The Power Of One’s Money

This is one of the ideas that I adhere to most closely, the one that I not only vote once every 3 years in an election, but every day – when I buy things. Every single item I buy has influence, because the transaction talks the only truly international language – money. Let’s consider just one item, a tin of tomatoes, and dissect what we might be voting for when we part with our $1.20.

–       Large supermarket vs small grocer, or somewhere in between

–       Global vegetable supplier vs independent producer

–       Local vs overseas grown and processed

–       Shipped vs trucked vs flown

–       Organic vs pesticides

–       Additives vs none

–       Fair workers rights vs poor working conditions

I’m sure there are more factors one might be voting on in this circumstance, I welcome any additions via the comments section! Of course, you can also vote to not have packaging because after all, a tin of chopped tomatoes is just that – chopped tomatoes, which is not that hard to do.

Some votes are simple choices to make, ie I would suggest that if the supply chain were transparent then most shoppers would favour humanely slaughtered meat over non-humane. Others can be more difficult – I spent a good deal of time recently trying to choose between an organic coffee vs fair trade coffee, the deadlock in my head being broken by my dad who was keen to leave the supermarket (thankfully because I might have gone a bit loopy).

So, it is virtually impossible to be in control of every aspect above, and often one needs to choose between one area and another. Being a vote, everyone can make their own choice too, ie I might choose organic overseas products over chemical local ones, but others would sit on the other side of the fence. The point is, just this single item in your basket influences many people, animals and places in many other parts of the world – and this voting occurs with every item of every transaction.

Every purchase can also have unintended consequences, if one buys entirely from a big chain supermarket one should not be surprised to see the walking-distance fruit store close down, or if one favours cheaper overseas products there should not be complaints when local jobs are lost.

What I try to do is picture the perfect world I would like to live in, and vote for the products that best follow that path.

Small Habit, Big Change – be conscious of the signal your money is sending everytime you shop. Try thinking about it when you’re travelling to work instead of at the shop shelves.


Pay the Grocer

‘It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor’

I was struck recently by the above quote, which is an old Italian saying, that goes really close to summing up my attitude to life. Apart from being a sceptic on the virtues of areas of modern medicine, in it’s simplicity there’s a whole lot implied that goes unsaid. Not rushing things for example, or support the small businessperson rather than the rich guy. Of course though, the obvious connection is that if you eat healthily then you’ve no need for the doctor – rather like ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ – although the Italians seem to take a broader approach than the Anglos.

The saying may have worked 100 years ago, nowadays I think the saying ‘it’s better to pay the supermarket than the doctor’ is a little more problematic. The food industry is a massive profit-making machine – and to provide food for everyone and dividends for shareholders they are compromising our health. Changes like speeding up production rates, genetically modifying crops, feeding animals to animals, or adding unneeded chemicals are subtly altering the end food product in damaging ways.

Industrialised diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity and diabetes are not solely related to high junk food diets, there’s bad things in most of the food you buy in the major supermarkets as well. Food we all buy and consider healthy when doing so.

looks good, smells better!Eating healthily so you don’t need to pay the doctor is harder than it seems – bread is no longer just flour, yeast and water; butter often gets substituted for margarine, a grey-black product that starts as the leftovers from vegetable oil production and is injected with air and colours and flavourings to make it appear like butter. The examples are endless.

Above all else though, the main areas that should concern everyone are animals and animal products – the most unethical section of the industry. It’s no great surprise that the rates of those first world diseases have risen with the amount of animal products we are consuming.

The first step towards reversing these trends does not need to be vegetarianism – many of you will be happy to know – but finding out what has happened to your meat, fish, eggs, milk etc before it got to your grocer. I urge you to do it! This means a bit of reading, and probably paying a little more for the sake of your health. You’ll be able to read my thoughts or research from time to time on this blog as well.

An easy, immediate, non-research choice is to buy organic. This may not have been the original motivation of the Italians’ saying, but it certainly rings clear in today’s gastronomic world.

Small Habit Change – Read more about the food you eat, make sure you know where it comes from. Try for once a week, learning about something new each time. Become an informed consumer.

A few links on the above topic….