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The Utter Simplicity Of The Low Carb Shopping Trip

Posted May 13 2008 12:33pm
Last night as I was going through the grocery store sale papers in preparation for this week’s shopping trip, it struck me just how simplified my life has become since going low carb.

One of my favorite things to do is shop. Whether for food, or electronic gear, or something someone asked me to find a good deal on for them, it’s the thrill of the hunt that gets me every time. Years ago, when I took over the task of doing the grocery shopping for my wife and myself each week, I learned that the best way to get the most out of our food budget was to “cherry pick,” that is, to take advantage of the best advertised deals at each of several local stores rather than shop one store exclusively. Many people don’t want to spend the extra time it takes to scrutinize the weekly ads, figure out where to get what, and then make stops at more than one place. For me, it’s a game; clip the coupons, find the best prices, plot out the route, bring home the spoils.

It was more of a big deal years back when the world was our oyster, food-wise. Not much was out of bounds, and there was so much to choose from. Going through the sale papers required a sharp eye, good memory, and the analytical skills of a financial planner. When other shoppers were, for example, buying boxed potato side dishes for $1.39, I was stocking up on the 99 cent sales and getting dollars off with coupons to boot. It seems like a small victory perhaps, but you add them all up and they amount to a substantial savings each week.

How things have changed. Most of the pictures of items in the ads get glossed over now as “not applicable.” One chain’s weekly circular is very quick to go through since it now mostly consists of things like meal ideas, recipes, home furnishings, and overpriced high-end food items. The other chains’ ads require more careful examination, but they are still easier to go through than in the past. What catches my eye now is meat, poultry, seafood, certain vegetables and fruits, and staple items.

Here’s an example of what I would have been interested in before 2003, and now ignore: ice cream, frozen dinners, boxed pasta salad mix, orange juice, cookies, baked goods, french fries, frozen pizza, frozen waffles and pancakes, pie, garlic toast, yogurt, margarine, milk, chicken nuggets, pasta, canned fruit, rice, sugar, flour, cereal, brownie mix, beans, potato chips, snacks, crackers, fresh corn, grapes, pineapple, bananas, potatoes, apples, oranges, turnovers. Wow. I just breeze through that sale paper and hit the high points: Porterhouse steak for $6 a pound, bagged salad BOGO (Buy One Get One free), split chicken breast for $1 a pound, broccoli for 99 cents a pound, etc.

Not that there aren’t low carb versions of some of the above that we consume, but sales on those items are few and far between. This week there is a sale on Breyer’s Carb Smart ice cream bars at one store, so there’s a few cartons that will go in the freezer. Dannon, the only low carb yogurt maker I’m aware of, still makes their Carb and Sugar Control version that I can get in one of two flavors still offered at one store. Calorie Countdown dairy beverage is still made by Hood and still available in the fat-free version at that same supermarket as the yogurt. We rely on Dreamfields pasta (5 digestible grams of carbohydrates per serving) to be able to enjoy the splendors of Italian eating, as long as we’re willing to spend the money necessary to pair it with a low carb sauce (check out the net carbs in most of the popular brands and then look at the expensive ones, you’ll be stunned).

So what does a trip to the store entail now? There are only a few fruit and vegetable offerings that need to be considered. I know where I’m going to be buying the meat and seafood based on the sales. Where I spend my time lollygagging now is the cheese department; as I’ve said before, this is the low-carber’s candy store. A couple containers of parmesan crisps, a half pound of good prosciutto, butter, fresh eggs, frozen omelets, low-carb frozen entrees, and whatever cleaning supplies and other staple items I’ve planned for because of sales and coupons.

We had a departmental meeting at the office during the week; being a working meeting, lunch was provided. As we waited in line at the buffet of offerings, I mentioned that my favorite part of these events was seeing just what, if anything, was available for me to eat. As I went into “Crazy Uncle Larry” mode, some of my cohorts mentioned that they tried Atkins but couldn’t manage to get past the first two weeks. Another said that it just didn’t seem sensible to be on a diet that excluded entire food groups.

These issues seem to be hardships for many. For me, it makes things so simple. Once, long ago, it felt like I was having choices taken away from me. Now I view it as having pressure removed from my life. Thoreau was a big proponent of simplification:

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! We are happy in proportion to the things we can do without.

With that, I take my leave of you for the while, and go to do my work: Shoppin’! See you next time.

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