This is the third in a series of articles about how to find real food that brings nourishment to your body, food that is alive and supports life. Tip #3 is all about trust.
Tip #3: Know Your Grocer.
When you need a babysitter, a handyman, a landscaper, or an electrician, you ask a trusted friend or neighbor for a recommendation, right? You want someone local, who has a good reputation among people you know and trust. Some time ago, the same was true for food. Local residents knew who had the best cuts of meat and the freshest produce. Often there would be a butcher, a grocer, and a bread baker in the same block, all within walking distance of home.
Small local grocery stores are making a comeback. Your local grocer is your ally in nutrition, flavor and wholesomeness. Some grocers are more than just a place to buy food. They initiate farm-to-school programs; they host delivery sites for CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) programs and food buying clubs; they hold classes for traditional food preparation; they provide meeting spaces for activism; they host local music entertainment groups and poetry readings; they provide commercial space for other small businesses – for example, a kitchen for making bone stocks and soups or fermented foods and beverages for sale in the market and elsewhere in town.
When you shop at a small local grocery store, you’ll have personal contact with the people who work there. There’s a good chance of meeting the owner and getting to know the manager. You can ask questions about where the food in their store comes from. They can tell you whether or not chemical pesticides and fertilizers are used on the produce they sell, and whether or not hormones and antibiotics are used in the meats they carry. They’ll know what the animals have been fed. The reason they know these things is because they know the farmers.
Since the proprietor aims to please his/her customers, any special requests you make will be taken seriously. Did you ever try asking for a special product in a supermarket? What kind of response did you receive?
In some states, you are likely to find raw milk in your local grocer’s dairy case. Sufficient demand has been on the rise for nutrient dense food and items not yet available in supermarkets. Local grocery stores may carry some of these items, such as non-synthetic fermented cod liver oil, raw sprouted almonds and sunflower seeds, unprocessed sea salt, local raw unfiltered honey, grade B maple syrup, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, non-irradiated spices, 100% grassfed meats, pastured poultry and eggs from local farmers that the grocer is well acquainted with. You might find locally produces snack foods like potato chips fried in lard instead of canola oil, or heirloom popcorn instead of GMO corn.
Some grocery stores have a dedicated space for eating – a lunch counter or tables in the store, with a relaxed, casual atmosphere. They might even have some convenience foods prepared on the premises. Think healthy options for take-out fast food! Convenience doesn’t have to mean low nutrient value and poor taste. Convenience doesn’t have to mean cardboard texture and rumbling digestive consequences. Convenience can mean grabbing a raw vegetable or fruit that was grown using beyond organic methods. Convenience can mean letting someone you trust prepare a sandwich or snack for you using wholesome ingredients from local providers without any added flavors, chemicals, or preservatives.
You’ll feel good about supporting a small local grocery store. Your money will be going into the hands of the people who take the trouble to find high quality farm goods and bringing them into your neighborhood so you don’t have to drive to all the farms yourself. This is a valuable service for those who live and work in the city. It’s like having your very own personal real-food-sleuth.
While we’re talking about money and value, let’s talk about the high price of real food. Sure real food is more expensive. But the true benefits carry a real savings over the long run. Think of the hundreds – nay, thousands – of dollars you will not spend in medical bills each year. The answer to the health care crisis in America is not more insurance, not more drugs, but less processed food. Birke Baehr, an 11-year old student who delivered a TEDx presentation about the food system, put it quite well when he said, “Some people say organic or local food is more expensive. But is it really? With all these things I’ve been learning about the food system, it seems to me that we can either pay the farmer, or we can pay the hospital.” Take a listen:
So know your grocer. Search your neighborhood for a small grocery store with a friendly owner. Next time we’ll talk about how important it is to know your farmer.