April 5, 2021


Minute read

Mindful Food Gathering: Infusing Joy into Grocery Shopping

I have a confession. I’m a nutritionist who loves to cook and believes whole-heartedly in mindfulness, but I used to HATE grocery shopping.

And this started well before COVID and all of the angst that can bring to any trip to the market.

I just don’t like being in brightly lit stores, roaming the aisles with dozens of other hangry shoppers who clearly do not understand grocery cart etiquette. I also dislike looking for obscure ingredients that do not have an obvious category that would be listed on the grocery aisle signs.

Oh, and I should mention that I’m plagued with the inexplicable resistance to asking for help. So, shopping was a weekly chore that would fill me with dread.

But then I was thumbing through a little book called How to Eat by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is about minute-to-minute mindfulness in every aspect of eating – including food gathering — and the simple line “we get to choose,” really resonated with me.

Cover of How to Eat

The very next time I went to the market I was standing in the produce section of my favorite local co-op, surrounded by a stunning selection of fruits and veggies, and I started to tear up. It hit me like a ton of bricks. “I get to choose,” I said under my breath.

I realized I have an abundance of healthy, fresh, colorful, food that I can put in my basket, pay for, and take home to create a meal that will nourish my body and satisfy my senses. How lucky am I? 

And what a travesty it would be for me not to notice this good fortune every time I step into a grocery store.

This moment of realization completely transformed my thinking and brought me into a place of immense gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still strategic about the time of day that I shop to try to avoid the check-out line traffic jam and other unpleasant features of shopping, but I no longer dread it. I even find myself engaging more with my local produce guy and striking up conversations with fellow shoppers on occasion.

If, like I did, you find yourself feeling anxious or irritated at the prospect of making that trip to the grocery store, here are a few tips to help you embrace the “I get to choose” attitude:

Choose your time wisely

Look at your calendar or planner and find a time in your week where you can afford to spend 30-45 minutes at the grocery store without feeling rushed or pressured. If you dislike shopping with the masses, avoid the hours of 5 to 8 pm on weeknights and mid-day on weekends.

Pull up in peace

As you drive into the parking lot, try to leave behind any lingering stress. Imagine that you are LITERALLY driving away from life’s stressors and pulling into the parking lot of peace. Once you’ve found your spot, turn off the car and have a quiet moment to yourself. BREATHE and feel the muscles in your body relax.

TIP: if you’ve got kiddos in the car with you, play the old “let’s see how long we can be quiet before we get out of the car” game.

Enter with awe

As you walk into your little food emporium, take a moment to notice a few of the things that you would normally overlook — the displays of the front of the store, the uniformity of the rows of groceries, the music playing overhead, the aromas from the deli or hot bar — just notice what’s right there in front of you, for your shopping pleasure.

Make produce your priority

Head to the produce section first and notice the many choices of fresh, plant-based foods available to you. Have fun with your selections. Notice what’s in season, new arrivals, and unfamiliar fruits or veggies. Be bold and challenge yourself or your kiddos to choose one new thing to try. Notice the array of colors in your shopping cart.

Check yourself at checkout 

As you approach the checkout line, notice what’s coming up for you. Are you looking for the shortest possible line, getting irritated with the chatty checker, or being distracted by all of the last-minute opportunities for impulse buys?

If so, turn your attention to the sensations in your body and see if you can quiet your mind.

More than anything, give yourself the space to feel genuine gratitude that you can purchase this nourishing food for you and your family. It’s a simple way to remember that you get to choose and to infuse joy into your grocery shopping. You may never look at it the same way again.

Adapted from Mastering Mindful Eating by Michelle Babb. Image credit: ja ma.

About the Author: Michelle Babb, MS, RD

Michelle Babb, MS, RD, has a private practice in West Seattle where she specializes in mind-body nutrition, weight management and inflammatory digestive disorders. Michelle is a Bastyr-trained functional medicine practitioner and was a clinical nutritionist at the functional medicine research center. She was an adjunct professor at Bastyr where she developed a course to instruct dietetic students how to use functional medicine in clinical practice. Michelle is the author of Mastering Mindful Eating, The Imperfect Perfectionist, Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy, and Anti-Inflammatory Eating for a Happy, Healthy Brain. She also teaches nutrition-focused cooking classes and loves to conduct workshops on mindful eating. Learn more about Michelle at www.eatplaybe.com.



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