When I relinquished the comfort of a meal plan, and purchasing and preparing food became my responsibility, I began a strict diet of food packaged in a box or items that could be thrown on my George Foreman Grill.
The closest I got to “freshly made” was thawing the thin, squashed slices of Richfood wheat bread from my freezer, purchased during the Fresh Grocer’s last buy one, get one sale. I was aware that my food shopping habits could be greener – having my 99 cent “product of India” cookies shipped to the grocery store probably wasn’t the eco-friendliest choice. But, it seemed such sacrifices had to be made when hitting the market with $10 in your pocket.
Recently, while watching the freezer burn melt off a Celeste For One pizza, I decided that Mother Nature and I needed a break from this. Now, ideally to have the smallest impact, I would grow my own food, be completely self-sustaining and eliminate the need for meals to be shipped to me.
However, my apartment doesn’t even allow for windowsill flower boxes, let alone a tomato garden in the courtyard, so I knew I’d have to rely on local producers. After doing some research, I realized I could fill up my reusable shopping bag with local and organic goods for just a little more money than I had spent on frozen feasts.
Consuming an average of 10 grilled cheese sandwiches a week, I always have bread at the top of my shopping list. As much as I would love to grace my George Foreman with fresh artisan breads, I can’t swing $4 a loaf right now. Fortunately, several local bakers offer substantial discounts on day-old baked goods.
The Market Bakery
Reading Terminal Market
The Market Bakery sells yesterday’s loaves for 30 percent off. If you head straight to Fresh Grocer’s bakery section, you’ll find a cart filled with discounted items that popped out of the oven the day before. I’ve scored bags of a dozen bagels, loaves of French bread and bunches of mini baguettes all for 99 cents a package. For the best selection, head there on a weekday afternoon.
To increase your vegetable intake beyond the slivers of onions on those irresistibly cheap frozen pizzas, pay a visit to local farmers’ markets and community gardens.
Teens 4 Good
Eighth and Poplar streets
Teens 4 Good, a local youth engagement program that turns vacant lots into urban farms, will be holding its first farmers’ market on April 26 at the farm on Eighth and Poplar streets. Expect everything from kale to tomatoes at affordable prices.
Fair Food Farmstand
Reading Terminal Market
For local organic goods all year, the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market is a great choice. Sourcing its produce from more than 90 sustainable farmers from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, this vendor will make you question how you ever convinced your taste buds to be satisfied with anything less than farm fresh.
If locally sourced produce is still out of your budget, be sure to only buy what’s in season instead of fruits and vegetables that had to be shipped from different countries and climates.
No matter where your food comes from, you can at least enjoy it sustainably by packing your lunch in a reusable bag. Save money on sandwich bags by reusing ones that held mess-free snacks like cereal. You can even reuse an empty cereal bag or snack bag in your cabinet and secure your food with a twisty tie. Keep a reusable water bottle stashed in your book bag and you’ve got yourself a cheap, green meal.
If you feel like taking a break from bringing a prepared lunch to Main Campus – even if that means scooping pretzels into a bag – stay eco-friendly by eating out at restaurants looking to decrease their environmental impact. Hit up sustainability standby the Sexy Green Truck for organic and local dishes. Newcomer to the Main Campus truck community, Yumtown also serves up unconventional menu items with ingredients from nearby organic farms.
When that shocking day arrives when you can’t rely on Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria for breakfast, lunch and dinner, don’t revert to the dollar aisle of the Fresh Grocer.
Although these eating habits won’t completely eliminate your environmental impact in regards to grub, they are little ways to decrease it and maybe save you some money in the process.
Marisa Steinberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.