Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Retail Rant/Rave: Walmart Finds

I'm sure there are readers out there who are sick of me talking about how much I love my food co-op and the awesome, fresh, organic, minimally processed food that my family has been enjoying for the past two months. Those readers are very busy, have very tight budgets, and/or are not completely obsessed with food the way that I am.

Fair enough. I'm going to go ahead and admit that I DO still shop at...gasp...Walmart every other week or so because of the extremely limited retail selection in my area. But while there I try to stick to my guns regarding minimal processing, organically raised, and less packaging whenever possible. Surprisingly enough, the responsible eater CAN find products like this at Walmart, and for nearly the same price as the other stuff. Here are some of the products that I've found at my local Walmart (and please note that I'm not being compensated by anyone to talk about any of these products, just putting the info out there).

1. Hormel Natural Choice Deli meats

I've been buying nearly all of my meats through my food co-op, including fresh pork, sausages, ground beef, lamb chops, Texas longhorn burger, etc. Unfortunately, none of the meat producers offer nitrate-free deli meats. Now, the jury is still out on sodium nitrates, which I had never heard of until I was pregnant and told to avoid food that contained them. I did a little research and it turns out that prolonged exposure to nitrates caused lab animals to develop cancer with alarming frequency. Since my son LOVES his ham sandwiches, and since I LOVE my little boy, I'm going to buy nitrate-free meat whenever possible.

I was first attracted to the packaging of these Hormel meats because it was recycled cardboard and natural inks. I know, I know--great reason to buy roast turkey, right? In reading the label, I could see that they had in fact been minimally processed (yay!) and contained no nitrates or artificial preservatives AT ALL. Score! The Hormel website mentions that they are able to process the meat using a high pressure cold water something or other to keep it preserved without chemicals. Of course, it doesn't last very long in my house because we go through ham (and turkey and roast beef) sandwiches like they were going out of style and these meats taste good. And since Hormel is a big industry producer, their products are consistently stocked at Walmart for the same price as the pretend and chemically-injected meats.

2. Back to Nature Crackers
 Along with our sandwich obsession, my family also has a cracker fetish. Bill and I could have crackers, cheese, and wine for dinner on a regular basis and be happy as clams. I've been meaning to attempt to make my own crackers, but the beautiful weather and steady pace of real work has kept me from it. (I'm also saving up for a pasta roller, which will probably help in the cracker department).

In the meantime, I have been buying lots of tasty cheeses from the co-op but had no crackers to eat them with. A brief scan of the depressingly unhealthy (despite WHOLE GRAIN promises from the box) selections in the cracker aisle had me convinced that we would not be able to enjoy our favorite snack without the addition of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, or obscene amounts of sodium. Enter Back to Nature.

Again, I was drawn to the recycled cardboard box, and then fell in love with the ingredients label. Organic all around, no artificial ANYTHING, and super tasty-sounding flavors. I bought 3 boxes to try and I have to say that they were all gone in about a week.

3. Stoneyfield Yogurt
This is probably not a huge surprise to those who buy organic, but I wanted to put it out there because I constantly see people linger at the yogurt section trying to decide which to pick up. Yogurt is one of those tricky foods that few people eat because they looooove the taste of it--most people eat it because they know it is good for them. Unfortunately a lot of brand name yogurts contain huge amounts of sugar and crazy ingredients (no, fiber does not occur naturally in yogurt and any carton telling you that it does will make you fart all afternoon).

Stoneyfield products are all organic, which is an important characteristic to look for when buying food that comes from cows, considering how environmentally damaging the cattle industry is. Their products also don't contain huge amounts of added sugar, which is why I used to buy the Yo-Baby products (from Stoneyfield) for Joe. I say used to because for some reason our Walmarts stopped stocking them, and I started buying his yogurt locally through the co-op.

I also want to put it out there that if you haven't tried Greek-style yogurt, you should. It doesn't taste like olives or feta cheese, it is just a thicker, creamier texture with less fat. No fat, in fact, in many cases. It feels more sinful to eat, but it has more protein than regular yogurt, so you'll be fuller for longer.

That's it for now. I have also found organic, cage-free chicken and eggs for the same price as their shelf-mates in Walmart. Actually, Walmart actually has a generic brand of organic, cage-free eggs. I buy my chicken through the co-op now to do my part in reducing emissions and support local farmers, but it's nice to know that there are options. Actually, a friend of mine pointed out this article from The Atlantic discussing how it is getting hard to hate Walmart as they become more open to dealing locally and stocking their shelves with more responsible foods.

Wally-world still has a long way to go, but it's a start and an opportunity for us to vote with our dollars at the checkout, while doing something good for our families.    

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with your critique of yogurt and meat at Wal-Mart! I like the Hormel meats but you have to eat them fast or freeze it because it sure doesn’t last long in the fridge! I’ve bought the Stonyfield yogurt for years. My kids are always trying to persuade me to purchase the goofy yogurt (“go-gurt” or something like that) because they have seen it on commercials. After checking out the ingredients, I tell them they might as well have a candy bar and enjoy it!

    I used to go weekly out to my friend’s house off of Spencer Road where she had a little store out back. She would order in bulk and you could go on Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday until noon to pick up all your favorite produce and organic groceries! Sadly, she closed down to use the building for her homeschooling room. Since then, I am always on the look out for “organic” and am pleased to say, I’m seeing more of it at Wal-Mart. You just have to be AWARE! My mother, kids and husband tease me about how long it takes me to grocery shop because I can’t just throw and item in the basket. (…unless of course, I’ve already memorized its contents, lol!)

    FYI, the commissary on post has tons of organic (and natural) grocery items…not so much produce though. I also pick up my shampoo, body wash, facial cleansers, etc there. If you are not military, you need to make friends with someone who is!