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Penny Pinching Epicure: The Penny Pincher's Dilemma

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Penny Pincher's Dilemma

I am not independently wealthy, I work for a non-profit and I live in an expensive city, so I stick to a pretty strict food budget. I am in constant struggle with my frugal side that really wants to buy things as cheap as possible, and my eco- & ethical-conscious side that really wants to buy organic, sustainable, home-grown and humanely harvested products.

Unfortunately, the words "organic," "sustainable," "home-grown," and "humane" and the like usually add a significant amount to the price tag. In fact, if I only bought items that fell into those categories I could easily double (if not triple) my food expenditures.

So what to do? I haven't yet come up with a good answer. In a perfect world, I would have enough resources to spend on food that matches my consciousness to sustainability and ethical treatment of animals, but right now that just isn't a reality for me. Yes, people do make it work when things are a priority, it just happens that I have other priorities that take precedence right now. Does that make me a bad person?



Blogger David said...

I have a nit to pick with the term "organic." When I was in school, back in the paleolithic era, "organic" was a chemistry term meaning "contains carbon" - thus inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry were two separate areas of study.

The modern foodies/naturalists have taken a perfectly descriptive term and have used it to mean something qualitatively different than its technical meaning (i.e. if I used cyanide as a pesticide that would qualify as organic under the chemical term but not under the food-labeling term).

The second and fourth terms represent something I see as a commendable virtue, while the third should not apply to anything purchased in a store (because the logic that lets a commercial product be characterized as "home-grown" could apply to pretty much anything - after all, even the biggest commercial farms have people who live on them...)

In any case, I wouldn't see this as a good person / bad person divide: when you have discretionary income, preferentially select those items which fit your ideology. Until then, the choice is out of your hands, and you have to do what you need to do to live.

November 29, 2009 at 3:01 PM  

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