Saturday, June 30, 2007

Voting with my grocery dollars

Some of you may not be aware that I have been painstakingly recording our monthly grocery intake and dollar out-go every day in a post entitled June Food Expenses. Those of you who love to see what I get out of the dumpster and my garden will be really interested in that post.

Since today is the last day of June, I'd like to summarize our purchasing (and foraging) habits and reflect on how they impact our health and the health of our planet.

Total Grocery Receipts: $645.77

Estimated value of Free Food We Obtained This Month: $575.67

Estimated Value of Food We Grew This Month: $57.00

Total Consumption For a Family of 5 plus 1 Cat on a Raw Diet: $1278.44

This works out to $42.61 per day.

At first glance, this seems like an overwhelming number, but there are some mitigating factors to consider.

First, we spent a grand total of $135.81 on cat food for Bart, who we are transitioning to a raw diet. Much of this food is still in the freezer and though we will have continued expenses in future months, this amount will greatly decrease in upcoming months. Subtracting this amount from our total grocery receipts would make our total out-of-pocket expenditures for our 5 humans a total $509.96, much less than we spent before we discovered the amazing combo of raw food AND dumpster diving, when our average was more like $850.

Second, we spent $16.01 on non-raw food. This expense won't continue.

Third, this amount includes paying $0.33 per gallon for the water we drink. In June, we purchased 45 gallons of water. This may not be a concern for families who have water purification systems (or access to a clean spring). Our family spent only $470.10 on raw human food this month.

Finally, we have a large quantity of food remaining in the fridge and the freezer. This "inventory" is always in flux at our house and after months of tracking our expenses, it will balance out and we will be able to see our patterns of consumption more clearly.

$470.10 is NOT too much to invest in optimal health. For that matter, neither is $1278.44, if you have that kind of money to spend. (Check your budget. How much is spent on medications and out-of-pocket health bills? How much do you spend eating out, drinking alchohol or pop, and consuming processed junk foods? How much of your budget is spent on entertainment or luxury items? Are you sure you can't afford some fruit? :)

How do our spending habits affect the health of the planet? This question is so important to me, as I want my children and their children, and all children for that matter, to have the benefit of living in a clean, healthy, beautiful place.

One issue I am particularly interested in is consuming a high percentage of my food from local sources. Buying locally supports my local economy. It means that my food is fresher, healthier, and requires many less resources to deliver to my plate. I can meet (or be) the person who grew the food and have some influence on their practices. This month, $274 of local foods were consumed in my household. This equates to 21% of our total food consumption. However, if each dollar is a "vote" then the picture changes. Because of my gardening and foraging practices, many of our local foods were not "purchases." (Of course, by dumpster diving, much of our non-local consumption was also not purchased.) This means we only spent $35 purchasing food from local producers. This equates to 8% of our actual dollars spent on food.

Another issue is our support of organic (or better) agriculture. Conventional agriculture is doing so much damage to our ecosystem and our bodies, I feel exhausted just thinking about explaining it. In The 80-10-10 Diet, Dr. Graham says that choosing between cooked organic food and raw non-organic food is like "choosing whether to shoot oneself in the foot or shoot oneself in the hand." Unfortunately, though much of the produce we purchase locally is not sprayed with pesticides, much of it is not organic either. Many of the local producers use commercial fertilizer and/or use non-organic seed or seedlings (I do this one myself). Our source of local free-range eggs does feed some commercial chicken food to her chickens.

In our area, organic produce is difficult to find. Certain items are never available--watermelon, for example, or are available for short periods of time (grapes). The cost is quite high, usually at least twice that of conventional produce, and the quality is sometimes poorer. I believe that we will continue to improve our supply only if we demand it and build it. I plan to document my family's moves in this direction in the coming months! This month, we consumed $119.75 in organics, but only $42.78 in actual expenditures (or dollar votes, as I like to call them).

Finally, if you visited the June Food Expenses post, you will note that we went to the store virtually every day this month. This is RIDICULOUS. Sometimes, we went because we were going to our garden and it was on the way, but many times, we were making trips specifically to go to the store. Several days, we actually went to the store more than once. Surely, better planning next month will result in less pollution coming from our tailpipe and less money leaking from our wallet.

Next month, we plan to trim our expenditures by only purchasing bananas, cat food, and water at the grocery store. We will purchase everything else at the Farmer's Market, harvest it from our garden, or get it out of the dumpster.


uncle smokey said...

The quote you are referring to from Graham is on page 250 of The 80/10/10 Diet .

"To concern yourself with pesticide residues while eating cooked food is a proverbial fire and frying pan situation. Neither is good for us. The best solution is to consume only organic raw plants. Otherwise, the decision is much like choosing whether to shoot oneself in the foot or shoot oneself in the hand."

Though he is not very clear, my interpretation is that he is saying when you're eating cooked food it is foolish to concern yourself with organic vs. "conventional" because you can't fix the damage of cooking by eating organic.

On a raw diet, organic is best certainly. That is clear. However, I do not think that Dr. Graham is saying that non organic raw is about the same as cooked.

Also keep in mind that "organic" is watered down at. Many things are called organic which are not, many things are not called organic which are. Organic may be much less fresh, etc. than something local and not organic, thus making it less desirable. I am moving to the tropics to pick my own raw, ideal, organic, abundant, fresh, delicious human food straight from the source. I shall get fat with the monkeys.

Anonymous said...

Greenmama, I do not even know where to start with your site. It is just chock full of such a variety of information and goodness. I would love to sit down and talk to you for hours, to hear your opinions on all sorts of things, to pick your brain a bit. Every time I come to your page, I am surprised, sometimes startled, LoL, in some new way.

I started reading at the begining, and have not had time to read straight through, but I intend to.

I am sharing the information about July 17 over at the Naked Food Cafe. I am not sure what to think about it, but I know I can spare an hour to help someone achieve her dream, and quite possibly create a miracle for myself in the process.

Your grocery post contains so many of my own thoughts and questions. I ponder these things often and, like you, I want to do differently, better. I have had weeks where we have been to the grocery store more than once a day. Becoming raw vegan seemed to send us there more often.

In the words of the beloved Dr. Seuss, Keep thinking Big Thinks and keep sharing them with us!


Anonymous said...

Uncle Smoky, Remember to eat your green leaves with all that fresh tropical fruit. Best of luck to you and your monkeys~!

Warm Wishes!

Anonymous said...

Courtney said...

Have you heard of/read "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver? It is all about how Kingsolver moves her family from AZ to Virginia and they live off of ONLY food they grow/locally produced food for 1 year. I just started reading it (borrowed from a co-worker) and it is so good! I would really recommend it, if you have the time. It is a newer book, but I am sure your library must have a copy.

That said, I enjoyed your post!


Greenmama said...

Hi Everyone,

Just another note of thanks for your devoted readership and kind comments.

Uncle Smokey, I went back and re-read the passage. Dr. D. says in the preceding paragraph, " is far more important to avoid the pathogenic effects from cooked food." So, you are right, although he does go on to give MANY reasons why organic is better way to go.


Thanks for getting involved with Firing the Grid. Like you said, can't hurt!


I'll definitely look into that book. I have read and enjoyed many of Barbara Kingsolver's books. I am involved in a Local Foods Initiative in my county.