Guilt and the Grocery Store

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Guilt & the grocery store

As someone who has struggled with her weight all her life (and not just my adult life or since having kids – since I was 8 or 9 years old), I’m afraid I think way too much about what we eat around here. Especially since I became a parent, I am constantly thinking ahead – what am I going to serve for dinner? How long until we need more milk? Why do parents bring Oreos as a “healthy snack” for kindergartners? (WHY??)

I am an overthinker by nature, too, and I’ve discovered that leads to major anxiety and irrationality in several areas of my life. Of course, it also leads me to blog, so it can’t be all bad, right?

I fear that I way overthink food.

I desperately want my children to have a healthy relationship with food. I want them to understand what real food is and why we try to not pack ourselves full of things like preservatives and sugar. I want them to like to eat healthfully but not feel deprived, not feel the need to sneak chips or candy bars at any given chance.

Man, is it hard to figure out the balance.

Since we’ve been married, I’ve run the gamut from only spending $40 a week on groceries and couponing like crazy to trying to eat all organic, grassfed, happy eggs, etc. And when I go to the grocery store, I feel like I am in a guilt spiral.

When I'm at the grocery store, I feel like I'm in a guilt spiral.
source: Caden Crawford via Flickr

The kids want granola bars. Should I buy granola bars? Should I buy organic? Kashi? Do I have time to make some at home? And if I do, will they actually eat them?

Should I buy cheap eggs or supposedly cage-free eggs? Do I think Walmart’s cage-free eggs are actually from free-range chickens? Organic butter? Normal butter? In-between butter?

It’s EXHAUSTING. It makes me detest going to the grocery store. And I want it to change.

In an ideal world, I truly would hit up the farmer’s markets and buy produce, meat, and even dairy if I could there. I’d feed my family all grass-fed beef and free-range chicken. I would make everything from scratch and love it. But here is the truth: we have three small children and at least one of them is home with me at all times. We live on a teacher’s salary plus the small income I make from freelance work. Mr. V reminds me that we almost qualify for reduced lunch. We are not lacking, but right now I just cannot make the money and time investment to eat the way I think I want to in my head.

I read stuff like this and wonder, were those the glory days? When people lived in blissful ignorance of what their food choices might do to their health? Would I rather be ignorant … or guilty?

There’s got to be some kind of balance, right?

I recently backed out of a Facebook group that made me feel constantly bad about making compromise choices. About ever letting my children near food dye or flour. It’s me, it’s not them, for the most part. And I have to do what I can to back off the guilt before I start getting ulcers.

It’s not just me, right? Do you all feel the tension? What does it look like in your life? I promise not to judge either way, I’m just interested to know. (See some of the conversation happening on Facebook today.)

P.S. Thank you to JessieLeigh and Donielle for sharing your real grocery trips and inspiring this.

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6 thoughts on “Guilt and the Grocery Store

  1. Like you, I’ve gone back and forth in my thinking. A friend lifted a huge burden from my mind when she commented, “I can’t get too worked up over organic lettuce when children all over the world are still hungry tonight.”
    I could spend all my discretionary income in providing the perfect diet for my kids…or I could spread it around to include enrichment for their brains and food for their souls as we make family service a priority. I know lots of people make an idol of their diet. But will I look back and regret not buying organic milk?
    My compromise is just to make as much as possible from scratch and use whole foods instead of processed.

    • That helps me, too. It is so true. Eating real foods is important, but I think in first-world countries we’ve created things to spend money on instead of helping our brothers who actually have needs. I would not want to reallocate the money we donate to our groceries.

  2. I am so with you! It’s exhausting! I kind if wish Food Babe and her army would just go away and let me drink my Starbucks Fake Pumpkin Latte in peace- right after I finish off my pink slime from Mc Donald’s!!! I drive my husband nuts when he tried to come with me to the grocery store. I flop out when he puts stuff with food dyes in the cart and also if he buys something at (gasp!!!) regular price with no coupon!!! It is too much, just too much! I have no solution, just solidarity today. Thanks for posting!

  3. I’ve started picking a few items to go organic on, and chill out on the rest. There are so many competing values! Not just organic v. price but which thing is really more healthy–the fat free version with all the fake fillers or the regular version with real butter and all? Too many choices!

  4. Blerg. Yes. And, I am terrible about buying more than we need and then freaking out when we waste food. Vicious, vicious cycle for sure.

    Thanks for posting this. I was just talking to some friends about needing to curb the grocery spending and, you’re right, grocery shopping should not be so stress filled!!

  5. I am in the same boat. We are really trying to be budget conscious and if I bought everything organic we couldn’t afford it. Honestly, these days the only thing I am extremely picky about is eggs because I really can tell a difference between pastured eggs and grocery store eggs. I just try to avoid processed food as much as I can…but not obsessively. I don’t know if you follow 100 Days of Real Food, but today she posted a picture of her daughter’s lunch box with a fun-size bag of (gasp!) Skittles tucked in with the other (whole) foods. People were accusing her of poisoning her children (someone actually used that word). Another lady went so far as to say the whole lunch box was garbage because she had included pita pizzas, which, oh my goodness, contain WHEAT. Obviously she wants her children to die a slow and painful death. I. Just. Can’t. So I understand the guilt…but I think you should let go of it. You are feeding your children well. 🙂

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