Well, I feel like I’ve shared a lot with you and yet I feel like I’ve only shaved a little off the top. There is so much regarding food, health, nutrition and politics that can be discussed. But today I wanted to share with you my excitement.
I FINALLY joined a CSA! YAY!
What is a CSA? Well, I attached a video for you to take a look at but in a nutshell, CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture. In essence, I’ve bought a share of a farm and in exchange, I get fresh-from-the-farm food in a box every two weeks.
For me, this is monumental. Unless the farmers are lying (which I doubt they are but I acknowledge the possibility), my produce will have never seen a pesticide in its life. This means it is true organic, organic by MY definition. The only thing it’s seen is soil, rain, sun and maybe a blustery breeze or two. It’s as if I went out into the woods or the fields and picked it myself. It’s not genetically modified or doused with chemicals. Allow me a moment to breathe my sigh of relief. Whew.
This is merely a part of my year-long project to unplug as much as possible. First meat, then produce. Soon, I’ll be at a grocery store for my very basic of staples like my great-great grandmother used to do. They’d go to the grocery for sugar and flour. And that was it. My hope is to get to that point by the end of the year. And I plan on doing it all as a city girl. Full time job, wife, mother, yoga, happy hours and bread from scratch.
This is why I didn’t include produce in the Cost Analysis. If you buy organic produce from a grocery store, the price is going to be astronomical ($6.59 for one avocado? Really?). Admittedly, I have not been eating organic produce. I have been washing the conventional produce better and praying over it. But now I’ll be able to eat fully organic produce for around $20 a week. Yes, that’s right. The family size box of produce I’ll be receiving from Full Circle Farm in Washington is costing me $20 a week. If meat is about $20 a week and produce is about $20 a week, my $50 a week goal for groceries looks more feasible now doesn’t it? (And you people laughed at me for daring to think I could feed a family of three on $50 a week! HA!)
Now with the CSA you are limited in what you can have to items that can be grown locally in your climate and items that are in season (amen for living in the PNW where the winters are mild and stuff still grows). This creates a fun (or painful) challenge where I have to find recipes to match the ingredients I’ll be getting. It also brings about the possibility that I won’t eat everything in time before it begins to spoil so guess who’ll be reading up on canning and freezing in the next few weeks?
In the meantime, I’m beginning my list of what I will be planting in my own garden this year. It will be my largest gardening project ever (I usually do herbs each year) and I’ll be adding greens and veggies which is a first for me. I’m also looking into a greenhouse and thinking about a class on urban chicken farming (which will be news to the hubby!). I do have to figure out what to do about these raccoons though… (suddenly it doesn’t sound like I really live in a city, does it?)
Wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted on the how the CSA is working for me and my family. In the meantime, I hope you’re still doing your own digging and you’re setting your own goals on how to unplug.
If you are reading this then you have hung in there with me through the doom-and-gloom videos and ranting and raving about the Food Industry. I have taken all of your excuses as to why you “can’t” change your eating lifestyle- what’s the big deal? (fake food is unhealthy for you is the big deal!), only hippies care about that stuff! (just because I love roaming around barefoot doesn’t mean I’m a hippie, thank you), where would I even begin finding better food? (eatwild.com, localharvest.com), I’m only one person, I can’t change the system! (CONSUMERS are king, not corporations!)- and I have turned them totally on their ear.
Well, all except one and it’s by far the biggest one of all. How much more money is all of this changing over to REAL FOOD going to cost me?
SIDENOTE: I’d like to just point out here how lucky you all are that I’m willing to share the things I’ve learned with you. For me, all of this is a process of digging and finding and comparing and WORK. You all just get to read a blog! I hope, however, that you’re not just taking my word for it. I do hope you’re going out and researching for yourselves. I’m intelligent and I’m doing a lot of research but that doesn’t mean I’m right. The problem with people today is how much we rely on others to provide our information for us instead of seeking it ourselves. This is how we got into this mess in the first place. But I digress…
When I initially decided to make a change to my diet and the diets of my husband and daughter, I had a double blow to consider. My parents had been buying the majority of the groceries in the house. So not only would we have to move to buying our own groceries, which would be a significant impact to the budget, but if we’d be buying organic, we were going to go broke. I had to realistically consider that, as much as I may want to, I may not be able to afford it.
My journey to Whole Foods that I’ve mentioned before crept back into my mind. There was no way in hell we’d be able to afford $25 for a loaf of bread. And if the bread was $25 then my goodness, how much was everything else going to cost? I was worried. I was worried that I would be forced to feed my daughter crap- LITERALLY!- and be the first source of the cancerous, womb-killing yuckiness she’d receive in her life (yes, a bit extreme perhaps, but ensuring her future is everything to me and this worried me).
But I also knew that I really had no desire to shop at Whole Foods. Again, they’re a part of the system that hurts more than it helps and I wanted to unplug from the system. But the PCC Natural Markets was a co-op and that co-op was a part of it that HELPED. Hubby and I decided we’d just go and take a look around.
The first thing we see is the dairy section and WOWSERS! There was so much to choose from, so many labels to read and the prices made my heart hurt. $6 for a gallon of whole organic milk. $9-$12 for a gallon of raw milk or milk from pastured cows (my goal). Conventional milk can be found for $2 a gallon. We were not starting off on a good foot at all.
The meat section was next and I felt the fist squeezing my heart loosen its grip in stunned shock. By the time we made our way through the entire store, we’d picked up a few items to make for dinner that night and my spirits were soaring. Not only was the food affordable but it was actually possible to buy it within my set goal of $75 per week for a family of three (I’m hoping to get it down to $50 a week and I’m certain it will happen).
I know what you’re saying to yourself. “She’s CRAZY! If that pastured milk is 600% more than what I pay for regular, HOW can this lifestyle change be affordable?” Well, the reason why is two-fold and one has nothing to do with organic eating at all.
1) Plan your meals in advance. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks. Account for any anomalies such as field trips for the kids and make a little wiggle room to get food for days you may not want to cook, like hotdogs. Once you’ve planned the meals, create a shopping list based on all the ingredients you’ll need for those meals. Then, go shopping. Do not stray from the list. Do not go up and down all the aisles. All you need is what’s on the list so only get what is on the list. If it’s not there, it’s not bought, end of story. Don’t forget about price comparisons at different stores. There are some things I get at Trader Joe’s that are cheaper than they are at PCC and some things cheaper at the Farmer’s Markets, etc. Stick to this rule and you will save money, guaranteed.
2) Eating REAL FOOD costs more money, this is a fact and it’s one my research corroborates. However, eating REAL FOOD does not cost THAT MUCH more. And when I say not THAT MUCH more, I mean that the concern over how much it costs is not valid enough to not make the change (with some exceptions which I will explain later).
This past weekend I went major grocery shopping. I went to the butcher for bacon, I went to the co-op and Trader Joe’s. I stocked up for two weeks worth of meals for the three of us and some nights for the five of us. I spent a total of $200. I was over budget by $50 (admittedly I didn’t stick to the list). I have selected 11 rather everyday items that I will now compare for you. Please note that I took the conventional Grocery Stores SALES prices just to make it REALLY interesting. It goes something like this:
|Bacon||Oscar Mayer$7.69||From the Butcher who got it from the farm$8.50|
|Cheddar Cheese (same brand and size at both stores)||$4.09||$3.59 (weird that it was cheaper at the co-op)|
|Ketchup||Heinz (check out the ingredients, it’s SCARY!)$2.99||$3.29|
|Bread||Store brand Whole Wheat$1.50||Spelt Whole Wheat$3.69|
|Eggs||$2.59||Pastured$2.59 (SAME PRICE!)|
|Family pack Chicken Wings (3 lbs weight)||$6.00 (~$2/lb)||Pastured$9.00 (~$3/lb)|
|Milk (1 gallon, Whole Milk)||$2.89||(Organic, not pastured)$5.69|
|Beef Pot Roast (4 lbs weight)||$9.96 (~$2.49/lb)||$19.96 (~$4.99/lb)|
|Hot Dogs||Oscar Mayer Angus$3.49||Straight from the farm$5.50|
I selected these items for their randomness and their frequency of purchase. These are pretty much staples in most kitchens. I have found that there is a trend toward where your money really goes and that’s bread and dairy. I personally don’t think the meat is that much more expensive, especially considering the quality of meat you’re getting in the natural versus the conventional but you may feel otherwise. We go through a gallon of milk a week so to me, paying $6 for it is not that painful. If I had a household of growing children, I don’t doubt I’d feel differently. But at the same time, I might sacrifice in another area to ensure my growing children were getting the PROPER nutrition… again, that’s just me.
I have also found there’s a bit of what I call an “upfront cost”. This is to replace the things like syrup, ketchup, rice, etc. that you tend to buy in bulk or not very often. I like to buy pasta and things in bulk and so now I’m replacing a lot of these things. This is also sending me over budget in the beginning and wasn’t something I accounted for though I should have. I deliberately have not included produce because I will be doing a post dedicated solely to produce next week.
So there you have it. The way I look at it is, that $20 extra dollars is merely the cost of a co-pay for a doctor’s visit or for over-the-counter or prescription medication. I’d rather give it back to my body in the form of healthier and more nutritious food than to Big Medicine.
I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s markets/co-ops and do your own cost analysis. You don’t have to buy anything to do it, all you need is a pen and paper and some patience. (And you need to not mind having people stare at you as you walk through the store and write things down.) But go visit, take a look, investigate on your own. I promise, the cost is not nearly as bad as most of you think it is. And take it from the cheapest chick in the world, it’s well worth it.
In a nutshell, the answer to the title question would be “maybe”. Going to an all organic diet would certainly be much better for you and the planet in the long run but would it be enough? Probably not, especially if conventional METHODS are still used to supply the organic products- grocery stores.
Now I’m not trying to say grocery stores are the direct issue so much as I’m saying that the need to put food into grocery stores is. You basically end up with multi-national conglomerates trying to get food into nationwide grocery stores. Grocery store products travel an average of 1500 miles to get to you. What they have to do to make that happen is pick the food before it’s ripe (meaning it hasn’t reached its peak of healthfulness), ripen it in transit with ethylene gas (GROSS!), coat it with a fancy wax (made of petroleum- HELLO!- so it LOOKS like it’s in better shape than it is) and truck it across the country from farm to store. Let’s add to the conventional produce all the toxins that went into its production and, well, no thanks.
Now the question is, what makes shopping at Whole Foods any different than your local Kroger/Safeway/Publix/Piggly Wiggly if either way, this is going to be the case? Not only that, but these national grocery chains don’t want to buy from hundreds of different farms and suppliers. This means the suppliers themselves have to be massive. Grocery stores buy from DOZENS of suppliers, not HUNDREDS. Think on what that means for a moment. And Whole Foods is not much different (though a better alternative than conventional any day).
Then there is the whole debate on what organic even means. To you and me, organic means that the food was produced the way it would be in the wild. It means we’re lucky enough to go to the grocery store and pick it up off a shelf as if we hunted it and gathered it ourselves- without the hunting or gathering. To the USDA and Big Food (essentially they’re the same entity), not so much. This is direct from the USDA website:
“What is organic food? Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
The underlining is obviously mine. Buying organic doesn’t mean you get NO pesticides on your produce. It means you get fewer. And you’re probably spared the worst of the lot. So organic produce is much better than non-organic produce but don’t think you don’t need to be mindful of where it came from.
Meat, however, is another very complicated matter. If you watched The Meatrix videos, you learned that the animals that eventually end up on your dinner plate are being fed horrifying things. For cows, they’re being fed grain which is something they are not evolved to eat or digest. This elevates E. Coli and other bacteria and, well, you end up with a recipe for disaster. Did you know that the only difference between an organic steak and a conventional steak is simply that the grain it’s fed has no pesticides?
Well, either way, it’s still eating grain. This grain- probably corn- ends up making the animal fat (and thus it makes us fat), detracting from the nutrients it provides us and still contains elevated levels of E. Coli bacteria. It also doesn’t guarantee the animal is humanely raised.
SIDENOTE: Even if you’re not an animal rights activist, if you’re a meat lover then you care that the animal is humanely raised. Let’s not even get into what kind of person would want to treat an animal badly or the kind of negative energy you’d be ingesting. Animals raised in food lots are constantly under high stress conditions. This means their bodies are flooded with hormones and chemicals that affect how the meat tastes and how tender it is. So there, you want humanely raised meat. It’s tastier.
So is eating organic better? Yes, it’s definitely better than conventional. Is it good enough? I would say my answer would be no. Because if the USDA is the one slapping the certified organic sticker on the product, I’ll take my chances shaking my local farmer’s hand and looking him in the eye as I ask him how he raises his cattle and produce. I’d rather give him the thousands of dollars I spend annually on feeding my family. (And supporting your local farmer? How is that wrong? If everything went to hell in a handbasket, wouldn’t you want to know someone who could feed you was close by?)
What should you do? Go to your favorite search engine and type in Community Supported Agriculture and your zip code. Find a local farm that provides boxes of fruits and vegetables grown fresh on their farm or through farm co-ops. Go to eatwild.com and find meat and dairy that has been PASTURED (raised on a farm and eating what it’s SUPPOSED to eat) and figure out how to get your hands on it. And don’t tell me you don’t know of any local farms. There isn’t a single state in the union that doesn’t have farms and that is a fact. I just gave you resources. Use them! In the meantime, Happy Eating!