We went grocery shopping over the weekend, as we always do. First a trip to the grocery store and then off to Whole Foods for gluten-free bread and pasta. And for yet another weekend in a row, we've looked down at our grocery receipt(s) and said, "What did we buy that cost so much?!?"
Nothing, actually. Our larger-than-normal grocery bills are larger simply because we buy more stuff. And we buy more stuff because my husband is on a special diet that prohibits us from buying the cheap-o, prepackaged foods at regular grocery stores. We can no longer rely on most of the pre-made products on store shelves. We have to buy individual ingredients and make stuff ourselves. We have to buy organic products that don't contain wheat.
And that's fine. It's something we have to do and in comparison, other people our age spend the same amount partying every week, so at least we're using our money to put something good into our bodies.
Still, money doesn't grow on trees.
In another economy, we probably wouldn't even think twice about spending $4 on a box of "pasta". We wouldn't do a double take at the price of grapes and bananas. We'd all be able to own lemur farms like Kirstie Alley. Okay, well, maybe not THAT far, but... (Also, is it wrong that I watched several episodes of her reality show Big Life—a show about Kirstie and her handyman trying to lose weight, mind you—while I ate a bunch of Cadbury chocolate mini eggs?)
It shouldn't be that way. Real food—fruit, veggies, meat—should be affordable (and safe). But it's not. A box of Kraft macaroni and cheese costs less than a bag of grapes. A burger at McDonald's costs less than buying the meat and cooking a burger yourself. This is why so many people in poverty in the U.S. are obese. They eat what they can afford and crap (albeit good-tasting crap—I do love me a McDouble from the $1 menu) is what they can afford.
High-fructose corn syrup is what they can afford. (And I don't care how many people say that high-fructose corn syrup is safe in small quantities. The fact is, we aren't consuming high-fructose corn syrup in small quantities. We consume it in large quantities because food manufacturers, in the interest of saving themselves money on using real sugar, put high-fructose corn syrup in everything we eat and drink!) And do you know where high-fructose corn syrup comes from?
Corn. Our country eats lots and lots of corn because corn is cheap now that it's one of the only two crops U.S. farmers are allowed to grow, soy beans being the other. And that cheap corn is turned into a variety of ingredients listed on the back of the prepackaged foods and beverages that we so cheaply purchase at the grocery store. Here's a disturbing fact: The bacon and eggs you ate for breakfast, your glass of milk at lunch, and your hamburger at dinner were all produced with U.S. corn.
Uhm, pardon me, but doesn't bacon come from pigs? And doesn't milk and meat come from cows? And don't eggs come from chickens? Very good questions and yes, all of that is true. But what is also true in our current food economy is that pigs, cows, and chickens are all fed a diet of CORN. Are pigs, cows, and chickens supposed to be eating corn? No. Cows, for example, are supposed to be eating grass because that's what their stomachs are designed to digest. But when you feed an animal corn, it grows bigger so that means there is more meat for the food manufacturers to sell to consumers, making them more money. Doesn't matter that cows get sick from eating corn. Doesn't matter that cows have to be given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick from eating corn. Doesn't matter that those antibiotics, not just the corn, then travel to the humans who eat the meat or drink the milk.
Here's something else interesting about corn from Michael Pollan's (please read his books) website: "One need look no further than the $190 billion farm bill President Bush signed last month [this was in 2002] to wonder whose interests are really being served here. Under the 10-year program, taxpayers will pay farmers $4 billion a year to grow even more corn, this despite the fact that we struggle to get rid of the surplus the plant already produces. The average bushel of corn (56 pounds) sells for about $2 today; it costs farmers more than $3 to grow it. But rather than design a program that would encourage farmers to plant less corn—which would have the benefit of lifting the price farmers receive for it—Congress has decided instead to subsidize corn by the bushel, thereby insuring that zea mays dominion over its 125,000-square-mile American habitat will go unchallenged."
*sigh* Will the American food economy ever change?
Also, if you haven't already, may I recommend watching the movie Food, Inc.?