Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.

10 May

I buy used clothing. I watch the amount of packaging we buy. We reuse things to the nth degree. I walk or take the bus-I don’t own a car, or even know how to drive. I’m buying a push mower this weekend, after my lawn has eaten a gas and electric mower. We don’t eat much meat. I’m planning a garden when I get the money to finish my backyard, and the time.

We buy most toys secondhand. Same goes for books. We rarely eat out these days. We keep the heat to a minimum, use only fans in the summer, covering and closing windows. I seal windows in the winter, firmly shut. We don’t run the water while we brush our teeth.

I buy local eggs, veggies when time allows a market run. I read labels when I shop, try to avoid MSG, Salt, sugar. I make gifts when I can.

So why do I feel so bloody useless if I buy a box of Kraft Dinner, or cannot afford to spend 25.00 on shampoo and conditioner? Why do I so keenly feel my monetary value so keenly when I walk past organic food or handmade goods? Why do I feel the locally sourced, organic rice pasta glaring at me in silent judgement as I reach out instead for the made somewhere in the US in a factory wheat pasta that’s on sale for 4/5.00?

Why does it always feel like revolution is really only for the haves?

****

Grocery shopping these days hurts.

I stare sometimes at the peppers, at 3.99/lb, and gingerly take one or two, relying on the fact that my father always buys oodles anyway. I have become parsimonious with the cheese. We never have ice cream or popsicles, unless the sale is really good. I keep a tight rein on the milk, ration the bread.

Ever get to a cash, and have to put something back, usually something you do actually need, but buying might mean not paying a bill, or getting someone a haircut or shoes?

Ever pick up a box of something salt and chemical laden, and realize that hey, at least the kid will eat it and it won’t be money wasted?

Ever become completely terrified that you won’t be able to properly feed your children because it costs a bloody arm and a leg, and all that natural food, all that cooking from scratch? You don’t have time for it anyway and you then worry about scurvy or vitamin deficiencies..you worry.

And then you go to the local store, or talk to some mothers you know, or fathers, and feel completely bloody deflated because while you worry about food in mouths, any food sometimes, everyone else is worried about where it comes from and if it’s natural enough (whatever THAT means these days) or if we’re doing enough home cooking or avoiding runoff into resevoirs.

I don’t dare walk into the hippy store anymore, where they carry my Bragg sauce in a spray bottle and have the soap I like. I feel like they can smell the chemicals on me, the sodium, the carbs.

In a nutshell, it becomes blatantly obvious that I am not good enough. I cannot afford what they’re selling-this glistening purity, this sanctity in cloth, security in biodegradable cleaners. I have hit lower class-where the solid thunk in my belly means more-where good deals in used clothing will soon be held up against the siren song of the 12 year old who doesn’t want them used.

Where once it was who had the biggest car, it’s now who has the one with the least emissions. Where it used to be which house always has kool-aid, now it’s the one where juice never enters. Another contest. Another competition. So and So only shops here, only buys all natural, blah blah blah.

So and So generally has a net worth that I will never attain.

And that’s the crux of it for me. I make all sorts of sacrifices in daily life, big ones too, that impact my life, the lives of my children, the air we all breathe. I make concious decisions about how I life that for me, is more impactful than not buying McDick’s once in awhile.

But it never feels like it’s enough. It’s like this invisible hand behind me, nudging me that I’m not doing enough, that I should be willing to sacrifice more more more.

But should I? I live in a city because I refuse to own a car, so I can walk or take transit, with the odd cab. I work with many people who commute from out of town “because they can”, running multiple cars, recreational vehicles. I conciously limit the amount of animal protein in the house, even if I cannot afford the 30.00 roasting chicken raised on the eyeballs of angels. I can’t afford it. I just can’t. And my kids generally won’t eat beans or tofu so where does that leave me? How much more do I need to sacrifice at the altar of what others expect from their neighbours?

I adore conciousness. I love the fact that my daughters are aware of why we shouldn’t litter, what the cow really is, how things grow from sprouts and are hard to keep alive. But I grow increasingly sickened by the fact that in so many circles, the inability to support and afford this lifestyle is seen as a failing, looked down upon like something stepped in. How dare I feed my children chicken nuggets! Don’t I know what’s in those?!

I’m very aware. Food is in them. I work full time while juggling a life and a house and school for them and a lawn that will.not.die. I don’t have time to make them by hand. I barely have time in a week to spend quality time with my kids. They win. Sometimes white bread wins. Sometimes even, GASP! a chubby wins too.

I’ve railed against the class asignations of food and lifestyle before, how organic and local source labels seem to be weilded as weapons in classroom and chatrooms. Another opportunity for some to feel important and better, always better. A step ahead.

I say no. I just can’t. I can’t afford it. I simply cannot find the money, anywhere in my budget. I’ll clean with vinger because it’s cheaper. I won’t water my lawn because it’s a waste, I’ll replace my appliances a I can to save energy. But I am done with the constant pressure, nearly as bad as the skinny models parading in bras I’ll never wear, that I am a lesser person for not being able to afford to buy into this organic natural movement.

I remind myself often that nightshade is natural too.

***

I hate this. More than anything else, I hate that I am closer to rock fucking bottom poor than I’ve ever been, and that it alienates me, more and more, from the people I know. Because it’s not a circle I can keep in. Because if the choice is between 11.00 milk  with no weirdness and 6.00 milk, with weirdness, then cheap wins. Because it’s all I can afford, whether I like it or not. Because I AM poor, even if I hate it and it gives me a fucking ulcer at night. Because I live in absolute stark terror that the roof will cave in, and we won’t even have a house, let alone free range, organically fed and petted chickens for dinner.

Because my revolution would involve no one ever HAVING to choose between milks. Mine would never add cachet to a method of farming, or coolness to having read “that” book.

Mine would, simply, make sure everyone could eat without worry.

(Look-I’m not trying to make anyone feel like shit-but how many times can a girl get that raised eyebrow at buying food at Walmart before she gets really freaking defensive and annoyed? Constantly trying to make the best decisions I am able to make for my family, and yet always having this nagging feeling that it’s not enough.

It’s not about any one person-it’s about this first world culture of one-upmanship that seems to extend to food of all things. I want change! I don’t WANT to buy lettuce that scares me. But I do. Cause, you know, they haven’t made that pill yet.

I just wish the answers were easier, the food cleaner, and my wallet fatter.  The events of the last 6 months have really brought home a lot of things for me, and made ME realize that shopping at Walmart? Sometimes a sin I can’t avoid.

And that sucks too.)

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34 Responses to “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”

  1. Bon May 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    agreed. i hear so many things here.

    primary among them that you are scared, and angry. second, that you are a person that my weekend wikipedia surfing would define as “having integrity”: in the sense that you actually try to apply your ethics to your actions, and hold yourself accountable.

    and then you end up in the inevitable conflict of our culture, because our entire economy runs on the illusion that nothing is ever too much, and all our revolutions are created in PR.

    i don’t blame the movement toward naturals, only because i think the reasons it is more expensive are reflective more of cultural ills overall and therefore it is the lesser of evils in my eyes, but i speak from a position of relative privilege at the moment. and the fact that we must pay more to be so-called “ethical” in so many ways is, frankly, a pretty disgusting thing.

    i think the “natural” movement would do well to be way more truly radical, and save the earth by departing from the game entirely. but i don’t know how to even talk about that.

  2. Titanium May 10, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    I would venture to quietly raise a hand and say that you are more awake, more aware, more conscious than the hordes of ‘Haves’ who can afford to play petty social games with their food.

    There is a stinging, miserable suffering involved in this awakeness- just know that you’re not alone. That I’ve put organic produce back on the shelf and reached for the pesticide-infected goodness of Chiquita bananas because… well… they’re cheap and there’s a lot of month left at the end of my paycheck.

    Mostly, thanks for writing this. You just said all the things that are stuck between my (gritted) teeth.

  3. Jennifer May 10, 2010 at 5:12 pm #

    Better fresh milk, than powdered any way you cut it.

    I remember being dirt poor. Liver for supper. Mustard sandwhiches for lunch (no meat). Nothing for breakfast.

    Don’t make it a competition. Cause it’s about survival now. Things are tight, but you have each other, and you have your lessons.

    I agree with Titanium, you like do much more than those people that play at it cause its the cool thing to do.

    Oh, and vinegar is the best, most economical cleaner evah!

    Little peppermint oil in water makes an awesome room freshner (add a bit of tea tree to kill odor).

    I can send you a handy dandy list that gives you the best fruits and veg to buy that are not organic, that will still protect you. Even buying the non-organic stuff won’t kill you, wash it well. Then eat it. Do what you can with what you have, no one is judging you.

    Grow your own berries, they are the most pesticide laden. Buy everbearing strawberries, mine came back to life and are already blooming for this year! WOO!

  4. sam May 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    You are not alone. I don’t buy organic fruits & veggies if they get peeled. Only if we eat them straight. It sucks. But I think that less harm will be done to our bodies if we eat some Kraft mac & cheese once a month than if we stay up all night stressing over having done it.

    You know what always killed me? When people would try to help and encourage me to buy in bulk. “Per ounce it costs less!” Maybe, but who can afford that initial investment of money? Not me.

  5. kelly May 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    I cringe every time I see people tweeting about this because I think people are bullshit. It’s like everyone is now vegetarian, training for a marathon, and refusing to buy anything other than hand-made. My ass. Please. Those same people who are gobbling up the food revolution and tweeting the shit out of it are probably sneaking big macs on the side, and rushing to Walmart to buy DVD’s for their big screen TV’s. Truth is we all make a million choices a day that influence the environment. Those choices have to be made with our hearts and our wallets. You can not walk around with the weight of that guilt, and anyone that shuns you because of those choices is clearly a fool. I stopped eating meat 14 years ago because I couldn’t deal with having something dead in me, not because it was some dumb in thing to do. And, I still have no problem throwing in some purdue chicken nuggets for my children to eat.

  6. sweetsalty kate May 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    I’m sorry if my post made you feel it was a competition. It wasn’t written in a elitist spirit, and I don’t think anyone commenting responded in that light, either. Different things trigger different responses. But these days, I don’t think it’s purely about who’s got the most money. I think it’s the opposite.

    The people in my life who live the greenest are also the people who don’t have the money for the expensive stuff. They’re the ones who line-dry and make whole food and clean with vinegar (works like a charm, costs almost nothing). That’s not to imply that *you* need to do more. You already do more than many. It’s just to say that it’s not about “you should be buying the $20 happy chicken instead of the $8 factory chicken”. There’s so much more to it than that. I can’t afford organic anything, and sure as hell not fancy meat.

    All that’s lighting me up these days is getting the hell away from factory and processed food. That means making my own salad dressing and mayo and crackers from pita bread and granola. That’s all. It takes an evening, and a trip to bulk barn, but it’s all way, way cheaper than buying an $8 box of shreddies that lasts five bowls. And no more shitty drive-thrus. PB&J instead. It’s what I grew up on. It just requires me to take the five minutes to make snacks for the car.

    Swear to god, that’s all that inspired that post. Saving the world one cracker at a time. I’m just trying to be on the computer a little bit less, and in the kitchen a little bit more because I’m sick of how much money we spend at the grocery store for food that tastes like corrugated cardboard.

    It’s important to talk about this stuff. It’s not bullshit. It’s not petty social games. I don’t know anyone like that, who tries to impress by talking one way and living another. It’s fucking awesome to clean your kitchen with vinegar and water. It works. You feel like an anti-chemical revolutionary. I don’t see anything remotely elitist about that. It costs about fifty cents for me to fill a bottle. Maybe less.

    • thordora May 10, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

      Dude, that post was really just the match in a REALLY dry forest. I’ve been SO FREAKING UPTIGHT about this shit lately, and some of it is that I feel it so much more. What I CAN’T do. A trip to the Bulk Barn? HUGE pain to get done, the remembering, the setting the money aside, the putting it all together and away when I get home. The finding the money to put UP a clothesline, all of it. It’s so freaking overwhelming and then the hear a chorus of “hey I’m so special I do X X X (with stuff I couldn’t dare afford, even if I could find it) it just…

      yeah. I start wanting to hide in a hole covered in vegetable thins and jello. Cause I do end up feeling like there’s an entire side of things I cannot touch because I just don’t have the time or the money or frankly, the fucking will. I have precious few hours with the ladies or even my self some weeks. I’m not making granola. 😛

      I’m not cranky at you, or the commenter’s-again, I have been holding this in for awhile. It’s the people at the fucking market looking all superior at me with the bugaboo strollers and the kid they won’t touch as they ramble one about their CSA. It’s the pitying look I get from an over dressed housewife in the organic section as I buy Ros the cheesies she loves (which are non GMO and organic. And EXPENSIVE and I only get them for her as a treat cause she LOVES them)

      It’s just so fucking much somedays in a world where I worry if I can afford Mr. fricken. Noodle.

      • sweetsalty kate May 10, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

        Well, I didn’t want you to see any of that “hey I’m so special” coming from my direction. That post was, for me, about small things. Crackers. The people I know who are commenting aren’t bugaboo types at all. Those people exist, but not in my world. Things are not always as they seem.

        Also, it means nothing that you’re not into making granola. About as much as it means that I’m not into those crystal deodorants that make me smell like someone who doesn’t wear deodorant.

        Not at all meaning to counter you. It’s horribly stressful to not have ends meet. It colours everything. I hate to have been a match. xo

        • thordora May 11, 2010 at 6:37 am #

          heh. I like the crystal deodorant. It actually works for me. 😛

          Being a match is good. My reaction just means this has been coiled up for awhile, the result of the last few months of pained shopping.

  7. Holly May 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    You’re awesome. Anyone who goes judgmental on you for going Kraft versus Annie’s Organic should just suck it.

  8. Lili May 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Do what you have to do for you and your family. (insert bad word here) to those who judge. It’s not their business. You are fine. I had kool-aid, spam, and those little round noodles with tomato sauce in a can (I can’t remember the name) a lot of times. When my parents could my Mom had lots of salads, fresh foods, and good things for us.

    When she couldn’t, she didn’t. At 42 I’m fine. You and your kids will be too. Especially with the awesome lessons you are teaching them.

  9. Shana May 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm #

    Okay, I may be outing myself a bit here, but…

    I am a university professor whose specialty is food safety and the environment.

    Organic food has NEVER been proven to be better for human health than conventional food.

    Nor is it better for the environment. It takes more land to grow organic food, which can lead to destructive land use changes and disturbance of natural habitats.

    There is a common misperception that pesticides and fertilizers aren’t used in organic agriculture. Untrue. There is an “approved” list (untested chemicals), which included rotenone until studies showed that rotenone is even more toxic than conventional pesticides – and it induces Parkinson’s Disease!

    Thordora, the next time you go food shopping, adopt my attitude, which is this: I feel sorry for the people buying organic. I never feel inferior; I feel SORRY for them. They are throwing away money on a foolish religion (yes, it is a religion) with no basis in scientific fact.

    YOU are getting the better deal. Keep your head up. You’re the one who is not buying in to the Emperor’s new clothes.

    • thordora May 11, 2010 at 6:38 am #

      That’s the other side-I haven’t seen much that proves to me I’m doing a huge disservice to my children-read about the organic industry, and in some ways, it’s not much better. Me growing my own food-makes sense. Trucking organic in from Mexico? meh.

      It’s just such a bloody minefield anymore. Victory gardens anyone?

  10. flutter May 11, 2010 at 12:50 am #

    I remember telling my mom once that I was fine, I wasn’t hungry and that my fridge was empty because I just hadn’t had time to go to the store.

    I hadn’t eaten in 3 days.

    I remember falling into my apartment, crying when I realized that my mother had used her key to get into my apartment and fill my fridge and pantry. How embarrassed but relieved that I would eat. That I *could* eat.

    I hear you.

  11. Emma May 11, 2010 at 7:33 am #

    I may be living more in the ‘have’ column than ‘have not’ but I can’t afford a $20 happy chicken either. I appreciate this post. My brain recently exploded on my own blog about messages about food choices.

  12. charmingbitch May 11, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Oooooooooooh fuck me gently with a chainsaw, I am bone achingly tired of this issue even being an issue because yeah, good food that won’t harm or kill us shouldn’t be an us vs them vs haves vs have nots scenario. Then I want to punch my own self in the face because am I really ”tired” of discussing the food choices we have to make when entire countries are going to be hungry at night? First world issues much, self? I am not making light of the real world implications of chemically laden food and hormone infused meat but at the same time, again: Entire countries who give their right nut for our food ”problems”.

    Anyway, as you know we have four kids. Four kids who eat A LOT. And for the most part, I think we do a pretty good job working with what we have to feed them well. But I will never apologize for feeding them what we ”can” because as long as we ”can”, we’ll be alright and so will they. And until those who do look down at our choices offer to buy our groceries, their opinions about mac-n-cheese from a box, non-organic milk and shopping at Wal-mart just don’t matter much to me.

    As long as we’re doing the best we can with what we have, we’re doing just fine. Don’t believe the hype.

    • thordora May 11, 2010 at 8:45 am #

      I think there’s a real disconnect, in society, of what most of us CAN do and what we want to do. I want to go off the grid, have frey water systems, heat pumps, turbines and panels on the garage, compost everything, use my entire yard as a garden. But i can’t. No time, no money. I’ll get there.

      We’ve moved so far from being able to appreciate that we feed our children-that they safely drink the water-as you mention. And sometimes I feel small and lost within appreciating that. I don’t feel good that I can provide for my children-I end up feeling like I’m not.

      It’s my issue, but I think it’s broader than just me.

      • charmingbitch May 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

        Oh absolutely there is a disconnect; if a person has no concept of being flat broke 2 days after pay-day (or worse, 2 days before when the $$ is already spent) it’s difficult to understand that some things really, no REALLY just aren’t options for everybody. And that’s fine. I don’t mean to say that not being broke or chronically poor implies a lesser understanding of life overall, we are all the sum total of our experiences, whatever those experiences may be.

        HOWEVER. I cannot let their ideals paid for with their dollars govern what I do for my family (or how I feel about it) anymore than I would expect them to go without new clothes because my kids wear second-hand exclusively. Not because thrift is ”in” but because that’s just how we roll.

        It is bigger than you and bigger than me but I want you to hear me when I say, I understand where you’re coming from and also that what you ARE doing matters and is appreciated.

  13. Marcy May 11, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    I hear you. Especially about importing organic from Mexico. And is Annie’s Organics any less processed.

    I would love to either have my own Polyface Farm or a local one I could buy from, but we’d be eating chicken once a month for that kind of expense.

    It is hard to navigate cost and benefit and science and evidence and all — even if I make clothes, where is my fabric really coming from… and are the laborers on the organic farm being paid and treated well…

    I don’t have the time to do ALL the research as thoroughly as possible.

    It’s hard for me to appreciate the steps we HAVE made, knowing how much we still compromise…

    As for beans and tofu, I hate tofu, and dislike many beans, and we’re still exploring what we can make with beans that we will actually enjoy eating. But there’s cheese, nuts, and eggs, too, as other sources of protein.

    Oh, and I hate that I can’t do everything I want to do for us — and I’m a SAHM.

  14. Marcy May 11, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    Oh, and then there’s the tension I feel because I don’t entirely trust the FDA and the medical profession, and yet I definitely don’t trust the hippies and the alternative practitioners, and so what do I do with the fact that my doc wants me on Nasonex for at least a year…

  15. Molly May 11, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Oh boy. Yeah, I gave up on the organic thing a million years ago. I can’t feed my family like that. I just can’t. It’s economically unfeasable and, as has been pointed out before, there’s no scientific evidence that an organic diet is better.

    Like you I try to make my mark in different ways, primarily, the mindfulness that food comes from somewhere, from something, and all of the choices I make have an impact–not just the choices about what we eat.

    My biggest pet peeve in this life is hearing a yuppie pontificate about their beautiful, organically grown food while in the next breath criticising poor people for eating badly, or offering a lot of condescending advice that doesn’t apply to them. There are very few grocery stores of any kind in many poor neighborhoods, and most of the people who live there–at least in bigger cities–don’t own a car to get to the richer neighborhoods to grocery shop. It’s also very difficult to grow your own produce when you live in an apartment building and work two jobs.

  16. Hannah May 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Here’s the thing – Kate’s original post didn’t set my hackles on edge, but some of the comments did. Particularly the anti-WalMart crowd. To me, it’s really bloody easy to say things like “WalMart is evil” if you didn’t ever shop there anyway because you can afford to shop somewhere else.

    But maybe that’s just me.

    We were incredibly poor when I was growing up. I ate many a “meal” of no-name macaroni & cheese (Kraft Dinner was what the rich kids ate) and canned beans. We never had new clothes. Our whole family couldn’t go anywhere as a group because we couldn’t afford a car big enough for everyone.

    So I really, really get my hackles up over this one. I am lucky now in that I don’t have to count as many pennies as I did (although I can’t afford to quit working entirely, either) but I will never, ever forget the need to obsess over every dollar. And regardless of whether or not people mean to sound elitist about it, the fact is that for the majority of things, it IS easier to be all-natural if you have lots of disposable income.

  17. trinity67 May 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    I find that I’m happiest when I concentrate on what makes me happy. Period.

  18. Heather May 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    I admit to being a Walmart hater – not because I think people who shop there are stupid, but on the most basic of levels – it’s a giant time suck. It takes 30 minutes in line at the least – I just don’t have the patience for that – and they really only carry basic things. I can’t get half the spices I use there, nor many other products. I like an ethnic section that sells more than spaghetti sauce and taco seasoning, KWIM? My food budget isn’t huge, but I just dislike boring “american” food – since i’m a good cook, I can dabble in many different cuisines and styles without going for takeout 😀 Plus, my local stores are assholes about internet coupons.

    Luckily, I have a car and license and four Meijers nearby. Their prices tend to be a little more expensive than Walmart, but I don;t have to wait so long in line and nobody gives me shit about my printed coupons. The overall cost-benefit ratio works out for me.

    But I hear what you’re saying. I don’t buy organic (exception being jasmine rice that I get in bulk at the natural-foods store – CHEAP!), but I do my best to buy local, especially this time of year. Grass-fed beef and free range chicken would be nice (not to mention it tastes better, at least that’s been my personal experience), but corn-fed beef and conventionally-raised poultry put the calories and nutrients into my kids bellies that they need, and that’s just the way it has to be.

  19. Bon May 11, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    back to say two things: for all i’m not a fan of the mindless overconsumption of cheap made-in-China nothingness that Walmart has come to stand for, the company itself actually has come a long way in terms of mindful practices over the past few years. compared to most other companies of its size, it’s doing okay by the earth, so far as i’m aware. (um yeh…stats? google is your friend. i have a brain like a goldfish)

    also, with respect, to Shana…your statement that there’s no difference between organics and non-organics needs perhaps some qualification. especially in terms of meat foods. because while i know the parameters around what gets classified organic can be problematic, the difference between factory-farmed animals full of hormones and sores, living lives that barely qualify as lives, and local decently-fed (organic or not, but actually fed a diet the animal would’ve traditionally eaten) animals with some quality of life can’t be entirely dismissed. on a horde of fronts.

    now, i’m lucky in this regard, because we have a friend with a farm from whom we bought a quarter cow this year, and i live on a small island where local meat is not impossible to get or source, and much of that is organic. for three pork chops at the Co-op tonight i paid 75 cents more for the organic local, rather than the “trucked in from Ontario” version. i am lucky in that the 75 cents total is something i don’t need to think too hard about, true. but i go back to school in September and face losing more than half my income, which has never cracked the big time to begin with. still…i’m hoping when we need to we’ll just eat less meat rather than worse meat, and hopefully be better for it.

    i missed Kate’s post. am thinking i better go catch up.

    • charmingbitch May 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

      Not to get too much off topic but our experience has been that less meat is both way better to eat AND more economical (keeping in mind that in Mississippi and where we currently live in Washington locally grown fruits & vegetables are super plentiful & affordable, using personal or public transport so that is MAJOR factor to consider). Meat for 2 vs meat for 6 is a pretty significant change in budget but when I stopped thinking of meat and instead of ”protein source” a whole new world opened up for meal planning. Eggplant, bell peppers stuffed with mushrooms and brown rice, meat as a side rather than an entree or included in salad, apples with peanut butter before dinner. So yes, less meat rather than worse meat is do-able. And good to eat, too.

      • Bon May 12, 2010 at 9:28 am #

        thanks Shan, for the reminder. i was veg years ago, and had a lot of good, cheap, protein-rich recipes that kept me fed through my 20s. i’ve shifted in recent years to accommodate the preferences of my now-partner: our chilis and spaghetti and lasagna are still veg, but the lentils molder in my cupboard, and i haven’t made pea soup since two winters ago. i think i need to get creative. but the time and energy, like Thor says, are hard to find. the bell peppers sound good…will try.

  20. Meagan Francis May 11, 2010 at 9:02 pm #

    Okay, first of all, I’m so sorry you’re in the financial position that forces you to make difficult, wrenching and cringe-inducing choices. I’ve been there–actually, it’s only in the past couple of years that I haven’t been there, and I’m not far out–and I know how much it sucks.

    Second, I HATE how the natural/organic industry has become just another form of conspicuous consumerism. That buying the “eco-friendly” mattress or sweater or cutting board is now seen as the better choice than, uh, using the one you already had that probably stopped off-gassing about five years ago.

    A decade ago, when I was buying my lavender oil and a few sad little bits of organic produce (wasn’t much to choose from and I couldn’t afford much of it even if there had been) at the hippie co-op it felt like I was being somehow radical. Now it’s just expected of me, like you said, this expensive, much-marketed purity. On the other hand, it’s great for the industry and it’s what they hoped for all along: that organics and natural products would go mainstream, so that prices would fall and quantities would go up. So yay, but still. Ugh.

    In our little town, there’s only one grocery store worth a darn and the selection of natural and organic foods is pretty slim. Still, if you stick to the sides–produce, grains, a few meats, some dairy and eggs–and don’t venture down those middle aisles, there’s all you’d ever need there to create whole, healthy meals morning noon and night. A few weeks ago, I was in the cereal aisle finding snacks for my son’s classroom. The criteria are rather limiting: it has to be pre-packaged stuff and it can’t have nuts or be processed in a factory that processes nuts because of allergies. So I was looking at different cereal bars to see if I might be able to find a winner. This well-dressed mom with her little daughter went by…of course, the daughter was wearing Matilda Jane or some such…and of course, the daughter asks for fruit snacks and granola bars, etc. And the mom says–loud enough for everyone to hear, of course–“WE don’t buy THOSE things, honey. WE’RE only here for this spring mix.” And I wanted to say, you know what? Quit slumming, then, and get your spring mix somewhere else. I get not wanting to shop at the regular grocery. I wish I had a better option sometimes, too. But, you know. Keep it to yourself. It’s just obnoxious to be so smug about it.

    Oh boy. Did I go off on a tangent, there?

  21. Missy May 11, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    It’s funny. When I lost my job, I stopped eating crap and focused on eating more quality food at home. You save a lot of money that way. I actually eat better now that I’m not focusing so much on organic or free-range.

    This is random, I know, but be glad you have universal healthcare up there. A big chunk of my unemployment benefits go to paying my piece of shit non-group, private insurance that doesn’t cover anything. My first pap smear in over three years is in two months! And I know I’m paying at least $203 for *part* of it. Woo hoo!!!

    • Hannah May 12, 2010 at 7:21 am #

      I’m glad about our health care every single day, believe me. I don’t know how families in the US manage, with the high costs of insurance (assuming you can get it) and paying for even the most basic of services.

  22. bipolarlawyercook May 12, 2010 at 8:51 am #

    I remember. Vividly, from my own childhood. And the ignorance of the educated middle class is astounding when it comes to real issues of survival and thrift. When I got to my very white privileged college, I had real culture shock because– what do you mean, you’ve never heard of government cheese? This was kind of shocking to me, that people didn’t even know that the USDA had those kinds of programs, shit food though it was.

    Hang in there. I know you are doing the best that you can, conscious as you can be, and if you’re not happy with the compromises you’re making, at least you’re aware and trying, goddamnit, and your daughters will be in a position to make their own educated choices at some later time.

  23. ET May 13, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Difficult decisions, hard times. Don’t beat yourself up about the choices you make.

    Eating Poor http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/

  24. ~L~ May 13, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    I often feel like I’m being judged at the grocery store. When I have my canned veggies,and others have a basket FULL of fresh! I wish we could afford FRESH every week…but kids need glasses,and shoes,and cars need gas,and houses need shingles.
    The women who spend their kids “baby bonus” on vlt’s and alcohol aren’t judged as harshly as those who feed their kids KD,and pay their utility bills.
    Oi!
    This post sure has struck a nerve with a lot of people,meaning…don’t feel alone when you buy the 4/$5,I was waiting for that sale too!

    • Marcy May 13, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

      I don’t think I ever thought about what other people would think and feel if they heard me explaining to Amy why we weren’t going to buy X. I want her to grow up with an appreciation for “real” food, and to learn to cook. But I also want her to grow up with compassion and respect and grace toward other people, and so I should make an effort to give her my explanations as privately as possible.

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