 step standards list which details the requirements for a livestock animal’s living conditions. It looks like this:

Step 1: No crowding
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

As you probably noticed, there’s no step 3 for cattle. There are separate charts for poultry and pigs. And at Whole Foods, all the meat options are labeled with the number which corresponds to this chart. It’s another way of letting you know where your food came from.

Since I was making pork chops, here are the five steps I looked at:

Step 1: No crates, stalls or cages
Step 2: Enriched environment
Step 3: Enhanced outdoor access
Step 4: Pasture centered
Step 5: Animal centered: No physical alterations
Step 5+: Animal Centered: Entire life on same farm

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I ended up buying some very pretty chops from a local farm with a 4 rating. There were other options, but the fact that the meat came from a nearby farm means that the journey from farm to table was very short, and it insures the freshest ingredients possible.

It does not, however, insure the cheapest price.

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But here’s the thing- I can’t pretend to not know what I know about factory farming. And if I want to eat meat in spite of that knowledge, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Plus, the flavor of this finished dinner was more than worth the money. I’m not a huge fan of lime and/or cilantro, but both of those flavors keep popping up in my recipes recently. I’m blaming it on Chipotle– I mean, who doesn’t love their cilantro-lime rice? But instead of making rice, I decided to try out the same flavor combo with quinoa. I’d say it was a success- Kate basically licked her plate clean.

(Ok, so she didn’t lick it clean. But she probably wanted to lick it clean.)

Both of these recipes are unbelievably simple, and can be whipped up very quickly. They can be served together, or paired with other dishes. For example, substituting cilanto-lime quinoa in a homemade Chipotle burrito bowl is a healthier option than eating mounds of fluffy white rice.

(I mean, don’t get me wrong- I LOVE fluffy white rice. But quinoa is just as delicious, and packs an unbeatable nutritional punch.)

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Lime and Garlic Marinated Pork Chops

(Adapted from Gina’s Skinny Recipes)

Yield: 2-4 servings (depending upon size of pork chops)

Ingredients:

4 (6 oz) lean boneless pork chops ( for the record, I made this recipe using 2 super thick bone-in chops, and the proportions still worked perfectly)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 lime, juice of

lime zest

salt and fresh pepper

1. Trim off extra pork fat.

Basically, go from here:

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To Here:

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2. In a large bowl season pork with garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Squeeze lime juice and some zest from the lime and let it marinade at least 20 minutes.

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I always recommend long marinade times, but if you need to make this in a hurry, 20 minutes should get the job done. I had to whip up this meal pretty quickly, and I think 20 minutes was long enough to get a good flavor infusion.


3. Line broiler pan with foil for easy clean up. Place pork chops on the broiler pan and broil about 4-6 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

While that’s cooking…

Cilantro-Lime Quinoa

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry quinoa

1 1/4 cup Water

1 lime, juice of

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1. Follow my instructions for fool-proof quinoa.

2. While quinoa is cooking, combine chopped cilantro, lime juice, and remaining oil in a medium bowl and toss until completely mixed. When quinoa is finished cooking, add it to cilantro-lime mixture and toss until coated.

Bam, dinner is served.

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Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you: Kate and I also ate French fries with our dinner. But those French fries are extra special, and will be reviewed in a separate post. However, just for the record, they were absolutely delicious. Smile

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Food, Inc., Corporate Farming, Online Farmer’s Markets, and Backyard Produce- An Exercise in American Consumerism

Last weekend- remember  when I went on a pilgrimage to Charlotte and lost my mind at Trader Joe’s? Remember when I mentioned that I didn’t buy very much produce, but that the reason would be explained in the future?

Well, the reason is about to be revealed- but first, let me give a little back story.

(STOP: By reading below this disclaimer, you are allowing yourself to read a stream of conscious and potentially nonsensical rant. You were warned.)

I don’t know how clearly I can state this- I am a cheapskate. I hate paying more money than is absolutely necessary. It’s not just because I hate spending money- it’s because I don’t have a lot of money to spend. There’s never been a point in my life when I haven’t been on a very restrictive budget.

One of the biggest problems with the Western food industry is that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive to eat whole foods than it is to eat processed foods, from potato chips to factory farmed “Idaho Potatoes”. I’ve spent the past three years actively trying to resolve my budget issues with a healthy balance of organically produced food and cheaper options. Up until about four months ago, I thought I’d finally struck the perfect balance.

That was before I saw this:

food, inc

If you are able, rent/buy this film. It’s on netflix instant right now- when you are done reading this entry, WATCH IT*. As one of my friend’s recently said, Food, Inc. should be broadcast on CNN 24/7. EVERYONE needs to see this film.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to watch Food, Inc. who’ve told me that they’ve held off on watching it because they don’t want to feel guilty about or grossed out by their eating habits (i.e.- they will feel guilty about eating meat). I understand this dilemma. But here’s the thing- the movie does not seek to shame anyone. It is not very visually graphic. It doesn’t promote vegetarianism, or any specific diet. It puts the food industry into colors so vivid that you can’t help but wonder why we’ve become so complacent in our food choices.

Here’s the truth- if you didn’t buy your food directly from a farmer, you probably have absolutely no idea where it came from and you CERTAINLY don’t know what’s in it. I’m not just talking about the center aisles of your grocery store- you know, “foods” that come in boxes, or that arrive to your store frozen. I’m talking about the “healthy” fruits and vegetables, the dairy products, and every piece of “fresh” meat and fish homogenously wrapped in plastic for your enjoyment. There is a deliberate veil between food manufacturers and food consumers, and when you start looking behind the curtain you’ll be repulsed by what you see. It’s not just about the literal ingredients of your food- this film exposes all of the unseen costs of producing the food you eat, from distorted food laws and travel costs, to the horrific exploitation of ALL food industry workers. We’re not just talking about exploitation in other countries- the things happening to our American brothers and sisters (hell, our NORTH CAROLINA brothers and sisters) will make your head spin.

And we support them. Every time we go to the grocery store or a restaurant, we support corporations which deliberately try to mislead us. Every time you buy fruits and vegetables produced in far-reaching parts of the globe (which is more than often the case), you are directly furthering deep set afflictions between farmers, workers, governments, and the international oil industry. It is important that, as consumers, we make ourselves aware of the real decisions we’re making, and change our actions in order to affect a balanced economy and work-force.

The balance I struck in my personal eating/buying habits was not where it should be. I was perfectly happy purchasing food that wasn’t produced in an ethical fashion simply because it made my wallet feel less pain. However, the source of pain I feel now has much less to do with money and more to do with the power of my individual dollar. It is much more important for me, as a tax-paying American consumer,  to buy foods which do not support unhealthy corporate farming, which are organically produced, and (whenever possible) support my local economy. In my opinion, this is the most important decision I can make as a consumer. I know how easy it is to say, “I can’t afford to do this” or “I can’t afford to do that”. And it’s true- there are millions of Americans who simply can not afford to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. And I have to lead by example.

Anyway, one of last week’s groupons was $18 for delivery of one box of local and organic produce from Backyard Produce, a North Carolina online farmer’s market. I have read extensively about online farmer’s markets, and was already well aware of Backyard Produce- but, to be frank, I’ve always thought fruit  and vegetable delivery was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Though this groupon deal was a steal, the typical price of a medium box of produce is $23.49, not including the $12 annual packaging fee. However, after critically looking at my produce buying habits, I decided it would be worth it to try out Backyard Produce with this groupon.

Here’s how it works:

You choose from three different sizes- small, medium, and large. Each package size equates to a certain number of points- 20, 40, or 60. You then use the points to choose from their weekly selection of food options. The options rotate every week, and are subject to availability- while not all selections are locally produced, they are organic, fresh, and arrive to your front door the following Wednesday in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness.

Sign-up is really simple, and you have up until Sunday night to decide which fruits and veggies you want in that week’s delivery. I made my choices, sent in my order, and waited with bated breath until Wednesday.

Yesterday, after a very stressful day, I was pleased to see this waiting on my front porch:

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I gave very specific directions on how to reach my apartment (which can be a little confusing), and I was super pleased to see that the delivery person had no trouble figuring it out.

As promised, the produce was protected by refrigeration insulation:

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Just in case you were wondering, the annual $12 packaging fee helps them reduce the amount of packaging they use. Every week, they pick up your packaging from the previous delivery and reuse it. Great system.

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Let’s see what I ordered, eh?

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Granny Smith apples, organic WA – 2 count- 4 points

Baby Carrots, organic CA – 1lb- 5 points

Navel Oranges, organic FL – 3 count- 5 points

Tommy Atkins Mango, organic Ecuador – 2 count- 3 points each  (6 points total)

Salad Mix, Cottle Farm NC organic – 1/2 pound- 4 points

Kiwifruit, organic Chile – 2 count- 3 points

Bibb Lettuce, Green Haven Farms hydroponic NC – 1 head- 7 points

TOTAL POINTS USED: 34

As you can see, I only used 34 of my 40 points, leaving 6 points for a future delivery. I was extremely pleased with the quality of my items- bruise free, chilled, and clean. The mangos are nice and large (which is not always the case with mangos), and everything smells great.

At this point I can’t decide if it will be worth it to use Backyard Produce in the future. I still think it’s a little too expensive- but is it really?

I mean, I spend a lot of money on produce every week. In fact, I’m probably spending more than $23.49, not including the gas to/from the grocery store/farmer’s market. Though I’ll keep going to these spots for the rest of my items (and any incidental vegetation I might want), it is really awesome to have fresh, local, organic produce arrive at my door and ready for the week without having to judge by sale prices. I can change up my order every week, depending upon my weekly meal plan. Hmm.

All in all, I’m very pleased with my Backyard Produce experience thus far. This particular company only services the North Carolina Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte area. However, there are online farmer’s market delivery services all over the country- I’ve heard about them in urban centers, and in other parts of America. At the very least, they are worth a try-the convenience factor is unbeatable, and the price might be in your ballpark.

*And yes, that was an inadvertent plug for netflix. I love netflix- and so should you.

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FonDOs and DON’Ts: Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

Yesterday, thanks to a series of modern science miracles (dayquil, sudafed) paired with home cure-alls (a 48 hour long relationship with my neti pot) and the best remedy of them all (SLEEPSLEEPSLEEP), I emerged from the depths of plague just in time to make a fondue Valentine’s Day Dinner for my girlfriend.

 

Fondue incorporates everything I love about food and community- it brings diners together to create a meal which is representative of individuals, while encouraging fellowship. Seriously, I could probably write a dissertation on ‘how and why fondue can create a food revolution’, but I’ll try to contain myself. Anyway, my obsession with fondue started a few years ago: ever since then, I’ve amassed a collection of fondue pots (so far I own seven) which are on display around my apartment. This also means that I’m constantly looking for excuses to use them.

(For those of you who are rolling your eyes at the thought of a fondue pot collection, I encourage you to take a look at your shoe/dvd/perfume collection and keep the judging to a minimum.)

Anyway, making a three course fondue dinner at home, while it does take a bit of prep work, is really easy. The process is made even easier when you haven’t spent your weekend dealing with a nose full of mucus, but that’s neither here nor there.

When planning a dinner of this magnitude (even if it’s only for two people), I find it’s helpful to make a detailed shopping list- this is a preventative measure so that you don’t end up wandering around a grocery store for longer than necessary. Ok, maybe I did that anyway- but that has more to do with the fact that I was sick, partially delirious, and the fact that I’m not immune to the well-orchestrated insanity of Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day Eve.

Already owning a fondue pot (or seven) makes planning a spur of the moment Valentine’s Dinner pretty easy- therefore, I would recommend investing in a fondue pot of your very own. Since I bought most of my pots at yard sales, my entire collection probably has an exact monetary value of less than $40. However, a couple of my pots are individually worth more than $40. For those who are not willing to scour yard sales, I would recommend purchasing a pot with a reliable non-stick cooking surface and easy to use heating system- if you’re going to purchase more than one pot, feel free to get exciting with your heat sources (butane fuel, tea light candles). However, if you’ve never done fondue outside of the occasional Melting Pot Dinner, I would recommend getting an easy to use plug-in fondue pot. There a couple of models which would make great starter pots- Rival FD350S and Cuisnart CFO-3SS, for starters.

Anyway, I made a classic Swiss cheese fondue and Fondue Bourguignonne, a traditional meat fondue. Here’s my first confession- I was too cheap and lazy to make a swiss cheese fondue from scratch, so I bought a pre-packaged Swiss fondue.

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I was very pleased with this purchase- it made my life SO MUCH EASIER, and cost less than it would have cost to individually buy the necessary cheeses. I bought this box of cheese for $6.99 at World Market and it was worth every penny. To dip in the cheese, I chopped up a couple of granny smith apples and half a loaf of 3-grain whole wheat sourdough from Whole Foods.

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I think it’s best to use a really hearty bread for cheese fondue- it’s less easy to drown your bread in the cheese, and it helps decrease the odds of cheese overdose (something I’ve never experienced, but am absolutely sure can happen. To someone who is less cheese obsessed).

Fondue Bourguignonne is really easy to make, as it’s just 2 cups of oil (I used canola) heated to 350 degrees. You dip the meat in the oil, cook until your desired ‘done-ness’ and voila- meat, it’s what’s for dinner. However, Fondue Bourguignonne is NOT healthy, and VERY dangerous. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby. I mean, if you’re not using an open flame then it’s probably ok, but sputtering oil does not feel good when it comes in contact with bare, tender skin. Basically, use caution when preparing this dish.

Since this was a special occasion, I tried to buy really high quality meats- I decided to use a local London Broil, and local sweet Italian sausage. I chopped both meats into bite size, fast cooking pieces.

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As a rule, I don’t eat a lot of meat. It’s very expensive, and it becomes especially expensive to buy meat which doesn’t make me feel like a horrible person for even looking at the packaging. However, when it’s possible to find meat that was butchered from animals who were raised in humane conditions and fed meals which are representative of their actual dietary needs (as opposed to wide-spread animal homicide through corn feed), I have less of a problem incorporating meat in my diet. For me (I can’t and won’t speak for anyone else), it’s important to be able to make a direct connection between the meat I’ve consumed and the animal that gave up its life. It’s nearly impossible for me to come to terms with meat that’s been slaughtered in factories which exploit both the animals and the workers. However, I think it’s important to support local farmers, and raising livestock is one of the traditional crucial elements of a working farm. Do I eat meat on a daily basis? No. Will I eat meat if the circumstances are acceptable? Sure.

Anyway, one of the best parts of making a meat fondue is getting your meat nice and crispy, then coating it in tasty dipping sauces.

I made two dipping sauces from scratch- they were both REALLY easy, and pretty healthy.

First I made a mustard sauce using the rest of my FAGE Greek yogurt- I even mixed it up right in the container.

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Mustard Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek Yogurt

3 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Coriander

1 clove Garlic

1-2 tbsp Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and chill until serving.

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I have to say, this sauce turned out awesome- This is my own original recipe, and I was really pleased with the consistency and flavor. Most mustard sauces use mayonnaise and/or sour cream as a base, but Greek yogurt gives a delicious creamy texture for a fraction of the calories. Plus, on a personal note, I think it tastes better.

I also made a Teriyaki Sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

Ingredients:

– 1/2 cup chicken stock (I used Maggi bouillon dissolved in H20)

– 3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
– 2 Tbsp fresh or bottled lemon juice
– 2 tsp cooking sherry
– 2 tsp honey
– 1 clove garlic

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan; heat to boiling. Refrigerate until serving time. Can be served warm or cold.

This sauce also turned out quite delicious.

When preparing new recipes, I know many cooks on a budget can be deterred by expensive ingredients that they don’t use frequently. I mean, hello? Cooking sherry? It’s not exactly an every day ingredient. However, my method for gaining a recipe friendly pantry is to make a list of dry ingredients which occur frequently in recipes. Then, gradually (one or two at a time) purchase the ingredients during routine grocery store trips- this way, when you come across a new recipe or concoct a dream recipe,  you have the necessary tools on hand without going into spontaneous debt. I’ve accumulated countless vinegars, oils, and spices using this method: most recently I bought toasted sesame oil which has elevated my impromptu tofu scrambles to another level.

For dessert, I decided not to make a river of chocolate fondue and opted for a couple of (GASP) store bought desserts.

Actually, this was probably my best idea- I bought four tiny desserts (two mini chocolate covered cheesecake bites, a mini-cannoli, and a petit four). This way, my girlfriend and I were able to have a very sweet dessert without creating a ton of leftovers and without breaking the caloric bank. Also, they were only .99 per treat- Whole Foods Market, you are my valentine.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine’s Day. If you’re single, try not to let the antics of your slobbering friends (myself included) get you down- self-love is much more important than love from a partner.

And if you’re slobbering all over someone, try to remember than Valentine’s Day is not the only day of the year that you should make a noted effort to show care for the one you love (or ones– monogamy is not for everyone).

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Say it Ain’t SNOW: A Recap of New Purchases, and Why Corporate Farming is Destroying My Judgement

Today I was reminded of one of the side effects of living in a world dominated by corporate food manufacturing: it’s very easy to forget that weather directly affects farming opportunities. I mean, when you can buy peaches and strawberries in the middle of December, why the hell would anyone be thinking about the fact that those items are out of season and didn’t come from a farm nearby?

(It’s probably because we live in the Matrix. Or America. You know, semantics.)

Therefore, if there’s been an unusual amount of snow and ice in your area, there will be a very meager selection of produce at your local farmer’s market.

Let me make this a little more simple:

This:

(Source)

+This:

(Source)

=

Whatever, I’ll hit up the market later in the week. Anyway, while I was at home with my parentals and little bro, my mom and I went on a mother/daughter grocery shopping expedition and I found steel cut oats at ALDI:

Um, what? I had difficulty finding a selection of steel cut oats at Harris-Teeter, and there’s a giant display at ALDI for half the typical price? I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but that strikes me as slightly amusing. Now, these oats are quick cooking, so I don’t know how they will compare to these oats:

I’ll be sure to let you guys know how the taste testing goes down with these two items. Whole Foods versus Aldi– this ought to be very interesting.

Also, my mom hooked me up with a new kind of tahini:

I’m pretty excited to try it- Mama Bear got it for a great price using amazon.com, but some of the reviews say it’s kind of bitter. Do you eat tahini? Do you have a favorite way of preparing it? I, for one, am about to embark on a series of hummus experimental adventures.

Also, when I arrived home in Cancer City, guess what was waiting for me?

And Yes, I did pose these photos on top of my record player.

🙂 🙂 🙂 I love new purchases, especially when they come in the form of an Eat Smart Precision Pro Kitchen Scale and an Omron GoSmart Pocket Pedometer.

Because I’m Jessamyn and I have the patience of a two year-old, OF COURSE I had to immediately start weighing everything in my kitchen using my lovely new scale. I won’t bore you with all my testing, but I was very impressed with the scale’s accuracy and ESPECIALLY the great convenience of the tare function. By using the tare button, I can easily place a plate/bowl on the scale and zero out its weight before measuring my actual food. There’s no silly math involved at ALL. It’s a REVELATION, y’all.

Plus, doesn’t it look so pretty next to my coffeemaker? Now my kitchen is semi-color coordinated.

(Ok, I’m making an ass of myself.)

I’d have taken more photographs of my pedometer, but I immediately adjusted all the settings, clipped it to my shirt, and walked around my kitchen like an idiot for ten minutes. Things I’ve learned so far? Apparently I have a very short stride, and walk too slowly. I’m sure more lessons will be learned as soon as I start walking and acting like a normal person again. Ok, that’s probably asking a bit too much- everyone knows I’m nowhere near normal.

How was your Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you act more or less silly than I did?

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FINALLY: The Wait Is OVER!

It’s been a pretty busy weekend here at Jessamyn’s house. For starters, I FINALLY received my loan refund check. Do you know what that means?

 

Yeah, that’s right: A FRIDGE (and pantry) FULL OF FOOD! The days of Jessamyn subsisting on pantry scraps are over (until I am desperately awaiting my refund check in the spring- the life of a full-time graduate student is ROUGH, y’all).

Also, I bought Udi’s Gluten Free Bread for the first time, and I’m unnaturally excited to try it.

Other big developments?

Yeah, That's Right: I photographed my sneaks on my kitchen counter. Haters Gonna Hate.

Thanks to Mama and Papa Stanley, I finally have new running sneakers! Honestly, I think part of why my mom was so quick to contribute to the sneaker cause is because she’s been tired of seeing me loaf about in the same pair of kangaroo jogging shoes for the last five (seriously, Jessamyn, five?) years. Somehow, though I never buy shoes for exercising, my regular shoe collection grows steadily every month and my old pair of sneaks grow dingier with every cycle. This is a trend I am determined to end (well, not the purchasing of new pumps, boots, and flats. I might have a new health resolve, but I’m still a Fatshionista).

It’s a happy day in Jessamyn’s house. 🙂

Tonight I’m heading to the afore mentioned parental units house so we can break bread together while I mooch off their washing machine. Also, in case you’ve been living under a rock, the Golden Globe Awards are tonight (8pm EST, NBC) and since my mom and I are amateur movie buffs, this is basically a holiday for us. Plus, I don’t own a television set so even if I wanted to sit at home and cheer for my favorite shows and films alone, I couldn’t. I could go into my anti-television ownership philosophy (which has very little do with televisions and more to do with furniture feng shui), but I’ll spare you for the time being.

I’ll also get to spend some quality time with my little brother- have I mentioned he’s starting Weight Watchers with me? I’m so excited to start this journey with him, and I’ll give more information about our effort later.

AND tomorrow, I’m planning to visit the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market on my way home from J-Town- I can barely contain my excitement. Fruits, vegetables, pumpkin butter? IAMSOEXCITED!

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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