I’ve found myself recently hyper aware of my choices relating to food. This shift in thinking was gradual. I went from the boy looking at me with shock asking “Why would you cook?” to him practically begging me to get take out sometimes.
How did this shift take place?
I’d say in phases actually.
It started with me deciding that I was spending entirely too much money on take out. I was buying lunch everyday and getting take out or dinner most nights. I decided to test the cost of just grocery shopping against the cost of the take out meals. Of course, grocery shopping won out.
Then I saw the documentary The Future of Food. It focused largely on the effects of genetically modified food on the international food system. And I watched The Story of Stuff which talked about the high cost of consumer culture. Combined these got me to thinking more and more about sustainable living and really being conscious about how my consumer choices affect the larger system.
I also started thinking about my health, how the food I eat, affects my health and started buying more and more fresh (as opposed to prepackaged or frozen) foods. I started to notice that often when something had the lowest price, high fructose corn syrup was often the first ingredient. Either that or the quality of the product was seriously lacking in some way. I began to taste the difference between good quality, nourishing foods and foods that were just plain cheap and packed with lord knows what filler.
I began increasing my fruit and veggie intake; actually starting with the produce rather than the carbs and dairy products. I started looking at the ingredients and where the foods were coming from. The later actually led to an interesting and frustrating discovery. For all of the illusion of choice in our mega grocery stores, much of the products on the selves come from the same groups of companies.
Why does any store need four varieties of tortilla chips all from Texas, all from the Frito Lay company? Why is it that there are 5 “brands” of cat food, they’re all still Purina? Where is the choice in that? Three different types of milk: Alta Dena, Knudsen, Store brand; all owned by Dean Foods (a giant that has the American dairy industry locked down but has various brands all over the country for local production).
It was beyond frustrating.
And then I watched Food Inc. and became even more aware of the affects of corporatized food on the health of me and my family. I also feel slightly helpless to change it.
I mean, if the only brown rice in the store comes from Illinois and all the tortilla chips come from Texas and the breads from Mass and the apple sauce from Maine, how can I eat more locally (and thus more sustainably) without having to traipse all over the city for groceries? I tried gardening but its hard with apartment living and a black thumb (seriously, every plant I’ve had died very shortly after being re-potted). I can go to the tortillaria for tortilla chips but where do I go to get fresh baked bread or rice that doesn’t have to travel across the country?
Its a hard question, especially when the answer is deceptively simple: work a little harder to find the type of food I want.
You see, consumerism is also driven by laziness. We want things to be convenient. We don’t want to have to spend an hour preparing dinner after working all day so we throw some corn dogs in the oven or stop at a drive thru. We don’t want to have to go to four different stores so we opt for the convenient one stop shopping and deception of choice in the grocery stores.
But that convenience comes at a price; be it the cost of an over grown agribusiness dominated by factory farms or unintended environmental and ecological consequences. All of our laziness comes at a price and provides us little benefit. We carry the burden of this cost while the people who own the big food labels (not necessarily the farmers who run the factories) make money off of our consumer desire for convenience.
The truth is that since I started paying attention…since my consciousness began to increase, so has my quality of life. I don’t need it to be easy. I’ve begun enjoying the process of preparing meals and even sit at the table and have dinner with the boy on a regular basis. I feel the difference in my energy level and I’m healthier overall.
So the way I see it, trading convenience for an improved quality of life and dinner with my boy every night is totally worth it.
What would make the loss of convenience worth it for you?
Kim, this is an awesome article, bravo! I really enjoyed reading it and it makes complete sense to me.
Since coming to the US, I have to deal with getting most of our food from a supermarket instead of from our local, family run grocery store which was a short walk from our house in Australia. We try to go every week to the local Mexican market, where the veggies are cheap, but it’s a 25 minute drive from our house. The organic, whole food stores are pretty expensive, but we do try to go regularly for fruit and some of our veggies. It’s definitely a whole other shopping world than where we’ve come from!
Good on you for challenging yourself like this, I think it’s totally worth the loss of convenience to try and get the best you can where food is concerned.