One of the surprises that comes with any away-from-home internship is new found adulthood. And with adulthood comes a very new and exciting activity: grocery shopping. I LOVE grocery shopping.
This turn of events is actually incredibly dangerous, especially for someone like me who’s trying to live on a slim school-given stipend in DC, the world’s most expensive city. DC also happens to be a menacing place in another way: it is the land of the Whole Foods. Everywhere you look is another looming bastion of disgustingly high-quality produce for exorbitant prices, full of temptations such as fine drunken goat’s cheese from the netherlands, organic large grain quinoa, and yes, the dreaded organic kumquats. My faith in frugality is tested everytime I walk by.
I have a tortured relationship with Whole Foods. On the one hand, it is the epitome of the spoiled-young-liberal-super-yuppie lifestyle, it encourages buying imported foods rather than local, and it certainly has a tendency to drain one’s wallet. On the other hand, I have found the average quality of food to be generally better than at most groceries, and the price issue is really only a problem if you let it be. The Whole Foods- owned “365” brand stuff is actually generally cheaper than comparable products at say, Giant, tastes better, and a lot of it is organic and therefore chemical-free too. Unfortunately, this is not what you will want to buy once you enter a Whole Foods. Right next to that 365 peanut butter will be a jar of BeardedHippie Farms’ organic peanut butter, with a label explaining that it’s made from peanuts that have been hand-picked by a Guatemalan orphan who is being paid a fair wage by the Bearded Hippies so that he can buy his school uniform. And guess which peanut butter you are going to want to buy?
I have resisted much temptation thus far, but little things like nice cheeses, live basil plants, and yes, kumquats, keep appearing in my basket whenever I shop for groceries. I’m eating wonderfully for now, but I’m skeptical of exactly how economically sustainable my eating habits are. Of course, a sane person would say, ” Why the hell aren’t you shopping at Safeway with all the other broke college kids?” But in my defense, until recently a Whole Foods was literally the only food store within walking distance of my house. Now that I’ve moved, my NEW Whole Foods is actually the second closest, but the closest one is a gross Giant that is barely bigger than my apartment and doesn’t even have a deli section. My life is hard.