Imagine if you will that you live in rural America. There is no Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, no Sprouts, no local health food store to buy from. Instead once a week or so you drive 30 minutes to 2 hours to the nearest grocery store to you. And that grocery store is Walmart. Could you eat a “Real Food” diet in this situation?
For many of you it isn’t necessary to imagine this at all … this is your reality.
If you are aware that processed foods are unhealthy you probably feel much despair over this situation. Everyone knows the vast majority of food at Walmart is processed, much of it heavily processed, non-foods like Twinkies, processed cheese, and hydrogenated fats. That despair leads to anger … anger that better food is unaffordable or just plain unavailable. Many people are waking up and realizing what processed food is doing to us. Everyone sees the same celebrity chef shows and comes to understand that people with the money to shop well and time to cook are generally healthier. There is a beginning of a backlash against elitism in eating with ALL “from scratch cookery” being seen as a form of food snobbery. Grandma would be shocked to discover that her grandchildren view her cooking in that light! In her day cooking at home was the only sensible, healthy, affordable option. And that is still true today! You may not find the exact ingredients your favorite celebrity chef is cooking with at Walmart, but there is still simple “Real Food” ingredients at Walmart that’s affordable. It’s there, buried amidst the bad stuff.
I’m an occasional Walmart shopper … I seem to end up there for one little thing or another about once a month. And I agree that at first glance it looks like there isn’t much in the way of “Real Food” to be found at Walmart. Produce, yes, some organic dairy and that’s about all that jumps out at you. So I haven’t bought much food at Walmart for a long time. I’m blessed to live near several different healthy food centric stores, plus an abundance of local food sources. What I can’t source locally, I usually get in bulk buys with others who belong to my local farm. There are many readers though who don’t have those options though, so I wondered, what if I HAD to buy all my food at Walmart? How close to a “Real Food” diet could I get? This series is an exploration of how to get closer to a 100% “Real Food” diet with just Walmart as your food source.
This isn’t to say that Walmart is the only place rural people can get food … not at all! As a matter of fact it sounds crazy to say that it would be , especially to those who live in cities. Isn’t food grown in the countryside after all? People in rural communities have many resources of which they may be unaware like someone in a nearby town selling beef or lamb, farmers markets or tiny micro-dairies that may go unnoticed. Connecting with other people in the area who are also seeking real food is always your best source for finding Real Food. The map shown here represents local farms and farmers markets all over the country.
That said, you may notice something about this map: There is a wide swath of the rural US that has few farmers selling locally at the present time. And there are many people stating that local sources are simply unavailable to them … Walmart is it. There could be a number of personal reasons for this … Think of the young mother without a car living with her in-laws. Her mother-in-law drives to Walmart once a week and going with her is the only opportunity to buy food. Or a worker on shift work with a 24 hour Walmart they can stop at on the way to a second job to save on gas. Or a trucker with a small kitchen in the cab who can only stop somewhere with a large enough parking spot for his rig … don’t laugh, this happens. It’s the actual situation of my brother and the father of a friend . In this economy, people have reasons as varied and individual as snowflakes for the need to shop at Walmart. This series is intended to help people who for whatever reason need or want to buy at Walmart. Their reasons are their own and I don’t question them. So let’s get to it!
Points to Keep in Mind
- Walmart wants to sell it’s high margin foods first and foremost – High margin foods are processed foods. High margin foods are where grocery stores make their money. So they will do everything possible to make processed foods catch your eye first. To make them look appetizing and easy. Look past the merchandising to find the “Real Food”. There will be no end cap display for plain white rice.
- Walmart does carry organic labels – Bob’s Red Mill, Newman’s Own, and Muir Glen are a few of the brands I’ve seen. They usually don’t have a lot of it on hand so you’ll have to really hunt amidst all the other labels to find them. They won’t take up much space and will typically be on the highest or lowest shelves.
- Walmart does do special orders – Walmart carries a much wider variety on their website than you will find in a typical store. If you find your Walmart carries the item you need, but just not enough of it you can ask the manager to order more. If the item isn’t at the store, but on the website, perhaps the store manager can order it. I plan to give this a try. If not, you can order it from the website. Walmart has free shipping on orders over $45.
- The prices here are not always the best – As you would expect, Walmart has some good prices on some “Real Food” choices. But keep in mind that is not always the case. Some items they only carry in small packages and the prices are quite high, similar to the health hood mecca stores like Whole Foods, or Trader Joe’s. I plan to research how these things might be had for prices somewhat closer to a typical bulk purchase.
- Many but by no means all of the choices will qualify as “Compromise Real Foods” – This is Sally Fallon’s, the founder of the Weston A Price Foundations, term for foods that while not ideal, are an OK choice to make if a compromise is needed for reasons of budget or availability. We should strive to make our diets rich in “Real Food” substituting compromise foods only as we must. And if we are doing all our shopping at Walmart compromises will be necessary. However, I won’t be including any food that Grandma wouldn’t recognize as food.
Also remember, the health food mecca grocery stores are expensive to shop in. Though I live close to Whole Foods, Sprouts, Central Market, and Natural Grocers I don’t buy a lot of my groceries from them. While I have found some excellent deals in all of these stores, for the most part they are the most expensive option. So don’t worry about not having them close by. They aren’t the affordable option and I tend to buy from them only items I haven’t yet found a cheaper source for. I buy about 20% of our food there. Not having one near you is not a huge deal.
Many of these tips work when shopping at your local grocery chain too. Special orders for instance, might be possible at HEB, Kroger’s, Aldi, Piggly Wiggly, Winn Dixie or Publix. Many simple “Real Foods” are available at most grocery stores.
Also, I’ll be striving to incorporate as many of Sally’s tips for cooking on a budget from the back of “Nourishing Traditions” as I can.
Next week we’ll begin with an overview tour of an Austin Texas Walmart’s “Real Food” options … See ya’ll then!
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