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What's right about grocery stores?  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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My housemate's friend has been going through a rough time--anxiety, depression, difficulty thinking straight. last night she stopped by and it took her an hour to motivate herself to go grocery shopping. "I hate grocery stores," she said.

I don't hate grocery stores. I can find them annoying, I don't thrill to be inside them usually, but I don't hate them.

They are a good source of food for us while we're building the infrastructure for the new world.

They are an excellent source for dumpster-diving (she is a dumpster diver and enjoys doing that quite a lot, it gives her a sense of meaning and satisfaction), allowing one to live by some permaculture principles almost immediately without having sown a single seed--you can use available resources, turn waste into resource, capture and retain good, and all for free.

I know it's hard for her to focus her thoughts on what feels good, and I didn't try to say anything, just to communicate with my body language that it's all going to be OK. But I thought I'd post about it here.

It's frustrating that the grocery store is, in so many ways, a huge step backward from the fresh-from-the-homestead food we used to have, the greater variety of breeds of each given vegetable or grain or nut, etc. But it is also in other ways some steps forward. The greater diversity of plants from different parts of the world is something you can readily grab seeds from and throw them in your soil. The ease and convenience of the grocery store does provide us with time to set up lazy farms, easier than what our ancestors dealt with. If we were dependent on our own homestead's crops and had nothing to fall back on, we might not have the room to experiment with a radically different design.

Our friend is the sort of person I really want to help. My heart goes out to her--so much to offer the world, so much intelligence and caring. It feels better to think of the world adjusting around people like her to become a more life-giving, nourishing one.

 
pollinator
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Eiiish, I'm not sure how much I can help here. When I got back from Egypt I'd damn near have a panic attack whenever I walked into a grocery store. I'd also been reading a lot alot about psychology and marketing and everything about the place flipped me out. Bright colors. Over packaging. Brainwash music that had run its course 30 years ago. High ceiling, lots of florescence, ways lots AC ways lots heat.

The only think I can think of is that 1) they have great food preparation areas and full kitchens. 2) They're equipped with butchery tools. 3)Lots of area and already retrofitted for lots of freezer space. So I think theoretically they'd be great central food locations provided all the isles and currant food was ripped out of them and replaced with food worth eating. Some of those places are so damn big you could probably set up a skating rink and paintball arena in the same building and have a food market and family fun center.

But sorry Joshua, I'm with your housemates lady friend. Super Markets freak me out. And most of them seem to have compactors now - which pisses me off. I'd say encourage her dumpstering and just do the damn shopping for the all of ya's. I mean, don't try to make something that's uncomfortable feel comfortable right? It's sounds to me like she's got great instincts.

Okay, sorry if this didn't help at all. Just one point of view.
 
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Her gut is right. They are ruining her health. All the processed foods and preservatives mess up your flora and fauna and cause....wait for it....

Anxiety, depression, inability to think straight.

 
Posts: 1947
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For years I worked at our local food co-op and on a farm that someone else ran. I got a great staff discount at the co-op and a generous supply of what we call "farmer food"- surplus and odd looking vegetables. I didn't set food in a grocery store except for a thrice-yearly trek to the little Trader Joe's near the big thrift store a few towns away. It was great. I ate well and cheaply.

When I married my husband, took over the management of this farm, stopped working at the co-op and had twins then another baby my food systems changed. The grocery store is cheaper than the co-op without the discount (and that great out of date stuff the staff got to take home, and the kitchen leftovers, mmmm) so I started to go there. At first I was like Landon describes- overloaded! Too bright! Too many choices! So much junk! Such miserable people! Beep beep beep!

I've gotten used to it now. Which is not my favorite thing about myself. It's fine unless I start thinking of Food Hold Inc., the very large company that owns nearly the whole food system :p

Anyway the question is, what's good about grocery stores...

It is sort of miraculous to have access to such an amazing variety of foods. They do have a variety of produce that is reasonably in season as well as the tropical stuff that make it easier to eat more raw fresh fruit and veggies in the winter in New England. Ours has local milk and cheese and eggs. The demand for natural and organic food has expanded that section (good for the consumer's pocketbook, not good for my beloved co-op ) I'm very grateful that I don't have to produce everything we eat here on our farm. That farm I used to work on was a CSA so we grew everything. I'm preferring to focus on a few key crops as I go no-till, build fertility and a food forest, and observe observe observe. CSAs are great but man they are a lot of work. Homesteading is a lot of work. Washing cloth diapers is a lot of work! Thank you grocery store.

If it were my friend I'd suggest that she join me for a visit to the co-op and consider joining and working some volunteer hours to get a discount. If there was no co-op I'd try to get a buying club going. That isn't hard with companies like UNFI (big "evil" corporation, but reasonable prices on organic/natural food and easy to buy in bulk) and Frontier (it's a co-op! So not evil, but a bit pricier. High quality herbs)

There is enough depressing stuff about this world, I like your focus on finding what to be happy about.
 
Posts: 228
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Local Grocery stores often carry locally produced foods throughout the year here in NH. I can find raw dairy, pasture raised meats, pastured eggs, and seasonal local produce. There are several local grocers in southern NH who do this. These stores allow people with busy schedules to still buy high quality foods.
 
pollinator
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Sounds like she needs council,on life in general, not grocery stores.
Lacking motivation to feed oneself via whatever means is a sign of deep depression.
I hope she gets some help.
 
steward
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While I am also not a big fan of the supermarkets, I have to think of the millions of inner city Americans who live in food deserts. They do not have access to this variety of foods. Quite often, the only thing in their neighborhood is overpriced convenience stores that stock very little 'real food'. Frozen dinners, bags of chips, and 12-packs of soda pop/beers.

A huge portion of our population would be far healthier if they had access to a supermarket.

 
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Grocery stores are really good at delivering a large quantity of food to a large quantity of people. As noted, they certainly do produce a fair amount of waste, but I would be shocked if they were more wasteful than farmers markets when viewed on a waste per pound of food delivered. Also, grocery stores give people the option of purchasing inexpensive food. People like to be nostalgic for farming 75 or 100 years ago, but lets not forget that people spent two or three times as much on food then (relative to their disposable incomes) as they do now.

The great news is that high quality / high price food products are becoming available once more and people have the option to go with high price/quality or low price/quality...and I am in favor of giving people options.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Great replise, everyone!

A few things to respond to --

she's already getting counselling--it doesn't seem to help much that I can see. Being sane in an insane world kind of a thing. But if she eats the gravlax (cured salmon) that I make, she feels better in seconds! like, brain clearing, ability to think straight. So diet is definitely a help, nutrition anyway. (fish oil helps too, but not nearly the same as the gravlax--though I now it occurs to me that that fish oil in our fridge may be really old). she's trying so hard and put sso many roadblocks in her own way.

great ideas about food buying clubs abnd such! for context, this is New England, Somerville--pricey area, but lots of good organic food available (even in the big chain markets as well as the Whole Foods and food coops), relatative to food desert areas. However, it's also pricey to the point of imbalance for many, and the food-buying clubs have a fair amount of chaos. I have to hunt those down a bit more assiduously, but you've reminded me that that's something I'd like to look into. We have a couple of food coops that aren't really food coops, I've been told, and they're super-expensive even with the member refund. (Why I live here is a different story. I can just do what I can with the situation to make it better.)

As for lacking the will to feed herself--I know she'll eat something eventually, she did get herself out the door eventually. It's more mental wheel-spinning than real problem, and she might end up eating less healthy things sometimes when she chooses to skip the grocery store and eat junky stuff. But ultimately, I can understand how a person would want to fast rather than darken the door of a grocery store. A human's relationship to the Earth is second only to their relationship to themselves, to their spirit. You can be a hermit, but you still need a patch of earth to sit on, you can eat sunlight you still need the sun. Whether it's going through a grocery store or through a farm or a homestead, it's a primal need. I trust her instincts will lead her along the right journey for her, even if it's rocky along the way, but I don't judge. I think Mother Theresa said she lived in India because she found the spiritual poverty in America was too much for her to handle, whereas in India it was easier.

I'd love to know what it was like in Egypt!! tell us more?

Yes, the lights and the wastefulness and the music are a drag, but we can use this to get some healthy foods. I realize I've felt increasingly irritated about shopping, feeling the gap between that and where I want to be with my food sources, and I do want to do something about it. I also kind of hope there's more deterioration of the old paradigm so that more people will get willing to forge the new.

I'm going to throw a couple ideas her way from this thread, though I imagine she'll make up reasons she can't take action on them I never know till I try it.

She's a strong person inside. When she talks about the world she wants to live in I can feel the power in it, I can feel the reality in it. It's on its way. She's inspiring.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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That's fascinating about the waste at farmes' markets! do you have any links about that? my freegan housemate would probably be interested for her research.

I think easy food is a good idea, now let's work on having it be real food too.

I guess what started this whole line of thought for me is that I made some peace with using fossil fuels for earth moving--let's use it once to set up a self-sustaining thing, while it's cheap! so, we could think of the grocery store the same way. Use it for a limited period of time, to power your efforts at creating your long-term solutions. Puts it in a different light and gives me more peace of mind.


John Wolfram wrote:Grocery stores are really good at delivering a large quantity of food to a large quantity of people. As noted, they certainly do produce a fair amount of waste, but I would be shocked if they were more wasteful than farmers markets when viewed on a waste per pound of food delivered. Also, grocery stores give people the option of purchasing inexpensive food. People like to be nostalgic for farming 75 or 100 years ago, but lets not forget that people spent two or three times as much on food then (relative to their disposable incomes) as they do now.


The great news is that high quality / high price food products are becoming available once more and people have the option to go with high price/quality or low price/quality...and I am in favor of giving people options.

 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
pollinator
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Also, a point about thinking--asking what's right about something is different from deciding that it is right. it's a focus for thinking. you can do separate operations: ask what's right about something and defer decision till later. or, ask what's right about something because you don't have other options and have to make the best of it. or, ask what's right about it in the interest of observe, observe, observing it. I'm not going to get a demolition crew and take down any grocery stores tomorrow, and neither is my friend, but today I can either ask the question about what's right about it, or feel frustrated about them.

I think modeling thinking on biological systems , like de Bono, is really a permacultural way of going about it, of "permaculturing our thinking"; that permaculture thinking at its best is thinking that goes along nature's design of thinking/flows/systems.

I've contacted a nearby food buying club, I'll follow up with themwhen I'm at their housing coop next ifI don't hear back from them. They're pretty well organized as housing coops go, and fairly good at responding to emails.
 
gardener
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I think grocery stores are an antiquated idea but necessary in an world of industrial food systems.
But, at one time they were a great way to learn about different foods.
For example, I had never heard of a dragon fruit until a local store brought some in.
Processed food may not be good for us, but a frozen meal can be a way to sample a new taste or ethnic dish without paying a restaurant price.

Some things that can help -

Take a day to wander through the local stores. This isn't a shopping day.
Take the time to look in coolers, check out the food aisles you rarely frequent. Learn your local stores, who has what, for what prices.
Think of it like a treasure hunt. You never know what you might discover.

Visit the stores when it's not busy if crowds are bothersome for you.

Using a playlist and headphones can help drown out chaos and blasting ads.
Rarely does anyone talk to you in a store other than to say "excuse me" so use it as a time for inner thoughts.
The more you turn inside, the less the outside will bother you.

Likewise, a hood and/or sunglasses can cut down the glaring light. People may look at you a little suspiciously, but whatever.

Have a list and arrange it so it's easy to follow.

If the coldness of it all is a problem, turn it around and talk to people. Ask the butcher about meat boxes.
Talk to the woman picking out mangoes and ask how chooses. Ask the deli person for a sample of something you've been wanting to try.

Check out sites like Amazon for things that can be bought and delivered without ever stepping in a store.
 
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Here is my thought: I read (can't remember where) that delivering food to supermarkets in big 18-wheeler trucks actually has a smaller carbon footprint than all those separate pickup trucks each bringing one farm's worth of food to a farmer's market. Now suppose we turn it around. I have never seen any one farmer's market with everything on my grocery list. They're great for produce, and for those of you who eat meat, they can certainly be a source of good, organic cuts. But suppose you want oily fish for the omega-3's? Or maybe you're lactose intolerant, or for some other reason you drink soymilk or almondmilk instead of dairy milk? Maybe you're doing the Atkins thing, low carb, so you want tortilla wraps instead of sandwich bread. I have never seen a farmer's market that has all of these things; I always end up having to go to a supermarket anyway. But doesn't going to both the farmer's market and the supermarket raise my own carbon footprint higher than just going to the supermarket for everything?
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:My housemate's friend has been going through a rough time--anxiety, depression, difficulty thinking straight.  last night she stopped by and it took her an hour to motivate herself to go grocery shopping.  "I hate grocery stores," she said.

I don't hate grocery stores.  I can find them annoying, I don't thrill to be inside them usually, but I don't hate them.

They are a good source of food for us while we're building the infrastructure for the new world.

They are an excellent source for dumpster-diving (she is a dumpster diver and enjoys doing that quite a lot, it gives her a sense of meaning and satisfaction), allowing one to live by some permaculture principles almost immediately without having sown a single seed--you can use available resources, turn waste into resource, capture and retain good, and all for free.

I know it's hard for her to focus her thoughts on what feels good, and I didn't try to say anything, just to communicate with my body language that it's all going to be OK.  But I thought I'd post about it here.

It's frustrating that the grocery store is, in so many ways, a huge step backward from the fresh-from-the-homestead food we used to have, the greater variety of breeds of each given vegetable or grain or nut, etc.  But it is also in other ways some steps forward.  The greater diversity of plants from different parts of the world is something you can readily grab seeds from and throw them in your soil.  The ease and convenience of the grocery store does provide us with time to set up lazy farms, easier than what our ancestors dealt with.  If we were dependent on our own homestead's crops and had nothing to fall back on, we might not have the room to experiment with a radically different design.  

Our friend is the sort of person I really want to help.  My heart goes out to her--so much to offer the world, so much intelligence and caring.  It feels better to think of the world adjusting around people like her to become a more life-giving, nourishing one.




Most if not all city people here have three choices:

1. Grocery stores – multinational conglomerates
2. Separate independently owned butches/bakers/fruit and veg/fish mongers/delicatessens, etc
3. Farmers markets

Those living rurally often have the same choices, but add to that:

a. Swapping/bartering with ‘neighbours’
b. Paying at the many ‘honesty box’ sheds some farmers construct outside their fields to dispose of over-supply e.g. it may be stocked with watermelon, pumpkin, tomatoes, garlic, etc with a placard suggesting a price per item or bunch, and a cash tin. Passers-by just walk in, choose what they want, pay and leave. Nobody is there to serve you or police honesty

I tend to avoid grocery stores because the food is like a McDonald’s burger – along with cockroaches it will survive a nuclear holocaust because of the questionable genetic make-up and abundant use of chemicals. Prefer to keep the independent ‘little man’ businesses ticking over because they’re the ones that keep the economy going: no shareholders, no CEO termination payouts, no money travelling oversea, and so on.

Most importantly, grocery food produce is often months or years old – no thanks, I prefer to eat seasonally and therefore fresh.

It is very relaxing to wander around independent shops and farmers markets, just taking in the vibe, aromas and seeing like-minded people – that may assist your friend’s anxiey?


 
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I am going to put in a vote for a multi-national grocery store here. Not everyone has a place to grow much, if any, food. Grocery stores can provide good nutrition, not just highly processed junk. When I shop, and I do, because I don’t grow everything we eat, I drive to a nearby town and go to ALDI’s. So, apparently, does half that town, as no matter what time of day or which day of the week I go, that store is packed with people. It is packed for good reason, as its prices are way less than other grocery stores in the area.

There are $.71 per dozen eggs and $.81 per gallon milk, etc. For those with a bit higher food budget, there are reasonably priced organic foods, although they are priced higher than the non-organics. Like most grocery stores, it has junk foods. But it also has the ingredients to cook healthier foods at home at affordable prices (or more affordable than most stores). I get my grass fed ghee there for far less than it costs at other stores, for example.

Things I like about the store:

- bring your own bags
- they try to be energy efficient
- customers put away their carts (to get a quarter back) so employees aren’t out playing cart cowboy and carts aren’t left in the parking lot
- there are increasingly more choices with reduced packaging (or none in the case of much of the produce)
- budget friendly
- organic selections
- not too big
 
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Move to the country. Real country not stylish/trendy semi-rural area for people with lots of money.
 
pollinator
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The ideal grocery store, in my mind:

They pick up the fresh produce/meats/dairy/baked goods that day
set out at store alongside the dry and preserved inventory
sell until dinnertime
storefront is now a restaurant - all unsold, perishable food items are now ingredients for the dish being served that day.

All perishable food after closing is harvested for seed, propagated, fed to livestock, and/or composted.
Cycle begins again the next day.

Ideally you're in partnership with your supplier, who respects your setup and plans crop availability with you(staggering ripeness times, selling compatible(cuisine-wise) varieties of produce, etc.)
 
pollinator
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Dustin Rhodes wrote:The ideal grocery store, in my mind:

They pick up the fresh produce/meats/dairy/baked goods that day
set out at store alongside the dry and preserved inventory
sell until dinnertime
storefront is now a restaurant - all unsold, perishable food items are now ingredients for the dish being served that day.

All perishable food after closing is harvested for seed, propagated, fed to livestock, and/or composted.
Cycle begins again the next day.

Ideally you're in partnership with your supplier, who respects your setup and plans crop availability with you(staggering ripeness times, selling compatible(cuisine-wise) varieties of produce, etc.)



This is basically already happening...
Whole Foods and Wegman's are in the lead in the Boston area, where you can get salad bar, hot food bar, prepared meals, all day long.
I can't imagine that the "sell-by-today" chicken isn't  made into the chicken salad for tomorrow... or the meat into meatloaf... veggies trimmed and cut up for salads...
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Kenneth Elwell wrote:I can't imagine that the "sell-by-today" chicken isn't  made into the chicken salad for tomorrow... or the meat into meatloaf... veggies trimmed and cut up for salads...



That's the main difference, turning your potential waste stream back into a value-added product.  

But also doing it at a small enough scale that you sell out of your fresh produce(either when fresh or as a meal) by the end of each day, so cold-storage is not an expense.
 
Kenneth Elwell
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But, you still need the cold storage for the "daytime" to keep things fresh/safe... so at best you can shut it off a few hours at night.
I tend to shop at the end of business at one store, and they take all the produce to the stockroom cooler for the night.
So, the produce coolers may not?  be running overnight? They might have them on a timer to start in time to cool down for opening/restocking in the morning.
I've also witnessed curtains and blankets placed over the open fridges and open frozen food bins.

There's conservation of energy, but also conservation of labor to consider (which is the highest expense...)
This gets into replacing petroleum with people on one hand, but on the other... shifting electric use for storage over to energy use for running around to gather things every day, with more labor and travel to get it done.
 
Dustin Rhodes
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Spitballing here, but 90% of fresh produce types can withstand room temperatures for <8hrs without degradation, as well as meat when butchered onsite, on request.  As for dairy,  when properly sealed, not to mention pasteurized, and using electricity free cooling methods, it shouldn't be a problem for <8hrs(or even much less, if you plan to sell out early).

Refrigeration is for convenience, not necessity; that's why we've been able to survive without it for thousands of years - modern discoveries, inventions and scientific knowledge only accentuate our ability to survive/thrive.
 
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Joshua, how is your friend doing nowadays?
 
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