Sucked into the consumer spiral: How do you handle the craziness of consumerism?


I have no extra time so why is it that shopping has become increasingly more cumbersome, complex and time consuming? I can’t seem to ever get everything I need from a single store.  With a single shopping list that includes organic and non-organic foods, household products, pet needs among other needs, I hop from organic markets to Trader Joes to traditional supermarkets, checking off items as I go.

Part of its money (organics can get expensive so I have two stores for that alone), part of it is that they all have subtly different options–and as a spoiled denizen of the U.S. consumer culture for way too long–I want what I want.  Even Target, my go-to, back up store for everything, only caters to an increasingly smaller proportion of my needs even as it offers a wider range of products (e.g. mine just added a whole grocery section).

Ah, the internet you say is the answer, buying on line cuts through all of that.  Kind of, sort of, but not really.  I use that too but once I start tapping on delivery fees, the time to evaluate the sites if its not Amazon or the local supermarket, and do cost comparisons, its only really advantage is it saves on gas costs and lets me order at strange times of the day. But I don’t necessarily save time. So instead of replacing physical retail, it just heaps on more options–all of which I use. Nothing gets cut out, just used differently.

If that’s not enough, I have another consumer pathology that creates some pretty crazy buying patterns.  Price versus waste makes me insane. I just bought a $3.99 bottle of brand name aspirin with 50 tablets rather than 200 for $1.99 because there is no way I’d use even 75 by the best buy date.  Is it better to pay a little more and not waste, or save a dollar and throw a lot out? And that waste gets in our water, our food, our green space.

Mixed Nuts

Nuts, shopping in the 21st century, its just nuts.

What are you’re pet peeves for shopping and consumer culture in 2013?

Thanks for dropping by,


Making Latkes: Tips from the Trenches

Happy Hannukah to all those who celebrate.  A couple years ago, I was determined to make latkes from scratch, no more mixes for me. hannukah Since I figured I made every mistake in the book, I decided to write up my lessons learned and share them.

  1. Don’t peel the potatoes. There is no need and its much easier and faster.  Cooking latkes takes a long time, so this helped me shorten it.
  2. Put the batter in a bowl of ice.  Once you shred the potatoes and onions, mix in the salt, pepper, matzoh meal and egg, cover the the bowl with silver foil and put it in a bigger bowl filled with ice and some water. The cold keeps the potatoes from browning and lasts awhile.
  3. Keep a lid big enough to cover the frying pan next to the stove.  In case of a fire in the pan, put the lid on top to suffocate the flame.  It is one of quickest, safest ways to deal with a pan fire.
  4. Woks work very well for frying latkes.
  5. Eat and Enjoy.

Is life without caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten, and animal products worth getting out of bed for?

In a moment of profound wisdom or total insanity, I upped and volunteered to join a group of fabulous women to cleanse my body of the big five–caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and all animal based products for three weeks.

Why you might ask (I certainly asked myself that every day)?   Four reasons.

1) To manage inflammation and its resulting pain and discomfort without pills or shots (or surgery).

2) To prepare differently for my annual check-up to see the results of my blood work

3) To lose weight

4) To see what it’s like, given all the increasing research and hype around modern diets and nutrition (explorer in me).

What was it like?

You know, it wasn’t bad.  Once I got through the first few days of feeling pretty sluggish, a side effect of giving up sugar, it was pretty easy.  The real upside for me wat that I could eat all the time (and I did) and still lost weight.  The hardest part was eating out–finding a restaurant that could deliver a dish I could eat (salad greens with olive oil notwithstanding)–was a major research undertaking.  The other really hard part was finding food that didn’t have sugar or gluten snuck in as a filler.  I read labels til my head spun.

What did I learn?

Of those five foods, the one I missed most was caffeine. Whether that was the caffeine itself, or just the religious experience that coffee is for me, I’ll never know. But as soon as the cleanse was over, the first thing I put back was my morning coffee. At that point, with my morning coffee and nothing else was I felt the best I’d ever felt.

Giving it all up actually made eating easy. It reduced the choices of available food choices so dramatically it took the “what do I eat” question out of my life.  In effect it replaces temptation with hard and fast rules that require no measuring or counting.  The upside to that was that I could eat all day, snacking on fruit, vegetables, rice cakes and nuts.  I don’t think I could have pulled this off without nuts as a major part of my diet, which would limit this for some.  The downside to that is that most social life is not structured around these rules so you have to work hard to stick to them–read labels to the extreme, bring your own food to parties, always have snacks with you, do a lot of restaurant research so you have a reliable list of places where you can get something beyond salad greens with olive oil for a meal.

The relationship between hunger and satiation/satisfaction changed. Eating this way, I got full more easily with much less food but I was hungry much more often.  I know there’s a lot of information out there that things like sugar (and many of its variants like corn syrup) additives and possible gluten disrupt your satiation mechanisms and have you wanting without hunger.  For me, I believe it now and I have one miserable child as I make some changes in our diet as a result.

Finally, food is not just fuel, it is a major part of the social, sensual and religious fabric of our lives.  Being part of that matters, a lot.  For me, it is important to take a sip of wine and eat a bite of bread (assuming bodies can handle them) during a ceremony.  I do want to take a bite of a cookie or anything else my child makes at school, at friend’s house, or undertakes on her own in mine.  Whipped cream stays in the fridge (I’ll let you figure out why) although I may change it soy cream.

Did I achieve my goals?

I lost five pounds. Yeah!

My annual result blood work was better than it has been in several years.  However, it still could have been better. I was happy that my doctor was happy, but I had hoped for more stellar results.

The pain associated with inflammation was no better but no worse than with the drugs. That leaves me with the question–Did both or neither work?

I had the experience and I’m making changes as a result.

End Results

Will I give all these things up? No.

Will I change my diet as a result of this? Yes. I already have.  I’m buying differently, cooking more and will keep all these foods reduced in my diet. All in all, I find it easier to live without labels (e.g. vegan) but I have taken to heart what I’ve learned. I also found a lot of products without many of these things are just good .

What about you? Have you given up any or all of these?  What was your experience?