My One Splurge: Local Food

Enjoy this guest post from Alexis Bonari

Since adopting minimalism and frugal habits, I’ve cut out most of the luxuries I used to count as part of daily life: eating out at nice French or Italian restaurants, gourmet coffee from the café down the street, buying new and cute clothes every month—you get the picture.

The one thing I will not skimp on, however, is ethical food.

After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I decided to take on the twisted food industry by supporting local farmers and eating as little of anything that didn’t come directly from the farmers’ market. This is, admittedly, difficult. I’m the crazy lady who makes her own shampoo and fruit juice, but you really can’t expect me to make my own ketchup or grow my own tea, and neither of those is available at the local market. That means I drag my feet to Whole Foods, where I inevitably spend enough money on ethically traded and organic nonsense to make my toes curl.

The Expenses of Eating Ethically

Although there are ways to make the farmers’ market experience thrifty (such as investing in a community-supported agriculture program), locally grown and organic produce tend to be more expensive at the market than they are at certain grocery stores. This isn’t always true, but let’s take a look at my personal experience with the herb, basil.

  • At the farmers’ market, a handful of basil (about 2oz) costs $5.
  • At my neighborhood grocery store, ¾ oz of basil costs $2.19. It’s not organic and it wasn’t even grown in the United States.
  • But wait. The Asian market a few miles down the road sells Thai basil for $2.50 a pound. A pound. That’s 16 oz. For $2.50.

Sure, I could choose to buy produce for eye-poppingly low prices, but I can’t shake the icky feeling I get when I eat something that wasn’t raised locally or organically. Both are significantly better the local economy and even the American food industry as a whole. Buying organic basil from the farmers’ market is not only healthier for my body but it leaves a smaller carbon footprint; the basil traveled down the road as opposed to literally across an entire ocean and then a continent to get into my homemade pizza. For me, there is no price on mindful eating.

Eating Less Tortured Meat

Since converting to a more ethical diet, I have also become something of a (cheating) vegan. Livestock accounts for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. As funny as it is to think that cow burps and other gaseous emissions—you know what I’m talking about—are literally hurting our ozone, it’s no laughing matter. Moreover, most meat sold in grocery stores and all meat sold in fast food chains (what little actual meat can be found) come from animals raised in inhumane and downright sadistic conditions in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operation). As an animal lover, I couldn’t stand the moral dissonance of objecting to animal cruelty by eating a MacDonald’s burger.

Buying meat from the farmers’ market, too, is expensive, which means I buy less for higher quality food and thereby eat less meat in total.

  • A pound of bacon at the market is $8.
  • A pound of bacon at the neighborhood grocery store is $2.
  • A pound of bacon at the Asian market down the road is $4.

If spending a few extra dollars a week means I supported local farmers who cultivate beautiful, grassy fields for happy pigs, cows, and chickens (“happy” up until the whole slaughtering bit, of course), that’s money well spent in my book.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching military dependent scholarships as well as target scholarships. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.