Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Anti-Pop-Tart Post

Aside from The List, I have personal goals and changes I want to pursue regardless of the impending crisis. I have posted a few times about our local eating efforts, and I want to expand that to local living. My friend Hannah and I talked last weekend about local living for hours while we drove to and from Brenham, Texas to buy fresh, local meat.

I concluded that I want to try to live and shop only in my own hemisphere, preferably only in North America. Yes, this means no more Belgian or German chocolate, and it means no more Ethiopian Sidama coffee. However, I can buy sustainably farmed coffee from this continent and hemisphere without paying for the tons of petrochemicals involved in transporting the Sidama from Africa. Sure, we still pay for oil to transport the coffee from Columbia (yeah, I know. Not my continent) or Central America, but it's certainly less than from Africa. And before you suggest it, no, I will not stop drinking coffee. Mother Earth can kiss my Heiny if she thinks I'm taking that one for the team.

This also means I need to shop for American-made clothes, shoes, electronics . . . you name it. I might not succeed all the time. Given the job situation, if I need a car part and it costs twice as much for American as for Asian, I might have to buy the Asian-made part for now. I feel I must at least make the effort, though.

Here are my proposed guidelines and challenges to myself:
  1. The experiment will last six months: the period of time remaining before we enter the Season of Unemployment Armageddon.
  2. 90% of food should be raised and grown within 200 miles of Houston. The only reason I'm giving myself such mileage is that most ranches and my source of raw milk are between 90 and 100 miles away. The only reason I'm giving myself a 10% freedom to buy from farther away is for items like coffee, chocolate, and avocados. I don't know if avocados grow within 200 miles of Houston or not, but I want to make sure I can have them.
  3. 90% of consumer goods should be made on this continent. Again, I'm giving myself room so that if it turns out that the ingredients of my homemade laundry detergent are only made in China and I can't find any other US-made detergent, I'm not screwed. I want to make sure that I still can buy toilet paper, you know? Oh, and DH thinks I'm being dumb, so I need room to not have to fight with him about every little thing.
  4. When we eat out, we suspend the experiment for obvious reasons; however, we should try to eat only at locally owned and run restaurants. I want to limit eating out to twice a month.
  5. I want to prove a corollary theory: That while shopping only locally is more time consuming, it should be cheaper. It's true! Local, humanely raised chicken might be more expensive per pound (a lot more!), but if you eat less of it (a common surprise when people begin eating locally and in-season) and dress it with locally grown, in-season vegetables, it's practically the only expense of the meal. Our $12 chicken with $5 in vegetables from Sunday before last fed us for four days. That's about $4.25/day or $127.50/month. Um, that's cheap. The average American family spends about $289 on food prepared at home. Our current grocery budget is $90/week or $360 - $450/month for food and non-food items. I want to show at least a 10% reduction in food expenditures over the next six months. That means I should have $9 left at the end of each week. I'll put that money into an envelope and keep it in the desk.
  6. I want to prove (for myself) another corollary theory: That eating locally is more healthful. I do not believe that weight loss is a good indicator of physical health, nor are body size and BMI. After thinking a lot about how to prove this, I've settled on bloodwork. I'm going to ask my doctor for a blood panel to figure out where I am right now. I'm not going to do anything differently than I do right now. I will not restrict calories or intentionally up my exercise. I won't not exercise either. I'll just do whatever comes naturally. I enjoy soccer, and the season is starting; therefore, I'll play soccer once a week if I feel up to it. At the end of the six months, I'll have another blood panel done. I'll publish the results of each panel here.
If any of you smart people out there can think of a better (read: less expensive) method to prove the healthful theory, please tell me in the comments.

As I re-read this for publication, a co-worker brought me a Pop-Tart, and I devoured it. I might have snorted the icing without ever once considering the irony of what's displayed on the screen. I might have, but I will neither confirm nor deny such an allegation. I have avoided bringing snacks and food to the office because I work only half-days. Clearly I need to change my approach. Pop-Tarts do not meet a single criterion listed above. They are everything that this effort seeks to remedy about my life. This post is my Manifesto! My Master Plan! My Anti-Pop-Tart.


  1. How inspiring! I may join you in your challenge if you don't mind!

  2. I would love that! We can cross-post to each other and track progress. I'm really excited about this, truly.

    So far this week, I managed to buy almost all of our groceries from the farmer's market; unfortunately, I sent DH to the grocery store for dog food without even thinking about its origins. I think it might be time to start looking at how to make my own dogfood. Crap that's going to be expensive.

  3. There are very healthy dog foods made semi locally and I know there are ones made just in the US. :-) Course they aren't cheap....


  4. This is great!

    When it comes to buying stuff made in the US when at all possible, I am so with you. When it comes to clothes, let me point out two possibilities:
    1) etsy. Ok, the fabric was probably not made in the US, but even clothes that say "made in the US" might not be--hmmm, good to look up on. Clothes on etsy are not necessarily cheap, depending upon what you are needing, but they are cute and if you read the listings, you will hopefully be supporting US home industries. (You can look at sellers local to your area too!)

    2) resale clothes. eBay, thrift stores, garage sales. Sure, that cute top was once made in China, but was its first life--now the money (and not much!) you spend on it is going straight into the pocket of some American housewife like yourself. Well, and into the US Postal Service (in the case of eBay) which is not a bad thing either, as long as the cost is still less than what you would pay without shipping (which is how I always figure it).

    Please keep posting and let us know how it goes!