Monday, June 30, 2008

The 11 best foods don't include corn

There's a new health blog on, and the article today was "11 best foods you aren't eating." Swiss chard, sardines, pumpkin seeds. Nothing too surprising but it'll definitely make you happy there's a farmer's market/CSA near you.

Also, last night on BookTV I saw an interview with the fellow who directed "King Corn," a documentary recounting the adventures of two young men who rent an acre of farmland in Iowa, grow corn on it, and then follow that corn through its various processing possibilities, whether than be HFCS or fattening up feedlot cattle or whatever. It was like Michael Pollan on the screen, and in fact one of the experts extensively interviewed was...Michael Pollan. The film was on Independent Lens earlier in the year, I missed it but it is available through netflix, so now it's in my queue. Of course, I suppose you could buy it as well, I'm sure that would make the director happy! The website is attractive and has lots of good links, so go take a look.

And speaking of which, here's an interview with Pollan on Yale Environment360. Money quote:
The writer Wendell Berry was right a long time ago when he said the environmental crisis is a crisis of character. It’s really about how we live. The thought that we can swap out the fuel we’re putting in our cars to ethanol, and swap out the electricity to nuclear and everything else can stay the same, I think, is really a pipe dream. We’re going to have to change, and the beginning of knowing how to change is learning how to provide for yourself a little bit more.
If Pollan added a touch more values language to his writing, he could become this generation's Wendell Berry.

Breakfast: The most expensive meal of the day

Here's a post from Dollar Stretcher about breakfast, the most important - and in our house the most expensive - meal of the day.

I purchase most of our cereal from the health-food section of the supermarket, in an effort to avoid HFCS and GMOs - although of course, unless one buys organic, anything you buy from the supermarket is likely to contain GMOs. I only buy the cereals that are on sale, but that's still $3.50 / box, and we go through at least 3 or 4 boxes a week. Oy!

One way we tried to stretch it was by buying a generic honey-nut-o's substitute from the regular aisle and mixing it in, but it hasn't been overly popular. (Although DK2 eats it every day, with a couple hunks of cojack cheese and some raisins.) I also buy bulk granola from the health food store and eat that with yogurt once or twice a week, and DK1 likes that, but it's not much of a money saver, since I buy the expensive yogurt also! We also do homemade bread with cheese sometimes too, and once in a while DW makes homemade bars, and they always get scarfed right away. Nobody will eat oatmeal but me.

I assume that the rising price of grains will lead to higher prices on high-end cereals, and that will make it harder for me to justify buying them. We may be forced to move to more homemade options. I believe that if we made this granola recipe in the form of a bar, it would get eaten. And as with the breadmachine bread, my guess is that when the more attractive options disappear for a long enough period of time, the less attractive options will begin to look a whole lot better.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The end of the month

This is the time of month when all spending basically stops - 2 days before payday, at the end of the month. Even since the tax refund came through, we have been bouncing at $1000 rather than at 0, but the principle is the same - no extra money!

Summers are tough because income is lower - we don't teach Hebrew School over the summer, so no extra income there, and DW is the low man on the totem pole at her tutoring job, which means if things are slow there over the summer she doesn't get called in to work. And expenses that we don't usually see come in over the summer as well, camps and lessons for the kids particularly. And the electricity bill is high because of AC. So we were out-of-balance for June.

As far as the food budget goes - I've managed to get the main shopping down to about $150/week, give or take (I have seen some increase in some of the things I buy), but if I go to farmer's market and buy meat or dairy from the farm that can put it over. But I'm pretty clear that I'm trying to balance food activism with frugality, so I'm pretty comfortable with where we are with that right now. I had to skip both of them this week because I was determined to spend no more money until payday, and that's okay too. If I could get the supermarket back down in the $100-110 range it would be better, so that's my goal right now. I sort of have to do that so that we can make it to the end of the summer when the extra income things kick in again. And when J.D. at Get Rich Slowly said that he had gone out to eat 40 times already this year I felt much better, because my number is, oh, 3 maybe.

The major thing that makes our financial situation challenging is debt service. I spend $600/month on credit card payments, $450/month on student loan payments, and $340/month on the car payment. That's more than one-quarter of our monthly net income! If I didn't have all that, opening Quicken would be a lot less nerve-wracking! It seems to me that my life has always been like this. But at least now, I'm not adding more to the credit cards debt, and though it might make today more comfortable to pay less on the cards, I'm determined to keep it where it is so that we can get closer to a tomorrow that's free from all this debt. (This is leaving aside the 400-pound gorilla which is the house in IL - I also have utilities on it that I'm basically ignoring right now but which will have to be paid eventually. )

I had sort-of-ambitious vacation plans that I think I'm going to have to let go, so that it doesn't cost us our entire buffer. So I think we're going to stay close to home this summer - a couple of nights in KC, a couple of nights in Lawrence, maybe we'll go see the farm.
So I didn't go to the farmer's market this week. I made mushroom lasagna last night and it was good! We're not overdrawn this month. I'm broke today but for once in my life I have money put away if something goes wrong. I guess I'm on the good side of the knife's edge right now. And I get paid Monday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Joseph in Pokeberry

A lovely post by Mary at Pokeberry Garden about Joseph in Egypt, how all that time he was waiting to be called into service by the king he wasn't really waiting at all, but living as best he could in whatever circumstance he found himself in.

But there is something I was struck by in Joseph's waiting time. He lived his life to the fullest as he waited. He didn't 'just wait' so to speak. The bible tells us that in every position Joseph found himself he was faithful, he did his work as best he could and he had the outlook of serving God in whatever it was he had to do.
She relates it to her own experience, losing a job, having to short-sell a house, having to move around a lot and work suboptimal (one might say) jobs. It's really a lovely post and I relate a lot to what she's talking about, of course.

DW and the DKs all pretty much looked at the house in Illinois as the perfect place - perfect town, perfect schools, etc. I always had my doubts because it seemed altogether too white and cul-de-sac-y for me, but in the end the decision was made for us. There has really been a sense of exile because of how much they liked it there. We also landed in a place which is for me (being from the east) the sort of quintessential place-you-never-expected-to-end-up-in. But I'm grateful that the community here gave us a place to land! We have a nice (rented) house and we are a lot closer to her folks and friends in KC.

We've been licking our wounds to a degree, but also doing what Joseph did, and doing the best we can. I wish the house would resolve itself but I'm not driving myself crazy about it. I felt sorry for myself the last 6 months in IL but when I got here I decided I didn't have time for that anymore, and I don't think DW does either. She has tomatoes planted in a pot. We're working on our debt. We're wrestling with the school district to get the DKs what they need. You know, living it.

Thanks, Mary, for reminding me that in the end, we're all on God's plan anyway.

Monday, June 23, 2008


On blogcounter I can see what people were searching for when they found Jewish Simplicity. I wrote an entry a couple of weeks ago where I cited an interview with a certain famous tightwad - I didn't add anything, just linked to something I'd found - and since then people have found my site by searching her name more than twice as much as any other search item. The post also got far more hits than my posts usually do (like, 10 times as many) but interestingly, no one left a comment, even though that was one of the few posts in which I actually solicited them.

Apparently the well-dropped name can increase the traffic to one's blog. Who knew? So with this in mind, please allow me to say one thing:

Jimi Hendrix!


Op-ed by Paul Krugman in today's Times - maybe home ownership isn't all its cracked up to be.

In addition to the regular tax breaks that all home owners get (the deduction of mortgage interest), if you are clergy with a pulpit and no parsonage you get to knock the costs associated with homeownership (furniture, utilities, the lot) off your taxable income. This obviously made buying a home all the more attractive in the situation we were in in Illinois. Not to mention that at the time, prices were rising - not skyrocketing, but rising steadily. Then, of course, things went off a cliff - both for us, and in the housing market.

Krugman is right to point out the dangers. Home ownership can be a very effective way to build a nestegg, if you are planning to stay in your home for a long time and if you don't keep dipping into the equity. For people who can't or won't make that commitment, it's a big gamble that home prices will rise enough for you to make something out of the deal, or even just make back what you put into it. Or even, as in our case, that you'll be able to rid yourself of the house at all.

The one financial advantage to renting is that one doesn't have to pay property taxes. I suppose in most cases this is figured into the cost of the rent.

I'm not saying anything that anyone else doesn't know. But while we were in seminary we were constantly inundated with the "knowledge" that because we were renting, we were "throwing our money away" - and we believed it. Then there's the language of "putting down roots" - that if you don't buy, you're not doing it, as if one's presence in a place is only verified by a deed. All these factors led us to buy as soon as we landed in a job, which led to the distastrous situation we're in now - and now there's no danger that we're going to buying another house anytime soon. So I guess the real answer is - there's no such thing as a sure thing. Despite the civic-religious tenet of home ownership, sometimes renting is indeed the right thing to do.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thinking it through

One of the benefits of doing this blog is that it makes me more conscious of the choices I make. Having to tell on myself means that I have to be more aware of when I'm too willing to let myself off the hook on that tenuous nexus between simple, sustainable, frugal, and green. So here are a couple of events from the last week that bore further reflection:

1 - Saturday morning (determined to take a week off from shul after the recent holiday) I was looking for something to do with the family so we decided to go fruit picking. I've already written about my inability to find berries at the farmers' markets so I thought I'd go direct to the source. We went to a place south of town and they weren't picking berries, they were picking cherries, and sour ones, that you put into pies. We thought, okay, and picked almost 10 pounds of them. $1.75/pund, much less than they would be at the store.

While we were there we were talking to a woman who was telling us what to do with them. She said, put them through a cherry pitter, freeze them with a little sugar and thaw them in time to wow your guests for Thanksgiving. We said, sounds good.

Now all we needed was a cherry pitter. In the best of all worlds we would have found one used or at a yard sale, but of course, as usual, the time you want to buy something is the time when you need it, and we called around a few of the second-hand stores and they didn't have what we needed. Williams-Sonoma only had a 1-at-a-time pitter, and that wouldn't work, so we ended up ordering one on-line. It cost $17. This now doubles the cost of the adventure, as well as the cost of the cherries.

While waiting for it to arrive, the cherries are starting to soften. We figure since we're going to cook them anyway it doesn't matter if they're soft, but we have them in the fridge in the hopes of preventing all-out rotting. Hopefully the pitter will arrive so that the adventure is just more expensive, rather than a complete flushing of the money. And we also have to convince ourselves that we're going to use our solid-gold cherry pitter more than this once, and that it's not going to end up at our yard sale, benefitting someone more forward thinking than we.

2 - I was in the store over the weekend and decided I would like some fish to have in the freezer. We haven't been having much fish lately and Pollan's book talked a lot about omega-3s. I made the mistake, once again, of not thinking it out ahead of time. I have been buying wild caught salmon lately - it's more expensive but I like it a lot better than the steroid-pumped, colorized pieces of protein that pass for salmon from the farm. But then, sometimes one gets tire of salmon altogether, so I thought I'd buy a white fish. So there I am at the counter, looking at the fish and comparing prices and whether they're wild- and farm-raised, and I ended up guessing, and buying wild-caught orange roughy. Why, you ask? Because it was on sale!

Problem 1 is that it's from New Zealand, so the food mile footprint is miles wide - 6000 miles, to be precise. Of course, one is not going to get "local fish" in the middle of Kansas, but still. To tell the truth, I was dazzled by the word "wild caught." As a rule, wild is better than farmed, because of all the damage fish farms can do to their environment - antibiotics especially. But on the other hand, wild can just as easily mean that they just throw the nets down there and pick up anything that moves...

...which appears to be the case with orange roughy. As soon as I got home, I did what I should have done before I left, and looked at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site. This is a wonderful resource which tells you a lot about what kind of seafood to buy, and why. There's also a wallet-sized print-out that you can bring to the store with you.

So I put "orange roughy" in the search engine and the answer is ... avoid! Darn! They are trawled ("wild caught" in this case is kind of a slogan; they're all wild caught), and also they take 20 years to reach sexual maturation so if you snag one there may not be another one for a long time. "Years of heavy fishing have decimated orange roughy populations."

I feel like I just got three lemons on a slot machine, but the truth is, if I had thought about it before I went I could have done the necessary research and bought the right kind. Let that be a lesson to me!

This week's meals

I haven't posted my meal plans for a couple of weeks, so here's what's on the menu this week:

Sunday night for father's day we had kind of an expensive meal, my favorite fake-shrimp-and-tofu in black bean sauce recipe, veggie dumplings and rice. Total cost, probably around $12 or so. A lot for an at-home meal, but nothing compared to eating out! (Which we rarely do.)

Monday night DW made peanut noodles, also with tofu, and we used up some mung bean sprouts that were starting to darken.

Tuesday night I made tempeh jambalaya - tempeh, a can of tomatoes, spices and a cup of rice, simmered, green salad on the side.

During this week's shopping I bought 2 mangos, I don't know why, so Wednesday night was tofu with a mango-teriyaki sauce and rice noodles, frozen green beans on the side. I'm going to make mango salsa with the other one and eat it with drinks Saturday afternoon!

Tonight I think we're going out for a kid's musical performance, so we're having "Linda McCartney stew," which is rice and TVP and tomatoes baked. Very simple. We call it that because the recipe came out of LMcC's cookbook. (A household staple for us for many years, and available used for $1.98!)

I didn't make it to the farmer's market this week, mostly because I didn't really need anything, and also I'm trying to stay away from the salsa lady's table - her stuff is just too good!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Goin' Bananas

Article by Dan Koeppel in today's Times, about the strange situation of having bananas be a frugal fruit (something that comes from so far being cheaper than apples, which come from next door, relatively speaking), and the possible interruption of supply by rising fuel prices and disease overtaking what is essentially a mono-crop.

The solution is clear: We must wean American from its dependence on foreign bananas! The government must fund alternate sources of bananas - wind bananas, solar bananas, maybe even nuclear bananas! And anyway - Why can't we drill for bananas in Alaska?

All of which is to say: I plead guilty. My grandmother (of blessed memory) always said that I had to eat at least half a banana per day, "for the potassium." (And this was a woman who could make a quarter chicken last nearly a week.) Bananas, along with apples, remain staples on our shelf, and on our shopping list. If we buy too many and they spot, we bake banana bread, which is very popular with our little ones.

Which is why this article is really troubling. I mean, I know a little bit about the history of US domination over Latin America, and a lot of it has to do with our friend the banana. All you need to know is contained in the term, "banana republic." This is really one of those times where we put to the side the knowledge of what international trade has wrought in the lives of those who live where the fruit is grown, as well as knowledge of the ecological footprint of a fruit that has to be transported such distances in such a short amount of time - we put all that to the side, for no other reason than we like the fruit.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote about this in her book. (Fantastic, excellent book, by the way.) One of the kids' friends wants a banana, and she has to explain why they can't have one. Her focus was on keeping her food purchases local (I don't have it in front of me, but it was something to the effect of, would I give up all the benefits of locally grown food for the sake of a banana?), but I'm quite sure Kingsolver's aware of what the banana has wrought internationally as well.

I can get over coffee guilt by buying fair trade coffee. Is there such a thing as a fair trade banana? This is something my family and I are going to need to look at - I shiver even to think of it - or, if Koeppel is right, the decision may soon be made for us.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bad Cow Disease

Article by Paul Krugman in today's Times about how declining standards of food regulation in the US has led to repeated outbreaks of diseased foods - most recently tomatoes - but more, had made it hard to sell our produce overseas to peoples who are not as blase about the purity of their food as Americans seem to be.

I agree with Krugman's analysis as far as it goes - having cronies in positions of oversight is obviously a Bad Thing, and starving the FDA of resources and personnel at a time of rapidly expanding technological change in the food industry is going to cause problems in the supply chain.

But the deeper problem is reflected in the very idea of thinking of food in terms of a "supply chain." The reason inspections are so important is because of the sheer scale of the American corporate food system - massive feedlots and slaughter houses, bioengineering, use of pesticides and monocultures, etc. etc. etc. If we looked at this dysfunctional system at all deeply we would realize that it's poisonous (sometimes quite literally) to its core and we'd be out on the streets like the South Koreans. That's why the corporate powers-that-be and their political handmaidens make sure that inspections are curtailed - it's like the mob being in charge of the homocide department, hiring the (few) detectives (from within) and deciding what and how they could investigate.

In a context like this increased inspections or regulation will only affect those who are least likely to be causing the problem. In Sandor Katz's book, Joel Salatin points out that a small scale producer like him cannot slaughter his animals on site because of the incredible amount of regulations that exist, designed to deal with industrial slaughterhouses. So instead he has to put them on a truck to that very industrial slaughterhouse, and that he cannot then sell the product back on his farm. The rules weren't meant for him, but they affect him, and all of us.

In a situation of rule by corporations, for corporations, increased regulation and inspection would, I fear, only be bandaids for the whole system of corporate agriculture which is the underlying issue.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We solve a tricky problem

When we lived in Illinois we had curbside recycling of basically everything - glass, all kinds of plastic (except 3 & 5), mixed paper. When we moved to Wichita we were surprised at how backward the city is in this regard (now there's a sentence I could write 100 times). The garbage collection is franchised, which means that rather than having one company pick up for the whole neighborhood, each individual pays an individual company to come and pick up their trash. Supposedly we're the biggest city in the country that does it this way, and it has a bad effect on the streets, because if you've got 3 garbage trucks using a city street obviously there's going to be more need for street repair. (Which they don't really do, because it would actually involve taxes!)

But that's not what I'm talking about - what I'm talking about is recycling. There's one of these companies that offers curbside recycling, and they pick up aluminum, newspapers and white paper, and corrugated boxes. No glass, no mixed paper, no mixed plastic. It only costs an additional $3 per month so we did it, but it killed us to be throwing all this other stuff away.

We found a place that would take that glass, a privately owned scrapyard near downtown. We did that for a few months. (BTW, I spoke to the owner of another privately owned scrapyard of my acquaintance, and he said that glass recycling was complete nonsense, the reason they don't collect it is that there's no market for it because it's cheaper just to make it from scratch. Most companies that collect it, he said, do it for the customer service rather than for the reuse, and it mostly ends up in the dump anyway, where, in his opinion, it belongs. I have not researched his assertions further, but I do consider him a fairly authoritative source.)

Then recently I discovered that there is a not-for-profit recycling place in town, and they take everything - laundry detergent plastic bottles, strawberry containers, glass and mixed paper, the works! It reminds me of when we used to bring everything to a weekly recycling center in Philadelphia when we were in seminary there. I must say, I was excited to find it! This will become a monthly excursion on a Saturday morning for my family, as it teaches important values, particularly bal tashhit (not wasting).

While I'm on the subject, another place where Wichita seems to be behind is in the food revolution that has been unfolding for the past few years - CSAs especially. There does not appear to be a CSA in Wichita. There are a couple of farmers' markets, but I've been kind of disappointed. I should say parenthetically that I've been averse to going to the main one on Saturdays, and the selection may be better there, but the one on Wednesday, which is the better of the mid-week ones, has one (count 'em) veg farmer and no fruit available. No berries!

I'm not sure what to do. I don't really want to rely on Dillons for this kind of thing, because that's the corporate food structure and they bring it in from who knows where and that's why tomatoes end up with botulism or whatever they get. And the health food stores are too expensive. This is a typical values conflict because I may end up having to compromise my Shabbat observance for the sake of the sustainability and healthfulness of the farmers market. How this little drama will come out remains to be seen.

But let me say that the stuff the veg farmer has at the Wednesday market is primo! Today I came back with 2 small heads of broccoli ($3) (first of the season!) which I threw into fried rice to use up some leftover rice. Onion, garlic, mushrooms, FM broccoli, some tofu, rice with a little soy - yum!

And we have found a wonderful place to find sustainably raised chicken, truly free range eggs, and raw butter, milk and cheese. We don't eat much meat, but when we do, boy, this is the place. I never had anything like that available to me anywhere else. It's the best food revolution thing going on here.

Frugality website written up in Eagle

Article in the Eagle on a frugality website in the area, One could spend all one's time linking to all the articles about frugality that are appearing in newspapers these days - we must be in a recession! She feeds her family of 5 on $350 a month, which is nearly half what we spend.

I took a look at the site and it's pretty good: it's got a clear, attractive design, and they have a couple of out-of-the-ordinary features, like a Q&A section ("help! my husband's behind in the mortgage!") and they also have the recipes easily bookmarked. There's also have a debt calculator utility that I had previously seen on dollar stretcher. According to its thumbnail calculations, if I pay down my credit cards at the current rate I have 31 months until I pay off that debt, and I will be then have paid an additional $3000 in interest. Oy!

Of course, circumstances could cause this to move radically, in either direction - I could have to put something substantial on the card, or I could get a high holiday pulpit or some other windfall and be able to pay a chunk of it down, like I did with the tax breaks.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Can green food shopping save money?

Story on NPR tonight on rising food prices and the impact they will have on people's shopping habits (leaving aside the food riots taking place in many other countries as the price of food skyrockets). One of the women is shopping for a cake at Whole Foods when she looks around and realizes that things are expensive there! Wow!

By way of contrast, see this post from Locavore Nation maintaining that eating locally is a money-saving strategy - contrary to what her friends may think!

I haven't really felt that big a hit in my shopping bills as a result of food prices going up, and although it may just not have caught up with me yet, I think that the combination of frugal and green shopping strategies that we use - what I buy and the way I buy - protect us somewhat from this phenomenon. For example, if what's driving this is the price of corn, then the thing to do would be to avoid items that rely heavily on corn, like all the products that have HFCS in them - processed foods, mostly - or corn-fed meat. As a good Pollan-ite, I don't buy much of these things anyway. If it's the price of gas that's responsible, then it's worth staying away from items that have to be brought in from far away. Another vote for the farmers' market!

It's an irony that the very policies (keeping corn and fuel cheap) that drove food prices down all these years may now be responsible for the lion's share of the upsurge in prices, and the strategies that were seen as spendthrift or elitist may be the way to keep one's food bill lower. Life is interesting, eh?

We see instead that eating low on the food chain, buying local, and staying away from processed foods are not simply green choices, not simply healthy choices, but they turn out to be money savers as well.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kids and commercialism

Excellent post from Nature Moms blog regarding "Helping your kids see past commercialism." I would also recommend Center for a New American Dream, which has a lot of material on this - simplifying the holidays, doing things during the summer, etc. An excellent organization.

We've mostly been working on the "power of example" model - we're very anti-corporate, the kids have very limited access to TV (we mostly watch videos) and if they're watching sports with me or something we turn off the TV during commercials. (Sports commercials are the worse - beer and cars, both sold with copious amounts of sex - but fortunately they're not really interested in it.)

There's a book now, Parenting, Inc., which talks about the sheer amount of STUFF there is for new parents to buy, $700 stoller and all that. I sometimes think we're living in an alternate reality, and maybe we are (thank goodness we don't live in New York!) but then I happened to be at a middle school for an event recently and I overheard a kid making a snarky remark about another kid buying clothes at a thrift shop. I know that's something my kids are going to face, even though we buy most of their clothes at Target.

I would also recommend showing the older kids (who can understand it) The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute video which talks clearly and pursuasively about the environmental and human impact of our (Americans') unending appetite for STUFF. That's a lesson we'd all support, I think, and it's not just dad pleading poverty this time.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

MP x 2 - Menu Plan and Michael Pollan

Didn't go to the farmers market last week, so that final tally from last week's shopping was: $138.

Meal plan for this week:
Brooklyn Pad Thai
Some sort of fried rice
Spanish Potato Pepper Frittata - from the Veg Times cookbook, to use up some of the potatoes that are in their drawer sprouting even as we speak.
DW and D1 are going away overnight on Thursday, so that means it's not worth cooking anything substantial, so I'll probably have one of my rare meat meals that night and give the little ones pasta.

Total from last night's food shopping: $106. Leaving room, as usual, for the tofu and milk run later in the week.

I've been reading Michael Pollan's new book, In Defense of Food. It's very good, as one would expect from this excellent writer, writing about a very important topic. He says at one point that Americans spend a lesser percentage of their gross income on food than any other developed country, and that when you look at the cost of industrialized cheap food - in terms of biodiversity, soil health, welfare of food animals, but primarily in terms of increased health risks like obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease, all outcomes of the Western (read: American diet) - "you may want to find other areas to economize."

I've noticed as I've written this blog and followed other people writing on similar topics that, while I am obviously very conscious of trying to beat our family's food budget into some kind of shape, there are choices that we make that are not the most frugal choices. I buy high-end cold cereal, for instance. (Whole grains, no HFCS.) I shop at the farmer's market (most weeks, in season). There are some things I buy organic - milk and potatoes, for instance. We buy much of our (limited) meat from a local farmer who grazes them on grass. I make these choices because I think they are better, either for our health or, because of the way they're produced or transported, for the health of the planet. The price might be higher but the quality is far superior, and I fell like I'm having my spending supporting my values.

To some extent I'm trying to suppress my food spending in other areas so that I can support making the non-frugal choice in these. But the reason I write about simplicity and not simply frugality is that there are sometimes other values that have to be compared with, and may take precedence over, simply suppressing the food bill. And the advice in Pollan's book is certainly a good place to start.