Proof that consumer demand affects change at the grocery store!

It’s been over 5 years since I’ve grabbed a last-minute snack in the check-out lane at the grocrey store because there really are no options that I can eat (or would even want to eat for that matter). The candy bars that used to call my name as I unloaded my groceries no longer even register in my mind as “food.” I really don’t even notice them anymore.

But the goodies in the check-out lane pictured here sure did catch my attention recently, so I thought I’d share! Click the photo to enlarge for a better view! (If you live in Omaha, NE….this selection was spotted at the Hy-Vee store on 132nd & Dodge Street.)

This check-out lane features none of the typical candy bars and chewing gum varieties. Instead, a selection of nuts, trail mix, fruit leathers, granola bars and Larabars greets shoppers here. (Not to say that all of these are perfect options, either, but it’s definitely a start!) And, yes, that is FRESH FRUIT you see in the bins at the top! Wild, huh? Something I can actually eat!

I first spotted this delightful check-out lane about 5 or 6 months ago. And, when I inquired (because, of course, I did!), I was told that it was something new they were “trying out” at this Hy-Vee location. It’s just in the one check-out lane (for now), but at least they are doing something! And the fact that this display is still standing all these months later…well, hopefully that means something, as well!!

What changes have you noticed that indicate some things are heading in the right direction with our food situation these days? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below! Or if you have pictures or other details you’d prefer to send in, please email us! We’d love to add your ideas to this article!

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“Living Abroad: My Personal Revelation about Real Foods”

In the guest post below, Mariana Ashley shares with us her story of how it took living in another country for her to truly understand what it meant to eat a natural diet composed of REAL foods – – truly real foods; not the pseudo-“natural” processed stuff promoted by much of the American food industry.

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“If you live in America, you know how difficult it can be to maintain a diet completely composed of whole, unadulterated foods. Of course, the slow food, green movement that’s blossomed in America over the past decade or so has made it easier in some ways, but there’s just as much marketing of supposedly “healthy, natural” foods that has served only to confuse consumers who want to live a genuinely natural lifestyle.

After years of subsisting on American staples, eating fast food several times a week, going out for dinner, etc., my mother tried to switch things up by committing to natural, organic foods. Unfortunately, most of these foods were processed and packaged, and they paid only lip service to natural foods. If it was labeled natural, organic, or diet, my mother–God bless her–just assumed it was healthy and wholesome.

It wasn’t until I studied abroad in Russia my junior year of college that I realized what it means to actually consume “real food.” Of course, don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of McDonald’s and other American fast food chains in Russia, and there were lots of food items at the grocery store that were far from being healthy or unprocessed. But in Russia, especially outside very urban areas, eating whole foods is far from being an expression of trendiness as it is in many parts of the developed, Westernized world. It’s just a fact of life.

Grocery stores in Russia are very unassuming places. Most of them are the size of convenient stores in America and carry only the essentials, like milk, eggs, cheese, a few selections of meat and produce. If the vegetables and fruits are not in season, they don’t carry them. For most items, there are only two or three brands available at the most. Some items, like milk, had only one choice. The simple, red-and-white label read “Milk.” No skim, no two percent, no brand label with pictures and marketing. Just milk.

For someone like me, who is completely overwhelmed by the overabundance of brand choice in your typical American grocery store, going to a Russian grocery store became an actually enjoyable experience precisely because of this simplicity. Look at your typical grocery store item in Russia, and you could bet your bottom dollar that the number of listed ingredients could be counted on one hand.

Most Russian families make quick trips to these grocery stores. When it came to purchasing items for making full-fledged meals, it was off to one of the many outdoor markets, which is an experience in and of itself. The Russian family I lived with loved food and loved the bonding experience endemic to meal times in your typical Russian home. I’d never experienced anything like it.

In America, it almost seems that families eat together out of a certain sense of anxiety about the breakdown of family values. Children and teens in America cannot wait to leave the table and get on with their lives on their cell phones or televisions. In Russia, at least in my experience, the whole family, both young and old, genuinely enjoyed meal times. There were always several courses, dessert, beer, wine, or vodka for the adults, free-flowing conversation, banter, joking—in a word, joy.

And it was through this experience of living abroad in a culture that doesn’t fetishize real food but actually and truly enjoys it—partly because they don’t really have much of a choice–that I learned to embrace whole foods. I’ve carried with me this Russian gusto for real food and meaningful conversation, and it’s truly changed my life.”

About the Author

Mariana Ashley is a blogger and freelance writer, whose posts offer a college guide and news for prospective students and parents. She also enjoys writing about sustainable living, parenting, personal finance, and more. She welcomes comments via email at mariana.ashley031@gmail.com.

Tour of Chad & Christy’s Gardens – June 13, 2012

Side view of Main Garden

Picking peas taller than me!

We are so grateful to have enough land for two large gardens at our home right in the middle of the city, and we just LOVE bringing our harvest straight to our dinner table! I thought I’d take a minute to share some photos of what’s growing in our gardens, so far, this season. I’d love to hear what you are growing, too, so leave a comment  below to tell me about your growing adventure!

Our gardens have changed a lot since we dug our first hole just five short years ago. That first season, our garden consisted of only a few tomato and pepper plants we purchased at a local farmers market. The following year, we built four 4’x4′ raised beds and grew a variety of vegetables using the methods of Square Foot Gardening. We loved it so much that by the end of the season, we built 3 more beds – and started growing our own plants from seeds! You can check out that garden of ours by clicking here! The following year (last year), we moved to a new house with much more land, and we created the “Main Garden” pictured above. This year, we expanded to the other side of our property and planted an additional, slightly smaller garden (as you’ll see below).

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Sugar snap pea harvest

MORE PHOTOS OF MAIN GARDEN (GARDEN #1)

Watermelon plant

Tomato plants – We use a “Florida Weave” technique to stake our plants, rather than using tomato cages.

From left: onions, bell peppers, potatoes (We use the a “Florida Weave” staking method instead of cages for the peppers.)

From left: Lettuce, Green Beans, Peas

Harvesting lettuce. Summer squash and zucchini seeds are planted in the empty bed to the left.

Fresh herbs: oregano, thyme, chives

Tomato (left) and basil plants

Cucumbers growing up a trellis

Cucumber will be ready to eat SOON!

Potatoes – I knew potatoes grew underground, but I had NO idea (until planting some last year) that they had THIS much foliage above ground!

PHOTOS OF GARDEN #2

Side view of Garden #2. We used pine mulch for the pathways in this garden.

Cabbage

Tomatoes

Cauliflower (front row)

Cilantro – My FAVORITE fresh herb!!!!

Farm Tour – Chisholm Family Farm (Elmwood, NE)

The hubby and I LOVE touring local farms, and there are SO many great ones in the Omaha, NE area!!! Last weekend we visited Chisholm Family Farm in Elmwood, NE (about 40 minutes from Omaha). Special thanks to Laura (and her daughter) for hosting us for the afternoon!! We had a blast visiting, petting and feeding the animals and also enjoyed a tour of the RAW MILK facilities and store! I highly encourage my readers and clients to buy from local farmers AND to visit local farms to see where healthy food comes from!

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