A really common theme I’ve noticed in the healthy eating debate is money. Why spend so much on local organic produce when you can buy a whole meal at McDonald’s for a few dollars? This is a serious concern for families who live paycheck to paycheck and need to think of what will be more nutrient dense for their children. But to a certain extent, I think it also has to do with the work involved in eating healthy. It’s tough to make things for scratch in a world where we’re used to frozen pizzas and takeout.
We made our transition from Morningstar-style processed foods to homemade meals over the course of a few years. And I’ll cop to having a Luna bar for breakfast sometimes because, hey, if it’s that or nothing, I’m taking the damn bar. But for the most part it’s been fairly easy making meals on days when we have a little more energy (we split the cooking, too) and then freezing leftovers for the days when we just want to crash.
But the Whole Foods addiction – oh man, is it hard to kick. Actually, I won’t be kicking it anytime soon. Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t stock any non-soy vegan cheese (what is life without Daiya?) and a girl needs her vegan sushi and some really good freshly baked sourdough bread sometimes.
For the most part, we buy conventional produce at Whole Foods. The exception to this is when the price difference is small, or the organic produce looks much better and we can swing it that week. But I don’t really trust their labels – I know for a fact that they’ve misrepresented the origin of produce at my local Whole Foods, and I feel like “organic” is such a buzzword right now that it’s being slapped on everything. And then marked up. And marked up again, for good measure.
Over the winter, I asked my friend Jenna about her experience with a local co-op. She generously offered to let me try one of her shares, since she was going to visit family over the holidays. I wish I had taken a photo of the box because it was amazing, especially for a winter share – squash, spinach, garlic, pie pumpkins, tomatillos, spaghetti squash, thyme, onions, potatoes and a HUGE bag of black beans. It was like a vegan’s dream come true. They even send you e-mails with photos of the crops and recipe ideas for that weeks’ share:
We knew right away that we wanted to sign up for the summer program. Produce is the main source of our spending at the grocery store, and being caught up in the cycle of only affording the week-to-week costs of grocery store produce feels like being in a relationship with the bad friend you just can’t shake.
Harvest Moon is a little over $500 for the June through October summer program. It’s a steal, but it’s upfront and tough to do on a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I e-mailed them to see if we could work anything out, and found out that they have a two-week payment plan for anyone who asks. We sent them three checks, each dated two weeks apart, and they deposit them accordingly. It doesn’t sound like much, but it made a huge difference for us since we get paid bi-weekly.
As a general PSA, Farmer’s Markets are also great resources for local and organic produce, without the hassle of pre-paying. But they didn’t work well for us because we have very untraditional schedules and never seem to make it while they’re open, despite the best of intentions.
Nutrition is so important to me, and I hope that our society will eventually turn away from the cheap and fast mentality of McDonald’s and Lean Cuisine, and put the focus back on real foods, from the source. What are your thoughts on the health debate?