A Centrist Viewpoint

by Dave on October 15, 2009

by Andy Meddick

Thank you Lisa Harkins, Coastal Sussex Weekly nutritional columnist for highlighting that conventional grocery stores stock the center of their stores with processed, packaged foods. Lisa is right on the money and really got me thinking about how I food shop, and has the way I shop determined the G4U Market layout?   

To shop conventional grocery stores for optimal nutrition and value for money, you have to shop the edges. But this is not how I shop!  I shop from the center of the plate, in disaccord with store layout, abandoning my cart to track down the main ingredients first, seeking out side dishes, and snacks later. This means a lot of exercise traversing the store! So how do I cut down on this work? Before I shop, I decide what kind of dishes I’m going to make, over what timeframe, ranging from a specific special event meal, or just 1 day, through a weekend, or a whole week’s worth of meals. Market research ties in with this: shoppers have an average of ten recipes in their heads when hitting the food market. Good gracious, how did we live without cell phones? How can we track ten recipes without at least 3 lifeline calls home for backup?

I consider value for money before I shop. For example, what value do you put on a center-store frozen pizza, versus buying the ingredients fresh at the side aisles, making your own, and spreading the same ingredients over several meals? It’s the equation of  nutrition/time + convenience.

How do you plan to shop? Maybe you start from the perspective of, “What’s my protein?” as Chefs are trained to do. Or do you think, “What’s for dinner?” Regardless of whether it is chicken, beef, fish, or tofu/tempeh/seitan, you’re starting from the center of the plate. You determine the kind of dish, working outwards deciding on appropriate cooking technique, complementary flavors, seasonings, oils, and side dishes. I build my grocery list by planning my meals, then re-arranging the ingredients into a list. Sound familiar?

When it comes to planning out my meals, I subscribe to a few, really good food magazines and e-newsletters. My favorite magazines are Eating Well, Saveur, VegNews, and the excellent British BBC magazines GoodFood and Olive. I love the e-newsletters Epicurious and Vegetarian Times. Glossy magazines, yes. Elitist, no. Share the subscription fee with a group of like-minded folks and recycle the magazine around.  Please take advantage of cooking demos and classes in local restaurants and food markets, even if they are not free (and many are). A tip from a live expert is worth so much more than reading it. Attending these events is a good investment for your family budget, helps you plan future meals.

Contined from page 23

Next time you’re at market, pay attention to the layout of the store. Determine how the retailers help you navigate (in good, and also in, let me say, “Cunning” ways!). Good food markets find creative ways of suggesting food combinations, with signage, putting related (or seemingly unrelated!) products together in such a way to suggest a meal idea, or time saving tip. Some stores will post nutritional concepts and tips. Retailers call this, “Cross-merchandising.” I call this, “Thinking like a customer yourself, and thinking about your customer.”

Anyone purveying a food item, including venues such as farmers markets, should know their product origin, be able to make menu suggestions and substitutions, and how to source complementary ingredients. This should reflect in the layout of their store, or products. In other words, they should understand the center of your plate, and be able to help you out of it!

So, has the way I shop determined the layout of G4U Market? It depends! Produce, for example, is up front and our cheese counter in the back, not because the supermarkets do it this way. Produce is front and center to what we are about: chemical-free, fresh produce, which for me is as much center-plate as my protein of choice. Artisan cheeses are at the back because it is a comfortable, quieter area where customers can linger over cheese tasting, get recipe and pairing suggestions. In fact, we do not have a center-store. Just one big loop, cross-merchandised and signed for all we’re worth.

Does all this make your head ache? Relax, you’re already doing much of it without thinking about it. Savvy retailers are helping – just know how to spot the signs and work them for all you’re worth!

Until next time Treehuggers, remember, hugs not drugs. Andy for Good For You Market.

This column first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, July 30, 2009.

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