(Quality produce at a good price)
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. “
-John Ruskin 1819-1900
When I came across this quote it was quite striking to me because of recent happenings and thoughts in my own kitchen. As you know, being a little more frugal is much more important to us right now out of necessity. Joel going to college is actually exceeding our income, but made possible through savings (which won’t last forever). We feel, especially for us, that it is important not to get in debt right now, so we are trying to work hard to stay in budget.
The only item in our budget that has flexibility is our food budget. The rent, our insurance, and other set in stone expenses can’t be cut back on. So I have been getting creative in my kitchen!
But I have to be careful not to allow myself to become “prey” to companies making things “just a little worse” and selling it for cheaper. In fact, I had a very sad incident with Costco this month, where I certainly felt taken in by a big company. We had gotten their sockeye, Wild caught, Alaskan frozen salmon before and been happy with it. It had a good taste, was conveniently packaged, and we saved a few bucks a pound to boot. We still couldn’t afford to have large amounts of it at one meal, so we stretched it out by all sharing a small amount. It worked for us and our budget. So, wanting to be wise with my money, I went back to get some more of the same sockeye, wild caught salmon I had gotten before.
But I knew as soon as I was getting it out of the package that something was not right. In the creases of the plastic wrapping I saw an unusual red tint. As it defrosted, the juices from the salmon had little dots of red in it, floating here and there, and when I cooked it up, it was a bright, very unnatural red. It was definitely dyed.
Now Costco does carry another cheaper dyed, frozen salmon which I avoid like the plague. Is is possible that they accidentally packaged it wrong? Or did they start adding dye to their sockeye? I don’t know, but I am not happy about it.
And the saddest thing of all? I have been really good at saving my receipts, but this one got lost. I have searched high and low for it. We are still going to take it back, and at least let them know we are not happy. But we aren’t expecting to get our money back.
The importance of buying food from those you trust
This brings me to an important concept, being reborn in many circles, of trying to buy as local as possible from people you trust. Everyone is trying to cash in on you, so you must be a wary buyer. Do I buy all things local? No way. I can’t buy certain items, like coconut oil, grown in my area! But that doesn’t mean I have to buy produce from Mexico, if it’s grown right around the corner.
It takes wisdom, knowledge of how the market works, and patience-all of which I am learning myself right now, to get good products for a fair price. It also takes time to figure out where to buy your items. It may take a little while to find a good place to buy olive oil, coconut oil, your vegetables, your meats and your eggs. But doing a little homework on brands, and how things are grown or raised is not over the top, it’s just plain common sense. After all, who wants to be prey for unscrupulous companies?
From reading other blogs, I often get the impression that some people thing that “Nourishing Tradition bloggers“, are food snobs. I hope that I have never given that impression. I am not saying eating like this is always the easiest option and that I don’t have a hard time making it work. But I do place importance on buying quality food. I don’t like buying food that I know is adulterated, cheap, and unhealthy. I hope that this blog does make you think about what you are eating and hopefully make needed changes, but I hope it also encourages you that it can be done!
“But I can’t afford it…“
I’m with you there! I am not saying it cheap or easy to buy quality. How do we deal with that? There are many things to say here, but I just want to share two tips that are really working well for me right now.
Buying From Local Produce Stands and Local Produce Markets
We have a wonderful, huge store that carries many local brands, and mostly organic . They place so much importance on this issue that they color code everything in the store, so you know whether it is locally grown, and whether it is organic. I buy many things there. However, because of their over arching costs of upkeep on a very nice market place, keeping good employees, etc, it’s not the cheapest place to shop either.
Just down the road from me is a local produce market that has organic and local produce at a cheaper price. They aren’t in a nice building and they don’t have as many employees, but I can get some wonderful deals on produce right now. My other option is a local produce stand from a farmer directly selling to customers. You know where you food comes from, can ask questions, and are supporting local industries.
Because of the abundance of Fall produce right now, I can buy it cheaper from one of the above places, and plan my meals around it. It saves quite a bit of money that way! In the above picture, that huge load of produce (all local, almost all organic) only cost 25 dollars, with a 5 dollar of coupon, I only spent 20.
Don’t Try to Eat like Kings on a Peasant’s Budget
The other thing that helps me get quality food without breaking the budget is keeping in mind that I can’t afford to eat like a King. If I tried to eat like that, I would end up buying a lot of inferior, unhealthy products to make fancy dishes. If you look at history, the peasant’s weren’t having steak every other day….and neither am I!
Instead, I concentrate on nourishing “peasant food”. Like hearty stews and soups, sourdough breads, bean dishes, sauerkraut, eggs and a limited amount of meat and fish dishes. I don’t worry about keeping things fancy, but instead I choose to enjoy the simple pleasures of simple, nourishing food.
My encouragement to you is to be wise in how you buy. Buying arsenic fed chicken, dyed cheap salmon, and hormone full beef may not be wise. With a little time and effort you can track down some other options, and if you lower your “king’s standard” to more peasant food, you can much more easily buy frugally, while still not falling prey to those who make things worse, so they can sell cheaply (and make you their prey during the process).
For more tips, read this post, 12 Tips for Squeezing Nutrient Rich Food from Your Budget.