Pain in the Pantry

Cleaning out my pantry has morphed into a much bigger project, expanding into the fridge and the freezer. The good news is that I’ve only found one product (instant Thai noodles) with HVP, so far. The bad news is the huge amount of food products – mostly condiments and prepackaged cooked foods I’ve found that contain high fructose corn syrup, or a long list of totally unrecognizable substances. Gum is for chewing, not for eating! I’ve tossed ketchup, mustards, relish, salad dressing, cake mix, juice and more. Throwing away food doesn’t sit well with me; though I bit the bullet and tossed the open packages. But what am I going to do with rest of it? If I think I shouldn’t be eating it, can I give it to a food bank? Isn’t it worse just to throw it away?

I’m only replacing these items as we need them – I can’t afford to simply restock. But even the piecemeal strategy is adding up – in terms of money and convenience.  In my area I have three good choices, outside the farmer’s market’s for organic/local shopping. One is a national chain I’d like to avoid for political reasons, one is a co-op, and the other part of a small independent local chain of markets. Of the three, only the co-op stocks local organic milk and organic orange juice – both of which are non-negotiable now. But the co-op doesn’t have much in the way of local meat. The independent market regularly stocks local chicken, duck and turkey. So if I need more poultry than I get from my CSA, (not that likely) or meat for the canine contingent, I’ll need to shop in both places, in addition to the weekly trip the farmer’s market. And it’s taken a few fact-finding missions to all three places just to work out the shopping plan. Luckily, and somewhat ironically, since I live a big city, none of the options for healthy shopping are more than a few miles away.  It’s incredible statistically, how far many Americans have to travel just to buy fresh vegetables; so please don’t think I’m whining about taking an extra trip to buy free trade organic coffee and raw sugar. I realize I’m lucky even just to be in a demographic that has the time to think about the problems in our food system.

With that reality in mind, I became a member of Puget Consumers’ Co-op (PCC) this week. Membership gives me a percentage off a few days of the month, and not a whole lot else, but I see the onetime $60 membership fee as a token of the commitment I’m trying to make – and it should be enough money to keep me from being tempted to shop elsewhere, even on the worst days.  And I am really impressed with PCC’s Farmland Trust program, which I learned about a few years ago, while working on a newspaper story. I don’t know that any of this will help with my blood pressure though, when I’m stuck in line for 20 minutes at the checkout counter, waiting out the transaction of the self-actualized mother of two badly behaved children, who’s digging through her bag looking for her checkbook, while chatting with the checkout guy about the best way to build a cold frame.

I’m thinking that cutting back on caffeine and making it to yoga class more often may turn out to be crucial parts of this new clean living lifestyle.

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