Grocery shopping is Stressful

Brene Brown just posted this:

Comparative suffering. Empathy rationing. I do that a lot.

Example: Grocery shopping is so stressful right now.

Maybe you can relate (or maybe not) — whenever that thought crosses my mind, another thought immediately pops up and goes, How could I even think that? There’s so much privilege in that statement. I’m able-bodied, financially secure, young, and relatively healthy. What right do I have to be stressed out about meal planning and visiting the grocery store?

As it turns out, nobody is concerned about the nature of my specific stresses and whether they’re valid — other than myself. Surprise surprise.

So let this be my uncomfortable and unfettered attempt at owning how stressful I am finding meals and groceries right now.

I find myself unconsciously holding my breath when I’m outdoors, especially when there are people nearby. As you might imagine, this causes lightheadedness and other weird sensations.

Two people eating three meals a day at home go through a lot of food. It’s hard to come up with twenty meals every two weeks – and meals that will be enjoyed by two people who are often not on the same page about what they want to eat.

When I arrive at the store armed with a grocery list, I invariably find that most of those items are not available. In fact, there isn’t much of anything. But I must not leave empty-handed, because then I’ll have to come back and experience this all over again.

There is so much palpable panic in the air. I have almost crashed into other store patrons multiple times because we find ourselves doing a weird frenzied dance to avoid contact with each other.

I have no hand sanitizer. The store is often out of wipes.

Everybody is talking about COVID-19.

Things are changing on the daily. Limits on eggs. No store returns. Masking tape on the floor. Seating area closed. Change is stressful, even if not on a conscious level.

There you go. My little inner critic is screaming at me right now for whining about something like going grocery shopping. But my point here is that I can own and process my stress while ALSO being appreciative of all the things. I can be stressed about my ‘small’ stuff AND truly mourn and grieve how this epidemic has disproportionately affected more vulnerable folks.

And finally: This is an incredibly challenging time for anyone struggling with disordered eating or any obsessive/compulsive behaviors around food. Especially because they might not feel that their struggles are as valid as other struggles. If you are that person or know that person, please be kind <3. Also, check out this fantastic resource.

Celebrating convenience foods

I used to be a huge food snob. In particular, the kind who insisted on making everything from scratch. I would make my own bread and my own butter — yes, butter. Marinara sauce, pesto, almond butter, granola, pasta, you name it. This came partly from a good place: being curious about the science/craft, wanting to save money and reduce packaging waste. But mostly it was because I had been brainwashed to believe that in order to be a healthy (or even a ‘good’) person, I needed to avoid processed food like the plague. I’m not saying that processed or ‘junk’ foods are always the #1 most nutritious choice, but here’s something to think about: constantly stressing over food is so much worse for your health than having a non-organic meal with refined carbohydrates. Ironically, those moments of panic/indecision while placing your order at a restaurant and feelings of post-meal guilt can cause stress-induced inflammation, the very thing you are probably trying to avoid.

All that to say: I empathize with anyone who is trying to be healthy. Mental health is a huge component of our health as well! Personally, I’ve found that frozen and convenience foods have been a total game-changer. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon baking muffins or cooking an elaborate meal — it just doesn’t stress me out anymore if I don’t have the energy or time to do that.

Some of my favorite frozen/convience foods:

Trader Joe’s Gyoza Potstickers

These are the real deal and a total steal at $2.99 for 23 dumplings (yeah, we buy them so much that I know how many there are off the top of my head). We like both the pork and chicken ones equally. I’ve tried the newer salmon potstickers as a sample and they didn’t taste as weird as they sound, but I wouldn’t purchase them….because we love the pork and chicken ones SO MUCH!!!! Note that this is coming from an Asian person who has made hundreds (maybe thousands) of dumplings. No exaggeration, these potstickers make their way to our dinner table about once a week. I follow the instructions on the package and serve them up with an obnoxious array of sauces and chillis, plus maybe some veggies if we feel like it.

Trader Joe’s Party Size Mini Meatballs + Tomato Basil Marinara + Frozen Brussels Sprouts

Easy peasy. I love buying frozen brussels sprouts at TJ’s — they’re smaller and so they cook up more quickly. I put them in a sautee pan with some water, let them boil/steam for a while, and then add some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt so they can glaze/char a little bit.

Box Mac & Cheese + Canned Tuna + Frozen Broccoli

Thisssssssss. Boil the broccoli for a few last minutes with the pasta and add the tuna to the drained pasta/broccoli mixture. If I have time, I will transfer to a oven safe dish, add MORE cheese, and then bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. Also, always add the butter!

Van’s Power Grains Frozen Waffles

Waffle…toaster…butter…peanut butter…cinnamon. I like this kind because they feel a little more hearty/substantial.

Trader Joe’s Frozen Almond Croissants

These are actually the best almond croissants I’ve ever had. Almond croissants are one of my favorite foods, so I’ve had a lot of almond croissants. They’re so good probably in part because you’re eating them fresher than you’d ever get from a café — the frozen dough is left out for some hours to rise and then baked. They come with the almonds on top, but I added the powdered sugar :p

That’s it for now! I now realize that we have disproportionate representation from Trader Joe’s, but hopefully that means you can find and enjoy some of these items if you are in the US.