The Ideal vs. The Reality — Grocery Edition, part 1

The Ideal: I live on several acres of rich, loamy soil, in which my own organic garden is planted.  On the property is a little henhouse, with a dozen or so birds to supply our eggs.  Placidly roaming another part of the property is a small herd of sheep — maybe six or so, who clip the grass, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.  From my sheep, I make my own cheese, craft my own milkfat soap, shear and card my own wool, and knit lovely things after I’ve dyed the wool with natural, homemade dyes.  We raise a number of other animals, including some miniature cattle, which are always grass-fed, and from which our year’s supply of meat is derived.  For the things I cannot grow, I visit, weekly, the farmer’s market in the nearby, picturesque village.  I know all the farmers by their first names.

The Reality: Um, not that.

To add to the conflict I feel about not raising my own food are some of the e-mails I receive from a local Yahoo celiac group.  The moderators of the group are AWESOME.  They are ladies of expertise and experience, with the word of kindness and graciousness on their tongue fingers.  There are some members, though, who continue to stipulate that a product is objectionable unless it is, apparently, farmed by celiacs, using organic, gluten-free fertilizer.  To avoid cross-contamination, each item is processed and packaged in hermetically-sealed facilities, which ideally (of course!) are small and family-owned, and whose specially-educated employees are well-versed on the needs of the gluten-free consumer.  Additionally, all packaging contains no plastic and is printed with soy-based ink.  Otherwise, said members won’t purchase the products, and send tersely-worded condescending e-mails out to those (like me!) who would deign to buy from, say, Oscar Mayer, and worse, those (like me!) who might be foolhardy enough to recommend them.

To add to that, I must also stay within other bounds of reality, including a budget, and limits on my time and energy, not to mention that I cook for SEVEN, which carries its own set of demands and limitations.  I love to cook — I really do.  And, I love natural food.  But, I can’t spend $7 on four small organic muffins that were made in a dedicated gluten-free facility!  I can spend $5 on a 5 lb bag of organic carrots, but I can’t spent $5 on a 1 lb container of organic strawberries.  I can travel 25 minutes to a natural foods grocery store, but I can’t travel one hour to the closest organic farmer’s market.  Most often, I can avoid ready-made, packaged foods (saving money), but there are a few that I keep handy, to save time.  I have to pick and choose, based on what is do-able, balancing the ideal and the reality as best I can.

As it is, I split my grocerying between six stores:  Fry’s (a Kroger affiliate), Bashas’ (a local, family-owned chain), Sprouts (a locally-based chain of natural foods stores), Trader Joe’s, Lee Lee (a local Asian market), and Costco.  Each week, I typically visit 2-3 of those stores, usually in a marathon 3-4 hour run, most often after the kids have gone to bed.  🙂

On Tuesday night at Fry’s at about 10 p.m., one of the night stockers stopped me.  “How is my favorite customer?” he greeted me.

Wha–???” I was flustered, as I have never said word one to this man, nor did I know his name, though I did recognize him as a store employee.  “How in the world could I be your favorite customer?” I wondered aloud.

“Well, you always shop at night, when I’m working,” as if that explained anything.

Internally, my eyes narrowed.  Though I’m now unaccustomed to the scenario, I began to suspect that he was flirting.  I put a stop to that the best way I knew how:  “Well, I have a lot of kids.  Five of them.  I find it easiest to shop after my husband and I put them to bed.”  It didn’t stop him.  So, I excused myself as politely but as quickly as I could, and continued with my shopping…  Night stalker, more like it.

Next post:  The Ideal vs. The Reality, Grocery Edition, part 2


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on September 3, 2010, in Budget, Celiac Disease, gluten-free, Housework, Shopping. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Love this post. Now come on, you know those people wouldn’t want soy based ink. Soy is poison! 😉
    I couldn’t agree more about the tone of some of those emails. I have come to think that people with CD, by necessity, have to become very assertive in order to stay safe. Unfortunately that assertiveness tends to cross the line and they come across soooo condesending.

    • Kim, I almost said something about that — about the “soy is poison” group… Hahaha! I’m not a huge fan of soy, myself… But, I think ink is safe!!

    • I can SOOO relate to this post. That is just what people on other allergy related yahoo groups are saying – I should just grow all of my own stuff… have my own cow… etc. Really?! Who can do that?! I wish I could, but it’s not reality for me. So, I have to read labels and as you said, shop at a number of stores for each week’s groceries.

  2. Funny post Karen! I especially like “Internally, my eyes narrowed.” Yesterday, while at Sprouts, an elderly gentlemen followed me around the store, commenting on items I was purchasing. When I started to check out the apples, he said “Hey, did you see the table over there? They have a bags of apples for sale for $1.00. And ther’re nice and cold!” Hmmm. I said “Thanks” and kept strolling along…praying about this man. As I headed toward “other” apples he exlaimed “No, not that way. The apple table is over there!” Hmmmmm. I told him I had heard him, and, “thanks.” I did end up at the apple table. They were on sale for $1.00. I did purchase 2 bags. I whispered “Thanks God” and thought again about my new “friend.” I think he was just a nice guy, and lonely, and …friendly. Makes me sad we live in a world where we must questions friendliness, eh? We just never know.

    • Kathy, you’re so right!! “You just never know.” The conversation went on longer than I detailed here… Initially, I was completely thinking that he was a friendly employee. In general, at “my” Fry’s, the employees friendly and genuinely helpful. I even introduced myself (first name only) and shook his hand. Afterward, I kept regretting even just that handshake!! He wasn’t creepy, but still… Too friendly. Too complimentary. Then, I kept passing him as I was shopping and he was working, and he kept trying to catch my eye. Ugh. MAYBE YOUR GUY FROM SPOUTS AND MINE WERE THE SAME!! Hahahahaha!!! Just kidding. Mine was older than Martin, but definitely not an “elderly gentleman.” 🙂

  3. I liked the ideal! Wouldn’t that be so nice? They can’t take our dreams! 🙂

    I so would have been creeped out by too friendly as well. It is a shame we have to feel this way but you’re right you never know.

  4. Oooh, yeah. I once belonged to a local homeschooling group, affiliated with our faith. There was one lady in the group, a very nice lady, who lived on five acres and had a barn, and was getting cows so they could have raw milk. She ground whole grains for their flour, did the whole soaking thing too.

    Before I knew it, everybody in that group was trying to buy homes on five acres, and aspiring to be just like this lady. She was very nice, and very accomplished, and very efficient. But she wasn’t ME. She had five acres and a farmhouse and barn because it had been in her husband’s family for years. Her husband’s family were farmers, so they knew the lifestyle. These other ladies who were trying to be her, they lived in the city, their husbands weren’t interested in milking cows, but they seemed to feel that to be a really good homeschooling mom of faith, you had to be like this other family.

    It always bothers me when people follow the crowd without being authentic to themselves and their families’ needs and circumstances. Would I like to eat everything organic? Yes. Is it feasible for my family and finances? Nope. Thanks for this post. 🙂

    FWIW, the checker at our Kroger knows us, we go as a family the same day each week, early in the morning before my husband has to go to work–we end up with two carts (we have three boys) and lots of comments. And the lady at Trader Joe’s knows us, too! We are predictable.

  1. Pingback: The Ideal vs. The Reality, Grocery Edition, part 2. « Only Sometimes Clever

  2. Pingback: The Ideal vs. The Reality — Grocery Edition, part 3 « Only Sometimes Clever

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