Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Week of Groceries

Have you seen this article, which shows pictures of a family's weekly groceries in countries around the world?  I find this kind of thing fascinating.

Our temptation, I think, is to look at the American family and think how horrible the diet must be.  Look at the pizza and pop!  Look at all the name brands!  What are they thinking?  And surely, one might expect a sustainability blog to take this position.

Of course, any given family could improve their diet, but I think this is interesting from a readiness analysis perspective, as I wrote about last week.

Periodically, I like to do an audit of our groceries and see where our weaknesses and strengths lie.  By doing this, I can see where we are the most self-sufficient and where we would be in trouble in the event of some sort of weather disaster, infrastructure problem, or economic downturn.

To give you a feel for it, here is what my typical week of groceries looks like:

Meijer:  We go to the local big box store for paper products, health and beauty aids, some baking supplies, and junk food.  It is kind of embarrassing, frankly -- it is not uncommon for us to have a cart that has toilet paper, window cleaner, shampoo, a bag of sugar, and then a carton of pop and a couple of packages of cookies.  Obviously, the junk food is unnecessary in our diet, so anything that kept us from buying it would not be a problem.  The health and beauty supplies are more problematic.  I mean, I know that mankind lived successfully for millennia without toilet paper, but that doesn't mean I want to do so.  Note to self:  buy extra bale of TP.  We also buy bulk supplies here like organic butter and boxes of dried pasta, but these things are easy to stock up on and keep.

Trader Joe's:  This is where we go for the bulk of our non-local food, because they tend to have products without HFCS or GMOs.  This is an area of great vulnerability.  Without the TJ's run, we would not have access to cheese made from milk from cows who were not given growth hormones, and we would not have access to some other perishable foods that we regularly buy.  This is why, when winter ice storms threaten, we prep with a run to TJ's.

Farmers' Market:  We buy our pastured eggs, our organic beef, our free range chicken, and our pastured pork at the farmers' market, along with our local raw honey and a good deal of our fruit.  The good news is that these products are local and are somewhat insulated from infrastructure problems.  The bad news, of course, is that many of them are perishable and seasonal.  The farmers' market runs through the winter, but the weekly market becomes a monthly market for the cold months.  This means we go to the market on the monthly market day and stock up on meat and honey (obviously, fresh fruit is out of the question in winter) regardless of the weather.

Garden:  The majority of our vegetables come from our own garden, along with most of our herbs and spices and some of our fruit.  Obviously, the weakness is the seasonal nature of the garden and the possibility of a bad crop year, both of which we "solve" by preserving as much as we can.

If our family had participated in that photo project, I wonder if they would have asked us to truly make a grocery shopping trip or if they would have wanted to see the baskets of fresh garden produce and the market bags full of local, pasture-raised meat.  What would your photo look like if you were asked to pose with a week's groceries?
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  1. For the toilet paper, I just read about Wooly Lambs ear, and thought you might be interested.

    1. Thanks for sharing -- I'm going to check that out!