Saturday, September 01, 2007

A Trip to the Grocery Store.

Oddly enough my return to work this year has given me the vague realization that I'm maturing. I actually appreciate having the discipline and structure of my work schedule. This is absolutely the first time in my life that I could have ever said this with any amount of sincerity. But somehow going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day clears up space for me to plan to use my time wisely. I find myself getting more stuff done than when I have an almost unlimited amount of free time. Maybe if I simply imposed some arbitrary structure on myself when I'm off work, I could increase my overall productivity.

One indicator that I am being more intentional about my life is that I made a trip to the grocery store today. Actually M. has been on me to do that for a long time, and it certainly makes sense. I end up spending a wasteful proportion of my discretionary spending on going out to eat. Often I go months without stocking up the larder. When I step back for an objective perspective I realize that the money can be better spent elsewhere. But it seems like such a commitment to make a trip to the local Shop N' Save. I have to put aside (at least) an hour of my precious time, and give up a big chunk of dollars. It seems surreal that I spend $150+ mainly for my self. M. and I have radically different eating habits, so my shopping choices are only limited by my own discretion. Thinking back to my childhood, I remember it costing about $100 for a week's worth of meals for a family of four. It's just my guess, but I assume it's a lot more than that now.

When I do decide to head out food shopping, I have several local options. This is indeed one of the charms of living in the city. I can go to the fancy, yuppified extravaganza with the sushi bar and all the gourmet cheeses. There's the "community grocer", with a smaller selection and cheaper prices. Of course there are now a few "organic" and healthy options at the franchise eco-friendly chains. And finally there is the fall-back option- the ghetto grocery store. Why do I always keep choosing that one? Somehow I have formed the perhaps mistaken notion that prices will be lowest there. I could also put forth some muddled theory about the democratic aspects of shopping among those in a different social class. But the real reason is because it's a habit. I've been going to the same place for years, even though it has actually reduced its floor size by a third to make room for a Save-A-Lot. It's old fashioned and offers limited choices... and I know where everything is.

One thing I have to pay closest attention to (especially at the store I shop at) is expiration dates. On more than one occasion I have made a selection, only to bring it home later and discover it's no longer edible. Maybe people in a third world nation would be grateful for what we regularly throw away. I'm not taking any chances. There is a ludicrous amount of products to choose from. The thing is that most of it is ridiculously unhealthy. I've always made it very clear that I have an unsophisticated palate. I was raised with typical American middle class sensibilities- which means that I still get lost in the cereal aisle. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I am often hypnotized by all the (artificial) colors. It's a a good thing they don't still offer those little plastic toys, or I would be helpless to resist.

The most difficult aspect of grocery shopping for me now is trying to make healthier decisions. Just a couple years ago I spent the most amount of time in the frozen foods sections. I'd have to reorganize my entire freezer in order to shove my purchases inside. Over time I've realized that most of that stuff just plain sucks. But I don't really cook and I haven't developed a whole lot of alternatives. Not eating cow anymore only confounds the situation. No wonder I take the easy way and eat out. I can't even imagine having to grow this stuff as well. Occasionally, despite my best instincts, I love "our freedoms". That's right... I'm a freedom-lover.

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