Friday, April 5, 2013

How NOT to Convince a Low Income Friend to Eat Organic: Part 1

My life has gone through quite a bit of ups and downs.  

Rather than complaining about this, I feel fortunate.  Having those ups and downs has enabled me to expand my knowledge base.  You learn to see several different points of view.

The financially stable times in life taught me how to think globally.  

It taught me how to donate where donations are needed.  It taught me how to recycle, rather than waste.  The ups in life have given me the knowledge of just how useless money is when it comes to happiness.

The rough times, on the other hand, have taught me how to weather the storms.  

They taught me budgeting and belt tightening.  They've also taught me just how ridiculous those of us that have money to spend on frivolous pleasures or on global sustainability can be.

Below is one thing that you should never say in an attempt to convince someone to go green.  One thing that will cause anything else you may say to fall on deaf ears, largely because if you're using it as a reason, you've never been poor, and it's pretty darned obvious:

"Shop organic.  In the long run, it's cheaper."

This is a true statement. 

Eating organic now will keep a person from developing all sorts of nasty conditions in the future.  This is largely because a person isn't ingesting pesticides, nor is the person eating many highly processed foods.  Indeed, by eating organic, a person eats far fewer chemicals than his or her non-organic counterpart.

The problem, though, is that when you're living hand to mouth, it's far safer to buy crappy, highly processed food. 


Because it's cheaper.  It's a sure way to get enough calories into your family's bodies.  We've all seen the 10 for $10 sales on ConAgra products.  I personally don't consider any of the things I see listed as available choices in those sales to be healthy.  I also find it offensive that they'll label something that's made entirely with GMO ingredients as "100% natural." 

But how do you say no to that when you have an entire family to feed?

You don't.  

You don't, because you can't.  Not if you're struggling to find money to pay for your family's meals for the next week. 

That Banquet chicken pot pie that costs seventy cents after the store coupon, which also happens to be valid for up to a limit of ten?  That means 3 dinners that each cost less than a pound of organic apples... and there's even one pot pie to spare.

There is no "Shop only the outer aisles!" for those that struggle to feed their families.  

In reality, if you're struggling to eat, most of your shopping is done in the center aisles of the grocery store.  Grain rich, highly processed foods are far cheaper than meat, produce, and dairy.

But that's the place where you can begin to help.   

That is where you can show people how to make healthier choices that also end up being green to some extent.  What do I mean by that?

Cooking your own meals is much greener than buying the pre-packaged crap.  We all know that.  What many people don't realize, however, is that cooking your own meals can also be cheap enough to be doable on extremely low income.

How in the heck do you do that?

Sit down and make up a list of all the essentials you need to cook standard meals and snacks at your house.  Think in terms of everything... even the luxuries. 

Cookies? Chips? French fries?
Chicken pot pie?

What dry ingredients go into these items?

Continue on by adding necessary perishable items from the egg and dairy section.  Follow that with produce, and then slip spices into the mix. 

The basics are pretty simple.  In my own house, I came up with:

parchment showing a list of items: flour, rice, sugar, corn meal, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, lard, potato, carrots, lettuce, green beans, peas, corn, salt

This seems like a lot, I'm sure, but the trick is to buy in bulk where you can so that you're spending less for the various ingredients, while shopping for them less often, as well.  For instance, I was able to buy a ten pound bag of rice for $5, yesterday.  The two pound bag which was on sale would have cost me $1.69.  You do the math!

Meat is where things get difficult.  

The only advice I can give there is to use it sparingly.  Soups, meals involving pasta, and casseroles are great ways to reduce meat without reducing pleasure (My carnivore husband has never noticed that I dropped the amount of ground beef in our meals by half).

Use up leftovers in an entirely different meal whenever possible.  This will help eliminate a majority of food waste.  Food waste, after all, is simply a waste of money.  Be crafty about it. 

I like grinding up the ends of bread that nobody likes to eat and using the resultant bread crumbs to make chicken nuggets.  Total food cost ends up being nothing more than the cost of the chicken breast (The latest chicken I bought for this only cost me $2.02).

Buying individual ingredients to make your own meals reduces processing.  Less processing means less fossil fuels used, less water used, and less waste generated.  Cooking 'from scratch' is green.

Buying in bulk significantly reduces packaging, which reduces all of the ugliness that I mentioned in the preceding paragraph, making it... green.

What am I saying here?

Thrifty shopping is green and inexpensive, when done right.  Don't try to convince someone to buy organic if they're economically disadvantaged.  Doing so makes you nothing more than an annoyance.

I'm all about eating organically.  If anybody was dumb enough, however, to tell me that eating organic is cheaper in the long run during one of the poor periods in my life, my answer would be very simple:

"Are you going to buy it for me?  
Because if you're not, I don't want to hear it."

People have to start with learning how to save money on the basics before they can even think about the whole organic part.

And that brings me to an end until Sunday, when I go on to part 2.  

I'll discuss how to actually save a little bit of money by growing some food organically in containers.  Because... you know... this is turning out to be way too long!

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