Can I afford to shop ethically?

Yesterday Mr W and I were looking for soy protein powder and ventured into one of the local health food stores we had not been into before. It was lovely. It looked lovely, smelled good, made you feel great just by being there and thinking about buying all those organic, ethically traded, handmade, non-preserved items. There were young moms with young children in tow everywhere, and not a plastic bag to be seen.

But we can't afford to shop there. A block of cheese the same size as one I would buy in the grocery store for $5.50 cost $9.50, for example. Everything was expensive. The teas, the health and beauty products, the organic fruits and veg, everything cost more than I would normally pay for.

We did find a little bag of soy protein powder which wasn't unreasonable so we bought it and then left. I was feeling a little down though - wouldn't it be nice if we could all afford to shop so responsibly? Or am I being irresponsible for not altering my lifestyle completely so I can afford to shop there? How do these young families manage?

I don't have all the answers, but here has been my solution. I shop locally for my food at the Farmer's Market which is open all year round. It isn't organic, but as much as possible, it is local. At this time of year they still have local apples, pears, potatoes, beets, and carrots for example. They also have local cheeses, which turned out, when I read the label, contained the same ingredients (sans the organic part) as the $9 cheese for a third of the price. We bought 4 bagfuls of fruit, veggies, milk, cheese, and locally made high fibre bread for $45. This is more than we usually spend there because we were out of many staples, but still a good price here for the quantity of food.

Perhaps one day I will have the money to consider alternatives for my food choices. It is sad that being responsible must cost more than being a little careless. But with a some thought I do believe it is possible to make good choices by buying locally, and sometimes this too can save you money.


  1. Stephanie said...
    When you buy from little local shops instead of from a big supermarket, you may find that the owner will give you better deals once they realize that you are a regular. We have a big farmers market here, and we can get certain vendors to set aside items for us and give us a slightly lower price because they know that we will continue to buy from them.
    Debt Dieter said...
    I don't equate organic with ethical personally. I think buying only what you need (no waste), with as little processing and packaging as possible is a great way to go. Buying in season, and as local as you can is good too, and usually a bit cheaper!
    Wooly Woman said...
    Debt dieter I guess I equate organic with environmental ethics because growing in this manner is much kinder to the environment compared to larger scale mass production of food. Having said that, local farmers here tend to grow on smaller farms, whether they are certified organic or not, so it also has a lighter environmental impact.

    Good point Stephanie about the Farmers Market. We get our coffee from a local roaster and she is quite willing to trade or give us deals which is fantastic!
    MG said...
    "Organic" is marketing pure an simple. There is nothing inherently healthier about eating organic food. By it's technical definition all food is organic.
    Chocoholic said...
    mg - By the chemistry definition, yes, all food is organic. However, the USDA certification means the 100% organic foods were grown without pesticides. Personally, I feel that ingesting less pesticides in healthier. :) Is all "organic" food healthier for you? No, organic mozzerella sticks aren't really any healthier than reguler ones.

    I purchase organic, when possible, because I want to ingest less pesticide residue (which remains in certain fruits nad vegetables, even after washing) and I want to reduce the use of pesticides in the environment. I don't want the people growing my food exposed to it and I don't want the water run off containing the pesticides to enter our water system.

    Organic is not purely marketing, it does have a meaning and some people do care about it. As someone whose mother has had breast cancer three times, I am very particular about the chemicals I am exposed to. Organic tells me it's going to be free from pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic hormones and genetic engineering. We do not have enough evidence to show these things in food do not have a lasting effect on the body.

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