Third in a four-part series

According to Webster’s Dictionary, conscientious means to be “governed by conscience.” From the perspective of this article, being a conscientious shopper would mean making choices from our conscience that support products, companies and businesses that strive to provide the best choices for a sustainable and healthy population and planet. Though this can apply to anything we purchase, the focus here is on our food supply.

We as a people are becoming sick from the “toxic soup” of chemicals, and from all the packaged and processed food we consume. Every choice we make affects someone else from around the world. Every choice affects our health and the health of the planet. Every purchase we make sends a message and supports the company that is producing the product we buy.

One of the most important steps in becoming a conscientious shopper is to ask what is important to you and what kind of a world you want to help create and support. Then educate yourself! Learn to read labels and get to know the food you purchase and the people who grow it!

Stay aware when you shop. I have a friend whom I would consider a well-educated conscientious shopper. Our local grocery store has decided to offer more organics, and she wanted to support them in this choice so she bought a package of frozen, organic corn. When she got home, she looked at the label and learned that the corn was from China. Awareness is key, as labeling can be very tricky. All the labels and choices can become overwhelming, so here are some guidelines to get you started.

Ask yourself these questions and then make choices that work for you and just do the best you can. Making small changes will eventually lead to bigger changes and that can have a huge effect on your health and our planet!

To make more conscientious food shopping purchases, consider these questions:

  • Is the food organically grown?
  • Was it grown locally?
  • What are the farming practices of the companies you are supporting?
  • How far does it travel to get to you?
  • How fresh is it? When produce is picked, it begins loosing its nutritional value immediately.
  • If you are choosing meat and poultry, how is it raised and treated, and what is it fed?
  • If you choose fish or seafood, is it wild caught or farm harvested with sustainable practices?
  • How much packaging surrounds the product?
  • How long is the list of ingredients, and can you pronounce all the words? (Fewer ingredients is best, and you want real food, not chemicals.)

Educate yourself on the meaning of terms such as natural, organic, grass fed, grass finished, etc. You can do a search on the internet, as there are many sites with good information on food labeling, including the FDA site.

There are many good books and movies to help you educate yourself about becoming a conscientious shopper, and here a few of my favorites:

  • In print: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan; and Permaculture: a Designers Manual, by Bill Mollison
  • On video: Food Matters; Fast Food Nation; Food Inc.; The Future of Food; Fresh; Home — This is a free movie available by download online. It is shows the role our farming practices have had on world poverty and soil depletion [www.youtube.com/homeproject].

The two best resources for purchasing food conscientiously are your local farmer’s market and your local food co-op. You can ask questions and get to know your growers and their practices. Most food co-ops have a well-informed staff that is happy to answer your questions.

When it comes to purchasing your food, it is becoming more and more important to be conscious and aware. What you eat affects your whole body, mind and soul. Your food should be real, whole, organic, local, and chemical and preservative free. Your choice to become a conscientious shopper will help support a more humane and sustainable earth for all of us.

Next month: The Ritual and Celebration of Food

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