Why I Don’t Eat Organic.

Via Lasara Allen
on May 28, 2010
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Rebuttal here.

Daily Dilemmas of a Householder.

Being this broke was never part of the plan.

Call this a confessional, or an admittance of complicity. I’m going to call it what it is; an honest account of what it means to raise a family on a limited budget. This article is not going to spill onto the page without shame, nor is it likely to be read with complete comfort.

A family of four, living in California, our monthly food expenses run about $500. This is a substantial portion of what we live on. $500 buys us a month’s worth of food at Food Maxx, the California-wide discount food emporium, and covers a rare emergency shopping at a standard, average-priced grocery store.

In other words, we shop with the rest of the plebes.

Food Maxx is an awesome place to find the staples of the “poor person’s diet” – from Mexican family (cotija cheese, corn tortillas, black beans), to starving student (ramen, frozen pizza), to southern style (cornbread ingredients, black eyed peas, collards), and all the raw fruits and veggies you could want.

The Mr. and I lean toward southern, the kids toward college dorm, we all eat Mexican, and we eat fruit and salad by the pound.

What would get us a week’s worth of food at Food Maxx affords us one bag of food at the local natural food store.

* Gala apples at Natural Foods: $2.09/pound.
* Gala apples at Food Maxx: .98/pound.

* Navel oranges at Natural Foods: $1.49/pound.
* Navel oranges at Food Maxx: .78/pound.

* Broccoli at Natural Foods: $2.79/pound.
* Broccoli at Food Maxx: .98/pound.)

My family doesn’t shop organic. We can’t afford to.

One might say “You can’t afford not to!”, but that person is probably from a first world country, and is probably *not* disabled, a single mom living in the inner city, a pink-slipped teacher, or a migrant worker.

When the kids need clothes it’s the thrift store, Ross Dress for Less, or Walmart. When it’s a new backpack for school, there isn’t much choice at all; Walmart it is.

We can’t afford locally crafted. We can’t afford organic hemp clothing, or socks made of eco-safe materials – except for the ones I can get at Walmart..

So, every time this mama reads about the health-costs of eating conventionally produced food, hackles rise; a defending wall protecting the fear and confusion at the heart of my conundrum.

What to do when it’s a choice between eating all month, or eating organic and only having food part of the time? What to do when the cost of educational supplies vie with this week’s choice of food for the table? When it comes down to it, these are not really questions that beg answers.

Do I care about my eco foot print? Yes, I do. Am I against the global impact of companies like Walmart? Yes, I am. Do I worry that the way I’m feeding my kids (and myself) may lead to health issues? Yes, I worry.

But worry is of little use. The health costs of stress are well known, too.

Until organics are no longer a luxury-priced item, I will be feeding my family in a necessary solidarity with the migrant laborers, and the mom in South-Central working two jobs to support her kids and still just breaking even.

Honestly, with the financial climate in the US today and the increasingly rapid disappearance of any true middle class, it’s not just that “poor” mom living in a tough neighborhood who faces this crisis of priorities, but any family living paycheck to paycheck. And that’s most of us.

Until then, there is a built-in elitism in the natural foods movement.

At the end of the day I have to hope against hope that loving my kids with everything I have, raising them as consciously as I am capable of, and forgiving myself where I fall short of my ideals is enough. To this end, I trade hubris for humility, and – sometimes shamefacedly – join the ranks of those who are doing their best with what they have.


About Lasara Allen

Lasara is wife to her true love, and mother to two amazing young women. She’s also a best-selling author, an educator, and an activist. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (nonfiction, Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox. As of 3/6/2012, after a coaching sabbatical, Lasara has openings for three three-week, individual, personally tailored coaching and mentoring programs. She also has slots in a cohort-model group coaching program available for a limited amount of time. Lasara is available for one-session commitments as well. Make whatever commitment feels best for you. Lasara offers individual coaching on topics such as; * Mental and Physical Health and Wellness - accepting your diagnosis (or that of a loved one) - learning to live with awareness of strengths and vulnerabilities - Learning to live gracefully within your spectrum of the possible * Mindful Relationships - self as primary partner - loving partnerships, friendships and connections - marriages - parenting - family * Spiritual Contemplation and Alignment - Entering into and committing to your spiritual inquiry - Learning to listen to listen for and hear the divine in your life - Inquiring into the role that faith may play in informing your path - The role of meditation, contemplation, and prayer in your practice For more information and endorsements, visit: http://lasaraallen.com/about-lasara/coaching-services/


131 Responses to “Why I Don’t Eat Organic.”

  1. Shannon says:

    (cont) MAshed potatoes one night = potato soup the next, and so on. I used to waste so much food.. well when you pay twice as much for it, I find it means more to you and you treat with more respect. I cant afford everything organic, but I try my best to make certain things a priority and stick to them. Your principles don't mean anything when you follow them during the easy times, its when its a sacrifice to stick to your guns that you discover what you are really made of: are you all talk or action? I refuse to let a higher price make me a victim of the society we live in. If you really want something (even if its just to eat a healthier diet) you find a way to make it happen. Its unfair that processed & chemical laden foods are subsidized by our government, while life sustaining organic produce is not.. but there is no use whining and complaining about it. If we want it to change, we have to change it–we cant wait around for someone to make organic produce cheaper so we can buyit–reprioritize your life if its important to you & MAKE IT HAPPEN.

  2. Alexis says:

    Bravo! This is such a wonderful perspective. Boiled down, isn't providing for your family above all other interest in the world? Wal-Mart, corrupt as they may be, offers some financial solace to those of us struggling. I would offer up that perhaps upon greater investigation we may find downfalls in the organic food supply chain itself. I also subscribe to the notion that the body, in general, is a machine and we should give it some credit for being able to tolerate some amazing things while maintaining health. I applaud you for providing for your children!

  3. Remy C. says:

    Maybe you should pick another health food store besides Natural Foods to price compare. They seems to be fleecing their upscale customers. They sound like a Gourmet Galley. Try more affordadle organic alternatives like Trader Joe's or even Whole Foods, which have very comparable prices on most items. Seriously!

  4. Remy C. says:

    Nearest TJ about 100 miles away… ouch! Do you have CSAs where you are? Farmers markets?

  5. Remy C. says:

    100 miles… might be worth starting a TJ coop… pull resources and do a weekly or monthly run… I know folks who do this already.

  6. Chip says:

    Mrs. Allen, you have a family of four and you, admittedly, can only provide for them by supporting companies and industries that are contaminating the environment, that provide terrible working conditions and low wages, produce unsafe products and unhealthy foods, and place profit above the well-being of society? Maybe you should feel defensive. I'm sick and tired of people claiming that having kids is an inalienable right. This past week the world population reached 7 billion people and, still, there are those like yourself who don't seem to understand supply and demand. Organic food IS a luxury because it costs more to produce… the price of it isn't kept artificially low like all the subsidized corn syrup laden processed crap that American's feel entitled to eat. I don't have any kids and it saddens me when I see people like yourself, who toss their hands in the air and say "Well, guess there's nothing I can do about it. The whole world is against me. I can only be the best parent I can be!". Maybe you and the other 6 billion people in the world who can't afford to take care of their kids properly shouldn't have had them. When are people going to understand that having kids should be considered a "luxury"? There I said it. Let the hateful responses start. I have completely had it with people calling me an "elitist" because I actually put the health of the earth and society ahead of some of my personal "wants". There isn't a "built-in elitism in the natural foods movement"… there is a built-in sense of responsibility. And I wish that more people would understand it and take it seriously.

  7. Chip says:

    In addition, I see no reason for your use of the phrase "I trade hubris for humility"… just say you trade pride for humility, the term "hubris" has absolutely nothing to do with anything you're saying. Thank you.

  8. LasaraAllen says:

    Agreed. And our food budget has shrunk, while food costs in CA have gone up. :/

  9. LasaraAllen says:

    Inner-city and low-income health and nutrition ARE super complex issues. With things like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert to take into account.


  10. LasaraAllen says:

    All good ideas. And I do believe that we all do the best that we are able.

  11. LasaraAllen says:

    Again, agreed.

    An interesting resource re: eggs: http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/

  12. LasaraAllen says:

    Whoa – you were being super interesting, but your post just got boring. Name calling is boring to me. Sorry!

  13. LasaraAllen says:

    Thank you!

    And an update. I stopped shopping at Walmart over a year ago on a dare from a dear friend. I've found I can do it, though I end up ordering a lot of stuff off amazon, ebay, and discount websites. (For example, the backpacks for the girls.)

    Peace on your path.

  14. LasaraAllen says:

    Um, well…Trader Joe's is a nearly two-hour drive. Whole Foods is 3 hours plus. (Also, many of my friends who shop there call it whole-paycheck.)

    Rural living has its upside, but access to a variety of options is not one of them.

    Thanks for your input though.

  15. LasaraAllen says:

    Well, not that I already *have* the kids, do you suggest that I murder them to make the load lighter? I won't get more hateful that that. You already did it for me.

  16. Monkey says:

    Only because conventional organic farmers (yes intentional label) are still trying to farm with monocultural practices, or at best different plants in one area yet still in rows by type.

    Life just doesn't grow this way on the planet… if we look at reducing our laziness and the sheer size of what we are attempting to grow on, add in some incredibly efficient gardening principles (ala permaculture) we can grow multiple crops organically with a significantly higher TOTAL yield than any conventional shit out there, plus we will be rebuilding the soil as we go and as a result the produce will be becoming MORE nutrient rich over time rather than less.

    It's actually not difficult at all, nature is designed to create surplus.

    Think about this… using free floating carbon dioxide in the air, sunlight and water… plus a healthy soil structure, growth is made. A large part of that comes out of the air!

    What do we do instead? Turn over the soil, burn all the remains and add ridiculous amounts of chemical fertilisers which add to destruction of soil. Sure we get big stuff yet nutrient content is ridiculously small.

  17. Monkey says:

    Have you looked into growing your own food to supplement?
    It aint that difficult… look up hydroponics, or even better… aquaponics and grow fish and veggies that feed each other, require very little input and have the highest possible yield of any kind of farming known to man currently.

  18. Sachin says:

    Anam Brahma Raso Vishnu
    Pakto Devo Maheshvara
    Evam Jnatva Tu-yo-bhunkte
    Anadosho Na Lipyate

    (The food is consciousness (Brahma), the plasma in the body is the Protector (Vishnu), the fire which digests the food is the destroyer (Maheshvasa) of the impurities in the food. If I know this, the food in me will become pure consciousness)

    a.k.a. it’s all about the attitude! 🙂

  19. dave says:

    Grow your own, then. Seedbomb public spaces, plant enough for others. What goes around comes around.
    pEACE and fULL bELLIES 🙂

  20. Wow, Chip! I totally read the article way different than you did. I am a single adult female, college educated, no children, live very modestly, and have average income…I myself cannot afford to buy organic. I did for sometime and almost put myself in debt and had to reconsider. There IS an elitist mentality with some of these organic shoppers. Maybe not all, but many. As a matter of fact, you have an elitist mentality in your response. I often wonder when I read comments from people much like yourself, if you have ever really suffered financial strain. Such as wondering where you may get your next meal; organic, non organic, meat, no meat, etc….just food to eat PERIOD. I doubt it. Have you ever worried about how your were going to make ends meet, put gas in your car to get to work, etc. You get my point. How can you be a mindful person, be a participant of a blog like Elephant Journal, and say, "I actually put the health of the earth and society ahead of some of my personal "wants". Putting down and judging another human being's choices to try to do what they think is best in their current circumstances does not agree with your statement. I wish that I could afford to buy organic as you do and I appreciate your efforts. I can also see where Lasara Allen is coming from, children or not. She does make the best decisions for her circumstances. I don't believe that she is feeding her children poorly as you imply. Anyways, you should not only be mindful of the food you eat, but the negative energy that you put out in this earth and society that you speak of caring about. The way you treated Ms. Allen in your response is treating another being poorly just as Wal-Mart may not treat their employees well. Have some compassion. We all can't be as great as you, Sir.

  21. Please read my response to "Chip". Thank you!

  22. Ambaa says:

    I garden as much as I can in my apartment (I have no outdoor space), but I find bell peppers extremely difficult. They will not flower for me. What do you suggest?

  23. Ambaa says:

    Thank you for this. I struggle every time I need to shop for food with needing to save money and wanting to buy the most eco friendly things.

    I think we do the best we can and forgive ourselves for not meeting our own really high expectations of ourselves.

    I garden a little hydroponically, but there still a lot I need that I can't grow and I still can't afford to shop at Whole Foods or Trader Joes or even Wegman's!

  24. Ambaa says:

    Same here. There's two of us, no kids yet, and we can't afford organic (And yes, I do mean "can't." We live extremely frugally and go without most luxuries in life). Apparently it would be better if we just starved to death.

  25. Ambaa says:

    Good suggestions! Thank you.

  26. Ambaa says:

    Whole Foods is super expensive! At least where I've ever seen them :-/

  27. Anonymous says:

    That statement about being from a "first world country" is 100% full of shit. There were 10,000 poor Haitians that protested against Monsanto's GMO food. There were also poor people in Africa and India, as well as many other places in the world who protested against food that is not organic, so I just have to say that was quite ignorant on your part. At least if you eat organic, you won't have to pay for all the health problems in the future. You might also want to scope out a few other places that don't have such ridiculous prices because I live in the land of homogenized fried chicken and even I can find better prices than that. I suppose if you want your children to have cancer at 30, that's your prerogative.

  28. Bianka says:

    There was no name calling in there at all. Shannon, I totally agree with you, your replies are pretty much what we have been doing for over 2 years 🙂

  29. Rachel says:

    One positive trend that I’m seeing is that the grocery stores are getting more and more organic products. As the competition increases, the prices of theses organics (or maybe it’s the difference in price between the organic and the conventional) decreases. I don’t know how far this trend will go, and I don’t really know if it’s a real thing, outside of my area. I hope that more of us will be able to have access to affordable and fresh, good quality food in the future.