Five Ways to Improve Your Groceries

Hey, it’s Wednesday!  This week (after last week’s embarrassing no-show), on the heels of yesterday’s bonus edition, here are five ways to improve the food you buy.  The vast majority of everything on your grocer’s shelves is, sadly, not anything your great-grandmother would recognize as “food.”  Since most of us have insanely busy lives (which is a whole different health issue – check out my regular Sunday feature), we need the local supermarket to be our one-stop for nutrition.  Here are five ways we can help our favorite supermarkets help us eat more actual food.

1.)  Vote With Your Wallet.  The simplest, most essential step.  Find out which items you regularly purchase include things you don’t want to feed yourself.  Then start purchasing a competitive item that more closely resembles food.  As an example, lets say that after reading labels you find the brand of canned tomatoes you’ve been buying includes high-fructose corn syrup.  I’ll bet there’s another brand next to it on the shelf that doesn’t include strange chemicals.  Buy that brand.

2.)  Speak Up.  After you switch brands, make time to talk with the store manager.  Explain why you’ve switched brands. Don’t be confrontational, just let them know.  He (or she) will look at you as if he has no idea why you’re telling him this.  That’s OK.  You want him to know why sales of  brand A have dropped and sales of brand B have improved.  If you don’t share that information, somebody is going to assume their marketing worked (or stopped working), not that there is an actual nutritional reason you switched.

3.)  Catch up on Your Reading.  Let’s say your grocer doesn’t stock a healthy alternative to the aforementioned chemicall-y tomatoes.  Go home and hit the interwebs.  I’ll promise you, there is a company that makes a quality alternative to that product.  When you find the brand you wish your grocer stocked, have a conversation with the manager.  Make sure the store knows you want that new product, and that you will buy it.

4.)  Vote With Your Feet.  Or, more likely, your tires.  If the store manager is unable to offer healthier choices, or is simply uninterested in talking with a crazy hippie activist like you … find a different grocery store.  Loyalty has to work both ways – many of us enjoy being a loyal customer, but the grocer must recognize he or she has an obligation to hear his or her customer.  If you end up needing to change where you shop, that’s a great opportunity for you to look for a locally-owned grocer or co-op.

5.)  Tell Your Friends.  Today we have unprecedented opportunities to share consumer information with friends and acquaintances.  If you go through the steps above, tell people about your experience.  Use Facebook and Twitter.  Use email.  Use – gasp – conversations.  Let people know that if they want to feed themselves and their families wholesome products they can call “food” with a straight face, there is a way to get those products on the shelves at your favorite grocer.

All of the above is predicated on the understanding that your supermarket wants you to keep shopping at their store.  And they do.  They need you.  And you need them to stock their shelves with good food you can feel good about feeding yourself, your family and your friends.  You shouldn’t be nasty or confrontational about any of this.  You’re offering them (free, exact) market research.  Your goal here should be to keep shopping where you want to shop and leaving with real food.  Their object should be keeping you as a customer so they can remain profitable and stay in business.

Clearly the steps above apply to more than canned tomatoes.  If you want more local produce, more organic food, food with fewer chemicals … but you want to keep shopping at your favorite supermarket, you are going to have to get involved in the process of choosing the food that goes on your grocer’s shelves.

For most of human history, finding food has been, in a word, hard.  For the past half-century or so in the US, we’ve come to understand that it should be easy.  We’re learning now that the process of making food easy is making food less nutritional, more dangerous and less food-like.  It’s time to devote a bit more effort to finding food that works for our bodies.

Thanks for reading!


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