The Inventory

Our kitchen inventory is complete.

Even before I began a proper analysis, I noticed some interesting patterns. First of all, the ratio of packaged to fresh foods is very high. Granted, this is a snapshot of a particular moment when our food budget is very low, but the difference is still dramatic. Secondly, I noticed a few zip codes cropping up quite frequently. Chicago, Minneapolis, and New Jersey were prominent; most of our spices in particular seem to have come from the latter place. Who knew?

Of course, zip codes are merely starting points, usually corporate headquarters or regional distribution centers. I’m going to need to dig a bit deeper in order to track the footprints of this food. I noticed that quite a few items come from overseas and are re-branded with another company name;  other brands are under the umbrella of a larger firm, like ConAgra. The high percentage of Chicago zip codes stems from the shopping we’ve been doing at WinCo, an employee-owned regional chain. This presents an interesting dilemma, which I will explore as the year proceeds: the tension between supporting a locally-owned business which sells goods shipped from far away or a non-local business which sells locally-sourced goods.  Or a non-locally-owned business, selling goods from far away, but which still employs people from one’s own community. Or, the reductio version, providing for oneself and not buying from others, though I doubt we’ll reach that level.

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About poorlocavore

Welcome to one family's journey towards a smaller food-mile footprint on a small food budget. How do our choices affect the environment, and what influences our choices? Read on and find out what I'm learning.
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4 Responses to The Inventory

  1. Joyce says:

    The dilemma seems almost unbreakable. I bought a package of frozen food this week. Usually, I buy fresh, but I was in a hurry and did not want to cook that night. It was a package you steam in the microwave for five minutes. The product was crisp and good tasting. Then I looked at the package – I don’t remember the brand name, it might have been Stop & Shop – but the food came from South America. I was pretty shocked. I won’t buy that again.

  2. poorlocavore says:

    It seems to be a very complicated picture indeed. Of course, globalism has tied us all together, and so many producers depend on export sales for income. Hopefully, my research this year will help unravel the mystery for us. Anyway, I’m glad your dinner was good.

  3. Cassie says:

    I can empathize with your dilemma. We strive to eat local and have a lot of the same questions. Then you start adding in if it’s minimally processed,what’s in it, is it natural and/or organic, how the calories and nutritional value stack up…and a trip to the grocery store becomes a study in balancing all of these concerns while still getting out of there, under budget, within 2 hours. It’s exhausting.

    I will be eager to find out how you trace the origins of a lot of packaged foods. I was in Stop and Shop today and saw that the eggs were “distributed by” Landhold (that must be the S & S parent company?) in Maryland. I had to buy them because they were out of the Connecticut eggs. I really had a puss on about it, too. There’s another compromise. Do I waste a gallon of gas going to another store to get the CT eggs?

    Same goes for fruits. I picked some pears that said, “USA,” but that’s not very specific. Friendlier, I guess, than those from Chile or South Africa or wherever, but not cool if they’re from California. I think the best option there (with produce) is still to go to the farmer’s market. The season for which has come and gone here in the great Northeast 😦

    I think your dilemma will seem more clear as you identify your reasons for doing this. Is it to help your community (ie economic–to provide jobs), to help the planet (reduce the amount of carbon emissions through transport of goods), to help yourselves (local, in-season foods are often less expensive and taste better)? Most likely a combination of all of them, or you wouldn’t have a dilemma!

    • poorlocavore says:

      I agree. Once you start thinking about it, it can drive you crazy. As for tracking, I plan to contact a sampling of companies and try to find out where they source their ingredients. Of course, your “local” is not the same as my “local”-and I’m going to have to unpack just what “local” means as well.

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