“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan
When I first started exploring minimalism as a way of life, I kept coming across books and articles that really focused on good health as a principle of the minimalist philosophy. Without good health, you can’t be frugal, a minimalist, or much of anything for that matter. The popular definition of good health involves plenty of exercise and eating right. Since I don’t like structured exercise, I try to make better eating choices. But even that can be hard to do sometimes.
I recently checked out The Omnivore’s Dilemma from the library. It wasn’t what I went into the library to get but halfway through the book, I’m really glad I did. Like the author intended, it is changing the way I think about food and it has introduced me to few new (to me) concepts, including eating low on the food chain.
Just what does eating low on the food chain mean exactly? Strictly speaking, it means eating a plant-based diet. Fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts, seeds and grains are at the bottom of the food chain. They receive energy directly from the sun and store that energy. As such, they are called producers. By eating the producer, we (the consumer) directly benefit from that stored energy. As we go up the food chain, more energy and resources are wasted in the production of food. It takes about 15 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef and about 5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of chicken.
There are numerous benefits of eating low on the food chain. It’s good for your health. It’s better for the environment. And a lot of times, it can be cheaper too. But just how easy is it to accomplish?
That is the question that we’re asking ourselves now. How can we eat closer to the bottom of the food chain while still enjoying the foods we love? I think the answer lies in one of minimalism’s most basic tenets – less is more.
- Buy less processed foods.
- Eat less red meat.
- Enjoy meats like chicken and pork less often.
- Dine out less frequently.
- Buy food that has traveled less distance to reach the market.
After much discussion, we’ve decided to go semi-vegetarian, if you will, and reduce our processed food consumption to 20% or less of our total food intake. And to get there, we did what all good minimalists do when starting out – we decluttered. We didn’t toss out anything but we gave all of our candy to the niece’s boyfriend. We donated cans of Spaghetti-Os, Ramen noodles, and other convenience foods to the library’s food drive. We also stopped buying sodas (that happened about a month ago).
Our trip to the grocery store this week was a learning experience. I think we read every label at ALDI and Food Lion in order to make the most conscientious food choices. We spent $45 on mostly produce, bread, and cereal. No meat. Where we could (and where it made a difference), we bought organic.
Then we blew it all by eating a chicken salad from Zaxby’s for dinner.