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Old 01-05-2013, 12:01 PM
 
Location: Northern CA
12,770 posts, read 11,563,570 times
Reputation: 4262

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwesternBookWorm View Post
We strive to do the same thing. It can be done, but there are costs, more than just financial.

The grocery co-op is an excellent suggestion. We do a lot of our weekly food shopping at our local co-op, and yes, it's more expensive, but the quality of the food, particularly the fresh produce and meats, is more than worth the price.

We also shop regularly at our local Farmers' Market, and we've got favorite farmers for various foods. We get beef, pork, chicken and eggs from one farmer, hand-made tortillas from another, root vegetables from a different one, flour from another, apples and cider from yet a different one, and so on. Not every city has a Farmers' Market, I realize, but they are more common than they used to be, and in buying directly from the folks who are producing the food, it is possible to ask about things like feeding methods, fertilizers/pesticides, and so on. It may mean a longer drive and more time spent, and the prices are likely to be at least somewhat higher than the mass-produced food at the supermarket, but if you want minimal processing, there is no substitute for buying directly from the farmer.

And for the past decade, we've had a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share as well. This is a program that has grown in popularity over the past quarter-century or so, and in south-central Wisconsin, there are about three dozen different farms that offer some kind of CSA share. Basically, you make an agreement with the farmer to pay him or her a set price per year, and in return, you get a portion (a share) of whatever they harvest as it comes in from the fields. Each farm has its own list of produce, its own season length, and its own options for purchasing, so it takes some time to do your homework and find a farm you like. Also, and this gets into the cost side of things, in buying a share of the farm, you are buying a share of their fortunes for the year - both good and bad. There have been some years when our CSA farm had such a bumper crop of corn that we ate it for months after freezing it up, and then there was the year when they got a foot of rain in one August weekend and basically lost all their crops for that fall. The price is the same either way - that's part of the deal. You share in what it's like to be a farmer, and that means that just like the farmer, you are at the mercy of the elements.

Now for the costs.

Food that is produced sustainably with minimal pesticides and processing costs more. It doesn't travel as well, it doesn't store as well, there is much more waste, and as a result, you are not going to find Wal-Mart Superstore prices at your local Farmers' Market or food co-op.

Buying minimally processed food without preservatives means that you are largely going to be buying food that was produced within a few hundred miles of where you live. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, of course; our ancestors did that for centuries. But with the advent of preservatives, pesticides and world-wide freight carriers, we have become accustomed to being able to have strawberries in December and asparagus in January, and a surprising number of people simply are not willing to give that up. So that is a cost, too, because if your area is in a drought, you may just have to do without melons that year. Or if your state has an early warm spell followed by a sharp freeze, you may wind up doing without apples.

There is a cost in time as well. When you buy processed food that basically just needs to be nuked in the microwave for a few minutes, you can get a meal on the table in record time. Buying ingredients, preparing them, storing them, combining/cooking them and saving the leftovers to eat at a future meal all takes a lot more time, and some folks either can't or won't spend the time to do that.

Each of us needs to do our own cost/benefit analysis. Is the extra cost in time, money and convenience worth the benefit of eating minimally processed food? Or is life so hectic that it's worth eating processed, preserved food in return for the benefit of having maximum convenience and variety? That's a very individual decision, and I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" answer. It's what works best for you.
Truly outstanding post, thank you.
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Old 01-05-2013, 12:46 PM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,918,446 times
Reputation: 420
Quote:
Originally Posted by MidwesternBookWorm View Post
We strive to do the same thing. It can be done, but there are costs, more than just financial.

The grocery co-op is an excellent suggestion. We do a lot of our weekly food shopping at our local co-op, and yes, it's more expensive, but the quality of the food, particularly the fresh produce and meats, is more than worth the price.

We also shop regularly at our local Farmers' Market, and we've got favorite farmers for various foods. We get beef, pork, chicken and eggs from one farmer, hand-made tortillas from another, root vegetables from a different one, flour from another, apples and cider from yet a different one, and so on. Not every city has a Farmers' Market, I realize, but they are more common than they used to be, and in buying directly from the folks who are producing the food, it is possible to ask about things like feeding methods, fertilizers/pesticides, and so on. It may mean a longer drive and more time spent, and the prices are likely to be at least somewhat higher than the mass-produced food at the supermarket, but if you want minimal processing, there is no substitute for buying directly from the farmer.

And for the past decade, we've had a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share as well. This is a program that has grown in popularity over the past quarter-century or so, and in south-central Wisconsin, there are about three dozen different farms that offer some kind of CSA share. Basically, you make an agreement with the farmer to pay him or her a set price per year, and in return, you get a portion (a share) of whatever they harvest as it comes in from the fields. Each farm has its own list of produce, its own season length, and its own options for purchasing, so it takes some time to do your homework and find a farm you like. Also, and this gets into the cost side of things, in buying a share of the farm, you are buying a share of their fortunes for the year - both good and bad. There have been some years when our CSA farm had such a bumper crop of corn that we ate it for months after freezing it up, and then there was the year when they got a foot of rain in one August weekend and basically lost all their crops for that fall. The price is the same either way - that's part of the deal. You share in what it's like to be a farmer, and that means that just like the farmer, you are at the mercy of the elements.

Now for the costs.

Food that is produced sustainably with minimal pesticides and processing costs more. It doesn't travel as well, it doesn't store as well, there is much more waste, and as a result, you are not going to find Wal-Mart Superstore prices at your local Farmers' Market or food co-op.

Buying minimally processed food without preservatives means that you are largely going to be buying food that was produced within a few hundred miles of where you live. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, of course; our ancestors did that for centuries. But with the advent of preservatives, pesticides and world-wide freight carriers, we have become accustomed to being able to have strawberries in December and asparagus in January, and a surprising number of people simply are not willing to give that up. So that is a cost, too, because if your area is in a drought, you may just have to do without melons that year. Or if your state has an early warm spell followed by a sharp freeze, you may wind up doing without apples.

There is a cost in time as well. When you buy processed food that basically just needs to be nuked in the microwave for a few minutes, you can get a meal on the table in record time. Buying ingredients, preparing them, storing them, combining/cooking them and saving the leftovers to eat at a future meal all takes a lot more time, and some folks either can't or won't spend the time to do that.

Each of us needs to do our own cost/benefit analysis. Is the extra cost in time, money and convenience worth the benefit of eating minimally processed food? Or is life so hectic that it's worth eating processed, preserved food in return for the benefit of having maximum convenience and variety? That's a very individual decision, and I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" answer. It's what works best for you.
Thank you for such an in-depth, thoughtful response to my question, Midwestern Bookworm. I wish I had the $$ to invest in a CSA, or rent one lot at a community garden, or to buy all of my produce and meats from a co-op. But I simply don't have that kind of money, so I'm very disheartened to think that I'm limited to buying cheap, frozen vegetables at a chain grocery store.

Some brainstorming makes me think that I need to invest the time in 1) writing out a weekly menu for myself so that I'm not just wasting money buying staple foods that aren't healthy for me and 2) only buying what I need each week. As a single person, it's a challenge to grocery shop because you need to do it more often than if you were grocery shopping for yourself and a spouse and children. Like, I don't want to buy a bag of 8 oranges or 12 apples because they will spoil before I can eat them all. Does that make sense?

I think I will try to budget really tightly for fresh produce and drug-free meats and fish at co-op grocery stores. I will take your advice and contact a CSA program near me to investigate the financial costs.

I did something pro-active today before I came here to post. I went through my cupboards and refrigerator and threw out ALL of my processed food including fruit juices. Although I was tossing money into the garbage that I'd spent on that processed food, at the same time, it was a conscious effort to reject the poor diet that Americans have become accustomed to because of the convenience we have to food all year round, as the poster Midwestern Book Worm so eloquently pointed out.

Last edited by Midwest Maven; 01-05-2013 at 01:36 PM..
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:34 PM
 
Location: Islip,NY
20,935 posts, read 28,420,556 times
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I eat some processed foods but not alot and I try and avoid buying them I will buy frozen french fries/tater tots and recently bought frozen tyson honey BBQ chicken bites because I wanted to try them. For the most part I cook with fresh ingredients and if the fresh veggies look so so I buy them frozen.
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:35 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
41,957 posts, read 75,183,468 times
Reputation: 66918
I was going to caution against a wholesale change, but it looks like I'm too late.

In the future, everyone, when you're cleaning out your cupboards, please take any of the nonperishable, unopened foods to a food pantry!
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Old 01-05-2013, 01:54 PM
 
Location: Minnesota
400 posts, read 1,918,446 times
Reputation: 420
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohiogirl81 View Post
I was going to caution against a wholesale change, but it looks like I'm too late.

In the future, everyone, when you're cleaning out your cupboards, please take any of the nonperishable, unopened foods to a food pantry!
I probably should have done that in hindsight. Thanks for the reminder.
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Old 01-05-2013, 05:37 PM
 
3,059 posts, read 8,284,416 times
Reputation: 3281
Midwest Maven you may find some good suggestions on getting started here: Eating fresh healthy food on a budget - New York Fresh Foods | Examiner.com

There are a couple of good books on Local eating that I would recommend - your library may have them and certainly they are available on amazon as well if you are interested:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
and

The 100-mile Diet (aka "Plenty: Eating locally on the 100-mile diet" by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon

Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet: Alisa Smith, J.B. Mackinnon: 9780307347336: Amazon.com: Books
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:22 PM
 
5,680 posts, read 10,335,170 times
Reputation: 43791
There are ways to economize and still eat minimally processed foods, though it takes both time and creativity to find them.

First of all, if you have health insurance, check the details of your plan. You might be surprised to discover that your insurance plan will cover part of the cost of a CSA share. Several of them in our area do, and the idea is catching on with more insurers every year. It's cheaper to keep their members healthy than it is to pay for medical treatment, and they've figured out that healthy eating is a fundamental part of a healthy person. (Wow, what a concept.)

Next, Google up the CSA umbrella association or coalition in your area. Different farms have vastly different programs; some will help you find a partner to split a share with, some will let you do half-shares, some even accept food stamps. Some CSA farms in our area offer a labor-for-food trade: their customers commit to working a specific number of hours on the farm in return for their food share.

If you have a Farmers' Market within driving distance, find out if any of the vendors there accept food stamps. Go and browse the stalls toward the end of the market; a lot of farmers would rather accept half-price for the last of their produce than haul it all back home with them, and while the variety and selection may not be as good as you'd get at full price, you can still get high-quality food that way.

Some cooperative stores have a labor-trade program, too, where co-op members help at the store in return for discounted food.

In many medium-to-large cities, you can find groups that support community gardens and organic food. See if you can arrange a labor-for-food trade with one of the gardeners, helping them weed and maintain their garden in return for some of its produce.

Look for you-pick farms in your area. Excellent way of getting high-quality and super-fresh produce at lower prices than the Farmers' Market or the co-op.

It takes time, effort and creativity to eat well. And doubly so if money is tight. But for many of us, it's worth doing. Good luck to you!
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:24 PM
 
Location: Near the water
8,237 posts, read 13,517,434 times
Reputation: 3899
This is a wonderful source! Full of ideas, knowledge and recipes!

100 Days of Real Food
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:14 PM
 
Location: North Idaho
32,647 posts, read 48,028,221 times
Reputation: 78427
I cook, so there are not a lot of processed foods brought into my house. It's not that I have any objection to processed foods or GMOs. It's that my home cooked foods taste a lot better and one family member can't eat wheat. I do suspect that the home cooked is a lot healthier, but that isn't really the main reason why I do it.

It's just about unavoidable to use some processed food. I buy processed dairy: yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter. The brown rice and oatmeal I use has been hulled and the oatmeal has been rolled. The spices have all been processed in some way.

But if by "processed" you mean the heat and eat sort of things, it is very easy to avoid them. You just need to learn how to cook from scratch.
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Old 01-07-2013, 01:26 PM
 
Location: Houston, TX
17,029 posts, read 30,922,581 times
Reputation: 16265
It takes a lot of effort to eat healthy, especially on the run.
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