The Four Rump Roasts of the Apocalypse

It seems every where I turn someone else is talking about food. I once thought myself alone in my singular obsession. I grew up on the fringe of the middle class. I won't say we were poor, because I could always name at least 5-10 families in our small town who had less. Food was never in short supply nor was it in abundance. We ate, we never went hungry. I am the child of a single mother who watched from early on how my mother had to make some very hard choices when it cames to how the food budget was going to go. I knew that our budget was $60 a week and even in 1989 for a family of 3 that was not a lot. I never thought much about it though, it was just how things were. We were happy, we were well fed, and there were no food police then to hassle my mother about eating feed lot beef, HCFS injected sandwich bread, or to deride her choice of margarine vs. butter. Flash forward to the present, I am a mother of 4 whose family subsists on a single income. I find myself making very similar hard choices only now I have the 'benefit' of knowing not only how my food choices effect my children's health but also that the rump roast I got on sale may just cause the methane cloud that will signal The Doomsday, poison the stream, and KILL US ALL. Really, I was just thinking of serving it over rice, but apparently I'm a one-woman Shiva out to destroy the earth. Don't get me wrong, I am as conscious to the far-reaching environmental impact of my table as anyone I know. I've read all the books from Kingsolver to Pollan to Waters. I KNOW what the right choices are, and I've heard the 'don't tell me organic/local is too expensive when in 5 years we'll all die if you don't put that bottle of ketchup down and back away'. Believe me, I KNOW. The hard reality is organic is expensive and for a lot of families when it comes down to it the dollar has to be the bottom line. So what does your average middle class family do when all seems bleak and like you'll never overcome your green guilt? There are some simple (and not so simple) things you can do.1. Be aware of the problem, yes even that helps.2. Grow something. You do not have to become a farmer just put out a tomato plant or grow some herbs. Nothing drastic, small steps.3.Buy fewer packaged food items. Start small think about your pantry what is in there that you could do fresh and from scratch? Maybe you enjoy making homemade bread or pasta or maybe you have your great grandmother's chicken soup recipe that you can freeze. Every bit helps. 3.When you must buy packaged food items then fight the war on packaging. Avoid brands that use double wrappings because plastics contain corn and petroleum. Also, contact brands that use less packaging, let them know you appreciate what they do. Contact your favorite brands if they are guilty of over-packaging and let them know you are discontinuing your patronage due to their packaging. 4. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) this is where you buy a share of a farmer's crop and in return a farmer gets his/her money up front for over-head. You benefit by knowing your dollars are going to the farmer down the road for local produce at an often discounted rate. Yes the sometimes $200 up front costs seems prohibitive however CSA shares usually go up for sale when most people are getting their tax-return money. Why not put a portion of yours toward that instead of new electronics?5. Support a community garden. True your family may not benefit directly but when we solve the food problem for the poorest members of society we solve it for all of us.6. Learn to cook. It isn't rocket science. Get a good basic cookbook like Martha Stewart's Cooking School, Bittman's How to Cook Everything, or The Joy of Cooking. Check them out from the library, buy them used, there is no need to put out a lot of cash for them. Also subscribe to a food-centric magazine, I personally recommend Everyday Food or Cooking Light. Keep at it, be relentless in your pursuit of food you will eat and enjoy.7.Look into local options for meat. We all think nothing of trooping to the farmer's market for squash and melons, but many of us may assume that local meat is cost prohibitive. This is not necessarily the case. It might also be more economical to buy a half or a quarter of an animal and store the meat in your deep freeze. Maybe going in w/ other families to purchase a share and splitting the costs.8. Go meatless as much as you feel you can/want to. Start w/ one day a week or one day every 2 weeks. 9. Do not buy into Organic guilt. Consider the carbon footprint of that organic watermelon you are eating in January compared to the conventionally farmed Broccoli from 1 state over in July. Also I completely disagree with Organic processed foods. How organic can a fruit roll-up be? Support organic when you can, but consider the food's total carbon impact first. 10. Eat in season. This is what I call the 'No tomatoes in January rule' simple enough. 11. If you are feeling really ambitious, learn to freeze and/or can. It's economical, environmentally friendly, and honestly tastes so much better. 12. PLAN. Do meal planning, weekend cooking, freezer meals, whatever works best for your family to keep you from making the easy fast choice when you are tired and hungry.13. Support local food businesses. Instead of spending your $20+ at McDonald's spend at your local restaurant. Have a local candy, soda, potato chip? Buy those instead of major brands. 14. Write letters. Write your school board, your congressman, paper whoever you can. Tell them you want better. Tell them you demand more. 15.Finally, ease up on yourself. Make as many changes as you feel comfortable making. Do not let guilt overwhelm you into complacency. We are all doing the best we can

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