My Mother always said you get what you pay for! Passing decades have seen an erosion of that understanding and a fascination with all things "cheap."
Not only "cheap" food but cheap oil, cheap clothes, cheap everything. The resulting economic (rural decline and outsourcing of jobs), environmental (pollution from particulate to pesticides) and public health problems (cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease) are making the true cost of "cheap" ever so clear. Despite societal attitudes and slick corporate marketing that in many cases would have us believe the opposite it¹s clear that Mom was and is still right.
PAYING TRUE COSTS
There are a couple of basic concepts here that need our careful
consideration. The first is paying the true cost of an item. That so called "cheap" food, over the last decade, actually cost us all $134 billion (yes that's billion with a "B"), in taxpayer handouts, in what many call "corporate welfare", because most of it goes to subsidize the largest of the nation's industrial agriculture factory farms. And basically all we get for that large amount of money is corn, soy, sugar and maybe a little feedlot, hormone-laden beef. These are the basic building blocks of all that "cheap" food we buy because we think we¹re getting a bargain. But are we really?
You can fill your belly on "cheap", fast, highly processed food but you can¹t fool your body. Full of binders, fillers, corn syrup, fats, processed genetically engineered soy, preservatives, artificial flavors, colors and aromas etc, you might feel immediately gratified, but because that food is devoid of most of the nutrition you need; the empty sugar laden, calories you have ingested will soon have you wanting to eat again, and that again will be sooner rather than later. Embedded in this syndrome is the link to our pandemic obesity, diabetes, and some of our other public health concerns and well as the inherent economic burdens. The true costs of these and other health and environmental issues, both to individuals and the larger society far out weigh the costs of eating good, whole food.
Changing Our Thinking
Especially with local products, but with a good deal of the food you find at the Co-op you are paying the true cost of producing that food. It's not subsidized with corporate welfare, it doesn't put more GMOs, pesticides and herbicides into the environment and it doesn't travel the average of 1500 to 3,000 food miles (both of which help reduce fossil fuel use) to name but a few of the things it doesn't do. What it does do is provide good, fresh food, support local and rural economies, keeping family farmers farming, bring a level of integrity to food production that goes beyond bottom line economics, provide stewardship of lands and resources, maintain a green belt in and near our urban centers, among other positive results.
And what¹s more (herein lies another important consideration) the Co-op wisely you can feed yourself and your family fresh, local, in many cases organically grown, food at about the same price as that "cheap" stuff.
The only major difference being --you¹ll have to take the time to cook it at home (although I must admit you can take home a bagful of high priced, junk food/processed food as you can anywhere).
Here are several ways to get the most value for your food dollars as you shop your Co-op!
Buy in season Buy in Bulk- to cook from scratch grains, beans, cereals, fruit and nuts are all cheaper when bought in bulk.
Buy case lots when on sale Buy from the promotional items on the monthly Co-op Advantage Flyer, Use the coupons in the quarterly Co-op Advantage Coupon Book Watch for the Co-op Values products (yellow shelf signs) Purchase larger quantities of everyday items when on sale.
Become a Coop member and then Buy items on the orange weekly "Members Only" flyers Stock up during Member Appreciation Discount events Shopping wisely get more value for your food dollar at your Co-op
Member View Point: Economical Shopping
The Co-op is not just for yuppies, its for families. Price is a false deterrent in this respect. Although organically grown produce may seem more expensive, its value is much greater. As a working mother, I find on almost all items the Co-op value far outstrips the supermarkets.
If you want to improve the quality of your life, improve the quality of your food. If you are feeding a family on a limited income, you certainly want the best value for your dollar. Price need not be a false deterrent. Here are some of the ways I¹ve found to stretch my food dollars and still purchase mostly organic and exclusively from the Co-op.
1. Plan Ahead Always come prepared with a shopping list- this helps avoid impulse buys.
Supermarket shopping can be an exercise in frustration. I have to weed through dozens of items and read manylabels to find what I need. The opposite is true of the Co-op new things, but use your list and fill it first.
2. Use a calculator to roughly keep track of how much you are spending as your basket fills up. Make a budget and have a general spending limit for each trip. Get the items on the list first and then you¹ll know whether you can splurge on some special treat.
3. Avoid processed products. This is big. Everyone knows that items like chips, cookies, candy, and sodas have little nutritional value and per pound are relatively expensive to buy. These things should generally come under the splurge category. But also consider avoiding even things like frozen vegetables, bread and juice. All processing adds cost. Invest in a bread machine or make quick breads and bar cookies. Using juice as a beverage while better than soda, has a high sugar content and does not provide the fiber and other nutritive values that eating fresh fruit does. Drink less juice or squeeze your own.
4. Packaging adds both cost and waste. Make the bulk products aisle your first and most important stop. Not only can you find many of your favorite packaged foods you can expand those items that you don't normally purchase in bulk. The savings you create can be used to try something new as long as you have stayed within your budget. One of my favorite items is a liquid all purpose soap that can be used for dishes, laundry, hand soap and shampoo! It works better than any other product I've ever tried for all of these uses.
5. Use the economies of scale concept "army" on the weekend and you¹ll save time as well as money. Freeze some if there is more than you can use for the week, then with little additions, a grain, pasta, or new veggie each day, allow it to become one of those delicious progressive soup pots that only gets better with age. This works especially well with items that are ³in season² or when there are specific sales.
6. Be guided by value not price. Nuts may seem expensive because they have a relatively high price pre- pound, but they are a great value because they are so nutritious. You won't need very many for a satisfying snack especially compared to chips or pretzels Another example is dates. While they may seem to be expensive they are a great healthful subsititue for cookies at lunch. Sweet and rich you'll be satisfied with one or two. And compare the food value and cost to candy or packaged cookies. You¹ll be saving money as well as getting good nutrition; dates are one of the few sweets that do not spike blood sugar and can often be eaten by people who have to watch their intake of sweets (please check with your health care provider if you are on a special diet).
7. Economize in other areas. Even with careful shopping groceries may still take a large portion of your budget. Consider cutting spending on frivolities. Ask yourself do I really need it? How much use will I get out of it? Where and how was it make? What am I supporting with this purchase?
La Montanita's mission is to provide service to its members and to the greater community. Your shopping dollars are the greatest expression of your political intent. What a blessing the co-op is to us; a vehicle for the expression of awareness in our daily lives.
By Georgia Daves, Co-op Member