We lost the Safeway nearby our house about four or five months ago. There was some sort of scuffle over the lease, and Safeway moved out. It was sudden–and for me–dismaying. I am a Safeway customer, and have been for many years. Not that any other store is better or worse, but once you are used to a particular market, it saves time (and money) to shop there.
But mainly, I loved Safeway’s fairly recent Organics brand.
As I live in Suburbia, there are many other supermarkets within a very short distance, two within a mile. There is also, if I want to drive an extra couple of miles (and spend a lot more money), a Whole Foods, which I enjoy visiting, but don’t enjoy shopping regularly since they are so MUCH more expensive. It’s not that I can’t afford it–I can. It’s just that it goes against the grain for me, raised by a mother who could feed a family of six for a week on seven cents, to spend twice as much on groceries.
That said, I am a big believer in organic food, and in supporting that industry as much as possible. It makes a difference–organic eggs are more expensive, but imagine how many more chickens are living reasonably decent lives. I’ve discovered I’m quite sensitive to the hormones added to milk and meat, and eating cleanly there is worth it. Safeway made that quite possible, and for a reasonable rise in cost.
There are cost issues in eating organically, even in eating whole foods. One of my side-jobs stints was as a residential aide in boarding homes for functional schizophrenics (which is where a lot of the material in Lady Luck’s Map of Vegas came from). The food budget for the houses was small and had to last a month, so the group meals relied heavily on trash meats like pressed lunch meats, white pasta, white bread, sugary drinks that can be mixed with water, lots of coffee. At least there was a lot of milk, and some eggs. As a whole-foods person, I was shocked at the poor (practically non-existent) nutrition available in that food–and I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the residents would function if they consumed whole grains and organic meats and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’d still be interested in studies that examined the functionality of schizophrenics eating whole foods vs those eating that old-school cafeteria style mush.
But it was an issue of cost. The homes were always struggling to stay afloat and house as many clients as possible (to save them either from the state hospital or living on the street–not great alternatives), so eating whole, highly nutritious foods is a long way down the list of priorities.
The same is true of feeding a family on a budget–whole and organic foods cost more. It takes a lot more time for a busy mother to get to the farmer’s market than to stop by the supermarket on the way home. If the organic meat is $7 and the regular is $4, most budget minded mothers have to choose the $4 version.
Which brings us back to Safeway and their much more affordable Organics line. Bulk organics creates a standard for the food industry–if we as consumers say we want whole, organic produce and a meat supply that’s unpolluted with chemicals and harvested from animals who have been treated humanely through their lives, then the price comes down. We change the world by changing little bitty things, one at a time.
So, here’s today’s food challenge: pick two or three things you will commit to buying organically for now. Milk is insanely expensive at the moment, so if you haven’t started that, choose something easier for awhile. Eggs are a good place to start. There are lots available in most grocery stores. And then choose two other things–peppers, maybe, or onions, or adding one pound of natural chicken to your usual week’s shopping. If you are raising children, I highly recommend either skipping beef entirely or choosing natural, antibiotic and hormone free.
Who has other tips for whole and organic eating on a budget? Have you tried adding organics to your food cart?