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I Feel the Weight of the World with Every Purchase

Is it just me or does a simple purchase seem much more complex these days? I head to the store in search of eggs, but I can’t figure out which carton to place in my basket. There’s store brand, regular, cage-free, all-natural and organic. What’s the difference between cage-free, all-natural and organic anyway?

As if that isn’t complex enough I’m not sure if I should bypass all of these offerings for a local carton at the farmer’s market. After all, I have no idea where any of these eggs came from or how much fuel it took them to get from there to here.

As I fill my cart with groceries I find myself repeating this same series of questions over and over. It starts in the produce section at the front of the store and continues all the way around to dairy.

Not so long ago I based all of my food purchases solely on price. I compared the prices of each carton of eggs, searched around for a coupon and picked up the one that cost the least. These days price is just one factor in the larger decision.

Now I’m forced to consider the overall health of the product and impact to the environment. After all I don’t want to contribute to polluting the earth or my body with pesticides and toxins. Is it better to buy local or organic? It’s a question that plagues me as I stare at the strawberries.

I started a box garden last year and added a few boxes this spring in hopes of growing produce in my own backyard. I purchased organic seeds and vowed not to spray anything on the tiny seedlings that are beginning to emerge, but those tiny gardens won’t exactly feed me for an entire summer, let alone all year.

So when did the simple act of buying eggs and strawberries become so difficult and what’s a girl to do in light of all of these options?

One Frugal Girl

Tuesday 18th of May 2010

@BeeARawFoodie - Thanks for the book suggestion! I've been looking for a good read, so I ordered a used copy of it.


Monday 17th of May 2010

Book you'd enjoy reading: Paradox of Choice. Add it to your books list. It explains why our simple choices have become so weighed and complex, even when we seek simplicity. Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz. One of the best books I've read in ages.

Lauren (in PA)

Monday 10th of May 2010

Eggs. It's always the eggs. Seriously, I have egg angst every time I have to get them in the grocery store! Local (or most local)always wins in my book.

One Frugal Girl

Friday 7th of May 2010

@Keith Morris - Thanks for the GoodGuide suggestion. I installed it on my iPhone this morning.

@Stella - You're right. These new questions are all part of the mindful buying process, but I need to figure out the answers to some of these questions in advance, so I can stop wasting time in the market :-)

Robin - I do struggle with in season produce, especially in the winter. Maybe I just need to find better recipes for that time of year.

Abigail - I hear you!!! Sometimes I find myself searching for promo codes and better deals for quite a long time. In the end I often wonder if a few dollars is really worth all that time. Most of the time, I decide that it's not, but despite recognizing this I still find myself chasing down bargains :-(

@Ruby Leigh - The balance between saving money and buying quality products is a tough one that I still can't quite work out. I wonder if these decisions will get easier over time.

@Les - I'm definitely rethinking more and more decisions over the last year. Watching Food, Inc. and reading the Omnivore's Dilemma really opened my eyes to the world of food production.


Friday 7th of May 2010

Man, I totally agree with this post. Last year I couldn't care less and bought based on (mostly) cheapness of the food. Now I look at everything and think twice.

I've been trying to get as much stuff from the farmers market as possible now that it's warmer again - if nothing else at least I see the person who produced the food and have some connection with them.

Great article.