Spending more on food good for your financial future

roasted free range chicken
roasted free range chicken

I've launched into a personal project to eat more sustainably, and I'm taking my whole family of five along with me. Though I have always believed in the good things that can come from simple, healthy food and have oft-repeated the mantra "eat close to the earth," it's only been in the past few months that I've put my family's eating habits into context with our lives, and the world. Reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle convinced me I should stop eating feedlot-raised meats, choosing instead animal products from range-grown cows, pigs, and chickens; reading Plenty, the tale of the 100-mile diet, convinced me of the importance and essential economy of eating in my own "foodshed."

But it was Michael Pollan who reminded me that spending more on food could actually save me money.

The first and loudest response to the prospect of eating sustainably is, "I can't afford it!" And it's true, by and large, purchasing meats, vegetables, fruits and dairy products that are produced by smaller, more sustainable farms will set you back anywhere from a little bit to a LOT more than buying from industrial monocultures and foreign factory farms. Got rice? It's $6 for a packet of wild rice from Oregon in my favorite gourmet market, compared to less than a dollar a pound for white rice from China. Ground beef: $2.99 a pound at Safeway. Ground buffalo grown on the open range in central Oregon: $8.99 a pound at my farmer's market, AND I have to wait in line 20 minutes.

But, let's think about this Pollan-style.