Whole Foods. Whole paycheck. Or so the joke goes. The misconception that organic, whole food is too expensive is a convenient excuse to make ourselves feel better for the choices we make. We all have different incomes, budgets, and life circumstances. I know when I speak; I speak from a place of white privilege. I do not live in a food desert.
I know I don’t have to chose paying my electricity bill over feeding my family. Food insecurity is real and vast. For many people, fresh fruit and vegetables is not a luxury they can afford or even reach. But there is another segment of our population, who has the option for whole food, not necessarily organic, but real food from the Earth and they choose not to take it. We can make all the jokes we want about the high prices of organic foods but, many times, those cracking up are the same individuals who drop $60 at Cheesecake Factory and don’t blink an eye or spend $20 a pop each time they zoom through McDonald’s. Am I pointing fingers? No. I am simply demonstrating that for many of us, it is all about the perception of price.
I can spend $3.00 on a venti iced green tea from Starbucks (and I do- whoops!) or I can buy a dozen grass-fed or organic eggs that will feed my family of 5 two meals. If you read my FAQ section of my website then you are familiar with my food budget. I fall under the thrifty category for a family of 4 and I am a family of 5 and 90%-95% of my purchases would be considered organics. Thank you, USDA! I will take that compliment. As I was researching for this article, I was not surprised to learn the average American spends 5.5% of their income on food at home and 4.3% of their income on food away from home. Then in 2014, unless the USDA is lying, Americans spent more on eating out than eating at home. Let me break that down for you in a really smart way. In America, we are spending a crap ton on eating out. Brilliant, I told you! So, do we have a little more wiggle room in our budget than we realize? Yes, I think we do.
In my previous article, Moods and Foods: What No One is Talking About, I highlight the increasing rates of anxiety and depression among teenagers in our country. 30%!! 30% increase!! It infuriates me. We have to look at what kind of future we are handing our children. I don’t want to look at my kids and say I turned the other way when I read about the decline of their mental health and the decline of their longevity. The choices we make today give us the power to alter the future; to me that is empowering and exciting. When I read Dr. Perlmutter, board-certified neurologist, state that the findings from the Human Genome Project were “startling;” I became enthralled. The HGP found 10% of human disease is caused by genetics and 90% is attributed to environment.
It means we can take this on. We can take back our children’s health. Mental health is health. Emotional health is health. Brain health is health. We have to start calling it what it is. Cheap food is killing us. Cheap food is robbing our children’s future and manipulating their present. If you follow this blog I am making the assumption that these topics concern you as they concern me. In America, most everything in life is a choice for those who are lucky enough to be free from the restraints of poverty. We can choose the religion we practice, the schools our children attend, the number and type of activities our children participate in and the food they consume. We can choose to “pay the farmer or pay the doctor.”
I would rather pay the farmer. I am not suggesting you spend more of your income but maybe give your budget a second glance and make a flip with the distribution between eating out and eating at home. How do I purchase 90%-95% of my “thrifty” budget on organics? I am so glad you asked. I would be happy to share.
- I limit processed food purchases.
- Our family eats less meat and dairy. Think more beans and grains.
- We shop in bulk at Costco.
- I plan meals around food that is on sale that particular week.
- If I happen to have coupons for organic foods; I will use them.
- Dessert is dessert. It is a bonus if we have the room in our budget.
Simple, really. I talked to my mom about how my grandmother fed her family of five children. They lived on a tight budget. I was curious how she made it stretch and she did so by eating whole foods. “When I was a kid we rarely had dessert because we couldn’t afford it,” my mother stated. I thought to myself, “how fabulous.” Not the budget constrictions rather the realization that dessert is a luxury. We have been fortunate enough to live in “a land of milk and honey” and now we are drowning in our delicious richness. I do not want our children to pay the high cost of cheap food.