Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mai's Food-Buying Theory (well, sort of)

Since I started this blog several months ago, I've had a number of people email me, wondering what my take is on the whole subject of eating organic. It's kind of the cool thing to do nowadays, but when you have to count your pennies, I think a person begins to wonder if it's really worth the cost. I know I do.

And then, just to add confusion to the issue, suddenly "organic" is getting edged out by the new push to eat "local". There's a real debate going on the food world as to which is really better for the environment and our health. I recently read an article that did a pretty good job of outlining the pros and cons of each so check it out here if you're looking for a bit of guidance.

As for me, my food-buying theory has kind of evolved over the past couple of years. When my husband and I lived in England, I remember reading an interview with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the author of The River Cottage Cookbook. (Side note: This cookbook is seriously hard-core. I mean, he goes into detail about how to raise your own meat and then butcher it, the whole nine yards. I don't really have a stomach for that sort of thing, but this guy really knows his stuff about "real food" and was one of the fore-runners of this movement. If you find that sort of animal husbandry stuff interesting, you definitely want to check out his books.)

Anyway, in this interview, one of the questions asked was something along the line of "If you have to pick one thing that a person should always buy organic, what would it be?" His answer: Anything that comes from an animal. The theory is that the feed, hormones, and antibiotics they give animals in non-organic farming is far more detrimental to our health than the pesticides that you pick up with conventionally farmed produce and grains. That's one guy's opinion, and it just kind of stuck with me, especially as I read articles of young girls getting breast cancer and starting puberty at younger and younger ages. So I really try, when I can afford it, to spend my money on organic meat and dairy.

When it comes to produce, I really try my best to by local as much as I can. Granted, we live in a part of the country where you past at least one roadside stand for every mile you drive on these country roads. It's really a foodie's paradise. But I know that not everyone has that luxury. Before we moved here, I didn't. But we did have a farmer's market once a week in our town which I tried to frequent as much as possible. The point is, eating local means I get to know who and where my food comes from, something I can't say for the bag of Organic Bunny Luv carrots I buy at the grocery store. I like knowing that my food was just picked that morning and it's the fruit of the labors of my neighbors.

And then there are weeks when my grocery money is shot and I just want a meal to put on the table and I throw the above guidelines out and just go to the grocery and find whatever $10 will buy me. In that case, I leave the organic purchases for another week, but I still stick to my #1 goal in food shopping: buying food without additives and preservatives. The thing about eating "real food" is that you can do it know matter what you're budget looks like. I love that.

So my advice, (if you're looking for some) is that if money isn't an issue, buy organic and local. If you have to stick to a tight budget, first make sure you are spending your money on "real food", first and foremost. Then figure out what your priorities are and splurge on the things that really matter to you and your family.

Hope that helps, and I'd love to hear your take on the issue. What do you buy and why?

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I dig it. I, too, was impacted a few years ago about meat/dairy being grass fed and organic.

    If only we each had $400/week to spend on groceries...sigh. Thank goodness beans and rice work for dinner sometimes.