For the person who wants to improve their diet, the grocery store can be a very scary place.  The purpose of this entry is to give you a simple guide for navigating the grocery store.  This is all about “what” and not about “why.”  We’ll save that for another time.


Before I get started, I want to say that I believe we should buy as much of our food as possible from the farm, especially meat, dairy and vegetables.  But for some people this just isn’t possible.  There are also some food items we just can’t get from a farm.  Thus, here is “Grocery Shopping 101.”


First, here is the bottom line:  eat only what God created to be eaten, and make sure it is as close to its natural state as possible.  For example:  eat raw cheese, don’t eat American cheese; drink whole milk, not skim milk.


Second, at the grocery store you will find that a majority of the items in the above category will be located around the perimeter of the grocery store rather than in between the aisles.  There are a few exceptions but not too many.


And now for the specifics:


Produce … Fresh vegetables, in season, grown as locally as possible and preferably organic … Fruits are good but only in moderation.


Meat …  Look for organic meat from animals that have lived and eaten on the pasture as opposed to confined and grain-fed.  These meats will be much higher in nutrients.


Dairy … Avoid processed dairy products, including yogurt that lists sugar, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and other chemicals and processed items in its ingredients.  Look for whole milk, unprocessed cheese, full fat sour cream, real butter.  Avoid dairy that has been “ultrapasteurized”, that does not require refrigeration, or is reduced fat or fat free.  Look for whole milk that comes from pastured cows, preferably non-homogenized.  Locally, that would be Hatcher Family Dairy milk.


Oils …  Look for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, unrefined coconut oil, palm oil, cold pressed sesame oil and peanut oil and high oleic safflower oil.  Avoid soybean oil, cotton seed oil, corn oil, canola oil and any oil that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.


Salt … Unrefined Sea Salt is the best and it may not be available at a regular grocery store.  Two excellent brands are Celtic Sea Salt and RealSalt.  You want salt that has not been refined, bleached, or had chemicals added to make it flow smoothly.  Real salt will be gray or speckled and coarser than traditional table salt.


Sweeteners … Always avoid white sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup.  Look for unpasteurized honey, molasses, organic maple syrup, or unrefined sugar such as Sucanat. 


Always, always avoid “new-fangled modern convenience foods.”  This is when you really have to think.  Ask yourself, “Is this really a food?”  “Was this food item available 75 years ago? 100?  If not, why?”


All of the above guidelines can be applied to the many products in the grocery aisles.  For example, if you were to buy spaghetti sauce, simply read the label and avoid those brands that list high fructose corn syrup on the label.  Keep in mind that when you bake from scratch at home you would never use ingredients such as “autolyzed yeast extract” therefore don’t purchase products that include this on the label.  Often you will find that the most simple of products will have the longest ingredient list.  This is a big warning sign.


Grocery shopping in this manner will be overwhelming at first but it can be done!  Your first few trips will be long as you scan the shelves and read the labels.  You may be very discouraged to find that many of the items you are used to buying are now “off limits.”  Take heart!  Talk to your grocery manager and ask him to supply more brands and choices.  He is often willing to special order.  Or, learn to make some things from scratch at home – you will be surprised at how many convenience foods you can actually make yourself for very little trouble (for example, spaghetti sauce!).


Remember, don’t make all of your diet changes at one time.  Take baby steps.  Decide what is your biggest priority and start there.  The other things will fall in line.


Bless The Hands That Prepared This Food

I get excited about the strangest things.  Ever since becoming a homeschool mom, I just laugh over the crazy things I get excited about.  These days I get really excited about food.  Call me crazy, but I get excited about food!  Especially food that is straight from the source, as opposed to food from the grocery store.  A few years ago a friend gave me some milk she had just milked that morning.  It was so fresh, and unadulterated…I was excited!  As I was carrying it to the car, someone inquired about it.  When I explained what it was, she was disgusted.  “Ewwwww!” was her exact response.  Shocked, I replied that all milk at the store comes from an animal and she exclaimed, “But I don’t want to know about it!”  What?


“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”  These are the words of God from Genesis 1:31.  This is what God had to say of his creation.  News flash:  God not only didn’t create Lunchables, Velveeta, Pop Tarts, artificial sweeteners or margarine but he didn’t create the grocery store, the dairy case, or the milk carton either!  God created the cow, and from that cow comes our meat and milk.  Good food comes from the farm.  Yes, the farm.  And when the thought of that disgusts us, we are not only not appreciating God’s perfect creation but we are not living in reality either.


Every week it seems there is a new food scare.  Recently there was a huge beef recall.  A meat processing plant that had been cited for disgusting violations in the past had apparently messed up again.  Their meat went to regular grocery stores as well as a nationally known health food store that advertises organic and all natural meats, and charges a premium price (I don’t think their customers were getting what they paid for!).  Earlier this year there was the tomato scare where people were getting salmonella from eating tainted tomatoes at restaurants.  Remember the spinach scare last year?  People were getting E. coli from eating spinach!  Even the organic spinach was pulled off the shelves because it was all coming from the same place.  Just last week the news broke about babies in China getting sick from drinking their baby formula.  Apparently the processor added a chemical to increase the protein content, and this sickened and even killed babies in China.  These things just should not be!  We have become too far removed from the source of our food, and it isn’t working out so well. 


Do you know where your food comes from?  And who has been handling it?  I know of people who won’t eat food prepared by certain people because they know that kitchen isn’t very clean, or that person has a lot of pets in the house.  There are other people who won’t eat food that other people have had their hands in, for example, a tray of cookies sitting out for sampling at the grocery store or a church potluck dish that has been sitting out.  We know that in each of these situations the food has been at risk for spoilage or contamination in some way.  Yet we are perfectly fine eating food from the grocery store, prepared or grown in places we have never seen and packaged by people we have never met.  There may be laws in place specifically designed to keep food clean and safe, but these laws are violated all the time, and people get sick.  Maybe the processing plant is perfectly fine, but what about the ingredients?  Scientists are doing things to our food that are perfectly legal, yet can still make us very sick.  Scientists have genetically modified corn and have experimented with using it in different ways.  Several years ago some of this corn, changed from the way God created it, wound up in taco shells at the grocery store.  Someone who purchased and ate those taco shells nearly died as a result. (You can learn about this from the documentary, “The Future of Food.”  Go to to watch it free.)  It makes one feel pretty powerless, doesn’t it?  When we leave the handling and preparation of our food in the hands of strangers, we put ourselves and our families at risk.


Good, healthy, safe food comes from the farm.  When you hear news of the latest food scare, do you run to the fridge to check labels and code numbers?  If you buy your food from the farm, you will never have to worry again about who has been handling your food because you will already know!  In fact, that person will probably have become a friend.  You can probably send them an email, give them a phone call, or drive to their house because you will know who is handling your food.  In fact, that farmer will probably try very hard to keep in touch with you.  Now that’s a change from the typical grocery store and the big companies who supply it! If you were to buy a side of beef for your freezer, you will know that every burger, every steak, and every roast came from one single cow and you will likely even know where that cow was slaughtered and maybe even who it was who did it.  If you were to buy a share in a Community Supported Agriculture program for fresh vegetables and greens, you would never have a concern about salmonella or E. coli in your spinach and tomatoes because you would know that your farmer doesn’t use tainted fertilizers or irrigation. 


A small scale, local farmer who sells directly to the consumer will have a special interest in the quality of his food.  He will not only personally know the children who are eating his food and relying on it to nourish them, but he will know that if his products aren’t good quality that he will no longer have a livelihood.  And you will have the opportunity to find out how well he treats his animals, or what he fertilizes his vegetables with. You will quickly develop a relationship with the person who produces your food as you learn how much this person cares about what they are doing, if they are honest and hard-working.  When you buy from the farm, you take the responsibility for feeding your children back into your own hands.  You go from powerless to powerful.


Tonight, when you sit down for dinner and thank God for the hands that prepared your food, who will you think of?


Here are some websites to help you locate farms near you: