Will supermarkets eventually phase out, joining the history books as a phenomenon of the past? Or are supermarkets here to stay, an emblem of the industrialization of our food–easy access to foods that are convenient, suit the undiscriminating masses, stripped of nutritional value despite the prominent health claim on the package front?
Anna left an insightful comment on the last Heart Scan Blog post, Sterols should be outlawed, along with some useful advice on how to avoid this trap for poor health called a supermarket:
I rarely shop in regular supermarkets anymore (farm subscription for veggies, meat bought in bulk for the freezer, eggs from a local individual, fish from a fish market, freshly roasted coffee from a local coffee place, etc.). What little else I need comes from quirky Trader Joe’s (dark chocolate!), the fish market, farmer’s markets, a small natural foods store, or mail order.
When I do need to go into one of the many huge supermarkets near me, not being a regular shopper there, I never know where anything is, so I have to ramble a bit around the aisles before I find what I’m looking for (and I almost always can grab a hand basket, instead of a trolley cart).
It’s almost like being on another planet! There’s always so many new products (most of them I hesitate to even call food). It’s really a shock to the senses now to see how much stuff supermarkets sell that I wouldn’t even pick up to read the label, let alone put in a cart or want to taste. I’m not even tempted by 99% of the tasting samples handed out by the sweet senior ladies in at Costco anymore (only thing I remember tasting at Costco in at least 6 mos was the Kerrygold Irish cheese, because I know their cows have pasture access and it’s real food).
What’s really shocking to me is how large some sections of the markets have become in recent years. While Americans got larger, so did some sections of the supermarket (hint – good idea to limit the consumption of products from those areas). Meat and seafood counters have shrunk, though. Produce areas seem to be about the same size as always (but more of it is pre-prepped and RTE in packaging.
But the chilled juice section is h-u-g-e! And no, I don’t think there is a Florida orange grove behind the cases. Come on, how much juice do people need? Juice glasses used to be teeny tiny, for a good reason. To me it looks like a long wall stocked full of sugar water. Avoiding that section will put a nice dent in the grocery expenses.
The yogurt case is also e-n-o-r-m-o-u-s! Your 115 yo Bulgarian “grandmother” wouldn’t know what to make of all these “pseudo-yogurts”! Chock full of every possible variety, but very little fit to eat. The only yogurts I’ll look at are made with plain whole milk, without added gums, emulsifiers, or non-fat milk solids, and live cultures (I mostly buy yogurt now and then to refresh my starter culture at home). I can flavor them at home if needed. The sterols are showing up in processed yogurts, too, along with patented new strains of probiotic cultures (I’ll stick to my old fashioned, but time-proven homemade lacto-cultured veggies and yogurt instead).
I found the same “cooler spread” in the butter & “spread” section. The spread options were just grotesque sounding. Actually, the butter options weren’t much better, as many were blended with other ingredients to increase spreadability, reduce calories or cholesterol/saturated fat, etc. A few plain butters were enhanced with “butter flavor” – say what? And on no package could it be determined if the butter came from cows that were naturally fed on pasture or on grain in confined pens.
Well said, Anna.
There’s a huge supermarket about 1 mile away from my house similar to the one Anna describes with aisle after aisle of eye-catching cellophane-wrapped foods. I go there about every 3 or 4 months, and then I only go to get something I need in a pinch. Every time I go, I too am reminded just how many products there are that look more like junk food than real food.
But there’s no real money in real food. Who gets rich off of selling green peppers, tomatoes, and eggs?
Supermarkets sell these modern industrial foods because people buy it: Look around you. You don’t get to be a 250 lb 5 ft 2 inch-woman by eating too many cucumbers.
Like Anna, I drive an additional several miles to Trader Joes’, buy at farmers’ markets whenever possible, buy some odds and ends like wine and cheese and raw nuts at specialty stores. I grow my own basil in a big pot I keep in the kitchen and we are just about to start turning over the soil in the back yard for our vegetable garden. I don’t need nor do I miss having the choice among 40 different chips, 25 brands of ready-made microwavable dinners, an entire aisle of breakfast cereasl (all of which are virtually the same with different names and labels), or 75 varieties of salad dressing.
The supermarket for me–and I hope for many of you–has become a place rarely frequented, and only for the odd forgotten item. Oh, I forgot the dog chewies the grocery does have–my dogs love them. So perhaps they are good for something after all.
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