"Voting with your dollars" has become a common refrain for people in the sustainable movement. When you buy conventional apples, you are voting for conventional apples. Farmers will grow what we are willing to buy. Since cost is the number one objection most people voice against buying organic, that has to be discussed first. Yes, some organic foods are more expensive than conventional, but the key word is some. That tea in my grocery cart is a store brand organic, and it costs exactly the same as the conventional Lipton tea. When people buy Lipton Earl Grey instead of the organic Earl Grey, they've just voted for conventional tea. What really confuses me is that I've seen Tazo tea -- in two different supermarkets now -- priced the same for organic chai and regular chai. If the regular chai isn't gathering dust on the shelf, then the Tazo people are might stop making the organic, especially if it costs more to produce. So, my first tip is to simply pay attention to the prices. Organic is not always more expensive. In fact, yesterday the organic gala and honeycrisp apples were actually 20 cents a pound cheaper than the conventional gala!
Second, if you can't buy organic, at least buy natural. Instead of buying the broccoli with cheese sauce in the freezer section, just buy plain broccoli. Educate yourself about the difference between food and food-like substances. Cheddar cheese is food; Cheez Whiz is a food-like substance. Your best bet is to buy things without an ingredient list or nutritional facts -- things like fresh broccoli and apples. But if it has an ingredient list, read it -- and avoid foods that contain ingredients that you can't pronounce or that have undergone a process that you can't repeat in your own kitchen, like ethoxylating and hydrogenating.
Third, grow what you can. I had big plans for bringing tomatoes into the house this fall, but the blight killed them all. At times like this, it's nice that we have the ability to bring in food from other places, but it shouldn't be a regular habit. It was actually a little frustrating, however, to see organic tomatoes from Canada in the grocery store. If they can grow tomatoes in Canadian greenhouses, why can't we do it in Illinois? But I digress -- you can grow some of your own food, even if you live in an apartment. We grow alfalfa sprouts and bean sprouts regularly, and there are all sorts of fresh herbs you can grow in pots. In fact, some do better in pots than in the ground. You can also grow tomatoes and potatoes in pots. My tomato plan fell through this year, but I'm still hoping to try potatoes.
Know that you can change your eating habits if you're motivated to do it. My kids laugh at me when I say that 22 years ago, I thought pickles and potato chips counted as vegetables in your diet. I am not joking. I thought a cheeseburger (on a white bun with American cheese) and potato chips was a nutritionally complete meal. But I started reading, and I started making changes where I could. As a result, my children have grown up eating a nutritious diet, knowing how to cook for a family, and now knowing how to grow a lot of their own food. And it all started two decades ago when I stopped buying a liter of soda every day and started buying unbleached flour and brown rice. Today, I'm researching how to grow my own mushrooms in the basement. Don't worry about growing your own tomatoes if you're still eating Twinkies and Bic Macs. Figure out where you're at today, and make one little change. Next week, make another change . . . and then another . . . and then another . . .
Today's post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade! and Frugal Friday at Life as Mom!