Monday, July 30, 2007

The Grocery Game

Buying groceries should be easy, right? Make a list, go to the store, pick out the items that look best to you, and pay. How hard can it be?

But for me, buying groceries can be a very complex matter of sifting through various priorities. That's because I try to make purchases that reflect my values.

What are those values and why are they important to me? In approximate order of importance, they are:
  • Grown, made and/or sold locally - to support local businesses and to reduce the fuel for transportation. I have a special preference for patronizing our local food co-op when possible.
  • Organically produced - to reduce potential damage to my family's bodies and to help create a profitable market for methods that do the least harm to the environment.
  • Fair Trade - As a Catholic, I believe it is important to show solidarity with workers by purchasing items for which a fair price has been paid.
  • Not a "Red" company - I don't want to support any company that supports the Bush administration.
  • Inexpensive - My family and I are following the Dave Ramsey plan to eliminate our debt, so I try to choose items that are good values and keep us within our budget.
  • Low-carb - After losing 40 lbs on a low-carb diet several years ago, I look for items that will help me maintain that weight loss.
With all these filters to apply, shopping can be rather tricky! Say I'm at the co-op and I pick up a can of diced tomatoes from Muir Glen. Locally made - no. Locally sold - yes. Organic - yes. Fair trade - no. Red company - yes (Muir Glen is owned by General Mills). Inexpensive - not particularly. Low-carb - yes. So what do I do? In this case, I put it back and pick up a box of diced tomatoes from Pacific Natural Foods instead. Everything is the same except the company is an independent with no history of political donations.

Why do I go to so much thought and trouble for what I buy? Because I realized that in our society, the power of the purse is one of the greatest powers that I as a consumer can wield. Money really does talk, and retailers really do listen. I believe it is no coincidence that the organic market has exploded over the past few years, since about the time I started choosing organic. I alone am not responsible for that, of course, but I am convinced that people like me - ordinary consumers making thoughtful, thought-out choices - are moving the market in the direction we want it to go.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


This blog is dedicated to those who attempt, however fruitlessly, to strike a comfortable balance between many possible alternatives.

In my life, I struggle to find that comfortable balance. Convenience versus conservation? Frugality versus fair trade? Prosperity versus politics? Every dollar I spend, every decision I make, seems to reflect on who I am and what I believe. If I am the sum total of my choices in life, then what choices must I make to produce a life of which I can be proud?

In this space, I will explore some of those choices and consider what these competing priorities might mean to me and to others. I welcome your contributions and your insights.