Dinner Diva: Shopping Cart Envy

What you’re about to read is based on a true story…

About 2004 or 2005, I was shopping at my neighborhood grocery store (the new Harris Teeter in Wesley Chapel, NC) for the week. List in hand (well duh–I’m the Dinner Diva!), I had conquered the store and my cart was filled with all I needed. 

I was standing at the checkout–not looking at my phone because no one did that back then (this is pre-Smartphone y’all!). 

The woman behind me looked at my cart and said, “What are you going to do with all of that?” She was referring to the plethora of green things in my cart. 

“Cook them!” I said with a smile. 

She looked at her grocery cart, then back to mine, and sighed, “I’ve got shopping cart envy.” 

At that point, I told her what I did (how could I not?), showed her my shopping list that was generated from Dinner Answers (called Menu-Mailer at the time), and chit-chatted about dinner time, kids, and how grateful we were for Harris Teeter finally opening in our area.

When I was loading the groceries into my cart, I thought about what she had said and determined that…

There are two types of grocery store shoppers in the world.

There are those who navigate the exterior of the market, list in hand based on their weekly menu, confidently reaching for fresh ripe produce, chicken, meats, and other healthy ingredients like eggs, butter, and herbs and spices. 

All the good stuff you need to prepare meals you’re proud to serve your family. 

Because Nutritious Meals Come From Ingredients, Not Packages

And when the healthy shopper is standing at the checkout, proud of what they’ve selected because they know what’s for dinner next week–they have peace of mind and confidence, knowing their meals are going to be delicious and healthy.

This confidence also gives them the strength to ignore the strategically placed candy bars next to the magazines. As a matter of fact, they don’t even think about that stuff anymore.

Years ago when my children were preteens, they’d open the fridge and bemoan the selection. “We don’t have any food in the house, just ingredients!”

There is also the “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t know how to cook” shopper…

You’ve seen those carts–maybe you’re the one filling them? 

These are shoppers who have coupons for everything and most of the stuff you can buy with coupons is food with very little nutrition: frozen pizzas, packaged rice mixes, canned soups for making casseroles, and lots of snack foods.

Convenience Over Nutrition

When you’re zealously watching your family’s budget, it can be a huge mistake to focus on convenience and price over nutrition. 

When your grocery cart is filled with packaged foods, “fat-free” this and “sugar-free” that . . . foods full of GMOs and empty calories and lists of unpronounceable ingredients on the sides of those packages, you’ve taken a wrong turn. 

The Myth That Healthy Food Is Too Expensive

There is an expensive cost to cheap food. Believe me, food manufacturers know this and prey on coupon shoppers and convenience shoppers. 

They’re hoping you don’t know how to cook and will want to buy their stuff–just add water, zap it in the microwave, heat it up in the oven. 

And they entice you with these price-cutting strategies. Huge food manufacturers want you to think you’re getting extreme value, especially when it comes to coupons or buy one/get one free promos. 

Eating healthy and on a budget might mean you don’t have the latest exotic microgreens in your grocery cart or organic eggs and grass-fed beef. 

But if you have a bag of potatoes, a whole chicken you got on sale, and a bunch of frozen veggies instead of all that couponed, manufactured faux food, you’re well on your way. 

These are all unglamorous foods maybe, but they require cooking. And they will cost less than your copay if you need to see a doctor on the regular for chronic disease and take medication for the rest of your life.

Food Shaming Happens

When convenience shoppers find themselves behind healthy shoppers at the checkout, they may have shopping cart envy like the woman in the store talking to me did. They might wish they knew what half of those healthy items are and what they would do with them if they had the courage to buy them.

They may also be aware that their own cart is being quietly judged by the healthy shopper in line behind them or visa versa, the convenience shopper could be judging the healthy shopper thinking she’s rich or a snob. 

Yes, there are generally two types of shoppers, though they may be at various extremes of this convenience vs. healthy spectrum. 

Fixing the Problem

If you find yourself suffering from shopping cart envy and are trying to get yourself closer to being that healthy shopper, first of all, hats off to you. You should be proud of yourself for wanting to buy healthier foods for you and your family because you recognize that convenience foods are not contributing to your well-being.

If you want to be the one making other shoppers envious of your cart, just go ahead and make the decision to cut out the packages and the frozen stuff with a bunch of ingredients on the labels you just can’t pronounce. 

When you commit to preparing your family’s meals from ingredients instead of chemicals, you naturally have to bulk up on fresh ingredients because you will no longer be able to rely on those processed foods to do the work for you.

And you’re going to have to cook. 

But fear not, cooking is easy. It’s certainly not brain surgery and with a few skills, you’ll be whipping up delicious meals with wonderful ingredients and creating a healthier life for you and your family. 

I see healthy in your future and a shopping cart filled to the brim with all the good stuff!

We make eating like this EASY with our Dinner Answers program. Everyone in the store will be envying your shopping cart!

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