Sunday, September 02, 2007

Good stewards

So, for the past, oh, month or so, I've really been pondering what is the best way to be a "good steward" of what we've been given. For most of my married life, I assumed that I should look for the less expensive options -- ie, buy generic when possible, strive to be thrifty, not splurge (too often! *grin*), etc.

With the latest outbreak of contaminated food coming out of China, however, I finally had to rethink my way of doing things. Going for the "cheaper" option (especially in regards to food) meant that I was buying something out of China... and I didn't feel comfortable doing that anymore.

I had been leaning this way for awhile, but this was the final push I needed.

I started going to the grocery store to really see where everything I bought was grown or packaged... and it was astonishing to me. I warned my husband that our grocery bill would probably be going even higher, but I didn't feel comfortable possibly jeopardizing our health for the sake of saving a bit of money here and there.

What has been the most shocking to me, however, is that our grocery bill has either stayed the same or, in some cases, actually gone down a bit. I am buying more locally grown food, opting for meat that comes from farms a bit closer to home, and making sure that most of what I buy is grown here in the United States. I am making more things from scratch (something that I enjoy doing anyway!), choosing healthier options (we still have chips and crackers here, so let's not paint too rosy a picture!), and sometimes just bypassing the item altogether. I'd have to say that my opinion is that choosing the healthier solution for my family is better stewardship than simply going for "least expensive." Some things I had already settled on years ago... for example, if we're going to have pancakes, I'm going to buy real maple syrup rather than the high fructose corn syrup stuff that most of us grew up on. If my kids are just craving lemonade on a hot day, sugar, water and lemons is a much better solution than pre-mixed stuff that has a whole host of other ingredients in there... and so on and so on.

This whole notion of "cheaper isn't always better" has spilled over into other areas as well.

One of my favorite "decorating" places is Hobby Lobby -- it's cheap, it's full of fun stuff, and it's easy to find little things to decorate my house with. However,... you guessed it... EVERYTHING in that store seems to be made in China. I find it more than a tad bit unsettling that Nativity sets, Christmas ornaments, and every sort of "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" knickknack are being mass produced in a country that persecutes Christians!

Is there really no other option out there? Will my small stance make any sort of difference in the retail world? And am I being a good steward by opting out of the "cheap stuff" and buying higher quality items (when needed) or am I just being wasteful?

Anyone else plagued by this, or is it just me?


Amy said...

No, it's not just you, I think about stuff like this all the time! I'm so glad to hear of your experiment - that your grocery bill did not skyrocket.

Lately I've been thinking of it this way - manufacturers of cheap unhealthy food, or cheap soon-to-be broken items are practically lying to us "This item is great -buyt it!" We are being "swindled" and I don't think that is what God wants of us. I think it IS good stewardship to buy quality, but to think long and hard about what one really needs and what is just too much fluff. :)

Ouiz said...

That's an interesting way to think of it... that they are, in fact, lying to us. I never thought of it that way before.

Obviously, it would please God more for us to take care of our (or our children's) bodies by eating less junk, so buying the healthier alternative wasn't too hard for me to accept. It did surprise me, though, that my grocery bill didn't skyrocket.

For example, we eat fish on Fridays. I used to buy the frozen half salmon that was caught... of course... in China. For the past 2 weeks I have been buying the fresh salmon in our seafood section, which costs twice as much. I figured it wouldn't even come close to feeding my family, so I made all these side dishes to make up for the "lack."

Don't ask me why, but the salmon, which tasted much better, stretched farther and we actually had leftovers! What the heck???

I agree with you that we should buy quality items, but should also think long and hard before purchasing anything. It's easy to buy a $2 item (made in China), but not as easy to justify that item if it's higher quality and costs oh, $10 or so.

Perhaps this will be part of my answer to prayer that we will learn to "travel light" and not have so much STUFF in the house!

davisfarmmom said...

Buying local is sure a good thing, but be careful. Though local produce is fresher, it's not necessarily healthier. Gosh, you know, pesticides are a reality everywhere. Unless you buy certified organic...then you pay a premium. It's a struggle. Right now we just try to balance it all out; we do our best to concentrate on what affects our health, and cut corners elsewhere, because we have to.

Beth said...

I totally agree with this. We actually do most of our shopping at Wild Oats, Joes Butcher shop, and the farmer's market (in season). I have found that if we actually make a list and stick to it, it is not much more expensive than shopping at the regular grocery stores. We also cook a lot from scratch. I really want to raise my daughter to eat healthy. We are starting on solid foods now, and today we bought a baby food cookbook and a food steamer. It seems pretty easy and MUCH cheaper to make her food rather than buying the jars - and probably healthier for her. I hope I can stick to this. We did bananas this past week and we're doing sweet potatoes this week.

And about buying decorating items - I really like to make stuff and then even though I might spend more, I'm more likely to save something I've made for when the season comes around again. I know you love your crafts too!

Alice said...

Nope, it's definitely not just you. I am on the same page, at the moment. I LOVE Hobby Lobby, but I am feeling compelled to look for other options. For the last 2 Christmases, my dad has challenged us to find even one thing under the tree that was not made in China. I'll admit, I blew it off the first year. The second year, I pondered it more deeply. This year, I'm getting serious. ;-)

The best part is, this all results in LESS, yet higher quality "stuff". The great byproducts of which are money savings and more beauty!

Ouiz said...

Davisfarmmom -- there's no way we could start buying organic everything, but I do want to focus on fresher and healthier whenever possible!

Beth -- We don't have a Trader Joe's around here, but I've heard it's an incredible store!

I stopped buying baby food for the most part after baby #2, I think! I usually just steam our vegetables, so I made sure I "oversteamed" some that I could mush up for the baby... and it worked well for us!

Alice -- I love your Dad's idea! I am discovering it's VERY difficult to find items NOT made in China... but if it keeps me from buying mass quantities of cheap stuff, and focusing on a few higher quality items, it will be worth it!

Kristen Laurence said...

It does seem everything we buy is made in China these days. I too try my best to buy less, thus affording more quality. Not always possible, though. :)

diana said...

Wahhhh! I love Hobby Lobby, didn't want to know that it was hawking goods from China...
I have bought fish from Aldi which is from china.....maybe I should try what you have been doing.

Ouiz said...

Isn't it sad? I love getting stuff from Hobby Lobby, but the principle of the whole thing is now really getting to me. (and that's saying quite a bit, seeing as I've pretty much decorated my home with stuff from there!)