Monday, January 18, 2010

To Market, To Market

Justin here:

I'm sure Richard will want to weigh in on this too, but I figured that I'll go ahead and share some of my thoughts on grocery shopping with this project.

Convenience is a thing of the past. Our normal grocery outing would involve buying a cart of food to last us for a few weeks with the occasional trip to get a specific ingredient that we want/need for something. It was fairly an in and out affair. Now, the grocery shopping involves going to a specialty store or farmers' market. There we have to inspect the produce (and some of the other foods such as cheeses) that may have gone bad while being transported or sitting on the shelves. We also need to read the labels and sometimes even ask employees for information regarding the food's point of origin. You can't purchase as much unless it's something you can freeze or naturally preserve in some other way. Of course, with the increased cost of these organic foods, we actually have to really plan what we're buying, when we're going to use it, and how much we need (as opposed to how much we want.)

This past week, we decided to check out a couple local organic grocery stores. The first we checked out was a little place here in Independence called Nature's Pantry. It's a bit smaller than the typical suburban grocery store, but they had an adequate selection of foods. The air was thick with a spicy, herby smell that seemed to originate from the natural supplement and health and beauty section.

We started with the produce section. The produce looked a little lackluster, but I was prepared for organic produce to not look as fantastic as its non-organic siblings. What actually disappointed me was this: not a single item in the produce section was locally grown. Not even the winter greens and root vegetables! Most of the fruits and veg came from California and Mexico.

Nature's Pantry didn't have a butcher's counter, but they did carry some locally raised meats from Harmony Farms in their frozen food section. The prices were significantly higher than the non-local, non-organic stuff from our local Hy-Vee. The only local dairy was from Shatto Farms, and the only local eggs were from Campo Lindo in Lathrop. They also had one local variety of honey from an apiary in Raytown.

After Nature's Pantry, we went to Whole Foods. Knowing that Whole Foods was a much bigger operation, we were hoping for more variety and a larger local presence. The store was definitely bigger--much more like the grocery stores we usually visit. There was also a much larger overall selection of products. Sadly, this larger selection didn't include much along the lines of local. Once again, I couldn't find any local produce. I also was saddened that there were no local eggs or meat. We did find local dairy in the form of Shatto milk, butter, and cheeses though. After visiting Whole Foods, I told Richard that I'd probably rather buy any non-local produce we need to buy from them since their produce looked much more robust than the stuff at Nature's Pantry.

I want to point out one more organic option that we didn't give much thought to until we visited the other places: our local Hyvee. We decided to check out their organic offerings because they are two blocks away, and we figured that maybe what we're looking for could be right under our noses. Hy-Vee had the same brands of local meat (Harmony Farms) and eggs (Campo Lindo) as well as the same option for local milk (Shatto). We were also pleased to find that they carried some non-homogenized milk from grass-fed cows. It wasn't exactly local--it comes from Iowa--but until we find a local dairy provider, it'll do. If you aren't concerned with the local aspect and just want to eat more organically grown foods, check out your local Hy-Vee. Ours was very competitively priced and had many of the same brands as Nature's Pantry and Whole Foods.

Our plan is to hit some local farmers' markets this week. We'll be going to The Bad Seed after work on Friday. (Let us know if you want to tag along!) Saturday morning, we're going to see if anyone is at City Market and the Brookside Farmers' Market too. Hopefully, we'll have lots of useful information after that. We are also still planning on visiting farms, but that may not be until the weather improves.

Oh, and Richard needs to post some recipes! He's trying to learn to make processed foods from scratch since it will probably be cheaper than buying organic stuff from the store. (I guess we'll also know exactly what we'll be eating.) So far Richard has made some ranch dressing/dip, milk caramel sauce, bread, and mozzarella cheese.

1 comment:

  1. Have you tried looking into a local CSA? Also - there is a guy here in Liberty that sells his own eggs year around. But for the life of me I can't remember what his name is. We bought our eggs from him every week at the Liberty Farmers Market. His eggs are amazing!!!!!