by Jas Faulkner
My writing for ENFM is usually oriented towards news features as opposed to a confessional style. However, I am making an exception after getting a very interesting personal message via Facebook.
The letter writer in question wanted to know what my family eats, how we eat, and how we afford to eat the way we do. They had been to the East Nashville Farmers Market and the Turnip Truck and Whole Foods and had seen the cost of a can of soup and a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs and from their standpoint, it looked like a prohibitively expensive may to manage a home kitchen.
I thought about her letter the other day when I was at Publix to refill one of our water jugs. I realized I'd left my cash at home and decided to buy something at the store and just get some cash with my purchase.How hard would it be to buy something useful at Publix? It used to be my go-to for all manner of green, sustainable products for the household pantry.
The produce section was my first stop. What was in season was trucked in from another part of the continent, sometimes another part of the hemisphere. If it wasn't, it was something my family grew or we bought from a local farmer. Bread and pastries? We bake our own. As for the middle of the store, we usually follow the advice given by Michael Pollan and Chicago Chef, Rick Bayless and keep to the periphery of the store as much as possible. When I did venture down a given aisle, I found that what they had to offer was either something we bought from a family owned, fair trade, or local producer (cereal, staples for baking, oil, crackers) or it was something we already made ourselves (nut butters, mayonnaise, most of our pickles and relishes). I finally settled on a block of organic cheese, took my change and got my water.
You might be reading this and thinking, "The woman walked all over a Publix and acted like my nine-year-old in front of our semi-filled refrigerator on a Thursday after a Saturday grocery run. What DO you eat? Tofu and lawn clippings?
The truth might surprise you. While I am not completely meat-free (yet), meals at my house consist of a starch, a protein and vegetables. I know. How exotic. Here are some other facts about how we live: There is little in my household that is processed and has more than five ingredients. One of the goals everyone in the household keeps when shopping is to avoid foods with more than five ingredients or ingredients that would not be recognizable to most great-grandmothers as a food item or a pantry staple. What meat remains, our dairy, our eggs, our produce, are all local. We dehydrate, can, and freeze our surplus as a hedge against high prices in the winter. We use as much of everything as we can. . All food waste is composted or fed to animals who live in the small wooded area behind the house. Putting out the trash for us usually consists of one small bag a week for the people who are contracted by the city, a box of glass bottles and a plastic storage box of paper,boxes and recyclable plastics for a private recycling company.
One final fact: Our monthly food bill averages around three hundred and fifty dollars a month.
Want to know more? Here are some websites that have served as valuable resources for us. We recommend the books and magazines attached to these sites as well and encourage you show your support for these individuals and organizations by buying what they publish.
Michael Pollan's Website Food Politics - Marion Nestle's Website
Mother Earth News Grit
Urban Farm Online Earth 911
Slow Food International Rodale