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Rebecca Alwine's picture

In some far away corner of my mind, I know that if I were to really buy the best food for my family, I’d have to do some research than just commissary shopping. I can never bring myself to do it. I’m the kind of person who loves to cook, but hates food shopping. I go in with a highly detailed list and get out as soon as humanly possible. So the thought of shopping in more than one store for my weekly groceries makes me want to scream. But, as we continue our health food journey, I’ve begun to question whether or not it would be necessary. Life is busy – it’s hard to eat healthy in a busy world.

When living on post, commissary shopping is convenient and, aside from Mondays, open at reasonable hours. In our small town, we have a few grocery store options, but nothing like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, or Wegmans. So, how do we discover the best places to buy health foods? Well, as with anything else you want to know about a military town, you ask your milspouse friends.

One friend of mine, a mother of four, one with a very long list of allergies and food sensitivities, openly admits to shopping around. “I like the local food co-op, though the commissary has a good selection of products now. And I go to Trader Joes when we go the ‘big city.’ The commissary is indeed expanding its gluten-free, nut-free, and healthy food sections. In fact, earlier this year, I was able to find Almond Milk Coffee Creamer in my commissary. And for about half the price as the stuff downtown. Win! Laurel adds, “The commissary just started selling rice pasta, although Wal-Mart has it cheaper. I usually get almond butter while commissary shopping, and I utilize Target and the local food stores as well. We don’t usually HAVE to go to the city.”

All of my friends who have been stationed in Texas rave about HEB. I did visit one when we drove through the state and they had a huge selection of produce. One friend remarks that she prefers HEB and since she moved, Wegmans, because their produce is longer lasting and they have better coupons and store rewards. Another friend prefers the quality and cuts of meat found at HEB to what she finds while shopping at the commissary. It’s no secret the commissary’s produce has a very short shelf-life. In fact, we often remind new spouses to triple check the expiration dates on all commissary purchases. It is not just an urban legend that things stay on the shelf well past their expiration dates.

Now, when commissary shopping isn’t an option, like for those families living far away from an installation, or on those dreadful Mondays when it is closed, we are forced to look off-post.

The things to look out for while shopping:

Organic Produce

This stuff is expensive, and not always practical. I try to focus on the things I eat that aren’t peeled or cooked first. I like to buy organic baby carrots for school lunches and organic celery. And if that’s all I can buy organic that time, that’s ok.

Milk Products

We go through a lot of milk! But I always look at brands and ingredients. The kids are still doing cow milk, but I do almond milk and usually prefer the unsweetened kind. Even yogurt has tons of sugar in it. And the gogurts that they love are really not that great for them. It’s hard to balance the ease of the things kids like to grab and the nutritional value.

Added Sugar

Do you know how much sugar you consume a day? The average American consumes over 750 grams of sugar each day. That is about 130 pounds of sugar each year. And even though you are eating healthy, are you reading all the labels? There is sugar in things you wouldn’t even imagine: spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, and milk to name a few.

Sorry, commissary, the evidence proves that in order to properly feed my family using the healthy foods that I want, I am going to have to make more trips off the installation and go to some other stores.

What do you think? Where do you prefer to do your health food shopping?


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