Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Revelations about buying organic in supermarkets

I hate grocery shopping. I love to cook and so everything I see (except for paper products, etc.)is a potential ingredient for something tasty so I get total sensory overload and buy things I will never use. Because I only buy organic, this can get quite expensive so a trip to the grocer store for me is an exercise in self-control. Once in a while, though, we do go to the supermarket and last week, the Farmer and I went to SuperTarget. It is like sticker shock on a new car, every time we go and this most recent trip was not exception.

(Note: Everything we bought was certified organic, except for the mayo)

  • 2 medium sized Slicing Cukes (What a disappointment these things were. I cut the first one and it had a big hard mass of seeds in the middle that I couldn't even cut with a knife and we threw it out. The other one was dry and yellow inside, even though the outside looked perfect.)

  • 1 Pgk (7 Small) Tomatoes (Campari's, about the size of a pingpong ball)
    12 ounces was the pkg wgt. They were quite tasty but they didn't go very far.

  • 1 Med. Yellow Squash and 1 Med. Zuchinni (pkgd. together - not quite 1# wgt. We had 2 meals from those.)

  • 4 avocados (which were partially black inside...yuck! I made gray guacamole...tasted okay but looked horrendous)

  • 1 lb bag of green onions

  • 1 Amy's Spinach Pizza (on sale last week so we indulged)

  • 2 bags organic frozen french fries (don't ask)

  • 1 lb bag carrots (there are 5 carrots in the bag)

  • 1 head of broccoli

  • 2 boxes of organic oatmeal (on sale)

  • 1Pkg of 6 flatbreads

  • 2 pkgs organic cheddar cheese (likewise on sale and an indulgence)

  • 1 Jar of peanut butter (staple)

  • 1 lb organic butter (staple)

  • 3 lb. bag of onions (staple) (We already used all but 2 of the onions, 5 were in the bag.)

  • 5 lb bag of russet potatoes (staple)

  • 1 Jar of Mayo (staple)

That is the entire list of what we bought. If it looks like a lot, it isn't. Everything listed above fit into 3 bags...and the total was $106.87. That means that the average cost of each item listed was about $3.50 (of course some were more, some were less...but that is the average.) I think if I had been buying conventional food, I could have gotten 2 or 3 times as much for my money.

I feel good about the fact that we grow the majority of our own food and that this trip to the market was a relatively rare occurence. I do watch for organic bargains where I can find them and stock up, if and when , it is something that I know we will use. I have been know to buy out an entire stocking of a product, if it is a good deal and I can make good use of it down the road. Organic chicken stock was a recent purchase....I bought 15 cans at less than $1 each.

When I do buy off farm produced items, I am very diligent about certain aspects of what I am purchasing. I never buy organic products from out of the country, unless I know exactly where they came from and the situation with organic certification for the country of origin and/or whether or not it is a fair trade item. Since these items are as scarce as hen's teeth in my culinary world that is not much of a problem for me. But we do like organic raw almonds, for example, ergo I have to get them from a non-local source and I consider them an indulgence, to have once in a while, not a staple food item. I don't know too many people who grow them in this area (although I do know one person with an almond tree, just down the road from our farm).

If you are smart with your organic shopping, you can eat healthy food at a reasonable cost, especially if you supplement your produce with fresh local in season items when you can take advantage of them, preserve things for later when things are in season, and learn to make you own foods from scratch, instead of buying prepared and processed foods. It may be a little more expensive but in the long run you will be healthier and stronger for it and probably a lot more self-sufficient.