To Melissa G., the Recessionary Grocery Shopper / Part II: Two Choices of the American Every Mom

Oct 5, 2009 by

Melissa G. represents the average American grocery shopper (as targeted by Campbell Foods) during the current recession, according to a Sept. 7 article in Advertising Age.

Dear Melissa, Cambellsvisitsscan

You have no reason to listen to me. I’d be pretty surprised if you took to heart anything I have to say. Actually, I don’t see that you even have much choice about it.

Since those nice folks at Campbell Soup came out, and acted like you were doing a great job as a mom, and declared you the representative of their target market, it’s a little like being crowned queen.

The affirmation of this powerful, famous processed-foods manufacturer must feel good. Everyone’s heard of Campbell’s. They’ve been around forever. To them, your opinion, methods and goals in feeding your family are like gold. What you’re doing is perfectly valid to those experts. Those folks aren’t judging you. They’re not telling you what to do; they just want to help make what you want to do easier and cheaper in these hard times.

MelissaInRecessionscan To know you’re smack dab in the middle of the American mom demographic must also be reassuring, knowing that “everybody” is doing things about like you are. The way you’re feeding your kids must be OK. Safety in numbers and so forth.  If it’s not OK, at least your kids will have plenty of miserable company dealing with their ills as adults.

On top of all that, whatever you want, Campbell’s wants to give you, or sell it to you anyway. That must be empowering. I saw an ad on TV last week for those products Campbell’s developed just to make you happy—those packets of pasta Alfredo sauce and French Onion burger kits that allow you to recreate at home those great chain restaurant meals you and your family enjoyed so much before money got tight. You’re practically famous yourself now. We’ll always think of you, Melissa, whenever we see those ads.

Happy Meals without the Drive-Thru

Mealtimes at your house, as you told Campbell’s, are “happy, peaceful and quiet.” Life is good.

Furthermore, your kids, ages three, seven and 11, are pretty set in their ways. They’re not complaining. As you told Campbell’s, you never challenge your kids’ comfort by unsettling them with something to eat that they haven’t willingly eaten before. They’re in the habit of having their own way and it’s not a problem for you.

You’ve already had to compromise a lot on food choices because of the recession, and it hasn’t been easy. So why would you change anything further now?   MelissaEatOutscan

Actually, you shouldn’t even think about trying to change, because even if you wanted to, change would be nigh impossible for you at this point.

Only One Way to Happiness

Why is change not worth considering? You, the American Every Mom, clearly see only two options for feeding children.  Moms can be the kind of parent, like you, that lets the kids decide what they’ll eat. Everyone is happy in those homes.  The other kind of parent battles with their kids endlessly to get them to eat what the parents want them to eat, whether that’s healthy but unappealing foods like vegetables and fruit, or in your case, even just the cheaper brands instead of name brand food.  Stress, strain and conflict rule at those dinner tables.

Maybe your parents were the strict kind that made you “clean your plate.” Maybe they demanded that you eat all the nasty, good-for-you foods they served you, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It was unpleasant in every way.  Maybe you decided you were not going to be that kind of parent, and I agree, it isn’t ideal.  You decided to be the other kind of parent, the cool type that listens to their kids and gives them choices. Your parents might say you’re spoiling your children, but things are different nowadays.

Both Healthy and Happy?

A third option that’s becoming popular with some American parents is continuing to give kids what they want to eat, but sneaking in some undetectable vegetables and fruits. But that option involves considerable effort, strategy and actual cooking, along with risk of the trickery being detected and refused anyway.

Those parents are really ambitious, the stressed out ones, those ready to go to extreme efforts to make their children’s lives, and their children, as perfect as possible. You’re not that kind of mom, and I think you’re right not to be, seriously. They’re trying to have it both ways, both healthy and happy, which you know to be impossible. I would argue that those kids aren’t going to eat vegetables on their own, ever, anyway. The ready-made stuff is working for you, though, so I don’t expect you to do anything else.

There are good ways to have happy meals with kids eating nutritious foods, but it would be a big change for you. I don’t think you’re ready to think about that right now.

The only thing I could see you trying is maybe what one creative parent did to get her children to eat “vegetables”: give them veggie hotdogs, but let them think they’re eating meat.  And counting ketchup as a vegetable might also help quell any occassional doubts. It’s not that I’m not advocating either tactic, by the way.

We Have to be Realistic

It’s not a question of being too busy, exactly. You’re a stay-at-home mom, after all. If you can’t manage some actual home cooking, who can? But, really, why bother? Maybe you could occasionally try some new recipes that are really tasty and not even hard, along with being good for your kids, and just enjoy them yourself, and give your children a chance to try it without being pushy.  Surely you have enjoyed some well prepared veggies at least once or twice in your life and maybe your kids are capable of enjoying them, too. But you’re pretty certain they wouldn‘t eat it anyway. It always comes back to that.

I can’t argue with you on that. Studies show that kids “imprint” on foods the way a duckling imprints on the first living thing it sees as its mother. Studies show that kids can accept even a rock for food if that’s what they’re given when they’re tiny.

So it’s a little late to try to change any of their preferences now. There’s little chance your kids are going to consider a beet or a radish or an avocado to be food at this point in the game. They have their narrow range of accepted edibles, which you and your husband have also conformed to for the sake of peace and happiness, and that’s going have to do. Certainly peace counts for something. Peace is good, I agree.

Maybe you could get your kids involved with buying real food, making meals, maybe even growing a little food, to broaden their minds and provide positive experiences with nutritious food. But again, why try to fix it if it ain’t broken?

There is that little question of your kids’ health, not to mention the good things in life they’re missing out on, but it appears there is only so much you can do about it. And with overweight being the new normal anyway, why sweat it?

From one mom to another,

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Related Posts:

Is Your Child Neophobic? Give her More New, Not Less

The False Dilemma of Controlling What Kids Eat

© Sacred Appetite /Anna Migeon / 5 October 2009 /All rights reserved

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