Do you like food?
No way, me too!
OK, no huge surprises here. We all eat, and most of us take great pleasure in the act.
To me, eating represents one of the key ways we all connect to – and depend on – the environment around us. Every choice we make and every dollar we spend is an environmental act. It’s also a social one. (Who grew your food? Who cooked it for you? Who are you eating it with?) And, of course, it’s an economic one.
Every time someone talks about the benefits of eating locally-grown food, choosing organic, or going free-range, I’ve noticed the word “elitist” is quickly shot back.
My husband and I recently did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and discovered that we spend about $5,000 per year on groceries for our family of three (admittedly – no teenage boys among us), which we primarily purchase through a weekly food share from a local farmer during the fall, winter, and spring; our town’s Coop supermarket; and our farmer’s market. During the summer, we grow about 10 percent of our food in a tiny backyard lot and in a plot at a community garden.
Most people would label our food purchasing habits extravagant. We buy local whenever we can, almost exclusively buy organic, and shop at a cooperatively owned independent store, where prices are a little higher than at the local chain supermarket.
But according to the USDA, which tracks actual spending and breaks it down into four categories – thrifty, low-cost, moderate and liberal – for a family of four with two kids under five, spending ranges from a "thrifty" $524 per month to a "liberal" $1,014. Our expenses come to about $415 per month. (Including wine and beer!) Pretty thrifty, don’t you think?
I’m not totally sure how we end up spending at the lower end of the spectrum despite our commitment to local and organic, but I suspect a few things contribute:
That last point is where the “elitist” accusation may well ring true. My husband and I both work, but we only work one job each. In the evenings and at the weekends, we have time to cook (and we enjoy it). For those people juggling multiple jobs, kids, and other stresses, it’s easy to see why cooking wouldn’t be top of your list of things to do.
But for me, shopping locally, knowing the farmers who grow my food, cooking with friends and family, and eating well are all part of the pleasures of my life. I wouldn’t give them up.