Since my self-imposed ban on Whole Foods, I do most of my grocery shopping at the back of my freezer–and the rest at Trader Joe’s. And though it’s nearly lost me on a couple of occasions to soggy lettuce or some “eh” looking pork, I have to say this: what TJ’s does well, it does really well.
I haven’t treated myself to anything really unnecessary in some time. My shopping lists are spartan: eggs, milk, bread and chicken. BORING. So when I spotted some Monkey Business on Thursday during my lunch hour, my curiosity was peaked and my resistance was low.
Salted peanuts, banana chips, dried cherries and cocoa nibs. It’s completely confusing. Is it weird? Is it good? I’m not sure, but I couldn’t stop after a handful of it. I found myself stuffing it down while trying to push the bag back in my desk drawer with one hand and take another scoop with the other (think some weird arcade game). They’ve nailed the combination of indulgent, cheap enough for the rest of us, and still “healthier” than pretzels or chips–which of course they also sell, if you want them.
So first of all, Whole Foods, move over. And second, I forgot how wanton if feels to buy food you really don’t need.
After a troubling incident in a Cambridge Whole Foods aisle, I forced myself to think about this. I had calculated the work hours needed to purchase a particular bag of organic, locally-grown, non-GMO, heirloom, sustainably transported, humanely-raised flakes of oatmeal (just kidding on that one). Incidentally, there was no inexpensive store-brand version that day.
I eventually left without the oatmeal–and the beginnings of a changed perspective.
I live in an affluent area where that kind of spending is the norm. And while I’d love to have that much disposable income, what I realized was that I still wouldn’t have bought that damn oatmeal. It’s all gone a little too far, and with the growing food obsession in this country, it’s like the next incarnation of “keeping up with.” Sure, people spend proportionally more on food in other countries. But I can bet you they aren’t spending $5 a bag on Pirate’s Booty and buying yogurts that cost more than a gallon of gas.
My point? A lot of our food buying isn’t about food–just like our eating isn’t always about being hungry. We just don’t like to feel deprived. We don’t want to have to choose. But in my almost-year of coupon clipping and canned-bean eating (though I have been treated to some very nice meals by my generous BF) I’ve reevaluated my wants and needs. I’m content to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. I eat a lot of them. And I bargain hunt when I shop for meats and veggies. I would rather eat meat less, and have good meat. I’d rather save my pennies and have good cheese or pate for a week than buy bags of chips and cookies (which actually cost so much more!).
One side benefit of my personal sequestration is that even a small treat feels like a huge luxury (case in point, my Monkey Business). The enjoyment is great, and has lasted all week. Though downsizing this year was purely to save money, the side effects were perhaps more valuable than that–if having less now is more satisfying on the pathway to eventually having “more.”