Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Becoming Seafood-Sustainability Conscious

One of the things I enjoy about shopping with other people is the chance to learn something from them.

Usually it's friends and acquaintances that ask me to help them figure out how to shop on a budget at Whole Foods and despite that I'm more often in the role of teacher, invariably my friends have something to teach me too.

For instance, when I shadowed Bruce, this week's guest, offering tips on how to avoid impulse shopping, we went from produce to seafood, where he pulled a Seafood Watch flier from his pocket.

I asked about the flier and Bruce replied that it was a Consumer's Guide to Sustainable Seafood for the central region of the U.S.

He'd printed out the pdf version (now also available as an iPhone app) and was referring to it while considering what fresh, then frozen fish to purchase for his family.

I was not aware of Seafood Watch, but I've since read the "about" section on their website and noted that if we all make informed, conscious choices, apropos the fish we buy, our oceans will be better off.

Seafood Watch's mission is "to empower consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans."

After I perused the Seafood Watch website, I went to Whole Foods' website and read their pages on Seafood Sustainability, including a blurb about their commitment to empower WF consumers to buy seafood from responsible, certified fisheries.

Apparently, a good place to start when at the fish counter in WFs is to look for the blue Marine Stewardship Council sticker. When you purchase seafood marked with the MSC sticker, you can be assured that this fish was not over-fished or harvested in ways that harm the ocean.

Thinking consciously about the fish you buy and consume may feel like yet another thing to worry about, but this is the reality of the world we live in and the world we're leaving to our children.

It's not an option to be an ostrich any longer -- be informed and make sustainable choices that benefit the long term health of our oceans!

That said, Bruce decided not to buy any fresh fish, choosing instead 2 packs of the Whole Catch frozen halibut, as per his Seafood Watch flier.

Sticking to my recommendation that he buy the bulk of the family's groceries from the store's edge, he scanned the meat case for good deals.

Chicken thighs were on sale for .99c lb so at my nudging he bought two, asking for one pound to be marinated in a garlic-herb marinade and the other in barbecue (the marinade service is free). I reminded him that he could freeze one pound and keep the other out for immediate consumption.

With fruit, veggies, fish, meat, dairy (including an enormous chunk of cheddar cheese, which he methodically cost-compared to other cheddar brands, determining the sale price to be an excellent deal), we headed to the bulk aisle for nuts whereupon Bruce said, "Right, this is where I start to loose it!"

Between finding the item he wanted, grabbing a bag, a twisty, and then identifying the item number, which then needs to be written on the twisty, Bruce was clearly not having fun and probably if I'd not been there, he would have skipped bulk altogether and maybe grabbed a higher-priced bag of pre-packaged nuts or no nuts at all.

He mumbled that Whole Foods needs to come up with a more efficient method of dispensing and pricing their bulk items, i.e. a weighing station and touch screen with printer that would enable customers to put their bagged item on the scale, call up their item on the screen, and print out the price.

Once into the middle aisles for pasta, chocolate, and a few bottled items, Bruce definitely started to loose it. He couldn't find the things on his list. They were on the shelves, but he simply had trouble visually locating them.

As I mentioned yesterday, as a stimulus-sensitive introvert, this is where I start to have trouble too. The middle aisles are so jammed packed with product, I go into overwhelm and have difficulty spotting, then differentiating packaged and bottled product due to colors, patterns, similar shapes and sizes.

Though it really wasn't funny, I quietly giggled watching Bruce go up one aisle then down the next, then back up the aisle he'd just come down looking for one or two things, getting more and more frustrated.

Then I came up with an idea:

Because Bruce managed to navigate the periphery of WFs, locating great deals without too much trouble, I suggested as a solution to his loosing it that on his shopping days, he pick up the whole foods (produce, meat, fish, dairy), and on the days when Jane shopped, she pick up the middle aisle items from their shopping list.

I guess I'll hear in due course if that suggestion is a workable solution.

In spite of the middle-aisle moment, Bruce checked out 4 large bags of groceries for $240, happy with his shopping experience.

With a 16-year old nephew (who apparently eats for two) staying with them, Jane tells me she's essentially cooking for 6, and therefore she's grateful Bruce bought more than she might usually buy for a week's worth of meals for four.

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