Tag Archives: food

Steps Toward Change: Meals (Less Bad, More Good)

Last time I wrote here I asked about help doing a food audit. Thank you so much to the folks who were willing to take some time and give me some input on my current food choices. I was surprised by the lack of response, especially considering I know a lot of people that seem passionate about this issue, but that’s a topic for another post.

As I said initially when I started this discussion, I’m very open to making changes in the way my family eats. I’m also much more interested in getting some straight forward tips and suggestions from those who have extensive knowledge and wisdom in this topic, rather then trying to sift through all the information myself (seems we are hesitant to speak with authority, we’d rather direct others to the book we read, a topic for another time again).

My goal is over the next several months, maybe year, to make changes in my families eating and purchasing habits toward a more ethical end. But, I need your help. The first step I’d like to take is to consider the meals that we make with some frequency and sort them into “bad” and “good” categories in consideration of ethics. I know this will be a little hard to do, but I think it’s worth a shot.

Here is how I’d like to try and do this. You’ll need to come to the blog if your reading in email or rss. In the comments section I’ll list meals that our family eats with some frequency (I’ll list just the basic title, not complete recipe). I’ll list one meal per comment and then you can reply to specific comments/meals with your comments about that meal. I’m looking for feedback about how good or bad meals are on a spectrum, so give it a 1-5 star rating if you’d like. Keep in mind I’m much more interested in how my food choices impact the lives of people, not so much the health benefits to my immediate family.

Additionally, if you’d like to add meal suggestions, recipes, etc in separate comments that would be super helpful. I’m looking for your most ethical meal ideas that are also low budget (and not overly complicated to prepare ideally). My initial goal is to start having more of the Good meals we make and less of the Bad meals. Slowly, I’ll add other people’s recipe suggestions as well. That’s my plan anyways.

I know this might all seem rather lazy on my part to not simply read the books and watch the movies myself, but sometimes this is the way that I best process things, relying on the wisdom of the community around me, and I think there are others who do similarly. Looking forward to your responses.

Sorting Out My Food Values

In my last post I wrote of some of my hesitations and concerns about the food movement. They where not major concerns but simple annoyances or critiques that I’d felt. The conversation that ensued was wonderful and I really appreciate those who took the time to reply to what I’d written and engage in some dialog. They were convincing arguments and I appreciated them. I’m willing, like I said before, to make changes in my families food choices. In thinking through it further, I recognized some values I have that seemed, at least in my head, to counter making changes in my food choices.

I think I’ve traditionally thought of food choices as being related to two specific values: personal health and environment. Eating healthy is a way to make choices for your immediate family to have better personal health and avoid the obesity epidemic and related disease. Eating organic and/or local is better for our environment, less pesticides, gas used on factory farming, shipping, etc. Oh, and third, free-range meat and eggs as an animal rights value. I know there’s more to it then that, but that would be the quick summary of how I’ve thought about the food choices.

I’ll try to keep these brief, but below are some of my values that I’ve found in conflict with making food choice changes.

Most of the ethical decisions I’ve made related to my lifestyle cost less money then the alternative. Biking rather then driving for example or sweatshop-made clothing for thrift store items. Rather then buy lots of fair trade chocolate instead of slave-made chocolate, I just rarely buy chocolate at all, it’s a luxury item after all. None of these things increase my costs. We can probably just chalk this up to being extremely frugal, or cheap, however you want to look at it. I think this is one of the reasons that I find the switch to more expensive food options as difficult, because unlike almost all my other ethical choices, it will consistently cost more.

Opportunity Cost
This is one of the main reasons that I’m consistently looking for ways to spend less money, the opportunity cost of that money to do good for others. I’ve previously used the example of the end scene in Schindler’s List when he recognizes his watch could have bought the safety of more Jews. The opportunity cost of the watch had significant value, people’s lives. I feel the same way when I think about what our finances could be going to. If I could spend $30 a month extra on organic foods to ensure the health of my immediate family or I could sponsor a child to ensure their provision through life, I’d probably go with the child everytime.

People First
I think, whether or not you believe in Global Warming, caring for the planet is an important factor in the decisions that we make. To a lesser degree, I think there is some merit to treating animals with care. However, the thing that vastly trumps those values in my ethical system is people. So, issues of slave labor, sweatshops and worker rights will win out over environmental concerns every time. And I know that they aren’t mutually exclusive, that environmental impact is often a direct cause of terrible working conditions, etc. It’s the human impact that will dictate my decisions far more then the effect on environment or animals.

I think that’s enough for now. The exercise above is not to make an argument against changing my food choices, but rather, laying them out so that those who are more well read on the subject can help point me in the right direction and help me walk through making changes to my families food choices.

A Critique: Food Choices and the Food Movement

In recent months, I’ve been encouraged by others to think a bit more critically about my families food choices. I’ve since watched and read a bit and I find myself still a bit skeptical. If an outsiders generalization of my readers is correct, my skepticism regarding the popular food trends of local and organic might be a bit controversial to you reading. I’m hoping it is, because I’d like to get some feedback and thoughts on the topic and am quite open to having my views changed.

I have to start with a bit of a disclaimer. There are a lot of things espoused by the food movement that my family is already doing. We’ve almost always composted and recycled. We don’t buy a ton of processed foods (microwave type stuff) and we don’t eat red meat much (I never ate it growing up). We even bring our own bags usually. Oh, and we’ve tried to garden in some form most summers. So, along the spectrum, there are a lot of things we are already doing. But, there are some things we aren’t.

We shop at Aldis and Cub, not Whole Foods, The Wedge or other organic/coop/local type places (I’ve tried occasionally). We don’t buy organic when it comes to our produce. And we don’t buy free-range, cage-free, grass-fed or anything when it comes to our meat. And, I haven’t been all that compelled to change those choices. Rather, I’ve had some concerns or critiques.

  • The Food Movement seems to be a primarily motivated by self-interest. I’m not saying individuals might have larger societal interest in mind, to that point, the information that’s presented is often in the form of national statistics of obesity, disease, etc. However, the changes that are being done and created are individual family choices. It’s families with the financial means and resources changing their families purchasing habits. I’ve seen very little collective action to encourage more systemic change (Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution might be a minor exception).
  • The justification and reaction seems to be from one extreme to the other. It’s clear our nation has some health issues, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, so on and so forth. And I definitely agree our eating habits are heavily at fault. We eat very unhealthy, highly processed food, and far too much of it (this last part is my vice). However, I don’t think the only solution is to buy local and organic. We’d be a much healthier nation if we ate more fruits and vegetables, organic or not.

There’s more thoughts I’ve had, but at risk of making this too long and not getting some conversation going, I’ll stop here. I’d love to hear your thoughts about food, organic, local, etc and why your making the current choices you do. And feel free to challenge me on the statements above or choices we make.

Josh Experiments: Challenging Excess, Eating on $1 a Day

Josh BrownExperiments in living that step us out of our normal life experience can be invaluable tools. I think they are the sorts of things that begin to help us question our current lifestyle. One Josh writes:

It’s a shame that as a culture we are so used to excess that we don’t even recognize it anymore.

And it’s a shame that I’ll probably wrestle with this decision for another month. The entire time talking about ethics and Jesus and taking the moral high road. Feel good about myself. And then break down and buy it.

I’m a hypocrite.

It’s an honest struggle and these words connect with a lot of us, as they are things we rarely even dare to think out loud or acknowledge. For Josh, it’s this sort of pondering that led him to give up this. I am so happy to see Josh make a decision like this because I really believe it will free him up to focus on and be willing to challenge other areas of his life and choices. I am excited about were this new freedom and balance will take him.


Another Josh, contemplated this:

I remember reading somewhere a few years ago about someone who tried to eat off of a dollar a day in order to gain some type of understanding of what (I’ll say a majority again) of the world’s population goes through in regards to that key element of survival, eating. I don’t remember much about the article, but I began wondering if I could do that. Wondering led to doing some calculating and strategic thinking, which led to this post. Day 1 of $1 a day. I have four weeks of training left. My goal right now, is to make it through the next four weeks on $1 a day for food, (Monday through Friday, I go home on the weekends, and will try to keep it up, but won’t make my wife and kids go through it too). That doesn’t mean I won’t eat food that has been provided for me without cost to myself, (for example, we have a snack table everyday at our training session that is free, but more on that in another post), and I still have a few leftover groceries from last week that will help me for a few days.

In his first entry a few days later he chronicles what he’s been eating thus far, including a excessive snack table at his training, and concludes:

I make light of this, mostly because of the ridiculousness of excess. I am grateful for my friends and their willingness to share. (I’d like to add here that I have not yet solicited any food.) I have been truly blown away at how much more we eat than we really need to. I also realize that hanging out with others who are not trying to live off of $1 a day, has benefited me. I am well aware that living amongst others in a similar predicament would have different results. I have other observations and other thoughts that I will continue to process and post later.

I really appreciate both of these guys and the way they are willing to challenge their current lifestyles. I don’t have any notion that by eating on $1 a day Josh knows the experience of those in the rest of the world, but one can appreciate his attempt to try and connect on some level, most of us rarely even go there. As always, I assure you Josh will have some valuable insights from his experience and I do believe his eating habits and lifestyle choices will be better for it.

Indoor Composting Instructions

My wife, Mindy, wrote an article about Indoor composting at

When my husband, Ariah, asked me if I wouldn’t mind trying to compost inside our apartment I had some visions of sharing our apartment with overgrown, slimy, yucky little critters. I envisioned dirt everywhere and a huge mess with rotting food smell to boot. It turns out that I was wrong, and we have about 500 little clean worms under our sink contained in a wonderful home-made little composting system that (my happiest little part) DOES NOT smell!