The Sins of Being Poor, or Conscientious Frugality.

in frugality •  19 days ago 

Years ago frugality usually went hand in hand with less waste and, ultimately, less environmental damage. Today, not so much.

Environmental impact is often at the forefront of my living and purchasing choices and when we have a reasonable income, while I still try to make the most of our budget, I also try to be conscientious with my purchases. I might pay out a little more to support local or buy reduced waste products. However, when you end up on a more minimal budget, you end up with less choice and it's surprising how many of the cheaper options produce more packaging or have more environmental impact.

Normally, when I have to use a supermarket, my preference is a local South Australian one called Foodland. Profits are kept local, preference goes to sourcing local as much as possible and they are even listening to public opinion and catering towards low waste options. More of the produce is loose so you can bring you own product bags and they have more organic choice than the other supermarkets. Prices are reasonable, sometimes lower than the big two, Coles and Woolworths. However, with our income currently halved, I've had to turn to Aldi a bit more.

Adli's profits go abroad and packaging is much more prevalent, but every time I get to the checkout I'm always surprised with the how much less my total purchases come to. While packaging is harder to avoid and choices are more limited, there are more Australian products available than I expected. So there is, even here, the chance to try and make some better choices with purchases.

Something I haven't been able to bring my self to purchasing from Aldi is meats. The choice is really limited and as you can probably imagine, more ethically produced meat is not going to be available at a low enough price for a low budget supermarket. They stock pretty much all factory farmed meat and most of it is beef, which is a market coming under fire from environmentalists. I generally avoid beef, for a variety of reasons, one is environmental, the other is that it often comes up as the least healthy meat (especially the way it's currently farmed) and I'm not really keen on it anyway, especially given other options. I find kangaroo a good replacement in many meals and it has a much better environmental and health impact. You're not going to find it in Aldi, though.

So how else can I make a shop go further and further reduce spending, waste and environmental impact? Even in a world of subsidised meats, vegetables are, thankfully, usually a cheaper option. All meals can be bulked out with more veggies, meaning the meat part can be reduced. Where I'd usually use a full pack of meat, I've started separating it and freezing in smaller portions to make it spread over more meals. This reduces cost and packaging. When I can retrieve the vegetables from my garden, there's nothing more local, cheap and packaging free than that. Meat free meals are a also a great choice.

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So now for my guilty confessions of where I've failed completely with environmental impact due to cutting costs. Many supermarkets have reward systems where you get reward points every time you spend money with them. I'm a member of Flybuys, here in Australia, which the Coles group comes under. While I don't often shop there I still pick up pints at various places and have been holding off on redeeming them in case of such a time as this. What I used to do to get them as money off at Coles was go online and have the amount added eke finicky to my Flybuys card, then using my selected pin number I could redeem it at the checkout. This time it's all changed and you order a gift card. I was annoyed at such a wasteful way of doing it. A plastic card delivered by mail which you discard once used. However, I didn't read far enough, because it turns out you can still get them electrically added to you Flybuys card, it's just a little less straight forward and a little less straight forward for the checkout assistant too. I'll do it better next time.

Having the money off for Coles means buying at a supermarket whose practices I don't wholly support. Get more waste aware Coles! Some of my fruit has been coming in plastic packaging because of the significant difference in price.

The more I experience, the more I see the challenges were are facing are never going to have a simple solution. When we're in a stable situation, we have more scope to make changes which will impact the environment less and support those around us more. However, many are in a situation where they are really just trying to survive and get by and choices become much more limited in that situation.

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do you shop with your own bags?

think i did that once and then just dropped the concept as too difficult.

I do, but I've changed the way I do it to make things simpler. I used to plan ahead and do a big shop, taking the bags with me. Now I keep some thinner ones which fold up in my handbag easily and I just do the odd small shop. Unfortunately that means my handbag goes everywhere with me, but I had to get used to that when I had kids. Pockets don't cut it at that point.

I suppose you could keep bags in the car ready to go. Might suggest that to hubby as well, because he always ends up buying bags.

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There´s a saying in German which translates to:
ALDI has done more for poor people in Germany,
than all Social Democrat politicians together.
I buy almost all my food there, because it´s the nearest supermarket for me and what I buy there is all organic. I don´t eat meat anyway, but even there they start to bring organic choices.
Until recently they had the organic cucumbers totally wrapped in plastic and the conventional ones had no plastic whatsoever, the irony of it.
But now the organic ones have just a ribbon which tells you they are organic.
SO ALDI is constantly improving, because they have discovered a market and I guess, the people in charge now are also more environmentally conscious than 20 years ago.
And you are right about poverty and the environment. Somewhere I heard, and I guess this was referring to developing countries, that once your material needs are somewhat comfortably covered, once you don´t have to worry about next day´s food, you start to care more for the environment. So people who would make about 5000 $ a year, I guess that´s middle class in those countries, would start to think environmentally.
I guess that´s Maslow´s hierarchy of needs.
As the great German writer Berthold Brecht once wrote:
Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.
First comes food, than comes morality.

I can believe that saying! Are you in Germany? The Aldis here stock organics in long life forms, but not fresh. Their fresh veg is usually very good quality, just wish they had organic too.

Aldi is actually a recent arrival to South Australia. They've had them in the other states for a white, but only started building and opening them here maybe a year or two ago. They've been a huge hit, despite all the complaints about them and when they nearly half your grocery bill, they're bound to be popular. Even in the wealthier suburbs they're doing well. The Australians are very for supporting local, so one of the concerns was that they believed Aldi would just import. I guess they listened, because their first marketing campaign was about how much of the food is Australian grown and made.

I guess it's hard to think about much else when you're biggest concern is putting food into yours and your family's stomachs. Once you no longer have to worry about that, you can worry about whether the way it's getting to you is sustainable.

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Hola minismallholding aqui en Venezuela que la carne era uno de los platos predilecto de la cesta alimentaria, pero en los actuales momentos se ha hecho muy difícil para aquirir ese producto al igual que el pollo y ahora lo que podia consumir huevo cada dia todo se pone mas complicado por el mínimo sueldo no alcanza para comprar un cartón de huevo . El sueldo es de 40.000 BS Y EL CARTÓN DE HUEVO TIENE UN VALOR DE 62.000 BS. ES UNA LOQUERA LO QUE ESTA PASANDO.

Usando el traductor de Google, aquí. Espero que se traduzca bien.

Lo que ha estado sucediendo en Venezuela es realmente una locura y una lección para todos nosotros de no ser complacientes. Esto realmente podría suceder en cualquier lugar y cosas similares ya han sucedido antes en otros países. A medida que los problemas empeoran en los países más ricos, me temo que será más difícil llegar y ayudar a aquellos en países como el suyo.

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I shop at Aldi but wont buy any vegies in plastic. My local butcher wont let me bring my own container so I changed to one who did. I go to wholefoods for most loose stuff... its across from Aldi where I get halloumi, cheese etc and pasta but wish I didnt need to get in plastic..we have a good deli too and prices for veg same as Coles but better quality. We priced comparisions and worked out it was much of muchness if you can cope with shopping in 4 different places. Good on you for caring... it IS tough when you are on a reduced income. Thank god for our gardens. Xx

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I have to be honest, I struggle to make time to shop at too many different places and...okay I confess, it's probably too much of a hassle. I hate shopping so I usually go after I drop my daughter at gymnastics and only ever to one destination. I'm there 4 times a week, so I prioritise on what I need the most and go to the shop which does that. Next time I go to a different one for the other things. These days it's usually a toss up between Aldi and Foodland.

SA is supposed to be starting a crackdown on single use plastics and as much as I believe in freedom, I can't help thinking it will make my life so much easier if companies were just stopped from using the excessive plastics. I don't know how far the single use ban will go, but it will be interesting to see.

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Your reference to Foodand made me SMILE SMILE SMILE. I remember in the early 1970s when we were first in Australia, Foodland had only a very small store in the town a 20 minute drive away. But they had a MOBILE PANEL VAN STORE that came to our little village every week. :) Nice recollection. Freshmarkets and growing your own seem to be the best, plus we use the local (Dutch) version of Costco.


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I love hearing memories like that. So much has changed in such a short time. Even since my parents visited Adelaide in the 90s, so much more infrastructure has been created. In the 11 years we've been here, it's gone from quiet to SO MUCH TRAFFIC!

Are you not from Australia originally?

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From a TCM perspective, 3x serves of meat a week is usually enough for most people. Ironically, it was either during this past week or maybe last week, I heard a report where the science/nutrition-type boffins (maybe it was Heart-Smart) are now saying the same thing (~300g weekly).

I always told my patients - buy organic meat, and eat less.

I know what you mean about plastics. We mostly (ie, 95%) shop at local organic grocer which in some instances is even cheaper than Coles/Woolies for the very same products, and they are by far the cheapest organic grocer in Melbourne (my partner has done the comparison).

I'm envious! Our nearest organic grocers is nearly an hour's drive away and it's expensive. It's in a posher suburb than ours. We're in the feral suburbs. 😆 I actually have a friend who makes jokes about not traveling north of her suburb, because north goes down in class. I'm like, "hey I'm north!" Admittedly, there are some pretty scary looking people at our local shopping centres...

I was chatting to someone recently about how the prices of meat used to be such that it was a rare treat for most people. Growing up, my dad's family couldn't afford it until his father got transferred (army) to Germany and they got an extra living allowance. Then they got to have a roast dinner each Sunday and the leftover meat on Monday. Really, the cost of raising meat should make it more of a luxury, but it's subsidised in many western countries. Unfortunately, putting it all at organic pricing (and raising it organically and ethically) would make it luxury for many and promoting that could be considered promoting poverty.

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In some place in India, few farmers bring their product and sit along the roadside to sell. People carry their own bags and make purchase at reasonable rate than any big super market who often sell stale products..the farmers give us the fresh products and alongwith they get their own price without any middle man

Ugh, stale food! Sounds like the local farmers' roadside stores are a much better option. Sometime I pass a van from the Riverlands farms which sells fruit and honey from there. I rarely have time to stop and buy, but it keeps coming back, so they must do fairly well. It would be nice to see more of them, but I suspect local government would intervene and stop them if too many did it. It's probably against their rules anyway, but they let certain things slide.

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