Tag Archives: shopping

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.

Grapes (Imported)

Bell pepper
Broccoli (imported)* (OC)
Green beans
Kale (EWG)
Spinach* (CfB)
Tomatoes* (OC)

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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.

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.

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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