The debate rages on. The health nuts push for locally sourced, organic meats, fruits, and vegetables. They preach the poison of toxins throughout your grocery stores. They talk about being “overfed and undernourished.” They say that America needs to change its eating habits, pronto.
But the cost of that locally grown, organic food? Many folks can’t stomach the idea of filling a cute canvas shopping basket with non-GMO, non-pesticided, non=toxined, perfectly natural locally-sourced, overpriced produce, and maybe a few specialty items that are shipped further than we’d care to admit- all to find that the tiny basket cost the same as your conventional week’s worth of groceries.
The foodies protest. Organic food costs less than your junk food and soda, they retort. (And they’ve got a point there.) I have previously referenced an article by Joe Salatin, in which he mentions a family of four eating a super sized Burger King meal that cost $32. The family says they can’t afford to buy fresh produce at the grocery store, so they have to buy fast food. Joe replies to this conundrum,
“For that amount of money, that family could have purchased a pound of our farm’s grass-fed beef — a premium, world-class ground meat — plus buns, the fixin’s and potatoes for some french fries, and everyone could still have enjoyed a great-tasting quarter-pounder and fries. I guarantee you that a pound of our ground beef contains more good nutrition than that family’s Burger King meal. This is not to pick on Burger King nor its customers. I don’t begrudge people eating there; what I begrudge is people eating there because they think it’s cheap and convenient, and then telling me they can’t afford my product because it’s expensive and inconvenient.” (Read original article here.)
Okay, so organics cost less than eating junk, and definitely less than the doctor’s bills and pills that come with a life of eating fast food and non-nutritive calories. But the fact remains: there are many of us who are trying hard to cook healthy meals from scratch to save money and feed our families well. And for the family cooking that type of food, organic options still cost more than conventional options. There’s just no getting around it.
This is hard to swallow for someone like me. We avoid debt at all costs. I’m always looking for ways to save money or make a little extra here or there. I like frugal eating. But at the same time, the more I know and read about conventional agriculture, the less I feel that I can support a big industry that destroys the local economy, lacks ecological sustainability and is ridden with health problems.
So whats a (REALLY) frugal, semi-health nut to do?
The answer? Smart shopping certainly comes into play. But beyond that, it comes down to hard work.
Food Renegade said in one post that until 100 years ago, all food was organic and local. True. But it didn’t come easy, either. That food was grown with a lot of sweat and a lot of hours working to prepare and preserve it.
Likewise, our own real food journey has been largely driven by manpower. On our budget, we simply cannot afford to eat organically grown food without growing it ourselves. I love fresh produce, but when an organic red pepper can run you $3 a pop, I cannot buy six of them a week. But I can buy one pack of organic seeds for $3.50 that will give us peppers for weeks on end, plus enough to chop and freeze for winter cooking. I love organic, free range farm eggs, and they’re so much better for you than conventional eggs. But at $4.50 a dozen, that becomes hard to do all the time. Hence, chickens. Low-cost, low-maintenance, and a very fresh, extremely local source of nutritious protein.
Do you need to start your own homestead to eat organic well? No. We could talk about how you can save money on organics at the store. But aside from that, I bet you that you can make better use of the resources that are already available to you.
Learn how you can grow your own food in the environment you are blessed to have. (You’d be surprised what you can make work.) Figure out ways to be resourceful to use what you have to grow that food, so you’re not spending hundreds on a garden. Look for the natural resources that are available to you. (Foraging, fishing, fruit-picking in legal public locations… Even your own yard usually has more than you think it will if you look around.) Find frugal ways to preserve your food. Can, freeze, dehydrate, store in a root cellar… There are ways to do all of this that don’t require a lot of investment.
Anyway, these are all for other posts. I cannot possibly cover all these topics in one fell swoop. But the question remains: can organics feed the world?
If you’re willing to do some hard work, cooperate with your neighbor, and think outside the box for how you feed your family… And if the agricultural business would think about how to set up sustainable, bio-diverse systems that work in various environments,and give less privileged folks the tools and knowledge they need to get started… Hmm.
Well, we’ve got a long way to go, haven’t we? But maybe, just maybe, it’s possible.