Changing Shopping Habits

Dep_Shopping_FnB I think we are all, to a certain extent, appalled by American consumerism. At the very least, most of us complain about the commercialization of Christmas. I think we all lament the fact that most of us are pretty darn materialistic, even if we believe in our hearts that this is not the Christian ideal for our lives. When we read the words of Christ in the Gospels, we do not get the sense that He wants us to accumulate more stuff or to live luxurious lives. Quite the opposite- He tells people to sell their possessions and give them to the poor!

I became convinced in my heart that I need to just say No to my own consumerism and materialism. But where to start? I think one good place to start is how I shop. After all, it’s the shopping excursions that bring all my possessions into my house to begin with! So this is the root to which the ax must be laid.

How have I shopped in the past. Well, if I ran out of peanut butter, I’d get in the car and drive off to Safeway or another national grocery store. I’d go to the peanut butter section and select my jar of peanut butter from the dozen or so choices. Then I’d think, since I was already at the store, why not do a little shopping? So I’d wander up and down the aisles, dazzled by all the pretty packaging and dropping stuff into my cart on whim. When I got to the checkout stand, my $3 jar of peanut butter had mushroomed into $50 worth of foodstuffs that I didn’t even think I needed until I got to the store and was beguiled.

At home, a dilemma presents itself. My small kitchen has only one cabinet for groceries and that’s already so packed that I can barely find what I need in there when I’m cooking. Nevertheless, I must make room for my new purchases. Same with the refrigerator. It’s already full and I must make room for the new stuff. Some dilemma! I bet our brothers and sisters in Malawi would like to trade dilemmas with me.

images (1) One way to cut down on over-shopping at a supermarket is to use a hand basket instead of a grocery cart. However, I’ve noticed that lately stores are hiding their hand baskets, or getting rid of them entirely. Of course, there are times when you need to use a cart, especially if you have a large family, but at my house, it’s just me and my husband and a hand basket is roomy enough for our diminished grocery requirements.

The next step for me was to avoid Safeway itself as much as possible. I live in a small town that has many ethnic grocery stores, almost all of them within walking distance. These stores are wonderful places, full of bright colors and exotic aromas. Most of them have their own butcher shop, too. So lately, I’ve taken to walking down the hill from our house and doing my shopping at the various Hispanic markets within my walking range. Now, this severely limits what I can buy. I can’t buy an entire shopping cart-full of groceries because I have to haul it all back up the hill, so I have to be selective. I pick out two nice potatoes instead of a ten pound bag. After all, it’s just me and Eddie! Rather than stocking up on two-weeks worth of supplies, I buy for the next few days.

Along my route are several bakeries, mostly Hispanic, but there’s a French bakery that sells day-old bread, often whole wheat, for a dollar or two, depending on the size. What a bargain! My favorite stores are Mi Tierra which has a large meat counter, a counter where you can buy cartons of hot carnitas, frijoles and chile verde, a good-size produce section and a taqueria in the back. My other favorite store is La Chiquita, a tiny little store that crams everything you’d need into a space the size of my living room, it seems.

I carry my groceries home in Trader Joe’s shopping bags. (I tried using a makeshift cart but it didn’t work very well.) I have to be careful not to buy too much or I won’t get it all home. On a typical trip I might buy an onion, a bag of El Salvadorian sour cream, some carrots, a small pack of cookies, some fresh chicken legs, and a mango. From the French bakery I might have picked up a loaf of whole wheat bread and from San Pablo bakery I might have bought a few pieces of pan dulce.

0904_food_corn_tortillas Now it’s fortunate for me that I love Hispanic cuisine, especially Mexican and El Salvadorian food. And it’s a good thing that I speak a little Spanish! So here’s the pros and cons of walking to a small neighborhood market vs driving to Safeway:

Pro
1. Fewer items bought
2. Fewer items means less waste
3. No more bulging kitchen cabinet
4. Free exercise!
5. Less dependency on car (and gasoline)
6. Getting to know the local merchants (an unexpected plus!)
7. Simpler diet- these markets don’t sell a lot of convenience foods
8. Slows down the day
9. Get to enjoy another culture, broadens horizons
10. Get to improve my meager Spanish skills
11. Saves money
12. Disconnects me from advertisements
13. Happy conpanionship when Eddie comes with me
14. Peaceful solitude if I go by myself
15. Supports local economy

Con
1. Not always convenient.
2. Not practical for heavy items
3. Won’t work if I’m preparing a large family meal, like Thanksgiving or Pascha, when I really need a cart-full of groceries
4. The items in the local markets are a little more expensive. However, since I buy far less, I think I actually save money
5. Lack of variety. For example, I won’t find whole wheat pasta. Now and then, we have to make a trip to Trader Joe’s for certain “health food” items
6. Bad weather

I think the pro’s greatly outnumber the con’s.

As a disclaimer, I want to say that this new style of shopping works for me at this time in my life but would not have worked fifteen years ago when we had a houseful of kids and I was busy busy busy with many things and would not have had time for these leisurely walks to the store. Most people cannot do their grocery shopping on foot. However, for me, this has been a real life-changer.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kat
    Aug 08, 2009 @ 16:52:17

    Xenia…..great points, but I am naughty…I use the cart to lean on! 😉

  2. Xenia
    Sep 04, 2009 @ 00:55:25

    Hi Kat, great to see you!

  3. jlo
    Sep 08, 2009 @ 22:37:20

    I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a bike to peddle around town to do my local errands with; your insightful article was the clincher.

  4. Xenia
    Sep 08, 2009 @ 23:09:39

    I’m glad to have encouraged you! I love my bike (“Violeta la Bicicleta”) but we live at the top of a long hill. If I lived in a flatter neighborhood I’d definitely ride my bike.

  5. jlo
    Sep 09, 2009 @ 05:50:19

    Da nada.
    My neighborhood is very flat.

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