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Daily Dance: Food Choices in Everyday Life

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How I Make Food Choices

Pollan investigates our food choices

[amazon_link id=”0143038583″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]Yesterday was a ‘clear road’ day between two major winter storms. Of course, I used that day to stock up on groceries. In my household, I am not the primary, or even the secondary, cook. Both my husband and my youngest son like cooking more than I do. I do, however, get a lot of fun out of finding bargains at the grocery store. Making food choices is almost a hobby of mine.

I use a family pantry list (you can find it here. Feel free to edit to suit) that I put in a plastic sleeve and hang on the refrigerator door. As we run out of an item on the list, we circle it with a dry erase marker or grease pencil, or write in items as needed, and then take the list with us to the store. You might prefer to simply print a copy every week, or to go ‘whole hog’ and laminate your copy. Up to you.

Some people plan every meal in advance. I like to have a generally stocked pantry that allows me at any given time to have several choices of favorite foods to eat. I am a bit of a grazer naturally, so given a choice I often snack on fruits and veggies and yogurt and cheeses vs. cooked foods. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

I typically do my shopping by starting at Aldi, which is a deep discount store, followed by a trip to the farmer’s market in season or Nature’s Pantry (my not-Whole-Foods local organic store) and/or a visit to a larger grocery with an organic food section. I can’t afford to eat wholly locally or organically, but we do aim in that direction around here, aided by a home garden and usually several months worth of venison each year after hunting season (and sometimes some duck, pheasant, and/or dove).

We cook a lot of stews, soups, and other one dish meals, as everyone works and/or goes to school, and in the summer we make a lot of sandwiches and salads. We eat out every week or two, most often take out to give all the cooks a break, sometimes, every other month or so, one of the many very nice restaurants in the area. We almost never eat fast food.

I don’t typically use coupons, because coupons usually require me to buy brand name items that I wouldn’t otherwise buy, and almost often are for processed foods rather than ingredients. I do, however, check the weekly fliers for ‘loss leaders’ – the deep discount items designed to draw you in and then have you follow up by buying more expensive items on impulse.

We’re not vegetarians around here (I lost that battle a long time ago). We buy our meat as loss leaders, through local ranchers as 1/2 or 1/4 of the animal, or we hunt it. We prepare it ourselves, and we try to use every bit. One goal for the next year is to start keeping laying hens who, along with any accidental roosters, will become roasting chickens.

The Context of Food Choices

Food is very much a political decision, and most of us are constantly making compromises between the choices we wish we could make and the choices we are forced into due to finances, time available, and skill levels. Reasonable people will disagree about what ‘good’ food choices are, because food choices are complex and the issues are equally complex.

People have to weigh their personal food preferences, their cooking abilities, available tools and materials, and general knowledge with each bite. Many people have food sensitivities or allergies, others have moral objections to some foods, and still others are simply in survival mode, trying to be able to afford basic healthy food choices (and sometimes failing).

Today, we’re going to check out the local charcuterie (butcher shop) The Local Pig. If we like what we see, we might sign up for one of their subscription services, so that we can have humanely raised meat in reasonable quantities at reasonable prices whenever we want.

All this leads to a varied and interesting dance today:

  • When you are doing your regular grocery shopping, what are your primary motivations? Personal taste? Cost? Health? Philosophy? Religious restrictions? Something else?
  • Do you primarily eat at home, or out? Why?
  • Do you mostly cook from scratch, or rely on packaged or prepared food? Why?
  • Are there any significant changes you would like to make to your food choices? What are the barriers? What are the advantages?
  • How much do your personal finances influence your food choices? Are there ways you could eat better (for your definition of better) and still inexpensively? What would have to change?
  • How much are your food choices influenced by political choices such as sustainability, animal cruelty, and local food vs big agriculture? Would you like to be more political about your food choices? What gets in the way?
  • What is your idea of an ideal dinner menu? Lunch? Breakfast?
  • Who cooks in your family? Who shops? Are your food choices limited to some extent by the tastes of others in your family, or do you ‘call the shots’?
  • Has your taste in food gone through any major transformations in your life? Describe them.
  • Now that this discussion has made you hungry (grin), what are you going to eat?

As always, I strongly encourage you to think about these questions, post your answers here if you’re comfortable with that, and share this post with friends and family using the share buttons below. Save the next dance for me!

  • Local Food and Happiness (
  • Budgeting: Save Money on Food (
  • 5 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy on a Tight Budget (
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