Thursday, November 18, 2010

Penny-pinching vs. Buying organic food

Here's one for the critics. Scenario: You're on a budget, so you're buying in bulk and as cheap as possible. You cut coupons and when you go to bed you consider if it's possible to make your children use cloth rags rather than toilet paper after pissing. Then you stumble across someone with an awesome personality, lots of knowledge and energy – we'll call this person Greta. Greta tells you about the poor, poor, starving children of Asia; the long, exhausting hours that created your low-priced t-shirts; the way Wall-Mart is just stealing customers from small businesses; the poison spewed out over your fresh greens every day by farmers and to top it all off, she goes into depth on the Evils of companies like Monsanto and McDonald's.

To be completely honest, I'm gonna be Greta. Sorry. But bear with me.

It's a moral and economical issue: do you follow Greta's call for you to buy locally produced, fair-trade and organic goods only – or do you penny-pinch? Is it even possible to do both?

I guess, if you live in an area where you're well known and liked, where there's lots of farmers, you could – theoretically – trade goods. ”Give me a five pound bag of your pork, Bill, and I'll make you a gallon of that cider you really like!” That would be cheap, and provided Bill lets his pigs walk outside and gives them only organic food, and you grow your organic apples and make great cider.

However, that idyllic life isn't true for most of us. We live busy lives, often far from farmers. So we must choose. Buying the cheapest cans of tomatoes when they're on sale is of course an option. Buying only the organic canned tomatoes from a Farmer's Market or Co-op is another. Growing and canning your own tomatoes is a third.

But why must we choose? Well, first of all, the world is decidedly heading towards globalism in one form or another. Whether you believe in the New World Order or just think that global-trade is happening, what we do on this side of the globe, affects another in some way. So when that farmer sprays his GMO-corn with Round-Up (don't get me started on Round-Up!), he's not affecting only his farm, his city, his state, his country, but in some way this entire world – probably on a rather miniscule scale though. Actions, therefore, have consequences.

Secondly, to have fresh vegetables all year round, they are often imported or otherwise travel really far. I live in Sweden, is it fair of me to buy African oranges – or even the Spanish ones? Or the ones from Florida, because they tend to show up around Christmas. Do I buy oranges at all? They're grown by a farmer, picked by a worked, loaded onto a truck, driven to a boat or an airport, sailed or flown to my country (or state), loaded onto another truck after spending some time in a warehouse, and then slowly distributed to local stores. That procedure goes for a lot of goods, which produces a lot of greenhouse gases, and since most people own a TV I don't think I need to go on about those.

Thirdly, there's the health aspect. Do you know if the tomatoes in your hypothetical can of tomatoes have been sprayed with chemicals – and if so, were they washed properly? Canning does take a lot of heat and pressure, and tomatoes are notoriously acidic, so they're probably not dangerous as such. However, is there long-time exposure to small amounts of chemicals that could be toxic? There's growing research that suggests that we're continuously bombarded with, for one, estrogen and other hormones, or hormone-like substances, which may (or may not) be the cause of some of our modern illnesses. Parabens ( were mentioned, I believe, and they're everywhere in soaps, lotions and make-up.

But then again, you're standing there trying to make your family eat for less than that monstrous bill from last month. D'you really care? They're on sale at the low-price store and tomatoes are versatile! Soups, sauces, crock-pots... feel your mouth watering?

The thing is, making a choice is better than pretending it doesn't exist, so that's why I wrote this. Not to convert you to the locally produced, fair-trade, organic-only side (though I may hope, I suppose), but to provoke a thought. I know families on budgets (in the US mainly), who still buy organic-only, but they've had to change their taste-buds and food-choices. Trends go towards very little meat, lots of vegetables and whole grains, beans and eggs for protein and seasonal-shopping. It is quite possible though!

Bio: I'm Daphne, and I'm a service-oriented submissive. I'm from Sweden, which is not to be confused with Switzerland - we don't make clocks or chocolate, nor do we wear leatherhosen. I've been in service for the past four years, to my Owner Mephisto. I love cooking, cleaning and organizing. My passion lies in making my Owner's life as pleasant and smooth as possible. I'm also a strong advocate for organic food without additives and cooking from scratch. I recycle, buy used and don't own a car, to minimize my carbon footprint. I'm studying for a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts and Meal Science


  1. The battle rages on, lol. We are on a fixed budget and try to buy local, organic when ever possible. In the summer it is easy our local farmers market is wonderful and we have wonderful support for local businesses, farmers and trades people. In the winter buying fresh fruit and veggies local is more of an issue then other food items. We have to local farms that are also butchers. One organic and the other is not. There is no way I could feed a our family on my budget if I bought from the meat at the organic farm, but nearly all the meat we eat is local and is raised on a real farm not one of the scary "factory farms". We do what we can with what we have we recycle, reduce, reuse as often as possible. we donate the kids out grown clothes and toys to be used again, we shop second hand and local as much as possible but if it came to a need for something I will get what I can and feel good knowing my family is not going without and that we do what we can to help.

  2. Honestly? Severe penny-pinching forces you to buy much more local goods and eat healthier, too. I buy flour and ingredients for my bread products because I know that it is cheaper to fill up with whole grain breads, which are in turn cheaper to make. That flour is not processed or grown very far away from where I live because it doesn't have to be. I don't buy meats because they are expensive, no worries there. I buy powdered milk which takes much less packaging and weight to ship, and therefore "greener" than gallons. Produce too, I buy organic when it is the same price. Otherwise, I buy seasonal when its cheap. Excepting bananas, if it isn't from near here it isn't cheap enough for me. No, oranges aren't really ever in the budget except for condensed cans of juice. I can't argue that the "extreme" penny-pinching is the greenest or the healthiest, but its much better than the majority of Americans shopping habits. I really don't think it should be subject to a wagging finger.

  3. I don't think it has to be a penny pinching vs. organic concept. There is/are happy mediums where you can be on whatever budget you have created and also find heathy ways to feed yourself and your family.

    Not everything needs to be organic. There are ways to eat healthy without added pesticides and growth hormones and yet it won't be stamped organic because that is a "certified" label that has a lot of things attached to it.

    For example, many of you may not know that if you purchase something that is labeled Kosher, it will not have added pesticides, growth hormones etc. Yet it probably also isn't labeled organic.

    It will also be cheaper (atleast here in the USA it generally is). For example, milk. Milk that is certified kosher is just as healthy, if not more so, than organic milk, yet it costs about 1/2 the price of organic milk. So why not just buy kosher?

    Same goes for cow meat & chickens. Kosher beef and chickens may not be certified organic, but I gaurantee you that since kosher standards for what qualifies and doesn't are far more strict than most would even imagine, your meats will be without added growth hormones, pesticides etc. and again probably about 1/3 the price of organic products.

    Also -- when purchasing produce, did you know that since apples, oranges, and other fruits with thick skins, rinds etc. are not prone to damage from many assorted bugs, most farmers do not spray these plants with pesticides (regardless if they are an organic grower or not). I learned that this year from the farm that I do my CSA with.

    That particular farm grows some products organically and others not. They grow their berries organic, and things that you would generally eat the skins of that have soft skins etc. Other items aren't grown with the certified organic label, but it doesn't mean they are harmful to you either.

    Also -- I would personally much rather purchase locally when I can (and thankfully I live in an area where I have a ton of farms to choose from), than worry about what is or isn't organic. I am making less of a carbon imprint buy supporting local business, not shipping in my items etc. than if I were to purchase items because they were organic and from out of the country.

    That isn't to say that I don't purchase things that are shipped in. Certainly there are foods that simply aren't grown in my area that my family enjoys eating. So we do purchase those. I don't always purchase the organic ones, it really depends on the product.

    I would offer that people should try and talk to their local farms as much as they can to find out how they go about growing. Many farms don't go through the cost (and it is costly to them) to get the certified label, and yet they grow their products without harmful chemicals. A little conversation goes a long way to providing you with necessary information.

    Also, I think every little bit that everyone does helps. So perhaps you are someone who donates to the needy items that your family no longer needs/uses/wants. But maybe you are also someone who doesn't care to purchase organic. That doesn't mean you aren't making a difference. EVERYTHING we each do in our own way can make a difference. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition.

    Also -- I would offer that on things like "organic" macaroni and cheese proceeded boxed goods... does it really make it any healthier to have it be labeled organic? I personally don't think so. I much rather make a home cooked fresh meal for my family, even homemade mac & cheese, than buy a box of organic mac & cheese.

    Not all purchases that are organic are good. Not all purchases that are organic are bad. We each have to figure out what works best for our families and follow our path.

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  5. Ms. Danae,

    My wife took the family to the local farmer's market yesterday to see what items we could get off the shopping list there. When we were done, the shopping list had several things crossed off and we paid the same. I eat a lot of salad and was able to get some russian kale that will be a delight. We also got a few loafs of bread that are delicous.




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