“Regular” Groceries

“Regular” Groceries

My coffee post, and this article by Marion Nestle about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines released by the FDA yesterday, have me thinking about groceries.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while must know, I’m a big believer in buying real food, preferably from people you know. We buy a pig and a lamb every year (although I’m pretty sure Himself doesn’t love lamb the way I do). People give us gifts of elk and antelope and home-raised beef on occasion. I have a garden and chickens for eggs.

But I guess one of the reasons I wanted to blog about my weird affection for Maxwell House French Roast coffee is that the whole food thing gets so unbearably precious. I could spend more money for coffee that isn’t grown and packaged by a conglomerate, but this coffee works for me. I don’t need to feel smug about my coffee or about its pedigree. It’s coffee. There’s nothing else in it — and I can even justify the plastic packaging because Himself reuses it. There are other “regular” groceries I still buy — Triscuits and Stoned Wheat Thins come to mind. Herdez salsas. Tilamook cheese. English tea. Citrus in winter. Pasta — mostly Barilla and DeCecco. The occasional hot dog and sliced ham from the deli counter for sandwiches. Frozen veggies sometimes — I like them for throwing into a soup or a pasta at the last minute.

Reading the Marion Nestle piece though it became clear that my lifelong tendency to avoid those center aisles — the ones where the mixes and prepared foods and the frozen dinners are — it became clear that even though I might buy commercial coffee, I’m still not really shopping like a “regular” American. Look at her discussion of sodium levels. If you’re cooking your own food, “from scratch” (see here for my hatred of that phrase) the sodium thing isn’t going to be a huge problem. However, one of the primary preservatives in most processed food is salt, and hence, if you’re eating a lot of food out of boxes, or frozen stuff, or even those prepared meals from the back of the store, then the sodium thing is going to be a huge issue.

Which brings me back around to one of my perennial questions: what “regular” foods do you buy at the store? Are there things you buy that you’d like to find a substitution for, but just haven’t managed to? Are there things you buy that you know aren’t great for you but you love anyway? Do these fall into the “treat” category or into the “must-have” category?

8 thoughts on ““Regular” Groceries

  1. I must confess that despite my tendencies towards the local and homemade, I’m a sucker for some of those grocery store snack foods. For instance, I really like pretzels and here in Philly, there are a number of really terrific, inexpensive pretzels from which to choose. There’s just no point in skipping them or insanely considering trying to make them at home. I also buy cream cheese, cottage cheese and lots of frozen fruit. I live two blocks from a Trader Joe’s, which is mostly a blessing but sometimes a curse.

  2. Organic frozen vegetables: I must have them. I grow my own vegetables, but the garden is small, and this is Belgium, which means not much sun and heat and thus not much vegetable.
    “Carabreizh”: it’s caramel cream, salty, and it’s the most delicious, regressive pleasure I can think of. You’re supposed to spread it on crêpes, but I like it pure. I guess it should be a treat, but really, I have grown an addiction, so it’s a must-have to me. Try to find it!

  3. Having really boring grocery stores does help — the closest Trader Joe is probably Spokane? Seattle? I have been known to come home from Seattle with a car full of Trader Joe’s bags —

  4. I’m usually good about only buying these a few times a year: pop tarts and m&ms.

    A friend with a CostCo membership has been facilitating access to giant boxes of Ghiradelli brownie mix. This is obviously a treat but also close to a must-have since if I don’t make my own treats, I will just buy them elsewhere during the day. sometimes I have the cash and the opportunity to buy a $2 cookie from a local bakery, but I’m just as likely to blow a dollar on a snickers bar or a Tim Hortons donut.

    Pasta and tomato sauce is a staple of my diet. I sometimes make my own sauce from store-bought canned tomatoes and fresh vegetables, but I eat enough of it that I don’t really want to try to make it all, either from canned tomatoes or from one million fresh ones in August, to meet my current habit of 2-4 jars a month. I used to live where I could get fresh pasta easily and somewhat affordably, but not now, so it’s boxed “fancy” store brand, usually capellini (which is pretty hard to make without restaurant-grade machinery anyway).

  5. I do buy canned tomatoes and boxed pasta. Oatmeal. Bags of beans (I prefer to order from Rancho Gordo, but sometimes a gal needs a bag in a pinch). I buy my coffee from the roasteria down the street.

    I’d like to learn to grow a few things of my own (I live in a city studio apartment with no outside space and a cat who eats anything green), but I get much of my food from local grocers who buy from local farmers.

  6. My son joined a ski team this year & my daughter is in lessons, which means that on Sat & often Sun the four people in my family eat meals at the mountain, in the cold, sitting in the back of the truck. Through December I made things like hearty pastries which we could bring up there, but lord almighty between my job and running the household and caring for the children, it is just not possible to spend my weekdays cooking ‘real food’ in anticipation of the weekend. So I’ve been buying canned soups, deli meats & cheese & bread, yogurt in little containers, and even pudding in little containers. We do eat GORP too but it’s cold up there, you know? And we get really hungry… I have found an awesomely delicious local bakery which makes little meat pasties by hand (by hand!) and I plan to start buying them up.

  7. Hmm: The regular list is: canned tomatoes, pasta, coffee, nuts, citrus, green veggies, fish, yogurt — which I am tortured over because I ought to be able to do it myself, but can’t get mine to thicken the way I like. The guilty pleasures are: occasionally, potato chips; and in moments of extreme stress, one brand of frozen pizza that has gotten me through some harsh moments.

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