Sunday, May 25, 2008

Food prices going up? Great!

I'm trying not to blog about frugality, since this blog is devoted to doing things as chemical-free as possible, but the fact is that the fewer chemicals that go into the food and things you use, the cheaper it is.

For instance, you could buy a loaf of bread for $2, or a bag of flour that will make 2 loaves of bread for $1 (because I now live in Europe, the amounts are kind of weird--no 5 lb bags of flour here, but 1 kg bags, intsead). The best thing about making your own bread is that there are no preservatives, it's REALLY fresh, and if you have a bread machine, that delightfully crunchy crust. But even if you don't, it's not that difficult--it just takes a little planning.

But it's not just bread--the same is true for almost all other foods, as well. I can make 3 meals' worth of chili (for two people no less) for about 3-4 euros, give or take 10 cents' worth of salt, pepper, cumin. The higher price is whether I make it with ground beef or not. It certainly beats paying $2 for a can of chili impressions from a soup company.

It's not just good for you inside, though. Eating a more natural diet can be good for your outside, too. I'll grant you that there's no real scientific data for this, but how many beautiful people--truly beautiful, without makeup--do you know who eat nothing but chips and hot dogs?

And speaking of makeup--why? My parents are in their fifties, and both are regularly mistaken for being in their thirties (my mother's aerobics instructor thought she was twenty-five)--and neither of them take any extraordinary steps, beyond eating healthy, drinking green tea, and getting enough exercise. But there are plenty of other natural things you can do to beautify yourself. Taking care of your skin does not have to involve lots of chemicals with complicated names. Honey and strawberries are just two of the most efficacious all-natural skin care products out there. And, from personal experience, nothing cures chapped lips faster than a smidge of honey.

Other things can be homemade, too: I make my own laundry detergent, using borax, washing soda, and a bar of soap--I spend extra on the soap, but that's because my skin is highly sensitive to trace amounts of scents and colorings. Other household cleaners can be made using those, too, in combination with dish detergent, vinegar, and nothing polishes wood like olive oil.

The one advantage of going all natural is not, incidentally, the health benefits or money-saving measures. It could quite literally save your life. The packaging that surrounds so much of our food and cleaners today is laden with phthalates compounds that can leach into the product. A few phthalates here and there won't hurt you, but add them up over the course of a lifetime, and you're basically becoming a chemical sink. I've tried to eliminate as much plastic as possible--saving and reusing jars (peanut butter, pickles, jelly) goes a long way.

The benefits of doing things yourself should not be underestimated. There is simply no way a multinational corporation, as much as it may spend on R&D, will ever be able to tailor everything to your own personal needs. Going natural in as many areas as you can is good for you, your wallet, and the environment. If that's not enough, I don't know what is.

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