Ed. Note – From time to time, we ask our contributors to highlight some of the amazing stores our Wild Alaskan Fish Oil products are sold in. We are extremely proud to be a small part of the many thousands of natural products offered by these stores. Their commitment to natural products and healthy living is evident in every aspect of their store – if you’re located near one of these great stores that we feature, we encourage you to visit and see for yourself.
This afternoon, I drove (all by myself!) to our local Mustard Seed Market in Solon, Ohio to buy our weekly groceries. I cannot even express what a pleasure it was. I listened to NPR and Tom Waits, not Raffi (Remember Raffi? I checked out one of his albums at the library, thinking it would be all cute and nostalgic. Haha). I didn’t have to locate any hidden, closet-sized restrooms for my recently potty-trained three-year-old. No one demanded my phone (or my shopping list, or my keys) only to wail and cast it upon the floor in disapproval when said demand was met (That’s my toddler, by the way; the three-year-old is a bit better behaved then that. Generally, anyhow.) I waltzed along, lingering over purple carrots and fist-sized watermelon radishes like I had nowhere else to be, no upcoming naptimes to worry about, no tummies demanding food—tummies which, even at their emptiest, can manage only about three peas or four thousand M&M’s.
One indicator of a good grocery store is its produce section. Does everything look fresh? What organic options do they stock? Is there a wide variety of colors and flavors offered? We humans naturally find bright colors and good variety appealing, which is the basic logic driving the enormity of pre-packaged offerings available. It always helps me turn down the junk when the first thing I encounter in a store is this:
You don’t even have to like kale to covet a bunch of this.
The fruit section, too, was amazing. I snagged some fair-trade bananas, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen offered before. They even got me to consider the fact that I have never purchased a starfruit in my life, and to imagine how much my daughter would love biting into a sweet, juicy star (our children are always with us, aren’t they?).
I bought one, of course.
Directly behind the produce is a wall of bulk, fairly traded coffee beans.
This particular coffee is sold by an organization called Equal Exchange. According to their website, Equal Exchange was founded in 1986 “to challenge the existing trade model, which favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations; support small farmers; and connect consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace.” There’s a good deal more information on this site detailing their methods for insuring fair and honest trading practices.
I also snagged myself a bar of this fairly traded dark chocolate with Congolese pili-pili chiles. For the workers.
It packs a surprising punch.
One of the best ways to save on products like spices, grains, beans, and sometimes even coffee, is by buying in bulk. Here, Mustard Seed does not disappoint. They have several aisles of bins containing everything from lentils and couscous to granola and gluten-free pasta. They even have this impressive collection of bulk spices:
Here we see spices by Frontier, a natural products co-op. I love their products. They are processed without radiation or ethylene oxide chemical sterilization, both of which are standard practice in the spice industry. They sell a huge variety of herbs and spices, and are commonly available in jars, little bags, or bulk, even in smaller natural grocery stores. And the bulk prices are unbeatable.
The next few aisles of the store deal in packaged staples. All throughout this section, Mustard Seed has little coupons hanging from the shelves or tucked next to the products. Bob’s Red Mill guarantees all of their products to be GMO-free, and offers a wide range of certified-organic options. They are also one of the few commonly available (and decently priced) sources for alternative flours and my go-to brand for my two favorite flours: whole-wheat pastry and white-whole-wheat (a whole wheat flour made with white, rather than the more typically used red, wheat).
A Great Selection of Bob’s Red Mill
Moving along through the store, we come to one of my favorite sections: oils and vinegars. Nothing adds dimension to a simple meal like choosing these two correctly. Balsamic vinegar we have discussed before, so I won’t go into detail with that one here. Instead, I’d like to focus on a little-known treasure: ume plum vinegar.
This particular vinegar is sold by Eden Foods, an absolutely fabulous company located in Clinton, Michigan. According to Wikipedia, Eden Foods is “the oldest independent organic food producer in the United States.” Their alternative pasta line contains everything from spelt spaghetti and rye spirals, to brown rice udon and lotus root soba.
But this ume plum vinegar is a particular gem. It is deliciously salty, lightly sour, and richly savory, all at the same time. It is an excellent replacement for malt vinegar on fried fish. We’ve even used it as a condiment on homemade tempura with great success.
Of course, one of the main draws of a store like Mustard Seed is the supplements section, and for a good reason: a regular grocery store simply cannot compete with the variety of products and brands offered. The very center of Mustard Seed is its supplements. Here, for example, is one piece of the fish oil selection:
And, of course, our very own Wiley’s Finest: Caught by American fisherman, purified by American workers. The products are manufactured to the highest US and international quality standards and display the Marine Stewardship Council certification that indicates sustainable fishing practices.
Another benefit to buying supplements at a store like Mustard Seed is that they carry a whole range of less-mainstream remedies. One in particular that I noticed is Floradix, an organically-derived iron supplement that, compared to other common iron supplements, is substantially easier for the body to absorb and happily free of the more—uncomfortable—side effects. I found it invaluable during both of my pregnancies.
Now, no trip to the grocery store is complete without something to placate my resident
tyrants children, and for that, no one fits the bill better than Annie’s Homegrown. As far as I am concerned, there are three major things here to love:
white cheddar bunnies, for
mom the kids,
organic Shells & White Cheddar (because non-staining is a significant consideration in choosing a meal for toddlers), and
organic ketchup. Yes, ketchup. My kids will eat any vegetable or piece of meat when they are allowed to coat it in ketchup (although this does negate the non-staining factor mentioned above), and the awesome thing about the “organic” label is that it excludes any GMO’s. No genetically modified corn syrup in my ketchup, thanks.
Unfortunately, I have neither time nor space to discuss Mustard Seed’s cheese selection (heavenly) or its amazing assortment of craft beers (can I just say that I LOVE the craft beer revival?).
You’ll have to go and check it out for yourself.
Ed note: And if you live in Northern Ohio but aren’t close to their Solon location, Mustard Seed Market and Cafe also has an equally large and beautiful store in North Akron, Ohio, with a third location destined for the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron in late 2014.