Wednesday, February 20, 2008

avoiding packaged food

(edited to remove Judgy McJudgerson aspects. Apologies to everyone who now thinks I think they're evil because they buy canned beans - I should NOT write blog posts late at night when I'm all fired up about stuff.)

I'm taking a course at UVic (extension - no credit, no exam) about food culture. Tonight the topic was food branding and it was an interesting albeit fairly depressing topic - how much money is poured into marketing, especially to children, is really, really not fun to hear about.

I've been trying, mostly successfully, to avoid food in packages. Avoiding brands and marketing and supporting the industry behind that was admittedly a secondary (tertiary?) goal - the first being eating healthier, since I've yet to be convinced that anything in a box or package is healthier for me than either nothing or something I can make myself from raw ingredients, and the second goal being of the green-me-up variety - packaging is just inherently wasteful and bad for the environment. But the more I think about it, the more disgusted I am with food marketing because invariably it targets the vulnerable - like children, who lack the capacity to understand what advertising is, and poor people who work hideous long hours to put food on the table and who don't have time to shop around and kind of have to believe the packages when they say they're the cheapest most nutritious source of whatever-it-is available, and even if they don't believe it, they don't feel they have a choice because who has time to do that from scratch anyway???

I am extremely fortunate in that firstly I love spending time in the kitchen and I think it's more fun to do things like make my own bread than to let Mr. Dempster do it for me, and secondly I have the lifestyle (stay-at-home mom) and resources (supportive family) to do it. I'm under NO illusion that everyone is like that. I don't want to guilt anyone for using packaged food - it's so prevalent because there is no arguing that it DOES fill a perceived need for people. Time is the most precious commodity for most people - food that maximizes time for other things is understandably desirable. Also, a lot of packaging extends shelf life, reducing cost and making food cheaper - and there is the economy-of-scale factor, which comes into play for things like mayonaise, where sure you CAN make your own, but industrial eggs & oil make it cheaper for Kraft to make it for you, plus they give you a nice jar too. (I actually like mayo jars, they are infinitely reusable.)

So I think I'm going to try to start an anti-package movement, and try to write some articles and maybe work with community centres or wherever to provide information to people on how to live without packaged food. It's going to be an uphill slog, because there are very, very valid reasons for using packaged food and even I am by NO means blameless - I buy cheese in packages, dairy stuff, the aforementioned mayo, rice noodles... almost everything comes in a package! What I'm trying to get after most is stuff for which the benefits are illusory - products that don't *really* save you any time, or provide the nutritional benefit that they claim. But I think I need to do some research first, because I am admittedly not a normal person and can't expect everyone will act (or want to act) like me, food-wise, and that is where all my 3 or 4 readers come in. Can you all please either post in comments or send me an e-mail and let me know:

1) In your last weekly or bi-weekly or regular shopping trip, what foods did you buy that came in a package? (I'm only including things with more than one basic ingredient. So, milk, basic dairy, canned beans, veg, tomato and frozen veg & fruit don't count.)

2) How much time do you have for food preparation? So, typically how much time do you spend fixing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks?

3) How many packaged foods do you consider staples, and how many are treats?

4) On your last grocery bill, what percentage of the total cost was packaged food?

5) How many people are in your household, and how many share responsibility for food preparation?

I think that'll do for starters. Help?

4 Comments:

Blogger Brynn's Mama said...

Yeah, it is really bad. Given that we have no garden (yet) and that the farmer's markets are out of season here now, we get basically no local real food, I am sad to say. I have been much more conscious of processed foods of late, though, and I avoid all HFCS stuff, so at least it's a step.

1) In your last weekly or bi-weekly or regular shopping trip, what foods did you buy that came in a package? (I'm only including things with more than one basic ingredient. So, milk, basic dairy, canned beans, veg, tomato and frozen veg & fruit don't count.)

Cereal
Amy's frozen lunches
Veggie chips
Dried pasta
Pasta sauce
Triscuits (crackers)
Cream cheese
Pudding cups
Instant oatmeal
bread
yogurt

2) How much time do you have for food preparation? So, typically how much time do you spend fixing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks?

Breakfast, snacks, lunch = 15 minutes each, roughly
Dinner = one hour, on average


3) How many packaged foods do you consider staples, and how many are treats?

I'd say 75% of what we buy in a month would be staples, and 25% would be treats like pudding, granola bars, & chocolate.

4) On your last grocery bill, what percentage of the total cost was packaged food?

OK I'm looking at my last receipt and without doing the math, it looks like maybe 30%.

5) How many people are in your household, and how many share responsibility for food preparation?

Two adults, one child. This particular adult does *all* food shopping, prep, and cooking.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Artos and I think we're better than the average family but have a ways to go before we consider ourselves free from the packaged food empire.

1) What foods did you buy that came in a package?

- baby cereal
- a few jars baby food
- tomato sauce/paste
- bread
- corn chips, heh heh
- 1 frozen lasagna
- mccain frozen pizza
- pop
- mini cupcakes, heh heh.
- waffles

We also typically have canned soups and ravioli for lunches, the classic KD, crackers, packaged spices/herbs (until summer), pasta (although we sometimes make it fresh). Last week we bought Kraft singles just to remind us how horrible they are.

2) how much time do you have for food prep:

breakfast - 5 minutes
lunch/dinner - 1/2 an hour

3) about 75% of the packages we buy are staples like tom.sauce/paste, pastas.

just ran out of time, proving not everyone has the luxury to analyze their groceries.

2:32 PM  
Blogger spughy said...

I ate some of your corn chips, Sue, so I'm complicit there. But I left your mini-cupcakes alone!!! LOL

2:34 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

Let's see - I'm at work, so I don't have my receipt, but going on memory, here's a sample:

Cookies
Chips (DH)
Crackers
Cereal
Instant Oatmeal
Canned Soup
Annie's Bunny Pastas
Coooking sauces/marindaes
Ketchup...ketchup and more ketchup
Wheat Tortillas
Frozen Fries
Canned Beans
Yogurt
Margarine

On the other hand, I also do a complete 'nother shopping trip at the farmer's market to pick up veggies, and I bake all the bread (100% whole wheat thankyouverymuch) that my family (Myself, DH & Two Toddlers) eat.

The girls were sent to daycare today with: Homemade Shepherd's Pie (used worchestershire sauce and bovril - I was out of stock!), 2 different kinds of fruit, cut cheese and crackers. Not a granola bar in sight. :-)

I have approx 20-30 mins in the morning for breakfasts (yogurt and or instant oatmeal, plus fruit, milk and toast for the girls - which reminds me, I should start making my own yogurt again, that stuff is expensive!) and around 30 mins in the evenings for dinner prep.

I live in Duncan and work in Victoria (not by choice, long story) so I get up really really early in the morning to prep myself and the girls for the day, and I'm HORRIBLY rushed in the eveings trying to get dinner on the table before bedtime.

We're working on it.

12:36 PM  

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