For four consecutive weeks (beginning this past Tuesday) I'm shopping exclusively from the perimeter (and the bulk section) of my coop (and, of course, the Farmer's Market). What do I hope to accomplish by doing this?
1) Healthier Eats. Even at the coop, where they stock the shelves with local and generally more healthful foods, the aisles in the middle of the store are filled with items that are more processed than items on the perimeter. Some "health experts" even advise avoiding those middle aisles to lose weight. Since I'm breastfeeding right now, losing weight isn't a goal as much as eating healthy, but if that ends up being a side effect, I probably won't complain.
2) Less Packaging Waste. I'm going to be shopping from the bulk section a fair amount and hopefully I'll get better about bringing containers from home to pack in the store. Right now we average about three kitchen-sized bags of crap that we throw out each week (plus our recyclables). I'm hoping to see a decrease.
3) More "Experimental" Cooking and Cooking From Scratch. Most of the items I'll be buying will be raw ingredients, which means if I'm craving, say, granola bars, I'm going to have to figure out how to make them myself. Amongst the other items I'm going to have to learn to make from scratch: polenta, pizza sauce, vegetable stock, mustard, and mayonnaise.
4) Less Food Waste. I find that the more involved I am in the process of making food, the less likely I am to let it go to waste. So, for example, I might let a container of Chinese take out sit in the fridge until it grows alien life forms and has to be tossed, but my homemade yogurt is a precious, precious commodity that I will not let go to waste. I also hope that by learning to cook more from scratch, I'll be able to cook more meals just with what I have available in the pantry and fridge without having to make extra trips to the grocery store.
What, exactly, will I be "able" to buy. Produce, eggs, milk, butter, (and cheese -- I could perhaps learn to make it , but that's a little too hardcore for me), meats and fish, and whatever is in the bulk section plus whatever I can get at the farmer's market. Even though the frozen food section is on the perimeter of the store, I'm going to be skipping that part (especially since I can get fresh produce these days). I'm also going to skip the bread section and learn how to make bread from scratch.
What do I anticipate happening?
1) By about week 2, I'm going to wonder, "Why the hell am I doing this?"
2) I'm going to love baking my own bread, but it's never going to be as good as the bread from local bakeries and it's never really going to be time effective.
3) I'm going to succumb to desires for: cereal, pre-made chicken stock, and condiments.
4) I'm going to be forced to organize my kitchen to stay on top of bulk food purchase.