The cost of eating organic

I don’t have any intention of filling this post with facts about how healthy organic and fresh foods are. Nor do I intend to preach on the benefits of herbal supplements, oils, and the like. I steer clear of the later because I know roughly zero about such things and with the multitudes of these products that are available on natural food store shelves I believe a PhD is necessary to understand the benefits, interactions and usage of the world of plants and herbs.

I visited Marlene’s Natural Foods Market today with my daughters and the baby. For those of you who know and have the pleasure of living near a Whole Foods or a Trader Joes you can image a sort of quasi cross between the two with a huge emphasis on the supplement section that one might find in a shop like Super Supplements. Throw in a nifty little deli serving soups, sandwiches and some wonderful looking desserts and you have Marlene’s.

The oldest daughter has returned to the concept of creating her own beauty products and such and was looking for ingredients to make her own makeup, shampoos and the like so we (meaning the second daughter and the baby) wandered through the store with her.

Some highlights include the very small but incredible fresh produce section. Marlene’s basically sells produce that can be utilized as ingredients in other healthful concoctions such as smoothies and protein drinks. Don’t think traditional, well stocked produce counters with the vast array of goodness found at a farmer’s market. This area is meager at best but they did have some of the best looking, freshest kale I have seen in a long time. I didn’t buy any, but my brain was whirling with ideas for recipes.

Marlene’s also has a pretty good supply of some of the most common organic and natural products typically stocked in our area. For those who buy Amy’s Kitchen brand Marlene’s has a great variety. So we checked each aisle, finding new products and commenting on tried and true items. It always strikes me as rather ironic that there are so many prepared organic food brands. Isn’t the idea that organic and natural should be leaning toward the fresh you-make-it-from-scratch  ideal rather than the pre-made concept? Is there a bit of a dichotomy in this message?

As we turned each corner we would come across wonderful sounding products that would have been at the very least a fun and adventurous foray into trying new foods. This is where the low lights begin. I am realistic enough to know from past experience that these products cost more than the regular old grocery store or big box brands. It is fairly common knowledge that you pay more for organic, but many of the things we saw at Marlene’s went well beyond simply paying more. An example: I picked up a box of granola bars. The flavor is what caught my eye. It was something with apple. I admit I didn’t take the time to read ingredients or determine just how organic these bars were because the price for a box of six bars stopped me cold. It was five dollars. Now I shop in a variety of stores and pay anywhere from two dollars up to about three dollars for granola bars. Usually they are the basic oat and honey variety, either generic or a lower fat/lower carb type. The wonderful looking box of bars at Marlene’s where, I assume, made from something akin to a precious metal as the cost would indicate. I will never pay five dollars for a box of six granola bars. 

The youngest daughter is a huge hot beverage drinker. Cocoa and tea fill her days and evenings with joy. She balked quite forcefully at the ten-dollar price tags for cocoa mixes and the tea bags of a brand Marlene’s was selling which can be found in our local grocery stores for half the price. That folks is a blatant mark up simply because those tea bags were occupying shelf space with the more healthful varieties of loose leaf teas probably hand-picked by older ladies on a mountaintop somewhere.

As we encountered more and more products asking us to open our wallets and pull out every last dime our conversations turned to the fact that eating organic, eating even somewhat healthy by trying to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables is not something open to a great many in our society. These foods cost money and many, many people such as college students, older folks and those struggling on limited incomes for other varied reasons simply cannot afford these foods. They certainly can’t afford the choices at Marlene’s and I expect that they bypass those same foods when they go to the local Walmart.

Yet our reality is that we preach about obesity, we preach about healthy eating and those who need it most cannot afford the foods, organic or otherwise, that would help them to be healthy. They turned to processed garbage because it is all that they can afford to feed themselves and their families if they have them.

The reality is that healthy eating doesn’t have to be raw foods, or organic foods, or products from a big name specialty company. Healthy eating means having produce, dairy or alternate products and proteins that are fresh and affordable. Not everyone in our communities wants to shop at a Marlene’s or a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s, and no one, no matter where they shop should feel taken advantage of because of a label or brand or ideal that dictates unrealistic prices.

I love having these choices in my community. I don’t like the large cost discrepancies that these companies feel they can justify and pass on to their consumers.

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6 thoughts on “The cost of eating organic”

  1. I thought of this post as I am watching the documentary “Fresh” (it’s incredible and free streaming on amazon, if you ever want to watch it here while babysitting!) and heard this: “Cheap food is an illusion. There is no such thing as cheap food. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s paid, you know, it’s charged to the environment, it’s charged in the form of subsidies, and it’s charged to your health. You do get what you pay for, with food as with anything else.”

    He goes on to say though: “There are people who can’t afford it, and we basically need to level the playing field.” And he says that because the government is subsidizing things such as hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, etc, “We’re not doing anything to subsidize or support the growing of healthy, fresh produce.”

    So the rest of the documentary focuses on changing the culture from convenience/processed/unhealthy foods to fresh, organic, home grown foods and the grassroots movement that will hopefully continue to grow so that someday organic foods can be “cheap” just like foods at the regular grocery store.

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  2. It is VERY frustrating that it costs more to eat a healthier way. But you’re right about “health” pretty much equalling fresh foods. It’d be lovely to see organic products affordable, though.
    This reminds me of a conversation I had with my 12 yr old daughter last week. We were talking about how the Christian bookstore is so expensive near us. It ain’t cheap to live spiritually…AND the same is true for books! WHY oy WHY are books so expensive?! Wouldn’t it be good for all people to be able to read whatever book they like? Libraries are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s a shame that books are so horribly overpriced. 😦

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    1. We are big into the used book stores in our area. I have never been able to embrace technology to the point that I am happy reading on something like a Kindle. I like the feel of the real thing and it’s always an adventure to spend hours in those old, bookstores meandering among stacks of books. It’s an added bonus when you can run into and have some wonderful interactions with a bookstore kitty as well.

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      1. Well that’s true – we frequent thrift stores in our area, for books! We’ve yet to find a good used bookstore. My daughter is an avid reader, with full bookshelves i her roo, but I actually did buy her Kindle for her birthday in April (I can’t wait to give it to her!) because it’ll be good for school books…like classics and such. I know she’ll still love her real books, though. 😉

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  3. I think you’re right. It’s a bit of a rip off. Although I guess organic also costs more to produce. PErsonally I can live without organic. But I choose organic meat and milk because they’re the least likely options to promote suffering and cruelty – that to me is worth the extra dollars (and I don’t eat much meat anyway).

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    1. I was mostly just miffed by the fact that when someone wants to eat healthy and utilize decent products that promote those ideals the cost is so prohibitive–which then made me realize that for so many even non-organic is cost prohibitive and so of course it’s much easier to reach for crap and processed whatever at .50 per box than anything else. I think I was in a pissy, I-am-disliking-our-social-system sort of day 🙂

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