The Great Experiment: Grocery Shopping

This week I decided to take local food for a spin. I wanted to test out if I could shift my grocery shopping and thus, my food intake to locally farmed, sustainable choices. I figured, if I, the girl who orders one slice of pizza for delivery, can make an effort to shop for some locally farmed goods, anyone can. For me, this means going through Union Square’s GreenMarket instead of my usual option, Trader Joe’s. So, on Saturday morning, bright and early, for two weeks in a row, I trekked 14 blocks to the market, hoping to get there early and get my first pick. Turns out, that was a great idea because when I got to the poultry stand, there was only ONE chicken breast left… more on that later. To give you an idea, here is what my typical grocery list looks like:

Breakfast Dinner Misc
Greek yogurt ($4/$3.49) Chicken ($9.90/$5) Soy Milk
Granola ($8.49/$2.99) Pita Bread  Cold Brew
Eggs ($5/$4.30) Onion ($0.60/$0.69)
Hummus / Tahini

This week, I was making chicken and pita wraps for my dinner (for lunch, I have a meal replacement shake, so I don’t have to worry about that.) I noted all of the items I was able to find at the farmer’s market that I bought and was happy with the swap. Most were a little bit more $$, but not too extreme, with granola being the exception. I also noted in yellow, the chicken I bought because it was nearly TEN dollars for one. This seemed crazy to me since I’m used to buying whole chickens for around $5-$10. And then there were the things that I just couldn’t find any reasonable replacement at the farmer’s market, so I had to go to Trader Joe’s after and pick those up. I was open to change (i.e. coffee grounds instead of cold brew or chickpeas instead of hummus) but I couldn’t even find those things.


A sad portrait of my weekly bumper-cart marathon at Trader Joe’s.

I did this 2 weeks in a row (last week’s meal was taco salad) and both times, I could only get about half of my list at the farmer’s market. So the answer to the question: can you shop 100% local with your current eating habits? is a resounding NO. My weekly grocery budget is about $50, keeping in mind that I also spend some money on going out to eat (approx. $20-$50 per week. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average food budget for 1 person per month in the United States is approximately three hundred one dollars ($301). This comes out to approximately $10 per day or $70 per week. So, my grocery budget is pretty representative of the median and if I have trouble affording farmer’d market prices, the bottom 50% percentile definitely has trouble with the prices. The availability simply isn’t there and if you ask me, it’s too  much effort to shop at 2 places every week, so I would probably only do it occasionally. I’d call myself a fair-weather market-goer. However, there were definitely people there who walked away with 2 large canvas bags full of what looked like their weekly shop. I like to think that I cold be that person, but being limited to the available squash, zucchini and $47,000 chicken options doesn’t seem plausible to me. Now what?

This week, I photographed my shopping experience for my website. Let’s be honest, taking photos of a farmer’s market is easy as pie (get it? pie?). Everything is colorful and neatly arranged, so the photo composition is already there. So, in that sense, I had a great subject to shoot for my project.


Here’s a pretty pumpkin preview pic. Yay Autumn!

I found that when it came to editing my photos, I didn’t really want to manipulate them much. (My high school photography teacher taught us to shoot as if photoshop doesn’t exist.) I bumped up the contrast and saturation a little and cropped here and there, but there was no point in doing a full retouch, because the imperfections in the images are what make them unique.

So, I decided to flex my photoshop muscles elsewhere and create a header image/symbol for my website. I wanted to capture the idea of hunting and gathering for food (or shopping in our case) using symbols, so I chose an arrow and a fork. To me, this also symbolizes the changes over time in how we obtain and consume food, moving from a bow and arrow method, to modern day when the only tool we need is a fork. I also used a circle because it sort of looks like a plate but also because there are so many aspects of the food system that come into play in my ecology and in my head, that looks like a circle.


What do you guys think?

All of these visual aspects of my website that I’m adding this week are important because they are how I can transmit my ideas and what I am learning about the food system to other people. The header image might create an affect that either leads the viewer to want to learn more, or dismiss the website and it’s ideas entirely. The image might create an affect that inspired viewers to go and check out the market for themselves (hint, hint, thats what I’m hoping for).

I think that where I’m lacking in my design and images is some “intensity” as Massumi describes on page 24 of “The Autonomy of Affect” in Parable of the Virtual. My website is very low on intensity and if I want it to have any sort of call to action affect, it needs some more intensity. I think that can be achieved by adding some motion. I noticed on some other people’s sites, they have animation, so I would love to add some of that. To be continued…


~ by L on October 4, 2016.

11 Responses to “The Great Experiment: Grocery Shopping”

  1. This is the best learning blog because I think you truly went to “experience” grocery food shopping two weeks in a row. You were very detailed in your calculations and imagery and I feel like it is through experience and experimentation that we learn the most.

  2. Best overall – Hi Lydia, I really enjoyed reading your post and can relate to what you wrote about. I lived in Carlyle (NYU Dorm) for my sophomore year and would see/pass by the Union Square farmer’s market almost every week. I bought a large broccoli for $6 (the only thing I bought there and sorry I forgot how many pounds it was) and I have yet to break that record… so yeah it’s definitely pricey. I think that the images you incorporated were very effective and I particularly enjoyed the colors and textures in the pumpkin photo. I also felt very inspired by the design of your symbol/header so that’s definitely something that I’ll keep in mind as I refine my own website.

  3. I select your post for the most engaging title! I like how you humanized grocery food and used it as a crucial starting point to understand and reflect on the concepts we’ve been discussing in the past weeks 🙂

  4. Best overall: the chart at the beginning of the post caught my attentions; when I started reading the post it reminded me of the times when I lived in Palladium. Like what Massumi described in his article, your text steered my affect: I started thinking about the farmer’s market in union square, the crowds, and the street vendors. I like your writing style: causal but engaging.

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments! I really appreciate the feedback. 🙂

  6. Lydia! This definitely won best overall for me. The chart along with your own photography really helped paint the picture of your experience along with providing me with literal data to understand the claims you’re making in the post. Also, the work you did (even the logo—it’s brilliant!) really tied everything together and shows that you know what you’re doing and you know what you’re talking about. Great job!
    — Seth

  7. Hi Lydia! I’m awarding this post “best engagement” and “best overall.” I think you did a fantastic job with spacing out your media within the post. The table and the picture are placed nicely so that there aren’t large chunks of content anywhere within the post. Your voice is also super clear, down to earth, and funny. I felt like you were just talking to me, rather than writing a blog post. Good for you for making an exec decision on how best to use photoshop for your particular mission!

  8. Best Overall: This read was extremely engaging and unique in that the author explores and analyzes not only her ecology through the readings, but also her own processes in website building. Her writing clearly reflects who she is and makes me feel like I’m having a conversation with her. Great use of photos to demonstrate your point, too!


  9. I think your post deserves the title of best engagement. I thought it was aesthetically pleasing and I really felt like we were discovering your ecology right along with you. I also thought it was very smart to use the post as a means to work through the design of your website. It’s looking really good!

    – Kristen

  10. Best engagement: I like how you bring us to your shopping journey, which is very relatable, and you weave in Massumi’s concept perfectly. You also reflect “affect” specifically on your website-building, which is immediate practical application. – Abby

  11. Best engagement- I enjoyed reading your blog post. I like how you capture the attention of the reader by asking them questions—promoting us to offer our opinions and thoughts on your visuals

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