When it comes to eating according to our values, there are a number of assumptions we have to challenge around the reasons we give for defaulting to the supermarket option.
We tell ourselves we’d like to eat locally grown, or eat from our own garden, or buy direct from a farmer, but almost immediately the excuses why we can’t start coming.
Hey, I get it. Really, I do. It’s taken me years to change my shopping and eating habits to reduce my reliance on the supermarket – and I could still do better – but making change doesn’t happen in one fell swoop.
Change is incremental. It starts with a big decision but is actioned with small steps.
If you haven’t written down your food values yet, then please go back and read the first article in this series, because now we’re going to challenge what is probably the biggest reason people give for why they can’t eat any differently -cost!
‘Cost’ isn’t about price. It’s about value. I don’t mean the ‘2-for-1’ sense of value, because that’s still about price. I mean the intrinsic value of the food you eat. Before you dismiss this as something only the privileged can consider in their food choices, just think it through for a moment.
Yes, there are people who are so economically disadvantaged and socially disempowered that they don’t have the privilege of contemplating value before price, but that does not preclude us from changing our own thinking.
This is where your food values really take centre stage.
Do you value food higher than, say, a Netflix subscription? Would you rather buy cheap food at a supermarket, so you can spend $10 on lunch at a food court every day? Your spending habits are the best barometer for where your current food values sit.
Let’s take meat as an example. If you eat meat, what does it mean to you to know if that steak or roast chicken has been raised and slaughtered with care and respect? How important is it to you to know that it has been raised entirely on pasture and not in a feedlot or barn?
Ethically produced meat costs more because it has a higher value. Purchasing that meat ensures a fair farm gate price, a happier animal, a healthier landscape and a sustainable future. Not to mention a more nutritious and tastier product.
The secret to being able to buy this meat if you can’t increase your food budget is to eat less of it. Eat less meat, but better meat.
When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, many of the same considerations about value apply, but there is another manipulation at play here – seasonality.
Supermarkets obscure seasons by making almost any fruit and vegetable available whenever we want it. Supermarkets use this to their advantage. They will always sell carrots (what I call a ‘gateway vegetable’) cheaply. A bunch of carrots bought directly from a farmer will always cost more. But once a supermarket has got you through the gate with the cheap carrots, many other vegetables are more expensive than if bought from a farmer.
You might save on the carrots, but overall, you’re not paying any less and might even be paying more. And again, what are you paying for? What value are you receiving in the fruit and vegetables you buy from a farmer? We really need to stop thinking about food in terms of price and recognise the value embedded instead.
Now we’ve stopped fixating on price, I’d like you to think about the next important aspect of cost. How much do you waste? This is a greatly overlooked part of the equation. How much money are you scraping into the bin or the compost? If you paid more for your food, would you waste less of it? If you wasted less of it, could you reduce how much you spend?
I haven’t even touched on how much fresher ethically sourced food is compared to supermarket food and therefore how much better it stores, again reducing waste and saving money.
So once again, I ask you to refer to your food values and examine your reasoning when you feel yourself reaching for your excuses why you can’t make a change in your eating and shopping habits. Is it really about the cost? Would you like to start making food choices that are more aligned with your values? Because you can with just a few changes in thinking.
Kate Raymond is passionate about food and the impact it can have on people and the planet. Over the coming months, Kate will share her wisdom and experience with you in her ‘Local Table’ series – no guilt or baggage, just good words to get you thinking and maybe taking action.
Kate has lived in the Eurobodalla since 2003 and in 2013 became the manager of the award-winning SAGE Farmers Market in Moruya. In 2017, Kate launched Local Table a new way of accessing locally grown fresh produce.