What image comes to mind when you think about eco-minded grocery shopping? Food snobs? We often create stereotypes about these shoppers based on store settings that offer access to bulk rainbow quinoa and locally grown, organic, dew-kissed kale. Yet as a health-conscious customer, I find myself miles away from the health food cooperative and standing in the middle of….the Piggly Wiggly.
Low housing prices trump grocery store preference.
Spending food dollars is like voting. We choose to support one brand or industry over another. For me, voting at the Piggly Wiggly is like the 2004 elections. I swallow hard and buy the eggs regardless of their pale yolks. Yet you can find healthy choices at The Pig. Voting there has its benefits:
Supporting local business
I not only save $8-10 on gas and 1.5 hours driving time, I help an independently owned and operated business. Our Pig provides stable employment, creates that first job for our young adults, and sponsors local programs and events. The owner is open to conversations that alert him to a growing customer base. It may not be cost-effective to carry organic carrots right now, but they might show up if enough shoppers express interest. I found reusable bags, agave nectar and locally grown produce at our Pig in just the last year.
Limited options sometimes make life easier
Most small town stores dedicate a few shelves to natural/organic products. One healthy peanut butter choice prevents me from staring slack-jawed at the mountain of variety offered elsewhere. I am less tempted to spend money on prepackaged goodies than when I shop at larger stores, and am getting better at prioritizing my shopping list when I do hitch up the wagon for the big city.
Get creative (a.k.a. cooking)
Bags of rice, beans, legumes, flour, and oats are perhaps the cheapest, healthiest options you’ll find in small town stores. Shopping there brings you back to basics where you shop to cook, rather than immediately eat. It takes time to turn ingredients into food, but time spent is money and health saved. Stock up on sale produce and freeze it. Make homemade cookies.
Explore your area
Look beyond The Pig. Is there a farmer’s market or roadside stand nearby? Do you have room to grow tomato plants? Do you have friends with chickens? Help a neighbor weed their garden, and you may come home with lettuce for a week. Supplement your Pig purchases with new sources of food.
Apply the golden rules of healthy shopping
Stick to the perimeter of the store, read labels, conduct research one shopping trip at a time. Pick one item on your list and seek a brand with ingredients you can understand.
Eating well in a small town is possible by familiarizing yourself with products, finding or creating new options and spending more time in the kitchen. If you have any tips about navigating small town supermarkets, I’d love to hear from you!