Buying Ethically and Shopping With “Values”

Guest Post by Carrie from Frugalistic Mom

On frugal blogs, we talk a lot about how to get more stuff for less money. But lately, I’ve been thinking more about how to allocate my budget in ways that I feel better about.

I would love it if I could afford to buy only the products I feel the best about — and maybe I will achieve that one day! However, I am not going to go over budget just to purchase these products. Here’s how we’ve started buying products we feel better about without increasing our budget:

I realized that we didn’t need as much as we thought we did.

I used to buy meat for each dinner of the week, and lunch meats for sandwiches. Then I started reading about factory-farmed meat, animal cruelty, and environmental degradation.

Our family decided to cut back our meat consumption to three or four meals a week, in order to free up more money in our weekly grocery budget for beef that we buy directly from a farmer we feel good about. The same goes for shopping locally instead of through mass retailers or online.

I stopped comparing apples to apples {literally and figuratively}.

Organic apples are more expensive than conventional – no question. But when compared to other food, pound for pound, organic apples can still be purchased pretty affordably.

Once I stopped comparing the organic price to the conventional price for every little thing, and just thought about what I was spending per pound for my food, I stressed less about the expense for the good stuff.

I prioritized our values.

Most of us can’t afford to buy the best of everything. I don’t buy all organic, even though I know this would be ideal in terms of environmental protection. I don’t buy all organic produce. Instead, I use the list from the Environmental Working Group to determine which produce is most likely to be contaminated with pesticides and I buy those organic. I buy conventional produce for all the rest of my produce purchases.

I put my money into what matters to me, not into showing off.

When my first child was a baby, I felt like everything that went into her mouth – and especially into the snack bag I handed her on the playground – had to be organic or the other mothers would think I was terrible.

I remember even buying organic cookies for her. Now that I’m a mom of three with more confidence in my own choices, I laugh about that. My baby didn’t need cookies at all, much less organic ones. And I don’t care what the other moms think, as long as I feel good about what I’m feeding the kids.

I make it at home when I can.

I’m no do-it-yourself diva – I can barely cut paper in a straight line. However, I realized that some products are so easy to make in an environmentally friendly formula that it’s really no trouble – like spray cleaner out of vinegar and baking soda.

I’m not a very good gardener, but those who are can do a lot toward easing the environmental burden of their diet by growing organic food at home. When I do price comparisons between do-it-yourself and store-bought, I try to remember to consider the social or environmental cost of the product – not just the dollar amount.

I make easy switches.

When I read about the child slavery involved in conventional cocoa beans, I decided not to buy chocolate. And to be honest, I was upset at the prospect of not purchasing our usual chocolate treats. However, once I got over the shock, I realized that kids love lollipops and other candies too. I can splurge to buy a couple fair trade chocolates for the kids, but otherwise I’m sticking to non-chocolate candies for now.

There are plenty of other foods that also come with a heavy human rights price, but since conventional chocolate isn’t a necessity, it was one of the easier choices to make.

I gave myself a pat on the back for choices that just happen to contribute to a greater good.

I’ve been buying nearly all of my kid’s clothes – and an increasing number of my own – second-hand. I do this to save money, but also because buying second-hand is more environmentally friendly, too.

I consider part of my shopping budget as charity.

If you buy the cheapest of everything without thinking about the consequences, and save thousands of dollars each year to donate to charity… are you really helping create the world you want? I’m not saying we should stop supporting charities, but instead, try supporting a retailer that operates according to your values. This can be as powerful as a direct donation.

With all that said, I understand that thinking about the ethics of what you buy is not going to fit into everyone’s budget. If I could barely afford enough groceries to get through the week, I would not waste one minute thinking about organic versus conventional.

And of course, not everyone shares my family’s values. You may go out of your way to support a retailer that I don’t feel comfortable supporting, or vice versa. I’m not trying to convince others to stop buying conventional chocolate or start buying organic. My point is that if there are things that bother you about what you’re buying, you may be able to find a way to shop with your values.

Carrie Kirby blogs about being a realistic frugalista in Chicago at Frugalistic Mom.

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Comments

  1. alicia says

    Why do you buy the organic produce that is most likely contaminated with pesticides? Isn’t that why you DO buy organic, so they are not with pesticides?

    • Laura says

      I’m sure she means that she buys organic produce when shopping for the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated.

    • Susan says

      Alicia, I’m sure that the author was saying that she uses a reference to identify which kinds of conventional produce typically have the highest pesticide residues and purchases organic instead. Pesticides can’t be used in the production of organic foods.

    • says

      What she’s saying is buy organic, rather than conventional, those items that are most likely contaminated – and thereby avoid the pesticides.

    • Kay says

      I think you misunderstood. She is saying she looks up the list of produce that when grown conventionally has the highest likelihood of being contaminated with pesticides. (i.e. the “dirty dozen” list) and chooses to purchase these items organically to reduce her family’s overall consumption of pesticides.

    • says

      I think she means that she chooses items that are most likely to be contaminated if not organic, and buys those as organic. The EWG puts out a list called the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen that explains this. :)

    • Donna says

      Alicia, what she means is she buys the produce that is most heavily contaminated with pesticides when purchased normally, and buys the organic version instead.

      • alicia says

        There had to be a typo… I was one of the 1st to read and respond and they reworded the phrase that I copied in my post..

  2. Sarah says

    I am completely in agreement. Any time I buy organic, produce in particular, I feel I am contributing to the greater good and helping to keep the organic farmers who are working SO HARD to give us quality food and to do the right thing, in business. We eat a plant-based diet but are not completely animal-product free and feel it’s worth it to buy small amounts of meat and/or cheese that costs more. It’s not only for the health of people that we do this, but it’s the treatment of the animals as well. God gave us dominion over the animals but that did not give us excuse to abuse them as they are in factory farming. If everyone would watch Food, Inc. it might change their perspectives a bit. BTW, Arbor Day supports Fair Trade coffee growers AND trees. It’s a win/win!

  3. says

    I found that last point very interesting. I am sometimes frustrated because I want to help the little/ local businesses but sometimes it just doesn’t make sense because they are generally more expensive. I had never thought of looking at it similarly to my charitable giving though and possibly using some of my charitable giving budget to fund those purchases. Definitely something to keep in mind!

    • Andrea Q says

      Another point to consider…when you shop at small, local businesses instead of the national/large regional chains, that money stays local longer. For example, if you buy something at Target or Home Depot, the money you spend leaves your community and state in a matter of minutes, because it goes to one large corporation (and they likely pay a lot of it to Chinese companies). If you shop locally, the money is circulated around to other businesses.

    • WilliamB says

      “I consider part of my shopping budget as charity.”

      I use this theory when I buy services. My hiring a housekeeper means not only do I not have to clean my house (a chore I loathe) but she makes a living as well.

      An Indian friend of mine says this is the norm in the rich sector of her community back home in India: rich people are practically obligated to hire people to work for them, as a way of spreading the wealth and supporting their community members.

  4. Anna says

    I agree with buying from businesses like “mom & pop” shops or other retailers who share your values. I buy all produce from local Farmer’s Markets. I also pay a local farm a fee each year which can be worked off by helping with planting and growing and purchase produce from them almost year round. I prefer fresh produce as much as possible for my family but it is hard to get year round. Luckily though in my experiences fresh produce is economically much better than produce bought at the grocery store. I don’t know how many time I have bought produce at Aldi’s only to have it moldy in a couple days. Don’t get me wrong I love Aldi’s but on occasion the fruit and vegetables don’t last. I never have that problem with fresh produce I buy locally.

    Good posting. Good thoughts. Each family has to do and buy in the way that is best for them because no one else knows their situation but them.

    • Anna says

      PS I learned from MSM over the years that saving money is not always about the cash savings. Yes, I can go to Wags and get free contact solution and travel from store to store and get more and and more free contact solution. WHAT I don’t wear contacts so I can donate! That kind of free stuff and donations was a waste of time for me and MSM helped me with that insight. I found I would rather buy from local businesses and buy things my family will benefit from, me (vs. running store to store for something we won’t use), money saved on gas consumption, and used towards products that contribute to our overall well being as a family.

  5. Cotton says

    I do appreciate this article. I wish our budget allowed for more choices in the organic and local products available. I do buy what I can but perhaps as we continue to whittle down our debt I will be able to increase my purchases in those areas. We are already down two meatless meals a week and maybe I will continue to work on improving that lower. Need more recipes!?!

    • says

      Just because your budget is tight, don’t completely write off local produce. A local orchard sells their minimally sprayed apples at a local farmer’s market for 20 cents less per pound than conventional apples at Walmart.

    • Shannon says

      If you buy froma local orchard you can also get what they call “seconds” these are typically much cheaper and most of the time are fine fruit. They are just not as “pretty” they may have had a bird take a bite or a surface blemish. I buy a lot of these and make our own applesauce :)
      while they are in season this is what we typically buy.

    • Elizabeth says

      I do think it is a process. Does your grocery cart look better (more organic, more local, more sustainable) than it did last year? Then you are making progress! Perfect is the enemy of good. Keep it up!

  6. says

    I love this post!

    When money is tight it can seem like an extravagance to pay more for organic food. But I have decided that, for many of the reasons cited above, it is worth the extra cost.

    My goal now is to purchase food that I can feel good about without spending more than is necessary.

  7. says

    Fantastic post! I was just talking to a group of ladies last night about how my shopping mindset has changed from my “extreme” couponing a year ago. I still use coupons when I can, but my decisions are based more on what is BEST for our family and not just what seems like the best (cheapest) deal. I love that you point to thinking of others and not just your own family too. Thanks for a great & encouraging post!

  8. Hope says

    Great article! My husband and I have really thought about the impact of the items we buy. We are still trying to figure out how best to spend our budget to support companies who care, who practice fair-trade, and so on. It’s overwhelming when you first look at it, but if we can take one item at a time and change, then it’s easier. There’s a great website, betterworldshopper.com that ranks companies on their ethics, environmental impact, social justice, etc. Now that my eyes have been opened, I do not want to buy things that contribute to human slavery (which is at all time high in history). We started with coffee and now are working on our clothes. I also made a list of the worst offenders and do not buy from them anymore. Thank you for this article, because I don’t think most Americans ever stop to think about what they are supporting by what they are buying. I know I didn’t until a missions speaker came to our church and spoke about it.

  9. says

    This is great! This is something we wrestle with too, but try to do the “right” thing as much as possible. It means sometimes we turn down freebies and great deals because it’s a product that we don’t need or that would harm the environment, nd that’s okay!

    I like your point about viewing it as charity. We don’t do a great job of budgeting in general, but for awhile we had set it up so that we were trying to give a certain percent of our income to charity every month, and then had an additional 10% to spend on fair trade/ethical spending…. So, items that were going to benefit us but also would help others, too!

    • says

      Kelly, What a great idea to have designate an “ethical spending” budget. I think this would help me reconcile my price-hunting impulse with my impulse to do right.

  10. Penny T. says

    I literally just wrote an article last night about some of these same things that I was going to submit to your website as a guest post. Well, darn, I guess I need to spend my time elsewhere. I totally agree with everything in this post. It’s like she took the words right out of my mouth… lol

    • Sarah T. says

      Could you post it in the comments? Or is it too long for a comment? I’m fascinated with the idea of child slavery for cocoa and will be researching that for myself. Do you have any other specific examples you have come across?

      • Andrea Q says

        Once you start researching the ethics of companies, you’ll be shocked, Sarah. I often feel like there isn’t a company out there that is completely ethical.

        • WilliamB says

          Companies can’t be complete ethical … because there’s no one definition of what that is.

          • Andrea says

            True, but my point is that there’s always a skeleton in the closet, often more than one. Do the research and decide for yourself, but expect to be surprised (and probably not in a good way)!

      • Penny T. says

        It’s too long… almost 500 words detailing 10 ways to help your family eat healthier. I didn’t go into specifics as far as ethics of products but I have come across in my research that here in the U.S. we pay tomato pickers (particularly Trader Joe’s apparently) very, very low wages. I signed a petition to TJs asking that they pay them more because I’m willing to pay a little more for their tomatoes if they pay their workers fairly. This may be the case with other produce, as well. These are tough battles to fight but I think if we all make efforts to feed our families more healthy, we could potentially shift the emphasis from factory farms, inhumane practices, uses of subpar and dangerous ingredients in our products, etc.

        • Meghan says

          Trader Joe’s is owned by Aldi. So my hunch would be that if Trader Joe’s pays low wages, it’s because Aldi does too…hence all that super cheap produce that Aldi always seems to have.

          I love a bargain, but it’s rare that a bargain comes at no cost to something/someone else. Cheap goods = people paid cheaply and/or cheap materials. Cheap food = people paid cheaply to harvest it and/or bad ingredients (processed, unnatural).

          There is a cost to cheap things…..it may be a benefit to one person, but it comes at a cost to someone else, too.

          • lauren says

            I agree….I love a good bargain to but struggle with good bargain vs knowing people are treated fairly. I am not going to get into a debate here but I think sometimes us looking for the cheapest thing is NOT always the best thing long term. I am a smart shopper for sure but have been thinking much more lately about how people are treated in different jobs and if i would want my hubby treated that way. We can say it’s business to shrug it off but personally I feel this and of course us having to have the best of the best are the reasons we are in so much debt as a nation! Just my two cents ;)

          • Elizabeth says

            This is such a tough one– TJ doesn’t play suppliers well, but does treat direct employees well. What to do, what to do? I guess buy local and direct as much as possible, and just make the best possible choices otherwise. And stop eating chocolate. Rats. :-)

      • jennifer brown says

        Sarah…. at our mops meeting last month we had a lady come and talk about fair trade food and child slavery. She has a website with a newsletter by email of things you shouldn’t buy from certain countries because of the increase in child slavery. Her site is….. shoptostopslavery.com (I think, but you could atleast tootle the first part). She is also sells jewelry made by survivors of human trafficing out of St Augustine fl. That site I believe is called made by survivors.com. I hope this will help you some.

        • Sarah T. says

          Thank you for the link! She’s got a lot of info I’ll have to sift through when I have time.

  11. Laura says

    Finally a great article on this on a money saving blog! What we buy has such an impact on the environment, and such a big audience can make a difference but making small changes.

  12. Donna says

    I loved this post! And I decided that buying healthier and organic foods is worth it. You can pay a little more at the grocery now, or pay it to the doctor and pharmaceutical companies later. There are so many ways to lower food costs on healthier foods. A farm near us has a work days where we can come on the farm and receive $5 in organic produce for every hour worked. Subscribing to a CSA can also provide all of you produce needs for the growing season for a low cost. Some even let you add meat and eggs as well. Check out localharvest.org. They have a great data base of CSAs and farmers markets. Eat less! If most of us looked at how much we eat, it is too much. If we actually ate proper portions, but purchased mostly organic food, I think a lot of us would be surprised that our grocery bill doesn’t go up too much. My husband is vegetarian, so that helps with our meat costs.

    I do not buy Nestle products for many ethical reasons, and prefer to buy fair trade chocolate. I don’t shop at Wal-Mart because of their business practices (I worked there, and won’t even go into the terrible things that happened). I will not buy corn (or corn products) unless organic, because they are more than likely GMOs. It is little choices I make every day, and we still are working toward eating how we feel we should. But I do believe we are healthier for it.

  13. Becky K says

    Thank you. The author presents a very balanced approach. I’ve really been thinking about these kinds of things recently, so I needed to read this.

    Some weeks I have a lot of difficulty just getting bare essentials. I should not feel guilty for providing what I can for my family, but there is often always *something* I can do to help where it makes the most difference in the healthfulness of my family’s diet. Important things to consider.

  14. Laura says

    Interesting post! I became a vegetarian years ago because of the serious issues related to factory farming in America, mostly animal welfare, but also chemical (including antibotics and hormones) and envirommental. I just decided that I didn’t want to do anything that supported those operations.

    I buy eggs from an area farmer or with “cage-fee, certified humane” labels in the store. And I buy BGH-free milk. Those products can be more expensive than their factory-farm counterparts, but are well worth it to me.

  15. larissa says

    Another way to purchase organic products in bulk at a savings is to look into Azure Standard. They have drops (pick up locations) all over the country and you can get organic produce for the same price or cheaper than store produce.

    • Andrea Q says

      Azure Standard does not do drop deliveries in the eastern US…I’m not sure, but I don’t think they have drop points east of the Mississippi River.

  16. says

    Lots of great advice and food for thought! I also realized that the more healthy the food, the less hungry I seemed to be after eating it.

    A quick question, you mentioned the spray cleaner of baking soda and vinegar. Would you please list the recipe and what you use it for?

    I am looking for a homemade shower cleaner that really works. – Any suggestions?

  17. Amanda T says

    Recently I made the choice to support our local farmers by buying our produce from the farm stand. Unfortunately for us I realized it really wasn’t any better than buying in the grocery store because our local farmers hire undocumented illegal aliens and pay them low wages and work them long hours. I understand this to be a widespread practice across the USA. Any ideas on what to do in this instance?

    • Lana says

      You are right about that being a problem. Most Americans would not even consider working out in the hot sun picking or growing produce and so this is where alot of the help comes from. If we deport all the illegal aliens in the USA our produce will rot in the fields.

      • Beth L. says

        That very thing happened last year in GA. There was some new law passed and many of the illegals who were being paid to harvest vegetables left town quickly and local farmers could not find people willing to pick their crops. They even had parolees out in the fields in the Georgia heat and most of them didn’t make it half the day. Much of the harvest was lost simply because they couldn’t find American workers willing to do the work.

      • anna says

        But maybe unemployment will go down and wed have less people on welfare if illegals were replaced by locals. That would be something.

        • WilliamB says

          If the locals are paid what their predecessors were paid, they’d still qualify for welfare.

          Our economic system – especially the food production business – is predicated on cheap labor. Our immigration laws preclude cheap labor. The inevitable result is an abusive mess and will continue to be until the contradiction is resolved, one way or another.

    • Andrea Q says

      Are you absolutely sure they are undocumented?

      Try to find smaller farms that are mostly family operated.

      • Elizabeth says

        We buy our CSA from a small family farm and there are always workers there who are very likely undocumented– and college interns who are exempt from labor laws. If food was picked by people working “in the system” we would see the TRUE cost of food.

        • Andrea says

          I agree that our food prices are artificially low.

          However, I try not to make assumptions when I see migrant workers in the fields. Many small family farms will not take the risk in hiring undocumented workers, and I feel it is wrong to automatically assume that the farmers I support are unethical.

        • says

          Elizabeth, this is so true. It’s something that has long nagged me about being a frugal/deal blogger. I post all about produce at under a dollar a pound, but of course you cannot have food this cheap without people who are one way or another compelled to work for extremely low wages.
          It’s tough to imagine what the average person can do about that situation. It really seems like a public policy issue. But one thing is for sure — if wages for farm workers increase one way or the other, Americans will certainly pay more for food.

  18. Elizabeth says

    Great, great post. Good things to consider.

    In terms of slavery, even produce grown right here in America can be contributing to slavery. If you know your local producer you can feel better. But several farms/plantations in Florida have been busted as slavery rings. And not just immigrants, also American citizens who have been taken. Tomatoland is an interesting book that spends some time addressing this.

    • Jacci says

      That book was very eye opening. I hesitate whenever I need to buy tomatoes. I splurge on organic cherry tomatoes for our salads, but have stayed away from all others–including canned. Between the BPA and pesticides, we have chosen to plant LOTS of tomatoes in our yard this summer. Fingers crossed that the drought has passed and there will be many tomatoes to can and carry us through next winter.

    • Lana says

      I grew up and lived on Florida until I was 31 and you commonly see the vans full of workers being driven to where they will work that day. The working and living conditions for those people are deplorable. If you drive down I-95 in south Florida in the summer you can see people picking tomatoes in the tomato fields in 100 degree weather in the full sun.

  19. Adrian says

    Great article! I am always trying to be a more informed shopper and the Environmental Working Group website had great information. Thanks for sharing.

  20. says

    I too have been shopping more and more organically, I have found my weekly budget hasn’t gone up any at all, as I have done just as the author of this segment has done, I cut out a lot of what we don’t really need. I started making my own cleaners and I use a lot of Money Saving Mom’s grocery ideas, but instead of applying her tips to conventional items, I apply them to organics.

  21. domestic diva says

    We also consider buying some things (organic produce, locally-made items instead of from a chain store, etc.) to be part of our charitable giving. Yes, we still give some to organizations we support, but we also care where our pennies get spent on a daily basis and frequently pay more (within reason) to support that.

  22. says

    This is the best post I’ve ever read here, and Ive read a lot of wonderful posts. I am so impressed. Thank you! We are a family that has decided the same thing about meat, and we’re about 95% vegan. Not being 100% doesn’t bother me a bit; we do our best, we do a lot, and we keep trying to make the world better through our small choices.

    When a lot of smart, good women team up, nothing can stop us from making a difference. Small changes count!

    • Ginger says

      Love this whole post, and your comment in particular. Women truly are changing this world, one day at a time.

      Back around Christmastime, I heard an astonishing fact: If each American bought just one gift that was actually made in the USA, it would have created something like 3.5 million jobs!

      • Elizabeth says

        Well, it might create 3.5 million American jobs, but that would cost something more than 3.5 million jobs somewhere else. No easy answers here.

  23. Adrienne says

    Thank you for writing this post. Our budget is very tight right now and while I can’t afford to do every little thing I want to do right now when it comes to buying organic I have started making little changes. Sometimes reading on organic made food makes me feel like a terrible person for not doing more and that I am personally doing these mean and awful things to the non-organic food myself just for buying it! This article made me feel so much better for just doing the little things I can afford to do right now!

  24. Charity says

    I appreciate this article very much and agree wholeheartedly! I believe we need to think about all of our actions, even what we think are little ones (like where we buy our bread) because in the end they effect more than we realize!

  25. Julie Calvert says

    First, I want to say my husband and I farm for a living.We have a fruit/veggetable farm. We also have two chichen houses. I would like you all to check the places that you are getting your information about animals, “factory farms” and ” animal cruelty.”Many of these animal rights groups do not tell all the facts.Some even tell lies. Chicken cannot be injected with hormones. IT IS ILLEGAL.
    Our chicken houses are 40X400 foot. These houses are considered by many as “factory farms.” Some animal rights groups portray chickens as in cages where they cannot move around. Our chickens have the whole house roam around in.Is it animal cruelty to have as much food and water to drink as you want when you want?
    Second, all the other farmers that I know(including myself) want to take care of their animals and land.It is in their best interest because this is how they make their living.
    Yes, many of us use pesticides, but not anymore than we have to because using them unwisely can have bad side affects. Another reason we try to limit there use is that are also very costly.
    If we abuse our land one day we will no longer be able to farm.

    • Meredith says

      Thank you!!! We became veggies because of the reasons you mentioned. Yet, my husband missed his grill! So, we buy high quality and make it one time a week now. We will do something that we can stretch like a whole chicken, he grills wings, breast, and tenderloins and I’ll make sausage out of the rest. I may not be contributing to the farmers as much as I like, but at least I am!

      Oh, I’m going to admit something here. I loved this article but I am going to admit that I will never give up chocolate. There, I said it.

    • Shannon says

      Thanks for letting us know the other side of the story :) it makes me feel a bit better about getting my chickens. I guess moral of the story is just know where your food comes from.

    • Marcelaine says

      Thank you so much for sharing this thought. The animal rights groups often seem very extreme to me and I have a hard time knowing whether I should believe them.

    • Lisa says

      Julie, thank you for responding on behalf of the farmers. We too farm, and I get so frusterated by the perceptions that are out there. Well put.

      • Amy says

        Julie, I just watched something about this. The farmers they were interviewing didn’t know what was in the chicken feed, but she said that there were antibiotics to keep the chickens healthy. It was an interesting documentary and really made me think. You mentioned that it was illegal to inject hormones, but is it illegal to have hormones and/or antibiotics in their feed? I would love to learn more if you could share. I would also love to hear what brand of chicken is safe to buy if anyone knows. I only buy chicken breasts because we only like the white meat.

  26. A. S. says

    Excellent post, thanks for sharing. It’s very refreshing to see an article address these topics on a finance blog.

  27. says

    Great guest post, I agree that cost isn’t everything. I like buying local produce and helping out the small time farmers rather than buying produce at the grocery store that benefits the store and also huge farm owners.

    The same can be said for local bakeries and non chain restaurants.

  28. says

    Great article & great ideas. I am working to do the same things with my purchases. One thing I’ve done is to minimize shopping at places where I feel workers are treated poorly. We have a great regional grocery chain that treats employees well (I personally know people who’ve worked there) and takes on other issues, like energy conservation. I watch what I buy, watch for specials, and use coupons to keep the cost down, and I feel good about where I shop!

  29. says

    @Angie-I was also shocked and very disappointed with our local farm stands! I am a big gardener but found that the local stands had produce much earlier. I would always buy from them until I asked one how they got theirs so early. She told me they don’t grow ANY of it locally. It’s shipped in after they buy in bulk. Same as the grocery stores! Now if I buy from them I only go to the one local farmer I know.

    • Heather says

      Yes! I see this all the time. Many customers don’t know enough about their local climates to realize what is currently being grown. Many big “farmer’s markets” are just another kind of supermarket.

  30. says

    This is a great list, but I have just one comment… I’m not sure how you make your spray cleaner, but adding vinegar AND baking soda in one bottle simply dilutes your cleaner. They will have a reaction and then you’re left with something that’s fairly neutral. Much better to clean with a simple vinegar and water mix and if you need to scrub just dump baking soda right on the spot to use as an abrasive. :)

  31. Dana says

    I have a little different perspective. I don’t care so much about local and/or organic products as much as the other comments here (I do, however, greatly care about human slavery!) To be completely honest, I care most about my family’s finances first.

    That said, there are many environmentally friendly things that I do because they are so cheap! Some examples include:
    -turning off lights or appliances we aren’t using
    -buying items second hand. Another benefit is when I buy from Goodwill, etc, the money is used to help others! :)
    – using homemade cleaners
    -eating less meat and more produce (even if not organic)
    -learning to be content with the things we have instead consuming more
    -air drying dishes in the dishwasher

    So even with my selfish motives, I can make a positive impact.

    • Krysten says

      Thank you for your comment. I, too, am more concerned with making my families’ finances stretch than with buying organic everything (to be honest, we couldn’t afford to do that!), but I also do almost everything that you listed, both to help the environment and to further stretch my budget.

  32. Crystal r. says

    I loved thhis article, I always wondered how others who are on strict budgets felt about organic products. I honestly never gave it a thought until I was pregnant with my now toddler. I had read an article about how young girls now, are getting their periods earlier, some as early as the age of nine, due to the growing standards of hormone/pesticides that can be found in meat and dairy these days. My family stays on our on going grocery budget, and are still able to buy certain organic foods (always milk, eggs and chicken) if for nothing else.

    • Momof5 says

      We worried about hormones in meat and milk, too, but I always felt like it would be so expensive and so much trouble to do anything about it. But we switched to locally grown beef (we buy a whole animal), cut our chicken consumption accordingly (we still eat some, and only occasionally organic), and I read milk/butter/yogurt/ice cream/cheese labels VERY carefully so we drink only hormone-free dairy. That’s it. And my younger daughter is at least two years slower to get her period than my older daughter. Now, I know that sisters are different, and that two isn’t a big enough sample size to draw conclusions from, but middle school is hard enough on kids – giving a girl even a few extra months before she has to worry about periods with all the other social, hormonal, and academic challenges at that age seems MORE than worth the small amount of learning I had to do in order to change our consumption patterns. All those extra hormones can’t be good for any of us, but it’s most apparent with the young girls. Thanks for pointing that out!

    • WilliamB says

      “how young girls now, are getting their periods earlier, some as early as the age of nine, due to the growing standards of hormone/pesticides that can be found in meat and dairy these days.”

      Bodyfat percentage is another factor at play. Plus a lot of unknowns.

    • Emily says

      The hormone rBGH that was once readily injected into dairy cows is NOT causing young girls to get their periods earlier. I really feel the need to clarify this since I see so much misconception when it comes to this. I did extensive research on this matter when I was contemplating switching my family from conventional milk labeled as “hormone free” to organic milk. I was never actually concerned about the hormones (as I was already buying “hormone free” milk that is readily available in Ohio) but rather about the potential for pesticides in the cows feed to make it into their milk. Bovine growth hormone does not actually bind to the human growth hormone receptor so it doesn’t directly pose a threat (and that is also why it is not causing girls to enter puberty earlier); however, higher levels of growth hormone have been shown to increase the levels of another hormone that is correlated with increased cancer risk. So, it still is best to avoid milk from cows injected with rBGH, but for completely different reasons than what many people believe. Now, also in my research, I found that it is very difficult to determine whether conventional cow’s milk does in fact contain any pesticide residues (the 2009 data wasn’t even yet available at the time I did the research). Anyway, what I ended up concluding for myself and my family is that milk from grass-fed cows provides an advantage (higher levels of omega-3s) BUT it is not always easy to tell whether your milk comes from pasture-grazing cows, as pasture time isn’t highly regulated. Organic cows are given pasture-time, but not necessarily any more than conventional cows. I purchase organic milk, but simply because I know the cows are at least given some grazing time, and I know that there won’t be any pesticide residue in the milk if, in fact, pesticides do enter the milk (since I couldn’t find the most recent data).

      • Lindsey says

        “Bodyfat percentage is another factor at play. Plus a lot of unknowns.”

        And seeing as how toxins are stored in bodyfat……it would be fair to guess that hormones/toxins that are stored in excess in these overweight children leads to early puberty.

  33. says

    Great post :) I just watched the movie Food, Inc. and it was very disturbing. It made me think about the meat/produce that I consume now.

    I also love using the vinegar for cleaning as well. I do like simple and easy and this is very afforable!

    I shop at second hand stores for my daughters as well. I rarely find myself paying more than $5 for a top or pair of pants, or no more than $10 for shoes. If I’m lucky, I can find most items at the thrift stores for $1-2 dollars (or less!) And of course the hand me downs are always nice!

  34. Patti says

    Thank you for a great post! I hope it inspires the readers to think about all purchases in this manner. My husband works in textiles and that is another area we need to support. Because of the “WalMart effect” where everyone wants the cheapest possible deal, most of our clothes are made in countries where labor is incredibly cheap and working conditions are horrible. Why do we have to own so much that we have stuffed closets? Why not buy less and purchase better quality? Who knows, maybe we wouldn’t even need to have yard sales and Goodwills and thrift stores if we all did this!! And we could contribute to the economy of our own towns and bring us out of this recession. Shopping for this kind of value applies to all decisions we consumers make. I just purchased a very attractive faucet that was nothing but a piece of junk – the company couldn’t replace the malfunctioning parts (made in China) so they sent me twice to Lowe’s to get a new one – which meant Lowe’s had to rob other faucets to try to find a part for me. Ended up I took the whole thing out and replaced it with one made in the USA. My plumber informed me the new one comes from a company that will stand behind their products and will gladly replace parts or the faucet for free. I hope that this will open my own eyes to putting my money into what I value most.

  35. Staci says

    I feel like MSM always posts things that correspond with things Im already thinking of! I just started watching Jamie Olivers Food Revolution and… Ugh. Its been over 24 hours and Im still gagging when I think about the pink slime or whatever it is called.

    My familys health is too important to compromise to get the cheapest ground beef for $1.49 a pound. I am looking into getting a grass fed cow but in the meantime I intend to buy Costco beef.

  36. Heather says

    What a great reminder – to choose our food intentionally within our budgets! A couple comments:

    * If you are concerned about the quality of your food and the process by which it comes to be in your home, I would suggest choosing LOCAL over “Organic”. Find a farmer at your local farmers market who has consistently good food and get to know them. Ask them how they manage pests and disease. “Organic” lettuce that is trucked in from thousands of miles away so you can have it in January – has that process harmed the environment? Eating foods in season is more organic and better for your budget.

    * As in all things, please do due diligence on your sources. As a former reporter covering food and agriculture, I can say that I could not trust 90 percent of the Environmental Working Group’s press releases. They have an agenda.

    * Above all, I am reminded that I am thankful to have choices at all of what to feed my family. I am thankful that we have food. I am thankful we can eat less and send more cash to help our friends in Liberia feed the refugees from the Ivory Coast streaming in. I am thankful for the farmers – large and small – of this nation who work so hard to feed the world so cheaply.

    • says

      Great comment on a great post!

      Sometimes the decisions can be overwhelming and it’s hard to know who to trust. Love you last point. I am so grateful I have choices and that my children have food on the table.

  37. Meredith says

    I have a love/hate relationship with these types of articles. I say that because of course I would love to feed my family all organic/all local. This article has a lot of great points. However, my husband works in the snack food industry. He loves his job and it employs many people in our area. The company doesn’t use a lot of artificial ingredients and most are natural. Their operations are extremely environmental. However, most people (you have heard of the company) would deem it as junk food. Remember, that alongside local farmers, there are local industries. So I guess what I am trying to say, if you are going to splurge, remember local companies to your values. We are here too.

  38. says

    “If you buy the cheapest of everything without thinking about the consequences, and save thousands of dollars each year to donate to charity… are you really helping create the world you want? ” – I hadn’t thought of it quite this way before. Very interesting. Thanks for making me think.

  39. says

    Can I just say “Amen!” and Preach it!!! I cannot say how grateful I am for this post. I want my spending to reflect my values 100%– and not JUST the value I have in spending less. Thanks for posting this!!!!

  40. Megan says

    A terrific post, thank you! The post and the comments give me a great deal of hope for our future.

    The one thing I would add is that while it is great to “vote” with our dollars, I hope many will be inspired to advocate for social justice issues and environmental responsibility on a more formal scale. Pay attention to legislation being passed and write to your Congresperson. If you stop buying from a store because of their poor practices, tell them so! A holistic approach will hopefully lead to a better world.

    • says

      Definitely. If you ever talk to executives in just about any industry, you’ll learn that they really want to sell what consumers want. They spend a lot of money to find out what consumers want. So it’s a great idea to reach out to companies to tell them why you stopped buying a certain product or why you ARE buying another product.

      Look at corn syrup. Used to be in just about every packaged food, but when the food products people found out that a growing number of people did not want corn syrup, it was worth their while to replace it with sugar.

  41. says

    Great article. Our family operates a small family farm–13 acres. We know our customers, and they know us, and we feel this is integral to our success.

    Our farm was born in the aftermath of the great peanut butter fiasco in which several (8?) people died after peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella and then distributed anyway. At that point, my husband and I decided to start growing as much of our food as we could. Word spread, and we find ourselves supplying other families with quality, wholesome food. Support of our loyal customer base–along with obsessive attention to quality–has been so important for our farm.

    There are many small farms out there and many family farms who are ready to share tips on how to stretch the produce, meat, and eggs you buy.

    Another tip: learn to cook greens. Beet greens, broccoli leaves and stems, cauliflower leaves, pea plants, and more can be eaten and they can be quite tasty. You get more nutrients for the $$ you’ve spent.

    Definitely check localharvest.org to find a farmer near you, then visit the farm, talk with the family, and vote for real, nutrient-dense food with your wallet.

    • says

      Thanks for the tip on greens! I cook beet greens but never thought of the other leaves you mentioned. I know that Michael Pollan’s Food Rules suggests eating “fewer seeds, more leaves” for good health.

  42. Melanie says

    I found the photo ironic since many people who are interested in local and or organic foods are also interested in being less dependant on their cars and the farmers market discourages bicycles. Hopefully the sign just means that particular fence so the banner stays visible and not the whole market!

    • says

      LOL I did not notice that bicycle sign until you mentioned it! I would not be surprised if the photographer took the picture to point out the irony.

  43. Heather says

    I love this article. Thanks so much for sharing. One of most favorite volunteer activities has been with a new local Farmer’s Market here in our small town. I have really enjoyed getting to know the farmers, the methods they use, the heirloom products they encourage me to sample and try. I also learned that these farmers do not use pesticides or chemicals – in fact they all feel very strongly against the use of things that pollute and contaminate the soil. Being certified “organic” would be much too expensive for these small farmers but yet they all practice organic farming techniques. I switched up our budget to include a big chunk to be spent at our farmer’s market and discovered that by using more fruits and vegetables I didn’t have to spend as much overall as I had been in the past. I love supporting the local farmers who take the time to grow these products and keep the land from being developed in more strip malls and McMansion neighborhoods.

  44. Kimberly N says

    Thanks for the great article. Sometime I am not sure I should bother reading my coupon blogs since I have zero interest in food coupons – seems like they are mostly for the latest junk. I know better food is worth more but I appreciate your efforts to explain the why and how.

  45. Naomi says

    I’ve tried to buy organic when possible to avoid pesticides and be more environmentally conscious, so I resonate with this post. But I recently read an article that highlights the common misconception (mine, too) that organic farming doesn’t use pesticides. Apparently “organic” pesticides can be worse than conventional ones! Here’s the link: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/.

    Personally, this motivates me to work harder to buy local–go to farmers’ markets and talk to the farmers themselves rather than trust the government-certified “organic” label on big-box store produce.

  46. Bert says

    Great post! I love what you said about not caring what other people think at the playground, especially. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect (in the eyes of ourselves, as well as others), and it’s just not necessary. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips!