Monday, July 21, 2008
Cutting Your Food Bill?
At the start of this experiment I envisioned cutting my food bill in half. I thought I would work up toward this in several ways - cutting out packaged food, making better use of sales and bulk buying, finding cheaper food sources, and growing some of our food.
Meanwhile, I've been listening to the audio version of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver and it's opened my eyes to a problem in this equation.
I already spend too little on food.
Food raising practices in America, whether farmers are growing vegetables or meat, are both dangerous to our environment and deadly to small, local farms. We have become so used to spending pennies on food that should cost dollars that we're completely oblivious to food's real cost. When we eat cheap produce from California instead of buying the more expensive local goods we subsidize the cost of transporting that food with our tax dollars. We also subsidize the cost of irrigating land that ought to be desert. And we subsidize the giant food companies that thrive on monoculture (only growing one crop on a field over and over again using petro-chemical fertilizers on the exhausted soil), and on squelching bio-diversity (patenting hybrids so that farmers must purchase seed year after year instead of saving it from the last crop).
I don't want to do that. Instead, I want to use my dollars to protect our food supply and to encourage local growers/ranchers to increase the bounty of their harvest.
I may need to re-calculate how I'm "halving" the cost of my food.
Perhaps instead of thinking in dollars, I should think in miles to the table, or gallons of oil used to produce, package and ship it. I'm not sure how to do this in a way that I can document here, but I'm working on it. Meanwhile I'm subsidizing the local farmers through purchases at the market, and I'll be buying some heirloom seeds of my own for next year's garden. I can't do everything in one night. But I can keep my eye on the goal.