Too often, I’ve heard the argument that those on a tight budget must make a choice between “a tiny amount of organic produce” and “a bunch of unhealthy junk”.
It’s not black and white!
There is such a huge spectrum between “tiny amount of organic produce” and “a bunch of unhealthy junk”.
A potato is still a potato, even if it’s non-organic, and a non-organic potato is far less expensive than a bag of french fries. Flour, cornmeal, oats and other grains are still healthy, even if they don’t come in fancy, over-priced paper bags. Factory-farmed meat, while definitely not ideal, will still nourish and feed your children.
Saying that people must choose between a tiny bit of organic produce or tons of processed junk is about the same as saying “Either I successfully run a marathon or I’m a fat couch potato.”
The journey between couch potato and marathon runner consists of many, many small steps.
At the time of this writing (December 2010), I live in the “ghetto” of our city. (EDIT: In April 2013, I moved deep into the woods on my own homestead and then, in October 2016 to a large house in a little village. Much of what I wrote applies to all three situations).
There is no grocery store in the immediate community.
The nearest Sobeys (certainly not known for their low prices!) is only about five minutes away – if you have a car, which few of my neighbours do.
To get to a discount grocery store requires much more traveling, and they’re all so spread apart that shopping at multiple stores wipes out any savings. I’m not sure what a Whole Foods is, but we have two local Farmer’s Markets – one is twenty minutes (by highway, no less) to the south of me and one is ten minutes to the north. However, the prices at both are astonishingly high. Growing our own food isn’t an option at this time (although I hope to have a community plot or two this spring).
And yet – we eat very well, and we’re saving money.
Home cooked food is so much less expensive than processed stuff. And of course, having our deep pantry, filled with food bought on sale, has helped a lot.
The problem is that so few people know how to cook even the most basic things. There are many people who consider it cooking if they open a can, or add some milk and butter to the packaged macaroni and cheese, but worse than that, at some homes, the special dinner contains “11 secret herbs and spices”.
I suspect from what I read on other blogs that the problem is worse in the United States than it is here in Canada.
But the solution is simple – stop telling people that they have to ditch the commercial crap for organic, 100-mile produce, and start getting them cooking. It’s not that the organic, chemical-free, made from scratch food is worthless. In fact, I’d be the first to say that it’s the best thing that you should be eating. But first you need to get people cooking.
Just one thing.
Bake a potato instead of opening a bag of fries. If it’s local, that’s great, but don’t fret about it. Fry up a hamburger patty at home and serve it on a store bought bun.
Just one thing.
I’m not kidding.
If a person thinks hamburgers come wrapped in waxed paper at McDonald’s, they’re not ready for buying organic, local meat and produce, preserving the harvest or making their own pickles, cheese, bread or ketchup.
They just need to learn how to cook.
Just one thing.