by Laura Edwards-OrrThis is the 2nd post in our series, Six Ways to Shop Your Values without Breaking the Bank.
These tips to help you get the most for your money and make the most impact with your purchases. We can’t all be perfect, so remember: When you make one change for the better, you’ve made a solid move in the right direction!
Shop Your Values Tip #2: Make a plan. The supermarket can be a rabbit’s warren of choices for an educated shopper. If you’re anything like most people, you have a set list, written or memorized, of what you buy. Simply going to the store and trying to find an organic or sustainable equivalent to everything on your list right next to the products you usually buy is a sure way to burn out fast.
Divide and conquer. Start by thinking about where you shop. In an ideal world, you might be able to find everything you’re looking for in one place, but - in the real world - that can be a challenge. You might think about dividing up your list into staples that can be had at a low cost and a couple of priority items to be sourced from a specialty market or direct from a grower at a farmers market or farm stand. Sustainably raised or organic meat is a good example of a product that can be hard to find at most mega-marts – although this is starting to change as consumer demand goes up.
Look at the store brands. Dig around a little bit to understand the values behind store branded products. Most mainstream markets are starting to offer a range of sustainable and organic products to increase the choice on their shelves. Chances of finding sale prices or coupons are also much higher on store branded products compared to other national and regional brands. Good news here: couponing is definitely cool again!
It takes a little time to figure out how to do the job right. So, decide what’s realistic for you – it might be a trip to the specialty market or farmers market once a month; or identifying one or two brands that are easily had and fit within your values. But, taking the time to map out your strategy will help make the change. And, staying the course over the long haul is what will make the most difference with your precious food dollars.
Laura Edwards-Orr started her career as a local foods advocate at Farm Aid - America's longest running concert for a cause. She now works for Plainville, MA based Red Tomato where she connects farmers across the Northeast with access to wholesale markets, like grocery stores.
Laura also works as a freelance writer, researcher, and data nerd for organizations and businesses working to create family-farm based food systems and value chains. She lives in Providence, RI with her husband, toddler twins, horse, dog, and two cats.