Years ago, I read a book that changed my life (Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks by Gary Thorp). If you think that title means being joyful doing things like housework and grocery shopping, you’re spot-on. And the truth is happiness is a decision and you can decide to find joy in mundane tasks that right now you think you hate—or at least serve as an annoyance.
So, I made the very conscious decision to start enjoying my life—all of it—and that meant finding a way to be present
and grateful when I was cleaning the house, folding the laundry, figuring out what to make for dinner and those weekly (sometimes more) trips to the grocery store.
Here’s the thing about awareness… when I became aware of unpleasantness in those moments, I was inspired to find ways to make those tasks more enjoyable.
Here’s the big example that brought me to where I am today: I’ve always loved cooking. Doing the shopping so I could bop around the kitchen making a great meal… not so much. Why? Those days money was a little tight, so shopping was a little stressful. I found big grocery stores with their fluorescent lights and crabby cashiers joy-sucking. I was usually in a hurry to get in and out and just bought whatever caught my eye. I wanted to change that…
So, I started by creating simple menus for the week ahead and making my shopping list from them. I began to notice that a lot of my favorite recipes had ingredients in common. When I expanded on that idea and intentionally created menus around common ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised to see my grocery bills were going down.
As this practice evolved, I started checking the fridge and cabinets before I went shopping so I wouldn’t end up buying items I didn’t need, and I kept track of what I was getting low on to avoid the frustration of finding mid-recipe that I didn’t have all the ingredients. Result? Less waste, less frustration and no multiple jars of seldom used dried herbs taking up space in the spice rack.
Then, I discovered local farmers markets and farm stands. Not only is the food fresher, more delicious and more nutritious, but shopping at a farmer’s market is way more fun than begrudging trips to the soul-sucking grocery store. And now I absolutely love food shopping… going to the farmer’s market, discovering freshly harvested produce that’s in season and interesting. Who knew there were so many kinds of radishes?
The final piece of my Conscious Shopping practice was born out of a conversation with a skeptic. Fresh, local, organic food is so expensive, how can you possibly afford it? And so, I made a bet, based on the skills I’d acquired. I bet that I could feed two people three meals a day for a week for under $50. Granted, that was several years ago and I’m not sure I could pull it off today, but… I learned the most valuable Conscious Shopping lessons of all. First, when you know exactly what you’re going to spend on food for the week (give or take a dollar or two), the result is a kind of sense of freedom. Sounds crazy, right? But knowing how much I was allotted to spend and committing to spending all of it, I found it easier to buy that $20 bottle of organic extra virgin first cold-pressed olive oil, because I was saving on fresh, local produce or fresh eggs from my neighbor down the road. I stopped spending money on store-bought bread and started making my own in the bread-maker (love the bread-maker). And by being so restricted, I was forced to get creative. I learned to make larger quantities in anticipation of planned leftovers—not just reheated for lunch—but things like making extra rice and then using it in soup or to make rice pudding. Or going for the bigger chicken and using the leftovers to make chicken salad, pesto chicken pizza, or tortilla soup.
And finally, I realized that I had become generally healthier having phased out processed foods and adding in fresh local produce and organic or naturally raised meat and poultry.
Eventually, I wrote it down and started teaching people to shop the way I shop and Conscious Shopping was born.