Category Archives: Shop Sustainable

Eat Your Turkey and Save the Planet Too

By: Brittany Barton for Change Food
November 18, 2015

Family and friends are gathered around the table, ready to indulge in the Thanksgiving feast. The turkey is looking especially plump this year, and pies with intricate lattice-work line the dessert buffet. Vegetables are present too, although many are hiding in creamy casseroles. Thanksgiving is pinned as the ultimate food holiday, where we celebrate a bountiful harvest and eat one too many slices of pie. Since we are celebrating food, it is the perfect time to consider the effects our meal is having on our environment. What is the real cost of your Thanksgiving meal?

This Thanksgiving, have a meal that positively impacts the good food movement. We have an overwhelming number of choices in today’s food market and it’s the choice you make that will either make or break a healthy food system.

FOOD CHOICES

TEDxManhattan speaker Stefanie Sacks says, “Start to question the foods you choose for you and your loved ones.” Green bean casserole is a good example. This dish is traditionally made with canned green beans and canned soup. These two products are shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, made from non-organic sources and sealed in a BPA-lined can; translating to carbon pollution, pesticides and health risks associated from BPA.

Thanksgiving table photo by David Trainer courtesy of flickr

Thanksgiving table photo by David Trainer courtesy of flickr

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Know Your Food: Quick Tip

Fresh organic vegetablesThe entire Guide to Good Food series has been developed to help you get to know your food, but here’s an easy tip to help you when shopping. This will apply mainly to grocery stores, not to farmers’ markets where you’re buying your food direct.

As you look for fruits and vegetables, especially now at the end of summer when stores will be overflowing with farm produce, look for the labels found on the food. For small items like mushrooms or green beans, look for the numbered label on signage or the container they’re placed in. These numbers are PLU (price look-up) codes and are used on food that’s sold loose, by bunch, by weight or individually.

To know what kind of food you’re buying –

  • – A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown. (Or possibly a five digit number if the first one is a 0.)
    – A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified.
    – A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

What this means
1. Conventionally grown – the produce was most likely grown on a large industrial farm that uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The food was most likely picked before it was ripe and shipped a long distance to get to the store. (The average conventionally-grown item travels 1500 miles to land on your dinner plate.) Farms such as these can contribute to ground and water pollution through chemical runoff.

2. Genetically modifiedGenetically modified organisms (GMOs) are very controversial and are banned in many countries due to the lack of sufficient testing to determine their safety. A GMO is created by taking the traits, or genes, of one plant and inserting them into another. This is different than traditional cross breeding where two similar plants are combined to create a different variation of the food. The genes can come from completely different species – such as inserting flounder genes into a tomato – and not enough is known about the long-term ramifications of this gene manipulation on human health or the environment.

3. Organic – The food was raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides (though some natural pesticides can be used), it cannot be treated with sewage sludge, and is not genetically engineered or irradiated. The fruits and vegetables can still be shipped long distances so finding a sign that says both local and organic is an even better option.

Why this is good
Do you ever go shopping for organic produce and wonder if it really is organic? Searching for the 9 on the PLU label on the food will help you know that your apple wasn’t accidentally tossed in from the conventional side.

Also, if you’re on a budget and have to make choices, knowing which foods are genetically engineered and which are not may help you with your decision. Avoiding PLU codes that start with 8 means you are steering clear of GMOs.

With everything we need to remember in order to buy the healthiest food for ourselves and our families, this is a quick and easy tip to know what’s conventional, what’s organic and what’s genetically engineered. If you want to learn more about PLU Codes, you can read their Users Guide.

Thanks to Ideal Bite for getting this information out!

(Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide. This is the 21st installment in her series, Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Asking Questions – Part 2

Fleishers MarketLast week we gave you tips for asking questions at farms and farmers’ markets so you can find the best food for you and your family. This week we continue with information you need to shop at stores and restaurants.

Stores
Because the vast majority of stores buy their food from distributors, they’ll be less likely to know as much about the food as the farmer does. But don’t let that stop you! Don’t forget that your questions are sending a message up the supply and distribution line. If we all start asking for something, we will greatly increase our chances of getting it.

I often use my mother as an example when I’m speaking. She’s not an activist or a foodie, but she wants what she wants. She happens to know the owners of a dairy in Lewes, Delaware, which is very close to where she lives in Rehoboth Beach, and she loves their milk. She went into her usual grocery store and asked the manager if he would start selling some of their products. He said no. She went back a week later and asked again. He agreed to sell a couple of containers of milk, which quickly sold out. I was just down visiting and went to buy milk for my parents and saw that Lewes Dairy now has several shelves of milk on display in the milk section, and people were literally grabbing it up while I was there.

When my mother told the dairy owners what she’d done, they said they’d been trying for years to get their milk sold locally. And it only took one customer asking two questions to change the milk supply in the Rehoboth Beach area.

So if you have a favorite local sustainable food item that you don’t see in your grocery store, ask the manager to stock it. You could even go so far as to find a suitable farmer to supply the product to the store. A word of advice, though – if you are going to get a store to stock a particular item, please make sure you purchase it. Grocery stores work on slim profit margins and shelf space is limited, so make sure you really want what you’re asking them to stock.

If you’re unsure about meat, poultry and dairy items sold in the store, download Sustainable Table’s Questions for a Store Manager, Meat Manager and/or Butcher (which includes answers also). It supplies questions like, “Do you know how the animals were raised?” You can also download Questions for a Farmer and see if the store is able to answer them.

If the store manager or butcher doesn’t know the answers to your questions, ask them to ask the distributor. The same applies to vegetables – talk with the produce manager about where the fruits and vegetables come from. Ask if any are grown locally. I was pleasantly surprised when shopping in Decherd, Tennessee, last year. I asked the very young produce employee if any of the food was raised locally, and he went through the whole produce section and pointed out which was grown close by, which was from Tennessee, and which was from other nearby states like Georgia. If the employees at your store can’t answer these questions, just keep asking until they find out. You may be surprised, though, at the depth of knowledge store employees have these days.

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Asking Questions

Mt. Shasta CA farmers marketBecause there are no official standards for sustainable food, you need to ask the right questions to find the information you need to make the best choices for you and your family. There are generally three types of places you can buy fresh food from – direct from the farm/farmers’ markets, stores and restaurants – and you can ask questions at each outlet.

To start, know that it’s okay to ask questions. When I first started eating sustainable food, I tended to look for organic because I was hesitant to ask farmers questions about how they raised their meat, dairy and produce, and I knew what I was getting with organic (or so I thought). My biggest concern was that I wouldn’t like something about the way the farmer produced the food and would have to walk away. It seemed a bit rude.

So, first off, understand that you are not rude or inappropriate for asking questions. If you buy a car, you ask questions, and odds are you won’t buy the first one you look at. You shop around – and you don’t feel guilty for doing so. You do the same for any large purchase – appliances, computers, electronics – so why would any of us feel uncomfortable asking questions about our food? It’s your money and your choice.

Also, asking questions sends a clear message to farmers and businesses. If all of us asked for pesticide-free or pasture-raised food and shopped around until we found it, farmers would find a way to start producing food that was completely pesticide free or from animals raised on pasture. Many consumers may not understand that even organic food is permitted to be produced with a certain class of “natural” pesticide. This is much better than the chemical pesticides sprayed on industrial food, but if you want to go a step further and you make some inquiries, you may find farmers who use no pesticides at all, and yet their produce may not be labeled organic. So it’s important that we learn the issues and then go out and start asking questions.

Farm Direct/Farmers’ Market
If you’re shopping at a farm stand or a farmers’ market, odds are you’ll be speaking with one of the farmers who works the land. Ask them general questions about their farm so you can get to know them better – remember, they’re your neighbor. Questions you could ask include:

Where is your farm?
How long have you been farming?
What type of farming do you do?
What do you raise?
What are your favorite crops?
What’s your favorite way of cooking (kale, chicken, squash, any product they produce)?

You can also ask about their growing practices. Sustainable Table has wonderful handouts that give you both questions and answers for meat, dairy and poultry, so you can find out such things as –

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Shop Sustainable – buying food

veggies

Today we’re going to show you that it is possible to eat healthier on a budget, and we’re also going to talk a bit about the reality behind our food system.

I recently saw the movie Food, Inc. which opens today, June 12th, in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco (Click here for movie and ticket info). In the film is a scene where a family of four buys a fast food meal for $11.38 but say they can’t afford broccoli for $1.29 a pound. That’s understandable, but what could a family of four eat for around $11.38 that might be a little healthier? Let’s look at a chart we created with current prices from Stop and Shop’s Peapod website:

Grocery Item Non-organic(1) Organic (2)
Beans, canned 1.00/1 lb can 1.00/1 lb can
Beans, dry black 1.50/pound 1.79/pound (3)
Bell peppers .89/each 2.99/two-pack
Broccoli 2.89/head 3.19/head
Cabbage, green 2.19/head 2.49/head
Carrots 1.79/2 lbs 3.49 5 lbs
Celery 1.50/pound 2.99/pound
Eggplant 1.49/each 2.99/10 oz pack
Rice, brown 2.69/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
Rice, white 1.99/32 oz 3.19/32 oz
Romaine Lettuce 1.50/head 1.99/head
Summer Squash/
Zucchini
.69/each 2.99/two-pack

(1) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
(2) Based on Stop and Shop’s Peapod website (accessed 5/29/09)
(3) Based on OrganicDirect.com (NY and NJ area) (accessed 6/2/09)

The family of four could eat 2 pounds of conventional white rice and 2 pounds of black beans for $4.99, two foods that, when combined, meet our bodies’ need for high-quality protein. They could go organic and eat 2 pounds of organic brown (or white) rice and 2 pounds of organic black beans for $6.77. Add in a head of broccoli and the total is $7.88 for all conventional and $9.96 for all organic. Both well under the $11.38 the family spent at a fast food drive through, leaving extra money for herbs, spices, or another item.

If you would like to see a comparison of farmers’ market and grocery store prices, check out “Is it possible to shop locally on a budget?” from Farm Aid.

If you look at nutritional values –

1 cup black beans (boiled with salt) – 172g, 227 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 408mg sodium, 60% fiber, 15g protein, 20% iron and a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and folate.

1 cup brown rice (medium grain, cooked) – 195g, 218 calories, 2g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, 2mg sodium, 4g fiber, 5g protein, 6% iron.

1 stalk broccoli (boiled*, without salt) – 280g, 98 calories, 1g fat (0g saturated), 115mg sodium, 0g cholesterol, 9g fiber, 7g protein, 87% vitamin A, 303% vitamin C, 11% calcium, 10% iron. Also a good source of thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, fiber, vitamin E and K, riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, potassium and manganese. (*Steaming vegetables is preferable to boiling – more nutrients will be retained. We could only find data for boiled broccoli.)

1 Burger King hamburger sandwich (as an example of a fast food burger) – 121g, 310 calories, 13g fat (5g saturated), 40mg cholesterol, 580mg sodium, 2g fiber, 17g protein, 2% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 8% calcium, 20% iron. (Note: Burger King supplied the information and most vitamin and mineral content was not provided.)

To compare the quantity of food (172g beans plus 195g rice and 280g broccoli), you’d need over 5 Burger King hamburger sandwiches (at 121g each) to equal the volume of the beans, rice and broccoli. That means 1550+ calories, 65g fat (25g saturated), 200mg cholesterol, and so on, compared with 502 calories, 4g fat (0g saturated), 0g cholesterol, etc. (Or, conversely, you could reduce the amount of beans, rice and broccoli, to an equivalent of one or two hamburgers, which would bring the price of the healthy meal down considerably.)

This shows that you can consume fewer and far more nutritious calories for less money by shopping and cooking, rather than resorting to fast food, so why do so many people continue to buy and eat fast food? One reason is convenience. We think food should be cheap and fast so pulling through a drive through and shoveling food quickly into our mouth is the way many of us eat. It’s a sign of our over-stressed, over-worked lives. And we’re used to it.

How convenient is it?
What if you cooked your own food, ate at home and took food with you from home to work? Clearly, you would save money and eat healthier food. But, I hear you saying, “I don’t have time” or “I’m always so tired when I get home that I don’t want to cook”. What can you do about that?

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Shop Sustainable – spending money

jams-annarbor1This week we’re going to look at the money we spend on food, particularly at the rising cost of products and how much we spend. In short, while food prices have gone up each year, the proportion of our income we spend on food has decreased. So, over the years, we’re spending less of our money on food even though prices are rising. What does that mean?

Rising cost of food
According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food increased 5.4 percent in 2007. Food-at-home prices (food bought in stores and other retailers to eat at home) increased 5.7 percent, while food-away-from-home prices (restaurants and other eating establishments) rose 4.1 percent in 2007. (In 2008, the CPI for food increased 5.5 percent – the largest increase since 1990; food-at-home rose 6.4 percent while food-away-from-home increased 4.4 percent.)

In 2007, the following products increased in price:

Butter up 31%
Cheddar cheese up 65%
Nonfat dry milk up 117%
Broiler chickens up 17.5%
Beef, select, up 12.8%
Corn up 70%
*Wheat up 60%

Reasons for the increase in food prices include:

  • Ethanol. Corn prices rose 70 percent in 2007 due to demand for ethanol (a fuel made from corn). And because of the demand for corn, more was planted, meaning that less acreage was used for soybeans, wheat, oats and barley, so their prices increased between 5 and 35 percentWorld demand. As countries like China and India develop more of a middle class, demand for food increases, driving up the cost.

    Oil. As oil prices increase, the cost of producing and transporting food increases.

Other factors that contribute to rising food prices include poor harvests, bad weather and a weak U.S. dollar.

(From Market Watch, * from U.S. News & World Report)

This means that the food you regularly purchase costs more without you changing any purchasing or eating habits. For someone on a budget, this can have a big impact. The Financial Times reported in March that farmers will plant fewer acres of major crops in 2009 because of lower prices and higher costs for inputs like fertilizers, which will likely further increase food prices.

Food Expenditures
According to the USDA, in 2007 U.S. consumers spent 9.8 percent of their after tax income on food, a percent that has remained constant since 2005.

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Shop Sustainable – Money, pt 2

Co-op grocery store in Ypsilanti, Michigan

Co-op grocery store in Ypsilanti, Michigan

We’ve given you a few tips on how to stretch your food dollars (see Shop Sustainable – Money). This week, we’ll help you determine which local sustainable and/or organic foods you can incorporate into your food budget.

There’s no doubt about it – organic and sustainable food is often more expensive than , industrially raised and overly processed foods. And you are on a budget, so what can you do?

Shopping Choices
First, look at what you’re eating and consider cutting out some of the non-nutritious items you spend money on. No one is saying to cut out everything, but if you’re drinking soda, try tap water. Or try tap water in place of every other can of pop. You could also try cutting out meat one day a week, or be daring and go for two meatless days a week! Meat is usually the most expensive item you buy in the supermarket. Good food advocate Michael Pollan is now extolling the virtues of our sister program Meatless Monday, where you can find recipes for healthy, delicious and inexpensive meatless meals, along with information about the many benefits of reducing meat in your diet. Check out and download their Meatless Monday Recipe booklet.

Now that you’ve looked at your eating habits to see if you can cut back on some expensive items like meat, let’s look at shopping. You’ve decided you want to eat as much local, sustainable and/or organic food as you can, but you simply can’t afford it. We gave many suggestions in our previous post, but some other things you can do include:

Shop in season.

    I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but food is cheaper when it’s in season, so it’s a good thing to remember.

Stay unprocessed.

    The less food is processed, the more nutritious it is and it’s usually less expensive, unless you’re buying overly processed, really non-nutritious stuff. That kind of food might cost less, but it rarely has any significant nutritional value. In general, shop on the perimeter of the store, where you’ll find fruits, vegetables, and whole foods.

Make choices.

    This is a big one. Even I don’t eat 100 percent sustainable/organic all the time. I try to when cooking at home, but I still go out to restaurants that don’t serve sustainable or organic food. And when eating at home, I refuse to pay 6 dollars for 4.4 ounces of blueberries, so I usually go without until they come back into season. It can be hard if you really want the food, but it makes you enjoy it that much more when it’s finally available again in season and at a reasonable price!

Another choice you can make is with the fruits and vegetables you buy. I looked over three shoppers’ guides to pesticides on fruits and vegetables (Environmental Working Group – EWG, the Organic Center – OC and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the Museum of Natural History – CfB) to find the best and worst choices you can make. The results:

Most Pesticides – buy these organic/sustainable if you can, because they tend to have the highest level of pesticide residues.

Fruit
Apple
Cantaloupe
Cherries
Cranberries
Grapes (Imported)
Nectarine
Peach
Pear
Strawberries

Vegetables
Bell pepper
Broccoli (imported)* (OC)
Carrot
Celery
Green beans
Kale (EWG)
Lettuce
Peas*
Potatoes
Spinach* (CfB)
Tomatoes* (OC)

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Shop Sustainable – Money

sustainable frittataWe’ve talked about finding sustainable food and how to find time to cook in previous posts.  This week, we’re going to talk about money.  Some sustainable food advocates seem to think we all have a lot of money and can eat organic sustainable food all the time.  But, for most of us, that’s simply not the case. So what can you do?

Make choices. You need to decide how much money you can budget for sustainable food, determine which sustainably produced foods you’re going to eat, and decide whether you’re going to choose organic, sustainable, local, or industrially produced items.

Almost everyone is cutting back these days, and for good reason.  Many people are out of work and many more are worried they might not have a job in the future; we’ve started watching everything we spend.

How much?
Your first decision is how much money to spend on food each week.  Making a budget helps – you can even go so far as to literally put money aside for food purchases.

If you’re looking for ways to increase your food budget but you don’t have extra money coming in, look at your current spending habits and see if you can cut back anywhere.  For example:

•    If you buy a $3 cup of coffee five times a week, that’s $65 extra dollars a month if you stopped drinking coffee, but, more realistically, if you can cut back to spending $1 a day five times a week on coffee, you’ll save $43 a month.  Buy a coffee grinder and machine, some Fair Trade coffee beans, and take your own coffee to work in a reusable metal travel mug.  Use it for refills later in the day.  You’ll not only get great tasting sustainable coffee, you’ll be helping the environment by not using all those disposable cups.

•    Cut back on eating out.  According to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics report “Consumer Expenditures in 2007”, the average “consumer unit” (which is 2.5 people) spent $6,133 on food in 2007, both in and out of the home.  $2,668 was spent on eating out, which comes to $51 per week, or approximately $20 per person.  Even though this amount seems low, if you can cut back just $5 a week on food purchased outside the home, you would have an extra $260 for sustainable food by the end of the year.

•    If you’re still drinking bottled water, learn about the downside of bottled and the benefits of tap.  Buy a Pur or Brita filter and use a pitcher or attach to your faucet.  I use a pitcher but am not a fan of plastic so I immediately transfer the water to glass Mason jars.  I always have refrigerated and room temperature water on hand.  On the go I use a re-usable water container (metal are best – I prefer Sigg, though they are a bit of an investment).  Using filtered water instead of buying a $1.50 bottle of water five times a week will save you $390 a year.

•    Separately, these figures might not seem like a lot, but when you start to add up saving $43 on coffee + $22 on not eating out + $33 on not drinking bottled water, you’re looking at saving almost $100 per month.  Look for little things that you can cut back on, without totally denying yourself everything.

There are other things you can do to save money on your food costs.  Ideally, you will want to purchase local sustainable and/or organic food, but these tips will help you stretch your food dollars, no matter what kind of food you’re buying.

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•    Meatless Mondays. Go meatless just one day a week (or more if you want to!)  There’s a great program called Meatless Monday at www.meatlessmonday.com that offers tips and recipes for satisfying, delicious, meatless meals each week.  Cutting back on meat will give you more money to purchase sustainably-raised meat for the other days, and you’ll be doing something good for your health.

•    Fortify your foods. Mix less expensive, yet nutritious, ingredients in with your meals.  Making chili?  Add plenty of beans to the meat and you’ll have a great-tasting, delicious, healthy meal that will cost much less to make.  Use dried beans and you’ll save even more!  Making eggs?  Make a frittata and add rice, pasta or potatoes.  If you’re making meatloaf, try putting oats into the mixture.  Using grains like potatoes, rice or (whole wheat) pasta in your dishes can help stretch them further – and they’re ideal foods because not only are they filling, they tend to absorb flavors, not overpower the dish you’re creating.  Get creative and come up with your own recipes!

•    Cook from scratch. Make your own salad dressing, bake muffins, or try your hand at baking bread.  Forget frozen dinners, even the organic ones.  Besides the cost, they’re just not as good as cooking yourself.  And try to stay away from boxed meals or dishes – make your macaroni and cheese or casseroles from scratch.

•    Buy in bulk. Assuming you have space, bulk items tend to be less expensive, but compare prices before you buy.  And make sure to stick to your shopping list!  You’re not being frugal if you buy food that is on sale and end up not eating it.

•    Buy meat in quantity. Buy a whole chicken and use it all, including using the carcass to make chicken stock that you can freeze.  If you have freezer space, buy half a cow or pig and freeze portions.  See if any friends or neighbors might want to go in on a whole animal, and buy one from a sustainable family farmer in your area.  And for those cuts of meat that might be a little tough, search online for some good marinade recipes or use a slow cooker.

•    Buy in season. Buying local foods in season is less expensive than buying those same products out of season.  When you’re buying in season, freeze what you can for the months ahead.

•    Watch your waste. Either cook just enough for your meal, or cook in bulk and freeze portions.  (I prefer using glass Pyrex containers to freeze food in.)

•    Rinse. Do we really need everything to be pre-washed?  Organic spinach is much less expensive if you don’t buy it packaged and pre-washed.

•    Menu plan. If you know what you’re buying before you go to the grocery store, you’ll tend to spend less, so planning your menus out a week or two in advance and using a shopping list can help save  money – and reduce what you throw when it goes bad.  There are actually menu planning services that you can use that not only help you with menus but also put together a shopping list for you.  Just search online for “menu planning service”.  Please note that these services do charge a monthly fee.

•    Clip coupons. Some people feel that coupons may not be worth the time and effort involved in finding and saving them, but this depends on your individual circumstances.  At a minimum, look for coupons in your local paper, store circular, or while you’re shopping.  Many people find the internet an easy and convenient way to find coupons and special sales on their favorite products, including organic products, and many health food stores and food co-ops accept coupons.

•    Join a food co-op where you receive a member discount for purchases.

•    Grow your own. And lastly, the most inexpensive (and fun!) way to obtain your food is to grow your own.  Plant a garden and see how delicious your food is when you eat it minutes after you pick it or dig it out of the ground.  If you have extra that you don’t want to can or freeze, share with neighbors, give your excess bounty to co-workers, start your own produce stand or donate it to your local soup kitchen!

As you can see, there are many ways to save money on your food costs.  And when you shop, remember to look for the cost of the nutrients that you’ll be putting in your body.  A one dollar box of processed food with little nutrient value is not worth the dollar you’re spending – you’re eating useless calories that may temporarily fill you up, but will leave you hungrier in the long run because your body does not get the nutrients it needs.  Your body needs fuel and that comes from nutritious food, not empty calories.  So think in terms of nutrient dollars, not food dollars.  You’ll not only save money; you may save on huge medical bills down the road.

Next week we’ll continue with the financial reality of eating local, sustainable and organic food, and try to help you figure out what you can incorporate into your budget.

(Diane Hatz is the Founder of Sustainable Table, Executive Producer of The Meatrix movies and co-Founder of the Eat Well Guide.  This is the ninth installment in her series Sustainable Table’s Guide to Good Food.)

Change Food is a nonprofit whose mission is to connect and transform the food we eat, the people who produce it, and the world in which it is grown. To read and learn more, visit The Guide to Good Food blog. 

Shop Sustainable – Time

Last week, we talked about how to find local sustainable food. This week we’re going to look at the realities of eating sustainably when you have a busy life and not a lot of time.

We all have crazy, hectic lives. We rush from one thing to another – to work, picking up children, running errands, and trying to have something of a social life. It can be stressful and not leave a lot of time for cooking and eating at a dinner table. So what can you do?squash1

First, realize that stress over long periods can affect your health, weakening your immune system, making you more susceptible to disease and illness, and bring about depression, fatigue, over- or under-eating, and lower your quality of life. If you factor in a life of eating fast food and other non-nutritious food, you could be looking at some potentially big health problems down the road.

To relieve stress and to get a better quality of life, it is important to slow down a little. Many people find cooking to be meditative and relaxing. So, rather than viewing making meals as a chore, look at it as a way to relax and unwind. The time you spend shopping, cooking and eating a meal can be quality time you have with yourself to relax and enjoy the moment.

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Shop Sustainable – Finding Food

When shopping for local, sustainable and/or organic food, there are several factors to take into account, including awareness, access, budget and time.

Awareness
First, you need to know what to look for and to understand what local, sustainable and organic mean. Hopefully, the earlier Guide to Good Food posts have helped explain this.

In an ideal world, shopping sustainably would simply be a matter of learning about the issues and then finding your closest farmers’ market or local sustainable farm. But in reality, things aren’t always that simple. Once you’re aware of the issues and what the terms mean, and you’re motivated to buy sustainable food, you still have to go out and actually get it. And that can be challenging for some.

Access
You need to find places to buy local sustainable food. As we mentioned last week, you can look for food in your millcityregular grocery store, a farmers’ market, you can join a CSA or food buying club, or you can shop at a co-operative or health food store.

Aside from your regular grocery store, how do you find these places? First, look in the Eat Well Guide, www.eatwellguide.org, where all you have to do is enter your zip code to find great tasting food in your area. In addition, you can also try Local Harvest, www.localharvest.org, for the similar information, as well as for reviews. If you’ve tried both of these guides but didn’t find anything close to you, don’t give up! Try looking in your local yellow pages (printed or online) under “health food” to find both stores and co-operative groceries.

Health food stores and co-ops are also a good place to find information on local farmers’ markets, CSAs, and food buying clubs, so don’t be afraid to stop by one and ask questions. You also might find some great food while you’re there! Many health food stores and co-ops also have bulletin boards for the public to post information, so make sure to check for one to see what other food-related events and programs are going on in your area.

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