Buying organic and local groceries is great, but make sure to budget yourself and prioritize if money is tight. Photo by cafemama/Courtesy Flickr.
I went on my first “green” grocery shopping trip last week to The Community Mercantile near my apartment in Lawrence, Kansas. I was charged with the green spirit, determined to finally turn my life around. I wanted to buy groceries that satisfied more than just my stomach; I wanted to help support local farmers and producers. I wanted organic and all-natural foods. I wanted that feeling of knowing that my dollars were being spent responsibly and conscientiously.
In short, I wanted to practice what I’ve been preaching about greening my life.
What I ended up doing was going overboard.
The Merc is a great store. It exudes a genuine eco-friendly vibe, and I got swept up in it all. I wanted everything I saw; organic produce, local sourdough bread, homemade granola, Annie’s all-natural mac and cheese, Amy's organic soups, organic yogurts and tortillas and pastas…EVERYTHING. I went up and down the aisles spotting these all-natural crackers and those local and organic baked beans, and it was all I could do not to fill my basket to the brim.
When all was said and done, I had purchased almost $50 worth of groceries, but soon realized that I didn’t have much to show for it. Sure, I’d done just what I wanted to do (buy groceries that benefit more people than just myself), but I’d also spent $48.63 on a mere 22 items—including three avocados and four bananas—averaging out to about $2.21 per item.
To be honest, I was a little distraught. As I looked at my short receipt, I wondered how I could have spent so much on so few items when I could have bought more at a store like Dillon’s for much less?
It was then that I realized that the best course of action for someone on a budget—like myself—is to prioritize your green shopping. It’s no secret that local and organic foods are more expensive (in large part because they’re of higher quality), so if you don’t have the green to go all-green yet, buy the things that matter most to you. For instance, many people value organic milk and meats over other products, so that is the part of their food budget they’re willing to stretch. Just because something is organic or local or all-natural doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right product for you right now. By prioritizing your green shopping, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your spending, which will help you stay on the green path. Once money isn’t so tight, you can invest more in buying all the things you couldn’t afford before.
Besides, there are other ways to go green that are far less taxing on your wallet. You can bike or carpool to work, reform your dishwashing routine, and use plastic bag alternatives to name a few.
This was a really important lesson for me to learn because it affects my life every day. Of course I want to be as green as possible, but I also want to keep my bank account in the green. For now, I’m going to focus on organic milk and produce, because those are things I really value. Buying organic can really make a difference in how healthy fruits and vegetables are, especially considering pesticide exposure. And maybe I can treat myself every so often with some local bread or all-natural mac and cheese.
This truly was a lesson in greening my life, one small step at a time.