Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crunchy Consumer

That is possibly one of the bigger oxymorons that fall under this topic, with the exception of "all natural cookies." I mean, I thought the whole idea behind "crunchy" is supposed to be anti-consumerism. But no. The packaging on "crunchy" products is just as assuring and inviting as on bad-for-you, synthetic, processed items. Marketing people aren't dummies. Consumers are. :o)

Okay, but that isn't what I wanted to write about today. I stopped by Fair Shares and Local Harvest on the way home from work. I bought local. I spent more $70+ for not that many items. Let me explain.

So my husband and I have been going back and forth about where to buy food, what to buy and how much to spend. The latter topic hasn't been back and forth, really, since the general consensus in our house is that we should spend LESS. In general. I have heard other people say that they WANT to spend more if they are buying organic foods, whole foods, pick a food. We are not those people. In general, we want to spend less.

The "where" is an issue mostly because we feel that buying locally produced foods is good for the local economy, which is good for our neighborhoods because it provides jobs, etc. However, I had a little revelatory moment was while reading my copy of the "More with Less" cookbook. One of the writers shared a little personal note about buying milk. She said that in her town she could drive 25 miles to the mega-mart to buy milk at a low price, or she could buy local milk from a little market only 5 miles away, but for a much higher price. However, she realized that with rising gas prices, the 25 miles could really add up. Not only that, but there could be a day when the local market might go out of business because everyone goes to the mega-mart, and then she would HAVE to drive 25 miles for milk. You get the idea.

The "what" to buy is a vast topic: organic, natural, whole foods, processed foods, cheap food, quick foods, baby foods. Suffice to say, we lean towards whole foods (not the store, but actually unprocessed or less processed foods) because of the health benefits and the financial benefits. If we buy bulk or buy at discount stores and then make the food ourselves, we save money, we know what's in our food, we learn to value the food because we spent time making it, and hopefully we make healthy things. We aren't so stuck on the "organic" label, but that's another topic.

All this to give a short background about why I made my stops today.

First, we just joined the Fair Shares combined CSA this year (more about that later). Today was the shopping day for the CSA, so I went to see what they had as left-overs from the last season. I should note that these are all locally produced in MO or IL, and that most of it is sustainably grown, but not necessarily USDA certified organic.

I bought:
  • 1 qt. local maple syrup @ $15 (better than Schnuck's price and local to boot = good deal)
  • 1 lb. popping corn @ $3 (not better than Schnuck's, therefore, I'm tempted to not care that it's local popping corn, or I hope it's the best popcorn I've ever bought. This might be a future item I buy bulk.)
  • 16 oz. local honey @ $6 (same price at Soulard market and good for allergies = worth it, especially considering now it's a 1-stop shop at Fair Shares.)
  • 1 pk. grass-fed beef hot dogs @ $4 (Holy cow. Or it better be. But hopefully better for us than the cheap hot dogs.)
  • 1 bag tortilla chips @ $2.50 (Actually, they were quite good, and not much more than other chips, so a pretty good deal if we pretend chips are part of a balanced diet.)
  • 3 7 oz. jars of cooked, pureed butternut squash @ $7/ea. (This was thanks to the marketing of Fair Shares' newsletter, which listed several ways to use this. And the baby can eat it.)
Then, when I left I remembered we were out of milk. Instead of going to Aldi, where they sell a gallon of whole milk for about $3 AND claim to sell milk that is hormone free (I have yet to investigate this claim), I turned on Morganford and stopped at Local Harvest, which true to its name, sells locally grown food. At a very reasonable price... for people who can afford to buy a house in the Tower Grove neighborhood. So not reasonable. But it's local milk.

I bought;
  • 1 gal. pasteurized sans hormones whole milk @ $5 (So possibly the same thing that I get at Aldi if they are telling the truth, except I supported a local dairy farmer. My husband pointed out that Aldi might also support local dairy cows. Also, I've heard raw milk tastes better, so maybe I 'm missing the boat completely on this issue.)
  • 1 qt. whole milk yogurt sans hormones @ $5 (This is about what it is at Schnuck's.)
With this milk and yogurt I will make 3 qts. (or more) of yogurt, hormone free, and doubly local since it's going to be from my kitchen. I will average $3/qt. for whole milk, non-hormone yogurt at that point. That's not bad, but then if I had bought the Aldi milk, I would average about $2/qt. on yogurt. And Aldi employs local people.

Was it worth it? Well, I fully believe in buying locally at this point. We are supposed to be a blessing in the city where we live. However, I also fully believe that if I don't balance the checking account, I am not being a good steward of the resources God has given us. Therefore, this discussion will continue... but not tonight. I'm going to eat the best popcorn I have ever bought.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Title

This blog is a dedicated blog, meaning it's not going to be like the other blog I tried and failed at. I decided that a blog needs a purpose, a theme, something to come back to when I start rambling on and on. Otherwise, it's just about my life and how I feel, which is great to share with close friends, but not very interesting in a blog. Anyway, not the way I would write it.

So I thought and thought about a title. The first option was "Crunchy Christianity," but that was taken. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. But I realized that it wasn't exactly what I meant to convey in a title. Then I/we (my husband was in on this venture by this time) thought of "Granola Gospel," which was already taken by a Mennonite church blog. I felt I was in good company, but wanted to be a little more specific.

Because this isn't a blog about being "crunchy" (which is actually sort of a slam by people who aren't really sure what you're on about). And it isn't a blog about granola (although I would like to talk about that at some point starting with the issue of commercial cereal). This is a blog about how Jesus led us to live in the city of St. Louis and grow a garden here. We also have chickens. But it's not only about gardens and chickens.

I have been called "crunchy," "hipster," and a few other things, but I see a problem with all of these labels. Most of these groups of people have a great credo or manifesto, but it is based in a worldview that not only excludes God, but denies Him. This is a big problem for me. When I go to the library or the Internet to find information about "urban farming," "whole foods," or "sustainable living," I'm looking for role models, people I can emulate. Instead, I find very sad, empty folks who are seriously living out very good values, but without an underlying worldview that I can sink my teeth into. I have been known to slam a good farming memoir book down in disgust when the moral of the story is something about "finding myself in the land."

Therefore, this blog is dedicated to living in the city, growing some food, raising chickens, making baby food, granola, and other grown-up food, recycling, consuming less, composting, simply living counter-culturally, but ultimately this blog is dedicated to seeing the kingdom of God take root and grow in this little patch of land in St. Louis, MO. This blog is about partnering with God as He shows us the way we are supposed to "work it out" in this space and time. This is about our little part to play in urban restoration.