How to Break Up with Your Supermarket
by Daisy Luther
Back in the beginning of your relationship, it seemed like the supermarket had so much to offer. The produce sparkled under the fluorescent lights. The colorful packages were inviting and said all of the right things. The meat was all tidily wrapped up in plastic and styrofoam, with nary a drip in sight.
Then one day, you woke up and the honeymoon was over. Like any dysfunctional relationship, as you got to know the grocery store better, you learned that things weren’t as great as they’d seemed in the beginning. In fact, you’d been misled – the things you thought were healthy weren’t really healthy at all. It was all a lie – most of what the store was selling you wasn’t even actually food. You realized that this relationship was hard on your wallet, it was high maintenance, and it was unhealthy.
But by the time you realized this, you were in too deep and there was no way out of it. So you stuck with it, grudgingly maintaining the relationship, thinking maybe there was something better out there, but not quite sure how to take the leap.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be stuck in this dead-end partnership forever.
How do you leave this dysfunctional relationship?
As anyone who has ever left a co-dependent, unhealthy relationship can tell you, breaking up is hard to do. You are getting rid of an established routine and embarking on something entirely new. Even when a relationship was bad, you pretty much knew what to expect from the other party. By freeing yourself, you were leaping into the unknown.
But sometimes you just have to take the leap.
It is time to refocus your energy on growing as much of your own food as possible, and relying on local farmers for the rest of it. Instead of living a life of dependency – on the grid, the transportation system, the presence of instant food, and the efforts of someone else providing the food for you – it’s time to embark on a journey towards self-sufficiency. The supermarket is a fairly recent creation; and since the world’s population has survived for thousands of years, generation after generation, before grocery stores, it’s a pretty safe bet we that choose to do so can live without them in the future too, if we are willing to put forth the effort.
If you want to break up with your supermarket, you can’t expect your life to be exactly the same as it was before the parting of ways. If you want it to be exactly the same, you might as well keep pushing your cart through those brightly lit aisles. If you are going to take the leap, you have to expect things to be different, and you have to embrace it.
Based on the current North American diet, anyone without many, many acres of farmland in a tropical region won’t be able to eat the same stuff they were getting from the stores.
For example: It takes about 10 square feet to grow enough wheat to result in a pound of flour. 10 square feet of garden space will get you one loaf of bread. The North American diet is highly grain-based, and grains may not be the most practical choice if you have limited space and resources.
Here’s another example: “The most popular fresh fruits in the United States are (in order): Bananas, apples, oranges, grapes and strawberries.” (source) Most of us don’t have a banana tree and an orange tree in the backyard. Apples are not outside the realm of possibility. Grapes and strawberries are seasonal. Thus, if you are breaking up with your supermarket, you simply aren’t going to be able to consume these every week of the year.
But take heart – this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to provide yourself with most of your food. The best approach to self-sufficiency is to adjust yourself to a more local diet. If you live in an area where wheat fields abound, and you know you can purchase directly from the farmer, then you can by all means, continue eating bread and pasta on a daily basis.
For most of us, though, this is hardly practical. It might be time to consider revamping your family’s diet so that you can focus on a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle with food you know you can trust.
What will you eat if you give up the grocery store?
Your menus are going to change, and for the better. For a starting point, look at ancestral diets.
“Paleo” and “Primal” are two buzzwords in the nutrition and weight loss community that have some excellent potential for those seeking a more self-sufficient lifestyle. So what are these plans, exactly?
- The Paleo diet focuses on anything you might “find” as a hunter/gatherer: meat, fish, nuts, greens, local veggies, fruits, and seeds.
- The Primal diet extends the above to include regular consumption of healthy fats, particularly eggs, dairy, and healthy oils.
In our household, as we’ve become more intent on producing our own food, we’ve naturally fallen into more of a primal diet lifestyle. While I’m not necessarily recommending strict adherence to a “diet” or a set of “rules”, what I am suggesting is that you change your family lifestyle to revolve around foods that can be produced close to home. As prices go up and nutrition goes down, you really need to think about how you can provide as much of your own food as possible. A wonderful side effect is an improvement to your health and quite possibly, the loss of those last few pounds you may have been struggling with.
People often ask me, “If you don’t shop at the grocery store, what do you eat?” Because of a relocation we were unable to grow a huge garden last year so we did most of our shopping at a farm less than a mile down the road and the local Co-op. Our family diet includes lots of the following:
- Locally sourced meat and poultry
- Local fruits and vegetables
- Coconut oil (not local – this is one of the staples I buy in bulk)
- Raw milk
We supplement a few times a week with:
- sweet potatoes
There really is a lot of simplicity with a local diet. The Internet abounds with paleo and primal websites loaded with recipes and ideas, many of them absolutely pure and delicious. The thing is, just like I recommended with a gluten-free diet, you have to let go of the way you eat now. If you go and buy highly processed substitutes for the food you eat right now, you aren’t doing your body or your budget any favors. If you’re going to do that, you really shouldn’t even bother making a change like this.
Here’s an example: 3 packs of paleo lasagna noodles for $55. That’s right: FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS. Are you kidding me? I’d either live without lasagna, suck it up and eat regular wheat and endure the resulting bellyache, or make this fantastic eggplant lasagna with produce from my garden and homemade cottage cheese.
FAQ about going splitsville
- Why should I break up with my grocery store? If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it is no surprise that we are in the midst of an epic drought that will dramatically affect the cost of food this year. You will be spending far more money to put less in your cart. Then there is the co-opting of the family farm by Big Agri and Big Biotech. It’s hard to find meat and produce that is not tainted by hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs. And if you’re buying processed food, the nutritional value drops even further – as discussed previously, that stuff is not made of things that the human body recognizes as food.
- What if I don’t live in a climate where I can grow food year-round? There are a few different things you can do. First of all, it’s very important to learn to preserve food if you intend to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. We’re still enjoying pears from last fall’s pear-picking expedition. Learn to can and dehydrate and you can enjoy the fruits (and veggies) of your labor during the long cold winter. As well, you will need to do some growing in the winter to supplement this. If you have a greenhouse, you’re all set. If not, grow pots of lettuce and herbs in a sunny window. Learn to sprout seeds too – this will provide a fresh boost of nutrients when it’s too cold to grow things out of doors. Extend your growing season with hoop houses and cold frames. Plant things that are frost resistant as early and late as possible. Build a root cellar to keep things like squash, apples, and potatoes.
- I live in an apartment in the city. Does this mean I can’t break up with my supermarket? There are local options, even in the city. My favorite website for this is Eat Local Grown. You can find local farmers and farm markets there. Join CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and Co-ops. Some urban centers are turning vacant lots into community gardens. Get involved in your local urban agriculture movement. Grow veggies on your balcony and in sunny windowsills.
- What if my kids are picky? Well, honestly, you are the parent and they are the children. If you don’t buy it, they can’t eat it. If you have only good choices in the house, their options are to adjust to it or starve. Very few kids will hunger strike to the point of death. You can serve your homegrown and locally acquired goodies in familiar ways to make the adjustment a little easier. Try things like fresh fruit puree Popsicles, chicken strips, or spaghetti squash “pasta”. Get the kids involved with growing food. Most children get really excited about eating “their” food for dinner. If you have the space, you can even make a small separate vegetable patch to help introduce kids to the joy of gardening and some new tastes.
- What if I have a small property? Even if you have a limited amount of space, you might be surprised at how much you can grow in a suburban backyard. One of my most prolific gardens was in a tiny fenced 1/10th acre lot in the city. I stuffed plants everywhere. I planted tomatoes in the 1 foot space between my deck and my fence. I planted lettuce in window boxes, interspersed with nasturtiums. I planted scarlet funner beans in the front flower bed and trained them up a trellis. Kale grew in big flower pots. When I had that garden I went 6 solid months purchasing nothing except meat, eggs, and dairy – everything else was home grown.
- Do I have to produce every single thing I eat? Not at all! What we’re really talking about is a return to the agrarian lifestyle. This is the type of pantry our ancestors had. The focus is on growing food and preserving it, as well as eating what is in season. Only small shopping trips are needed to supplement this throughout the year. With annual purchases of basics like sugar, baking soda, coffee, tea, and grains, if desired, it combines enough staples for the year ahead with enough of your preserved harvest to get you through the next growing season.
When planning your garden, be sure not to only grow food for the harvest season. You’ll want to grow other food that can be preserved and eaten over the winter. For example, we grow row after row of tomatoes and peppers, and turn them into soup, marinara sauce, and salsa. We get bushels of apples at the local orchard, storing some in the cold cellar, while turning some into apple sauce, apple butter, and apple crisp filling. We grow far more potatoes than can be consumed at the time of harvest, and enjoy those throughout the winter as well.
As with the end of any relationship, things will never be the same once you call it quits. But take heart in the fact that you are gaining far more than you are losing: you’re saving tons of money; you are getting exercise and fresh air; providing delicious and healthy food; and spending time with your family learning some valuable skills.
Do you have some small space gardening ideas to share with those who are just getting started? Are you living the dream of self-sufficiency? Please share your ideas in the comments section below!