Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sustainable Living: Balancing Price and Ethics

Welcome to the October 2012 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Ethical Shopping Choices This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they make purchasing choices.
If you have ever had a chance to check out our meal plans, you know we eat pretty well. What you may not know is that I do it on a pretty limited budget (less than $1 person/meal). So,  I have to constantly make choices that balance values, nutrition, and budget.

Picking blueberries.
We choose to do what we can to first choose local. We live in the Pacific Northwest, so it is easier than many places. I was able to save up a bit over the summer to make a bulk purchase of dry goods that were mostly local and organic through a group. We frequent farmer's markets and a local produce stand where we meet the owners and hope we can trust their answers. Because we get to know our sources, we stand a better chance at getting a better deal.
Things like rice and pasta fill our bellies for longer periods, and there just isn't a local source for these. If there is, the price difference is so drastic, I can't justify it. My budget isn't just there to help manage our funds, it IS our funds, and when it is gone, that is it. So, if I can feed my family 4 times with imported over once with the local, then so be it.

All from my garden at my mom's house.
Firstly, just to balance between the Local and Organic/Humane categories is tricky.
We purchase produce through a CSA that works with not just local organic sources, but distant ones so we can treat ourselves to things like bananas and oranges.
After that, we just flat out can not afford to buy everything organic. We can't afford to always eat pastured, grass fed, free range, etcetera. But, I feel these are important things. So instead we choose to limit our meat intake, so we can splurge for that amazing grass fed beef roast. I think we only buy it twice a year, and it is a big occasion. I try to attend to the Dirty Dozen but have grace for the Clean Fifteen.

Fair Trade
We drink coffee every day. I think that for something we are going to consume every day, we are especially responsible to make sure it is clean, and sustainable. It took us a little bit to find a way to enjoy this morning ritual frugally as well as sustainably, but it seems to be becoming more common to find.  There have been times when we chose to go without over purchasing less responsible sources.

Our Garden
We work hard to supplement our budget with our own garden. We don't own our home, and only recently moved out of apartment living, so my garden is at my mom's house. I spend the fall preserving all the bounty I can get my hands on. This helps us enormously, and I am so grateful for the help my family is in creating that space and cultivating that.

Digging potatoes.

Doesn't that all sounds so great and idyllic?  It is all how we truly want to be. We do our best to manage it. But honestly: we are only partially there. There were times when groceries are a concern and we are scraping the back of the pantry for something to fill our children's bellies. For us, it all comes down to constantly reminding ourselves that we do not need a constant supply of any particular food, so we can be discernable when we do treat ourselves. If we can't afford to eat humanely raised meat every day then we don't need to be eating meat every day. By focusing on local in season. Choosing our priorities and doing the best we can with what we have. And counting our blessings with every bite we take.

Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival! Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:


  1. Firstly, I am drooling over that soup!

    When it comes to ethical consumption, I know some things but I have a lot to learn. Food, especially is something I need to be better informed about. While I have chosen to become vegetarian for myself, my husband and children still eat meat so we are still buying it.
    This post (and the links you provided) will help me a lot when it comes to making better choices for them.

  2. I wish I had your green thumb! I'm pretty much useless in the garden, so I've joined a CSA: still local, and a great deal for all-organic veg.

    And I'm totally with you on the meat: less often, but good and clean when we do eat it! It's better for our bodies and better for the planet that way.

  3. I agree about the meat! We are on a tight grocery budget, too! I invested in a half pork loin from an organic/sustainable/free-range/hormone free/all natural farm a month ago and still have a ton of it in the freezer. It will last a long time because we don't feel a need to eat meat every day. Yesterday I bought some sausage from the same farmer and will split the small package into two meals.

  4. We went absolutely local when we had to stick to a tight budget soon after we invested in our home, a little over a decade ago. The process was very enlightening. Luckily, our local choices were very budget friendly, and left us feeling a bit guilty about not exploring this earlier.

    Great post!. Making healthy choices takes effort, but so worth it!

    Love, Vidya (for the

  5. Sounds like we work on a lot of the same principles. Thanks for putting these great tips out there!