Sure enough it has been a long time between drinks, but here we are back with our positive change at the checkout series; that would make this post number 3! So much has changed in the shopping scene when it comes to organic and sustainable food choices since we began blogging. There has also been movement in the general community and a greater awareness about sourcing local, organic, seasonal, quality ingredients and the concept of ‘you are what you eat’ and the many layers contained with that phrase. I thought we might revisit this huge topic – its long so grab a cup of tea!
We are thoroughly inspired by the good folks at The Littlest Eco Footprints [please visit their blog it is so worth your while!] for their community education and support of Australian farmers and their commitment this year to avoid supermarkets entirely. We are not sure about the advice to boycott supermarkets – this trend seems to be gaining popularity. No surprise that the idea has taken off when you read that “Woolworths is Australia’s largest owner of poker machines (13,480 machines) and the largest seller of tobacco and alcohol.” (Ethical.org); you just feel icky! and The Ethical Consumer Guide helps with much more info about the Australian supermarket giants and why to avoid them. These links talk about the farmers being screwed by a squeezing out of small producers by the big chain brands.
Whist I am entirely disgusted at the rip-off of our farmers I am not sure that the way to correct it is complete boycott of supermarket spending. The facts are that the vast majority of consumers are spending at the checkout and I question whether there are resources enough to feed the majority via the small producer. If we want organic, sustainable, local food to become more mainstream then there we need to send that message into the retail channels of supply and demand – don’t we? For those that aren’t familiar with the concept of supply and demand I just mean that if we want the retail chains to stock something we have to show them we are willing to buy it. Many times as with Ecostore at Woollies the price then drops as they are able to order greater quantities. You can now buy the awesome Ecostore product at Woollies far cheaper than I would pay wholesale for small quantities. Is this a good thing?
Now I do know that this reads questionably as if I am receiving sponsorship from the supermarkets or some such madness; I assure you that is not the case. We are also right behind our Geelong local organic delivery services such as The Organics Box and Casuarina Farm and small scale production makes complete sense to us. Simply receiving a regular box of organic produce cut our grocery bill by around a quarter as we no longer purchased ‘unnecessaries’ that had stimulated us somehow in the supermarket aisles. Our experience was then that in having a regular food allotment, we were able to more finitely assess our usage, refine our box contents and to then cut the cost of our box and also reduce our waste by ordering exactly what we needed. We have chooks and we compost, so although it is not entirely outside of a sustainable lifestyle wasting hurts and is an area that I think modern households can really improve. In any case, when people say they can’t afford organic I often wonder if they just are too tired to sort it out and make it happen.
Despite this commitment to our local organic producer, our approach is that whenever a new product appears on the shelves in an organic line we buy at least 3 of them just to send the message that it will sell and should continue to be stocked. We did that today when frozen organic green beans and peas were discovered in the aisles of Woolworths. When we came home it got us thinking when we noticed that the green beans are from Belgium, the peas are from NZ. Now we can buy organic biodynamic beans locally; but possibly not for $4.92/kilo for peas and similar for beans. If we buy these cheaper albeit imported organic options we arguably have excess funds that we can invest in other green choices for living. It needs to be considered though that for many there is just not that choice and if those people [the majority] can’t afford or are simply not ready to organise the local organic options, I for one would rather they had a well priced organic alternative that is imported. One thing that I didn’t check is where the other non-organic frozen goods were coming from.
Last week when Australian Organic Brown Rice hit the shelves under the Macro label at Woolworths for a very accessible $4/kilo I thought, this ticks nearly all the boxes – yet it was still supermarket produce from the megachain demons – . There is an interesting article about which is more important – local, or organic here and this article from the BFA here; but neither help make a decision about supermarket shopping. In fact what they say is, it is good to think about this, be more aware about what you buy. Now I can buy dry goods at wholesale, I pay $5.50/kg for Organic Brown Rice and it is NOT an Aussie rice product. So if I cut out the supermarket with its cheap Australian Organic Brown Rice – hmnz is this a good thing?! If I do stay with this rice choice, and it encourages other Aussie farmers to take on organic farming principles in order to meet demand – this will benefit our environment, health of farmers – no?! I am blogging this to get you thinking and to see if someone with an opinion can weigh in and expand my knowledge with this one J Just to hurt your head I will add however that every organic supermarket product so far has been wrapped in plastic. I can’t find any recyclable signs/numbers on the plastic and have written to ask for more information.
Packaging certainly has its place in a discussion of food for health; most people have now heard of BPA [Bisphenol-A; a questionable carcinogen in plastics that has been banned in many countries] and many are now becoming more aware that BPA still exists widespread in canned foods. Particularly in acidic foods like canned tomatoes where there has not been an alternative product found as yet. As a result many are turning to the good old FowlersVacola or similar glass jars for their tomatoes. You can also buy organic and non organice tomato products in glass jars at the supermarket. Or head to your op-shop or Ebay for jars, grow your own or buy local in bulk and jar them yourself. Are you unsure about whether all this effort is worthwhile? Our environment is suffering and cancer rates are sky-rocketing since food wasn’t food anymore but contains lots of other crap – additives preservatives and who knows what.
I suppose any eco blog about food must end with this seniment – acknowledgement that a vegie garden is SO EASY – it might just be the answer. It is so fulfilling to grow food, convenient to have it at your doorstep, exciting to watch it grow and pleasing to the palate to each fresh and often raw produce full of unadulterated flavour. Growing your own food makes seasonality so obvious, locality couldn’t be closer, eating fresh or raw is a step into the backyard. In terms of flavour we would definitely suggest that organic is worthwhile. Of course fresh always makes a difference regardless of the origin of the food.
The benefits are growing your own are coming into full swing with the growing popularity of Food Swaps. That means when you take the excess from what you have grown and swap it for items you have not grown. At the end you can often buy whatever is left for a gold coin donation! Here is the info about where to swap food in Geelong. What an AWESOME concept, right?!
If it all seems too hard, just focus on small changes. Maybe just being aware is enough to start, then use your head and make an informed decision about your food when you have the energy. Consider cutting down on your waste; buying less, better quality food as a way to work organic into your lifestyle. Think about packaging, bulk buying and sharing with friends. Finally grow your own where you can; it’s easier than you think and there are plenty of people to help you along the way. I am one of them so if you need resources – I know some pretty fabulous people who really have it together on this topic. Us, well we have let ouir garden go – we are still learning, doing our best, trying to improve. We are about to move house and we can’t wait to begin our new edible garden in our new space. Will be sure to take our blog readers along for that ride too. Please comment below if you need motivation, inspiration or resources to change your life through food and we will help you out! In the meantime try to make one or more of these your goals in 2012.
Cut down waste
Buy less quantity, better quality food
Find out what organic delivery services operate in your area
Compost and/or get chooks
Grow your own + share it!