OK folks, well, I finished June just about perfectly on budget. I spent $134.38 of my $137 food stamp level goal. That's really not too bad at all considering that I sorta went overboard with the fresh produce after May's $21 challenge left me feeling a tad bit deprived. I actually consumed two entire 16 pound watermelons this month, not to mention a fair amount of cherries, peaches, grapes, peppers, asparagus and assorted other produce!
One of my goals for June was to explore more "ethical" options. Well... I decided to focus on what "ethical" food I could find that was either within walking/biking distance or that was on the way to someplace I had to go anyway (like the vet's office.)
Soooo... I visited 2 markets, neither of which left me feeling terribly inspired. Both had very little in the way of farm fresh produce, and mostly had fancy handmade soaps, and homemade prepared foods - the vast majority of which I couldn't get anywhere near due to my many allergies.
I did find eggs averaging about $5/dozen, and one vendor that would sell me pasture raised chickens for $13.99/pound. Yikes! Of course that pales in comparison to the grass fed beef, which was $31/pound - but only if you bought half a cow. Smaller amounts cost more.
Needless to say, I didn't buy much.
The selection in my local stores was even worse. In the 4 stores that I frequent, I managed to find only one package (yes ONE!) of organic meat - chicken breasts for $8.99/pound. There was a small selection of organic produce at the chain stores, but nothing at the closer discount grocery stores.
So, obviously, if I'm gonna find more "ethical" choices, it's gonna have to require significantly more work and travel time, 'cause it ain't just gonna appear on my doorstep!
I also decided to do some research into CSA's just for the sake of comparison. I think that if you didn't have food allergies this would definitely be the way to go in terms of eating local and organic on a budget. Unfortunately for me, when I belonged to a CSA in the past, I could only eat about half of what was in my box each week and the rest was either given away to someone less allergic than me or tossed.
But, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are MANY more CSA's in operation now than there were 10 years ago when I last looked into it. And many of them are actually urban farms which is quite encouraging. On the discouraging side, there still aren't any that are willing to serve this neighborhood, and it would be a significant drive to get to any of the pickup sites. Sigh. Come on peoples!!! Folks in the barrio need fresh produce too!
But the whole thing did get me to thinking. I've been pretty outspoken about how the cost of organic and "ethical" foods put them out of reach for most people, but is it really that much more expensive to eat ethically? Perhaps this is another area where I ought to "put my money where my mouth is."
So for the month of July, I've decided that I'm gonna do an "ethical foods" experiment. Now, defining what exactly ethical means could take an entire lifetime, and I'm sure that you'll get a completely different answer depending on who you ask.
So for the purposes of this study (and to keep myself from going completely broke and/or insane) I've decided that I'll allow myself to buy only foods that are either organically produced, locally produced or salvage goods.
"Local" being defined as anything produced within the state of Colorado and "Salvage goods" including anything in the markdown bin at the regular store, or any goods purchased from the salvage grocery store - I'm sure these won't meet the organic or local criteria, but it's hard to argue that eating food that would otherwise go to waste isn't ethical, no matter how it was produced!
I'll still try to be as frugal as possible, and continue to eat down my pantry stockpile. I'll also record the extra driving miles that this adventure requires and at the end of the month we can tally it all up to see if it's absurdly expensive like I think it will be, or if there's a way to do it on a budget.
Wish me luck!