Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mainstream Is A Big Step Backward

A friend of mine with whom I was sharing the burdens of housewifery and parenting this week made me realize how far I have departed from mainstream North American consumer culture. Shocked by the thought of me spending 2 - 4 hours a day cooking, and trying to help me alleviate some of my time-stress and work load, she suggested I buy more prepackaged meals and convenience foods. This suggestion appalled me, and suddenly made me realize how much I have changed in 5 years.

It's not just the fact that nearly any prepackaged food from the grocery store costs four times as much (or more) to buy as to make from scratch; as I ardently protested over the phone, the true costs are much higher, and certainly not worth the savings in time.

Consider the ingredients of even a "healthy" prepackaged meal. The list is longer than your fifth grade essays, and half the ingredients are unpronounceable without a graduate degree in chemistry. Then think about the interactions of all those additives and preservatives in your body, and the cumulative effect of them over the years. What do you think your drug costs might be in the next 10 years? Maybe you have a great drug plan, but you're still going to end up paying for your health care through taxes and insurance premiums.

And then there's the environmental costs. Prepackaged food travels farther to your grocery cart, meaning more carbon emissions and higher fuel costs. All that packaging is being created to contain the food, and often ends up in landfill. Even if the packaging is recyclable, it still takes energy and resources to create (creating pollution), to transport (more pollution), and to process for recycling. Do we pay for that? You bet we do. And so do our children, and our grandchildren... if the earth lasts that long.

Even if I could be making $20 an hour (which I'm not) for those 2 - 4 hours a day, is it really worth it? Not in my books. And if I was a gazillionnaire... would it be worth it then? If I was the only person on the planet, maybe. But I'm not, and the earth, it's resources, and our own social resources are shared by billions of other people - other human beings, just like me.

Five years ago I put things like jalapeno poppers and bagged chicken alfredo into my shopping cart without a second thought. Today I would rather eat my shoes. I just can't do it without massive guilt. Who would have known that in five short years I would go from being Average Joe Consumer of mainstream culture (scoffing at my Trent U influences), to being one of those green-frugal-alternative nuts I so disdained.

All things considered, I consider this to be a sign of personal growth. My new lifestyle is rich, intentional and meaningful. I don't want to go back to being mainstream, and I want to bring as many others as I can down this path. Next stop... a visit to the Complete Tightwad Gazette.

1 comment:

  1. I also consider this a sign of personal growth and I enjoy your cooking very much and appreciate the time you spend on it. And I know that your kids will learn to appreciate it too, as well as the healthy bodies they'll no doubt grow up in. This post is quite inspiring.

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