There is an article from the NY Times written by Mark Bittman called Leave ‘Organic’ Out of It. I’ve seen it pop up a couple of times on Facebook now. Interesting reading. I really think it all boils down to the knowing where your food is coming from. That and he makes a very good point about people eating better kinds of food.
I personally see it with my family. Now we make a conscious effort to eat more fruits and vegetables and use ingredients instead of boxes of “food.” We used to pseudo-cook in the form of using lots of boxed meals and packaged foods. I understand the appeal to an extent. We both worked long hours and didn’t feel like really cooking when we got home. Now I am home and my job is to provide food and a home for my family. That does change the perspective a bit. Although the lack of a second job makes the food buying and interesting juggling act.
I have come to balance it out by buying ingredients and learning to cook from scratch. I have not always been a good cook. Not by a long shot. But after many days of baking bread almost on a daily basis and having to fix breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family of four I have improved immensely. By shear repetition, trial and error (and lots of errors), I finally make a good solid loaf of bread and have several go-to recipes that work for me. My problem is that I don’t cook like other people. I don’t like recipes telling me every little thing to do or add. I want a basic list of ingredients, a temperature, a cooking method, and whether or not I grease a pan. Beyond that I improvise on almost all of it. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out well but usually it does.
But back to the article… He talks about everyone thinking that a person has to eat “organic” or “non-GMO” only. They really aren’t the only way to improve a diet. I still really like the idea of eating less over all, eating a variety, and eating mostly plants. Know where your food comes from. I don’t care if it isn’t organic, if you know your neighbor or you grew it you know there are probably less chemicals on it than you are going to get in a store.
And as far as shopping better foods on a budget? It can be done. I have to every month. I buy very little meat or cheese to be honest. They are expensive and I don’t usually know where it is coming from. I am slowly making a shift to local meats. I buy less therefore I can justify the higher price and the higher quality. I raise my own eggs, not-organic by any means but lots better in the fact that my chickens are mostly in the yard chasing bugs and eating grass. And my garden! But that is another story. I buy in bulk when I can work the finances to accommodate it. I usually pay less per pound of things this way and I have to make fewer trips to town which cuts down on the amount of gas I buy.
I also really watch the sales at my local grocery co-op. I try to pick things from the almost-expired-sale bin, combine my member discount, and shop on member days where there are extra discounts. I also wheel-and-deal with people either at the farmer’s market or other producers I know. If I have something they want I am open to trades. I am very happy to trade hand-spun yarn for product. Or maybe watch critters so they can travel. I did that a while back before my chickens were producing and I was able to get a dozen eggs for basically going and collecting eggs.
If I were still in town and in a rental I would be using our local greenhouse/community garden. It is essentially free to use a plot to grow your own food. Can’t beat that. There are lots of ways to work around the system. It does take a lot more time and a lot more planning but it can be done. I have the time but not the money so I do the planning and work around my tiny budget. We still eat pretty darn well. In fact, we eat healthier food than we ever did when we had a higher income.