Ethical Groceries Outside the Farmer’s Market


So, everyone knows we should be shopping local. But what about when the farmer’s market is closed, or the grocery budget is tight? Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Closeout grocery stores.

Back in Massachusetts, we had one of these that sold all shelf-stable stuff, mostly organic, often dented or about to expire. It’s where we got almost all of Pippin’s squeezy foods so he could live the infant good life on his parents’ grad school budget. Here in Virginia, there’s a more full-service grocery with lots of baking supplies, an unpredictable stock of fresh and frozen food, and horse-and-buggy parking. To make this kind of shop work best, you really need to either a.) keep completely flexible on your grocery list or b.) shop two stores. I usually opt for the latter.

Another point in favor of closeout grocery stores is that, as with shopping second hand at thrift stores, you’re not directly profiting producer, so (maybe?) you don’t have to worry as much about whether the meat is ethical and the farming sustainable. (Unless you’re really committed to eating organic for health reasons, of course.)

  • Ownership of the grocery store.

Is it locally owned? (Do you care?) Is it Christian? (Do you care?)

  • Employment practices of the grocery store.

Costco is a great place to workWal-Mart, less so. When we lived in Massachusetts, I liked shopping Aldi because the savings were all about shifting the labor to the consumer: you bagged yourself, you rented and returned a cart, etc. It felt better than saddling the employees with the same amount of work for less pay, as some businesses do.

  • Donation practices of the grocery store.

In some places you’ll only have the choice of big box stores and multinational chains, but consider, if you can, whether the grocery store donates its surplus to local food pantries. This may take some digging, but in Massachusetts, where J spent a stint driving the food donation truck, some grocery stores donated and some trashed their surplus. We tried to support places that supported the poor in our community.

What other rules do you apply in grocery shopping?

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Author: Katherine Grimm Bowers

Babies. Books. Fledgling housewifery. Once and future librarian. Catholic. Always thinking about chocolate ice cream.

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