When I was a kid my mother did a big grocery shop once a week. She made a plan of what we were going to eat for the week, and except for stocking up on milk, that was about it – she didn’t usually go back to the store for more. (Of course there were a lot of reasons for that.) When I started my own household, I thought this was the right way to shop – the most efficient, ‘proper’ way to shop – so that’s what I did, except it never really worked.
My husband comes from England where, growing up, his mother and grandmothers went to the green grocers for fruits and vegetables, the butcher shop for meat, the fish mongers for fish, and so on, getting what they needed daily from small specialty shops. Food was bought to be consumed on the same day – or within a few days. Although this changed when they moved to Canada, I think what you learn when you are young stays with you and he still likes doing the shopping like this – even more so now that we live in an urban environment where there are shops close by.
For decades we did the big weekly shopping because there wasn’t an alternative to walk to a store: we lived way out in the country. Walking to the store would have taken the whole day and we wouldn’t have been able to carry enough to make it work. Yet even when we moved into the city and had the opportunity to walk to the store, we still drove because it was our mind-set by then: a big weekly shop was just more efficient, we believed.
What changed was two things: not being self-employed anymore and having shops close enough to walk to. I soon found that working in an office Monday to Friday job left me with a lot of chores to do on the weekend, and doing a big weekly shop that left me tired and cranky wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my time. We’ve shifted gradually to picking up things as we need them: not daily because we don’t really need that, but several times a week. We also make shopping part of our weekend excursions by stopping at a market on our way somewhere else.
Getting Exercise while doing your Shopping
Here’s how daily shopping gives you more nutritious movement.
- First of all you get the extra walking just going to the store, whether you are making a separate trip from home or adding it onto your daily routine. If it is a separate trip, you of course get the extra walking to and from the store, but even if you are stopping into the supermarket on the way home from work, don’t discount those extra steps. I usually shop the outside aisles for raw ingredients, but often there will be one thing that takes me up and down the inner aisles. I’m covering a lot of the same ground a few times a week that I would have done weekly and it is extra!
- Secondly, I am only buying what I can carry (hopefully) but walking home with not only the weight of the groceries, but the size and shape of the items (the load) makes me use my body in a different way than I normally do. I use different muscles with more variation as I shift hands, carry with both arms, tuck things under my arms – just to get them home. Even more fun is carrying things without a bag! a(For more on this read It’s the Great Load Lesson, Charlie Brown, by Katy Bowman.)
- Compare the amount of work it is for your little shop to your big shop: with your little shop you probably have a hand cart or carry your items to the checkout, then you carrying your items home. In the big shop the wheeled shopping cart does the work, the items are bagged and wheeled to your car. There might be a bit more work to unload them and get them to your kitchen, but nowhere near the same movement nutrients as carrying things in your arms for a walk home.
- You can combine picking up food with entertainment. I realized how far we’d come on the weekend when we walked to Granville Island and picked up some things in the market. It is about a 45 minute walk and a short ferry ride away, but we walked at least an extra hour around the market and shops, and we came home with a bag of bagels, a block of butter, some corn tortillas, salsa verde and smoked salt – without bags. Granville Island has gone plastic shopping bag free and we didn’t have any bags with us, so we carried it. (We did get a small bag for the butter – apparently they are 100% plastic free yet.) That’s a pretty different movement experience than buying a weeks’ (or more) worth of groceries and loading them into the car.
I suspect there will always be times when we drive to pick up things – because we have the option if we need or want it – but I am now firmly of the mindset that shopping more frequently is the way to go and if you can manage it, you will be doing your body a big favour.