Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

Grocery shopping: spoilt for choice!

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We are still blown away by the abundance of fresh, affordable and delicious food when we walk into a supermarket.  And we are indeed spoilt for choice!  There are so many different fruit and veg on offer, and every aisle offers the savvy shopper an endless bounty of yummy items!  But as with all things, we work hard to make environmentally sustainable choices about the food we buy and where we buy it!   So we thought we’d compile a bit of a list of some of the considerations we make, and maybe it will inspire you to think a bit differently next time the need for groceries arises in your household!

  • Stay away from the big chains:  For us this means boycotting Coles and Woolworth’s.  We prefer to spend our money on local grocery stores, so we shop at Farmer Jack’s (close to us) and IGA.  Go the independent grocery stores!
  • Think before you buy: there are many ways we can make good choices that are good for our pocketbooks, good for the environment and good for the people who produce our food!   Try to BUY LOCAL.  This helps in many ways.  One is that it supports our LOCAL GROWERS, which is great.  It also helps to KEEP THE FOOD MILES DOWN, thus reducing the carbon footprint of the food we buy.  (For people not familiar with what this is about, it is essentially looking at the full cost of carbon of the food we eat.  It takes into account things like fuel costs to produce the food – ie: tractors, fuel costs to get the food to market, and even fuel for planes if the foods we buy are imported!).   These all add up, and even though the price tag we see at the shops may not be higher for imported goods, there is certainly a higher cost in terms of carbon footprint!  So keep yours small whenever you can!
  • Make ethical choices:  for us, this means ensuring that the companies we buy from pay fair wages to the people who grow / produce the products (FAIR TRADE), and do not use animal testing on their products. 
  • Consider Organic:  not only does it taste better, it is also a way better choice for the environment!  The extra cost may be a small price to pay to know that you are eating something truly healthy, and not laden with chemicals!
  • BYO Bag:  Bringing your own bags is something that has finally caught on in Australia, although the use of plastic in places like Ghana is still huge.  We not only bring bags to pack our groceries in, but also bring netted bags or re-used clear plastic bags for fruit and veg, as well as loose (bulk) items like rice, beans and nuts.
  • Reduce Packaging:  We like to support shops that minimise packaging where possible.  This is easily done by supporting shops that buy in bulk;  allowing us to use paper bags, or bringing our own bags to fill.  This isn’t just for dry goods like beans, nuts, rice and flour though!   We love to buy other items in reuseable containers like laundry liquid, dishwashing liquid and hand soap!  It all makes a difference to reduce the amount of plastics being unnecessarily used.
  • Get a Guide:  sometimes making the move to better choices can be a bit overwhelming.  Considering items like organic, GMO free, free range, cruelty free, chemical issues, recycling, buying local, considering carbon miles – it can all be a bit much!  One of the ways (at least in Australia) that we can suggest is to get a guide to help you with these choices.   Go to http://www.ethical.org.au/  for the Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping.  It may take a few moments longer at your next few grocery buying stops, but you’ll quickly learn which brands are right for you, and then the reliance on the guide will be less.  But I always have it in my handbag, for quick reference, when I am buying products that are new to me, or that I haven’t bought in a while (and I’ve forgotten which ones are best for me!)   You can download it, order a hard copy, or even have a phone app!  
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