Thursday, August 6, 2009

on food

a few weeks ago i linked to a post and subsequent comments (you must read the comments!) over on the blog beauty that moves. it was a fascinating conversation (because really it turned into one) on the value of food, its cost, how that plays into our budgets, our health, our spending power, and more.

it was a timely post for me, because mike and i have been challenging ourselves for a year now, to get our grocery spending down (to $400/mo), all the while not being willing to compromise on certain foods and food sources that we have been using. i knew i could get my spending lower, after all, i had it at $300/mo for awhile. but that $300/mo was prior to my buying organics, prior to two kids, at a time i was still okay with some processed foods, and long enough ago that food prices have changed. and my budget includes toiletries, the types of which have also changed! as a result, $400 per month has been a difficult average to achieve and my new goal is to better balance my budget to reduce spending in other areas, allowing us some food budget wiggle room.

about the same time as heather's post, i decided to weed through and recycle magazines and newspapers that collect in a basket in our bathroom. i came across an issue of a local parenting newspaper (frustratingly, not available online, so i cannot link for you) entirely focused on food.

in one article, a woman challenged herself to feed her family as though she were doing so entirely on food stamps ($1/day/person). she almost managed, but not quite, and it seemed entirely due to her unwillingness to compromise how she spent her food dollars. i am with her on this, but i read/heard loud and clear - many families do not have this option.

another article featured several families, each from different parts of the world, each showing all they had bought, for how many, and what they had spent. this article was a portion of the book, what the world eats, by peter menzel and faith d'aluisio, which i have not yet read, but the highlights (reprinted in the local paper with permission) noted that the american family of 4 spent $159.18 US for a week's worth of food, much of it processed and prepackaged. the guatemalan family of 8 spent $75.70 US for a week's worth of food, almost all of it fresh, much of it home grown. scary what that says about americans and our diets on the whole.

food seems to be a hot topic these days. what a fundamental need that so directly affects our health.

in the middle of listening my way through animal, vegetable, miracle on CD, i made a trip to costco, and was shocked at what i loaded into my cart, feeling all items were needs, knowing all items would be quickly consumed by my kindreds, but hating the feeling of being tied to the big box store.

there are enough reviews of animal, vegetable, miracle, that i will skip doing that. i will say this... my expectation was that i would feel frustrated at my inability to equal her level of commitment to sustainable food consumption, given i cannot pick up and move to an established farm in a community in which i am already known. instead, i came away realizing how much i already know and do (and take for granted!) and feeling more informed. although i wish there were one, no farm awaits me. however, i can make more of my food dollars local. it did remind me how extremely fortunate i am to live in an eco-conscious, agriculturally rich hub. it did spark ideas of how i can garden more effectively. and it did make me look at my costco cart (already despised for packaging) more critically.

the thing is, i do shop quite a bit locally. we buy most non-food items used. i try and buy what is in season. but there must be a way to do this frugally in an urban environment.

it all leaves me with so many questions. most fundamentally:
how can we continue to economize, without compromising our desire to eat in a way that supports our environment, local economy, our beliefs, and our health?

perhaps you would all share your input?
to spark a conversation, i have questions to which i am seeking answers!
  1. there was a lot of cheese in my cart! if i had to start with one vegan cookbook/guide, what would it be and why?
  2. buying do i connect with one locally? how do they work?
  3. does anyone reading make cheese? any simple, clear beginner links or books?
  4. do any readers here grind your own wheat? where do you get it and how do you grind it?
  5. foraging. do any of you do it and if so, how?

in general, i would love to hear your thoughts on food!


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