Jessica Stieler, R.D.HEALING HORIZONSGrand Junction Free Press Health & Wellness Columnist

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February 7, 2013
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HEALING HORIZONS: Consider budgeting more for better quality food

When you are meandering through the grocery aisles, trying to check items off your list, or simply looking at what sounds good to eat, what do you prioritize? Price? Brand? Appearance? Flavor? Ingredients? Seasonality? Do you ask yourself where the item was grown, or who harvested it?It is quite likely that you take a few of these factors into consideration, and in some cases, you might find that some go hand-in-hand. A food item that was grown at the local farm might also be very flavorful, as it is likely seasonal. A big, beautiful, shiny piece of fruit from another country might have a great price. A lot of times, though, your multiple priorities may conflict, especially when it comes to price. An organic, locally grown, yet small and slightly blemished apple or peach might be pricier than you would expect. The grass-fed beef you heard was better for your health and the environment might be more than twice as expensive as its corn-fed counterpart. Perhaps your local farmers' market prices are not what you would have expected, even though the items are being sold by your neighbors.In a perfect world, you might be willing to buy everything of highest quality and from the most local source, but let's face it, you have bills to pay, other items to purchase, and perhaps a number of mouths to feed. Therefore you settle for the less than desirable option, for your wallet's sake. After all, budgeting is indeed important...the responsible thing to do. But what might these decisions be costing you and your local economy in the long run?Interestingly, the U.S. has the lowest food budget in the world, with approximately 6% of its disposable income going toward groceries and less than 10% when eating out is factored in. Granted our way of living may not mimic that of Kenya, where money spent on food is nearly 45% of their income, but in 1929, even the U.S. food budget was greater than 20% of the household income.How did this change? Well, things are being sold more cheaply as we know, and somewhere along the way, we started to think cheap was normal. What should be the true price for food (and the fair wage for farmers) was lost in our desire to get more for less.So what do we do now? Demand a better, fairer farm bill, which regulates farm production and prices? Vote against government subsidies on corn, soybeans, and other agricultural commodities? We can certainly try, and perhaps we should, but let's start simple and see what we can do on a personal level. One thing we can do is start asking ourselves: What is my food budget? Does it fit in with the U.S. average of 6%? Can my household, regardless of its size, make room to increase that a couple percentage points? Do I need to re-prioritize what I seek out when I go to the grocery store or where I shop...for the health of myself, my family, the people who grow and harvest my food, and the local economy? It seems hard, but it is worth it. Even the smallest changes make a difference. The truth is, if you spend a little more now, you will likely spend less later - in medical bills, sick days from work, etc. Don't forget the present rewards as eating well is delicious, and eating well should always be enjoyable.So, if you get the chance, take some time this week to sit down and really look at where your food money goes. Ask yourself where your food is coming from and if there might be just a bit of room for more quality in your body. I can assure you, you will not regret it.Jessica Stieler, R.D., is a nutritionist at Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions, located at 2139 N. 12th St. #7. For more information, call 970-256-8449.

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The Post Independent Updated Feb 7, 2013 02:26PM Published Feb 7, 2013 02:25PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.