I am very excited about my budget journey. I love my local co-op! Every time I go there and purchase something from a good farm that I know, I get this deep feeling of satisfaction. Not only do I know that the food is going to taste great, but I feel like by eating (something I love to do) I’m making the planet (my home that I love) better. It is delicious and productive all at the same time! However, being on a budget, I don’t get to buy as much delicious food as I would like. Sometimes I’m saddened at my inability to buy more blueberries, or my desire for squash that just has to go unfulfilled. It is at these moments that even the organic lovers in my life chide me for my dedication to the cause. Why sacrifice variety for organics? Buy some things organic sure, but really, most of the time:
Organics are a scam. Don’t buy them.
I started this post looking for a simple answer to that question. I even went to the library and got a pile of books, including The Third Plate. What I found is actually much more complicated, and in some ways, frightening and exciting than I ever anticipated. This post will be a basic answer to the basic question of how the USA defines organic, and why or why not you should purchase it. The larger question of what kind of food you should purchase to truly reap the biggest health benefits and the largest environmental benefits will have to come later. Stay tuned!
What does organic mean? According to a nice little article on lifehacker (a very good blog) USDA Organic or Certified Organic means that 95% or more of the content is free of synthetic additives like pesticides (not natural pesticides like sabadilla), chemical fertilizers and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering. Violations of the USDA’s organic labeling rules can ear paltry fines of up to $11,000.
So do the low fines mean that organic labeling is a load of crap? Possibly, if you go to a store like Safeway and trust their organic labels at face value (grumble, grumble, I should verify my grapefruit). However, most natural food stores like my Natural Food Co-Op in Sacramento, select brands with independent third party organic verification. Furthermore, I did a little test on one of my local organic yogurt brands, versus Dean Dairy. Here is a web page for Wallaby Organic Yogurt on their organic farms.
Here is a page from Dean’s on their sustainable corporate practices.
It is easy to tell who values sustainability and animal welfare more. Sure some of it is just marketing, but if you don’t even value it enough to put some real effort in your marketing, how possible is it that you value sustainability in truth?
What about this whole natural pesticide thing? Are natural pesticides better for the environment than synthetic? According to a recent scientific paper from the Journal of Environmental Management, yes they are per unit area used. However, because organic produce require more land area to grow the same amount of produce, this effect is reduced per unit. But it is still BETTER. Note again, that we are talking about a survey of all organic brands, including large company mass produced organic brands. Of course a large company is going to skimp and cut corners, since an $11,000 fine means nothing to them. If you verify the legitimacy and dedication of your smaller companies, you can be assured that the environmental impact of your food will be positive.
In summary, if you buy organics you can be about 95% positive you are doing something better for the planet. If you buy mass produced non organics however, you know that you are doing crap. For example, due mainly to Monsanto and the use of the pesticide roundup, the monarch butterfly population has fallen to 3.5% of their original 1990’s numbers. Do you remember hearing about how miners used canaries to judge if the environment was safe for humans or not? Smaller creatures respond to toxicity levels faster than larger ones. We can judge the health of our world by looking at the populations of the creatures we share it with.
If you want a big example, how about a 70,000 km^2 area of ocean where nothing can live because algae blooms have taken all the oxygen out of the water? This is what the large scale use of commercial fertilizers has done. There are 405 known dead zones worldwide.
We all have a choice. Is our presence on this world going to help or hinder it? If you just say whatever, my actions don’t matter, then you are getting your wish. By choice you are making your actions count for nothing or worse than that.
So be the difference. Chose to be important to your world.
Put you desire for clean air and a beautiful world into your product buying habits. Buy organic. Worst case scenario you cause only a small change, but it is A CHANGE. You, my friend, are changing the world. And if we all do that together? Well then, that is not such a small change after all.
This week in updates: Family and spices in bulk!
Wow what a week! From the family reunion in Michigan to having my world view continuously turned on its head by The Third Plate, wheels are spinning! I’ve also discovered just how amazing spices in bulk can be. One normal sized bottle of organic oregano cost $5. This small mason jar and this bag cost me $2. HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT? For five dollars I got my oregano, refilled my thyme bottle, and bought some orange peel for an experimental recipe with mung beans.
I’m also trying a new strategy about buying produce. On sale or not, I often went to the grocery store with this list of things I should buy, like bananas, citrus, kale, etc. Now, aside from a few nutrient concerns, I’m taking my $11 produce budget and going to the grocery store with an open mind. Whatever is on sale, local, and in season I will purchase. That means my bananas? Gone. Why pay to have fruit shipped all the way from Mexico? I’m not sure how it will go, but I’m trying to figure out what really living in CA means, and just what goodness CA (not mexico) can produce.
I did get cocky with my supposed knowledge of costs at the co-op. And I ended up spending a little more than I had planned. That will have to be taken out of next week’s budget. I also still feel saddened at buying my non organic instant coffee. It’s my one thing I can’t figure out how to fit into my budget yet. I’m hoping that this new flexible me at the grocery store, will help me save the money I need to make all my food purchases fit the values I see as important. See I’m not perfect! No one is. But I’ve made vast strides in the past year. With hard work and dedication, I’m out to figure out how to get this right! And I’ll let you know when I do.
The RecipeS: Easy from scratch eggs poached in tomato sauce AND easy nut butter overnight oatmeal
Two recipes this week, because really, the overnight oatmeal is just TOO easy to include all by itself. I was super excited about these eggs. Inspired by A Simple Pantry’s poached eggs in tomato sauce, I wasn’t sure if I could make something just as good from scratch, with a lot fewer ingredients. I also only had three medium tomatoes! All the recipes I saw for sauce involved a lot more. Could I take what I’d usually turn into an omelet, and make it much more exciting? And would it be easy? I did, and it was!
3 medium sized tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 leaves kale or other fresh leafy green
Boil water, and throw the tomatoes into it. Let them cook for 10 minutes. While this is going on, sauté the kale in olive oil in a nearby pan. Once the tomatoes are done, put them in a blender with the basil and one tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon oregano. Blend until you get a tasty looking tomato sauce! (Some people take off the tomato skins because it makes the mixture more smooth, but I found it to be delicious blended with the skins on!)
Pour the tomato sauce over the sautéed kale, and wait until the mixture starts to bubble. Carefully drop in the three eggs. Dust with thyme, more oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on medium heat until eggs are cooked to desired texture. Enjoy!
Easy overnight nut butter oatmeal
With the weather being so hot here (think 100 degrees constantly in my apartment) the last thing I want is a nice HOT bowl of oatmeal in the morning. I tried this by throwing some things together on the fly, and found it to be creamily delicious.
½ cup oatmeal
1 cup original soymilk
2 tablespoons flax seed
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 heaping tablespoon nut butter
In a bowl or trusty Pyrex measuring cup mix together the oatmeal, soymilk, and maple syrup. Put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, take it out and mix in the nut butter and the flax seed. Enjoy!
This Week I Felt Like: B&J That’s My Jam
I didn’t know if it could be accomplished, but my craving for a rich ice cream with good fruit AND chocolate was met. Well done B&J, well done.