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Eating Sustainably Without Breaking the Bank

November 15, 2009

For many people, like Austin and his roommates, the only thing standing between them and sustainable eating is money, money, money.

“Janie, we drink about four gallons of milk a week.  Yeah, local milk tastes a whole lot better and I would get that instead of regular milk.  But paying $3.50 for a gallon is too expensive for us.  It just isn’t worth it.”

I agree, buying sustainable foods can be difficult for those on a budget…but it doesn’t have to be.

Recently, I visited the Community Mercantile, a co-op natural foods store here in Lawrence.  I sat down with Nancy O’Conner, MS ed, Nutrition Educator and Outreach Coordinator, to find out how those on a budget can satisfy their desire to eat more sustainably without emptying their wallets.

First, for those who don’t know what the Merc is and all it has to offer (from cooking classes to after school education programs to Ready-to-Go Thanksgiving Dinners), check out the video below for some more information:

As you can see, the Merc isn’t just a grocery store, but a community center as well.  In addition to providing groceries and other products, it benefits the local community by supporting local farmers, encouraging nutritional eduction in our schools, and fostering relationships between consumers and producers by offering co-op memberships.

So how do we shop at stores at the Merc without breaking out budget?

In short, focus on what you care most about.  Is it organic produce or free-range meat?  Is is local milk or free-trade coffee?  Eating sustainably doesn’t mean changing your entire grocery list.  Start with certain foods that are most important to you.

Incorporating sustainable foods by starting with one or two items is what eco-psychologists call: “Foot in the Door Technique.” By committing to something small first, it becomes easier to commit to something bigger.  For example: My family used to only recycle paper.  It was easy to collect and easy to recycle.  Then we started using curbside recycling and recycled cans, plastic, and cardboard in addition to paper.  Now, we recycle glass as well, even though that requires driving to a recycling center.

Many people think small changes won’t make a big difference.  What they forget is that small changes don’t stay small for long.

To find a natural foods store near you, click here!

Austin loves his organic granola and natural peanut butter while I love organic produce.  What is your sustainable food of choice?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Danny Smyl permalink
    November 16, 2009 9:15 am

    Organic Cheddar Cheese, eggs, and Brussels sprouts top my list.

  2. November 30, 2009 11:56 am

    Organic Food of choice. I love organic produce. If I had to pick one thing, it would be that.

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