This post is part of the Real Food at Walmart series. This is the 8th post in the series … you can find the first post here. The premise of the series is this: “What if you HAD to buy all your food at Walmart? How close to a 100% Real Food diet could you get?”
This series has been quite the whirlwind ride for me … I’ve learned a lot from my exploration of Walmart’s grocery shelves and from sharing my findings with all of you. Mostly I’ve confirmed what I had expected from my first post, that real food shopping at Walmart would involve a lot of compromise. Those that must shop there, or at any chain store, for whatever reason will be heartened to know that they can make it a considerable part of the way towards a 100% Real Food diet.
Walmart will take you about 30% of the way …
And that’s nothing to sneeze at! In fact, it’s a great start for someone new to scratch cooking and real food. But ideally, you wouldn’t want to compromise this much and stick to just Walmart for very long.
Walmart has a lot of conventional produce choices, lots of CAFO meats, limited dairy choices and a lot of decent grain and pantry food choices. The animal foods have some serious limitations. Only a tiny percentage is organic, which means basically all of the animal based foods are from GMO fed animals. This is a pretty big liability when you depend on these foods for vitamin A, D and K. This is the main reason why I’d put the percent of real food possible at Walmart at about 30%. But the small amount of organic produce concerns me too.
The Nature of Compromise on Real Food
Writing the series has been an exercise in compromise for me … I’m a local foods done Grandma’s way kinda gal. I think this is the best way to eat well frugally and have less stress about the whole thing. I decided to write about Walmart though, out of concern for those in food deserts and those whose families are in transition from the SAD diet to a real foods diet. I’ve taken a bit of heat about it since Walmart isn’t the most popular company. Still, it’s the largest grocer in the United States, and that fact makes it the elephant in the room in any discussion of food quality and affordability. Walmart’s advertising does a great job of positioning the company as the low price leader and those with tight budgets often feel compelled to shop there, almost out of a sense of obligation to keep expenses down. This perception of reduced costs along with the difficulties of starting out finding local food create a sizable obstacle to getting started with real food. What I’ve learned from this series is that it needn’t be, if compromises can be accepted early in the transition. And if folks can come to believe deep in their souls that contrary to what the Walmart ads would have you believe there is a cheaper way to feed your family! And that way is scratch cooking with plain, wholesome ingredients.
All of us start somewhere, right? We are all on some point in the grayscale spectrum from a completely processed food, junk food laden diet right thru to a 100% pristine perfect real food diet. In reality almost no one eats 100% pure junk and almost no one eat 100% real food. It’s a bell curve basically. So everybody from the novice on up to people with years of experience eating this way are making some compromises. Compromise in our busy, pressured, hectic world is inevitable. In reading and learning all about real food none of us truly wants to accept any compromise at all. We all want to have totally clean, nourishing food and live in completely safe non-toxic environments. And each of us us different resources, abilities, duties, obligations and talents. So some make it further on the path to 100% real food than others. Usually we make a mad rush to do what we can ’til progress just kinda stalls and we seem to be stuck where we are at. Then we decide to live with compromise since we can’t seem to get further.
Or if you’re starting from a mostly processed food diet and your family is used to that then to keep from scaring them away from wholesome food by changing too fast it would be a good idea to compromise. You’d go slowly and introduce new from scratch versions of favorites one at a time. You would still want to continue buying most of the old favorites in the meantime, gradually switching them out one by one. To do that you’ll still be going to Walmart, if that is where you shopped before. You could keep doing this until you’ve exhausted all the real food compromise foods at Walmart. Next, start shopping for improved quality foods locally, again one item at a time. You keep going with this until you hit a wall of time or money, then decide to compromise.
All of us real food folks have been thru this process and have decided on a level of compromise that is a more or less comfortable truce in the battle of getting wholesome food for our families. Some of us are at 60-70%, some are as high as 90-95% real food.
But, suppose, as we are assuming for the sake of this series there are no other sources of food around you and you’re stuck with just Walmart? Then 30% real food is as good as it gets! Many people feel this is their situation. If this is true, you’ll find yourself needing to make a choice. Stay where you are and accept that 30% of the way to real food is as far as you can get, or move somewhere with more abundant food resources. That sounds extreme but this is your health we’re talking about! Fellow real foodie blogger Emily at Butter Believer decided to move this year when she hit a wall in her ability to find good, affordable, wholesome food in Hawaii. Not exactly a food desert, but it is an island ;-). 30% real food isn’t a compromise I personally would feel comfortable making for very long … yes, it’s far better than a strictly processed food diet, but it would still have a number of serious issues.
But first, before taking drastic measures, assume that you may be overlooking some sources of great local food. Chances are good that you are. Almost none of us grew up buying anything from anywhere other than a store. We’re inexperienced at finding local stuff … we need practice! First thing, get in touch with your local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Ask them about sources for the things you want to buy local as first priority, things like raw milk. You can also look on LocalHarvest.org to see if any farmer is selling anywhere near you. If you can find one, ask them if they know anyone else for your other needs. Do they know of any buying coop’s in your area where you can buy pantry items in bulk? Azure Standard makes grocery drops all throughout the west and some of the midwest, for instance. There may be a buying club near you or perhaps you could start one. If there is anywhere at all where local farmers gather to sell produce stop and talk with them about what you’re needing. If they can’t help they may know someone who can.
Transitioning to Pantry Storage and Local Foods
Moving the family from processed food to real food choices was a pretty big step for all of us. Buying whatever real food choices the chain groceries have, then moving on to buying a few things locally is a MAJOR step forward! If you’ve come this far give yourself a big pat on the back … you deserve it :-).
Ok, so now that you’ve basked in the glow of your accomplishment are you ready to talk about the next step forward? Great! In my opinion, the very next thing to do is start building up a pantry. Last spring I did a series on cooking from the pantry called The Pantry Principle. A pantry helps in so many ways to make the life of the cook easier and the food budget more affordable. The series is a great place to start learning about how to make pantry cooking a part of your life. Over the holidays I hope to elaborate further.
This is the final post in the Walmart series … hope everyone’s enjoyed it :-)! I’d love to hear your tips on locating good sources of local food, especially in places where it may be hard to find.
This post is part of series … Read the rest by following these links
Introduction: Can it be Done?
Part 1: A Quick Tour of Walmart
Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables
Part 3: Fats and Oils
Part 4: Meat and Bones
Part 5: The Dairy Section
Part 6: Pantry Foods
Conclusion: The Nature of Compromise