What It Means to Vote With Our Dollars

What It Means to Vote With Our Dollars


Today’s grocery shopping outing was a bit of a disaster. Hungry, upset children, a crying baby and a frazzled mom. By the last store, I was barely looking at prices anymore as I tossed things into the cart that appeared to have at least some semblance to what was written on my trusty list.

I know that I made at least one really good decision this afternoon, though. Nope, it wasn’t a frugal decision– stocking up on some exciting sale or figuring out which 3 lb bag of apples actually contained 1 more apple than the rest.

No, today I chose to spend more money and vote with my dollars.

The item? A simple box of mandarin oranges, a yummy treat for my husband’s bag lunches. The decision? Whether to spend $3.99 on a 5 lb box of conventional mandarins, or to spend $4.99 on a 4 lb box of certified organic mandarins. I hemmed and hawed for just a moment before my hand rested on the organic oranges and I knew that I had chosen well.

There are a number of reasons why I could have chosen to buy organic over conventional. Exposure to less pesticides, herbicides and other nasty chemicals, for one. Higher nutrient content in food that has been grown in healthier and more nourished soil. Quite likely, better taste. All good reasons, but none of them the ultimate reason for my decision.

I purchased organic today because (although I value all of those other reasons) I had never seen organic oranges before at the particular produce market where I’m a regular customer. I wanted to cast my vote for more organic produce, showing them that their customers think it’s worth it to pay a little bit extra, in hopes that they will continue to pursue carrying more and more organic products. In turn, my vote helps to ensure that more organic farmers are supported for the excellent work that they are doing, bringing high-quality vegetables and fruits to our tables, while better stewarding the earth as well.

Does my vote seem just a tiny bit insignificant to you?

Let’s put it in perspective. In Canada (where I live), us Westerners have a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to our nation’s Federal elections. You see, the bulk of our country’s population does not live in the West, but is much more concentrated in the more Eastern provinces of Ontario and Quebec. When we watch the election results roll in every 4 years or so, the election has already been called by the time that they begin to declare any of the winners in our neck of the woods. Ontario and Quebec voters have such a majority that they largely determine who will be the winning party, and our votes simply help to seal the deal, and very rarely turn the tide. I think that this is true for many states in the USA as well. Your state receives so few electoral college seats that your votes seem to be barely a drop in the bucket, when compared to the higher-population states like Texas, California, Florida or New York (see? see? I know a little bit about American politics! 🙂

The next time elections roll around, should I decide that voting simply isn’t worth it because my vote seems to make such little impact on the outcome? Do I relinquish not only my right, but my responsibility to be an educated, informed and faithful voter in this democratic nation of which I am blessed to be a citizen? No! Absolutely not!

In much the same way, I will not undermine or belittle the importance of the way in which I use my dollars to support good farming pratices, healthy soils, and less toxic-burden in my family’s bodies. Every single dollar counts. Every one. Do not allow yourself to feel that the way that you spend your hard earned money is insignificant, because it is not!

In the fantastic documentary “Food, Inc.” (which has recently been released as a rental video- a must see!), there is an excellent segment that bears mentioning. Gary Hirshberg, the CEO (or CE-Yo as he likes to be called) of Stonyfield Organic yogurt company discusses his involvement with Walmart and the placement of Stonyfield’s products on the shelves of a multi-national store which many die-hard organic and sustainable living proponents have actually boycotted. And yet, Walmart is wisely listening to the demand from consumers and choosing to purchase from organic companies like Stonyfield in the millions each year! I love how Gary describes how many of his activist friends get up in arms at the discussion of whether he has sold-out by keeping company with the likes of Walmart, until the conversation turns to the facts of the billions of tons of pesticides that are prevented each year, through the small organic farms that contribute to a large company like Stonyfield.

Towards the end of the movie, there’s a clip of a disillusioned farmer bogged down by the politics and the general mess of conventional farming these days. He passionately tells the camera that people need to demand what they want, because if they truly demand it, farmers will respond and will gladly provide it for them. That’s us! If we support organics today, we are assuring the farmers of tomorrow that we will stand behind them, purchase their products and keep them in business.

So you see, my $4.99 box of organic mandarins is not just another way to keep my family a little healthier. It’s so much more than that.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays!

Do you agree with the concept of “voting with our dollars”? How does that impact the decisions that you make as you purchase food (and other products) for your family?

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  1. I love voting with my grocery money!
    I did the same thing when I saw organic cheese for the first time at my grocery store, I plopped down the cheese I usually buy and grabbed a chunk (smaller & more expensive) of organic. I thought it was worth it to make do with a couple fewer grilled cheese sandwiches.
    I’m glad I did.
    Thanks, Stephanie, for a great, encouraging post!
    .-= Candace @ A Worker at Home´s last blog ..A little respect =-.

  2. *Standing and applauding!* Well done!

    I have made similar decisions, as we all should. Money is the only language businesses understand, so we must speak their language.

  3. WOW that is a great price on organic oranges. I have never seen a price that good on them where I live. A few times I saw organic clementines but they were A LOT more than that!

    I agree that we must vote with our money too. I wish I was able to do it more often. WHen the prices are extremely more sometimes I cannot. I’ve seen the result of demand in my small town fairly rural grocery store (although its connected to a big chain) because since I have moved here they have increased again and again their organics and natural lines of products. The reason: demand, according to the man who manages the ordering when I asked. Its all about money! They wouldn’t be ordering it if we didn’t all buy it. You’re right on track. I just wish that I could support it 100% all the time.

  4. By the way…good for you for making a good decision in the stress of the moment. I’ve had lots of days like that too….you should have seen me on Tuesday it seemed like everything went wrong. I almost pulled back out of the parking lot and went home…and we hadn’t even gone inside the store yet! LOL

  5. I am a big fan of voting with my dollars. I also find that if I build a relationship with certain stores rather than visiting a bunch randomly, they’re more likely to listen to me when I make requests.

    In the same way, I choose not to support certain companies with questionable ethics or agendas.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Bulk Once A Month Cooking =-.

  6. I completely agree, and I do that all the time (buy an organic alternative just because its new to the store, to let the store know “yes! people are buying this! please stock more!”) !!

  7. Oh, I am near tears as I think about that farmer at the end of “Food, Inc.”

    I think we’ve been trained to believe that the best way to live is in finding the best deals, especially through stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Often, wives see it as their duty to “save money” at these stores, above that of nourishing their families well. They pride themselves on not “wasting” money on “expensive” products like organic foods and natural toys.

    But by continuing to support these lesser foods and products, we all lose access to affordable natural and organic alternatives.

    Thanks for voting for that box of mandarin oranges. I really appreciate it.
    .-= Amanda Ginn´s last blog ..Ainsley at 15 months =-.

  8. Oh, I am near tears as I think about that farmer at the end of “Food, Inc.”

    I think we’ve been trained to believe that the best way to live is in finding the best deals, especially through big box stores. Often, wives see it as their duty to “save money” at these stores, above that of nourishing their families well. They pride themselves on not “wasting” money on “expensive” products like organic foods and natural toys.

    But by continuing to support these lesser foods and products, we all lose access to affordable natural and organic alternatives.

    Thanks for voting for that box of mandarin oranges. I really appreciate it.
    .-= Amanda Ginn´s last blog ..Ainsley at 15 months =-.

  9. How beautifully explained and stated! Great arguments for being mindful of how we spend our God-given resources and blessings. I think you are very eloquent in you ability to explain it on a level that everyone can easily understand. I plan to share this article with my friends.

    Now I want to view that video!

    Thanks for a terrific post.

  10. I too have had that momentary struggle of either saving a bit of money or buying what I know is better & that I fundamentally believe in. Ever since seeing Food Inc about 8mths ago, parts of it constantly swirl through my mind – especially at the grocery store. One of the best things about that movie is that it encourages you and I to do our part, however small it may seem, as you mentioned. Thanks for a great post and reminder that it is worth it!

  11. I completely agree! Though we have a very tight grocery budget, I try to buy as many of the organic products our conventional grocery store provides so that they will know I support them keeping it in stock. I go back-and-forth about shopping at Walmart, but have recently noticed many more organic options and just recently witnessed a Walmart employee walking through a nearby field picking up plastic bags that had blown in from their parking lot. To me, this was a huge sign that they are trying to be more responsible corporate citizens, even if it is just something initiated by local management.

  12. Loved Food, Inc! It seriously opened my eyes to another side of eating organic and how important it is. And thanks for this post! So true!!! Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that when I’m in my hurried shopping mode but when you stop to think about the consequences of what we buy, it’s worth going organic!

  13. Yes!!! We shop Walmart, and buy as much in organics as we can afford (mostly stuff for the kids). If everyone started doing this, not only would it support the farmers, the prices for the higher valued organic food would drop and even more people could eat without worry of chemicals in their foods!

  14. Absolutely! I try to buy as much organic as possible w/o breaking my food budget.
    I also have a share in a local CSA, and get organic produce from early June right thru October. I wish I could buy all my meat from organic sources, but that for me, right now, is unrealistic. Meanwhile, I continue to do what I can.
    .-= Cindy (FarmgirlCyn)´s last blog ..By the dawn’s early light… =-.

  15. I absolutely agree with the concept and power of “voting with our dollars”. It doesn’t matter that we cannot do things perfectly, we have the choice and opportunity to do what we can – to continue educating ourselves and our families – to continue seeking out companies that treat human life with dignity (ex. fair trade; no child labor) – to choose to opt out of buying certain products if we cannot find healthy alternatives… and yes, to spend more on groceries, if necessary, to tell the ‘powers that be’ that we care! We live on one income, three kids, one vehicle… we are not rolling in the dough but we do and can buy healthy, organic, fair trade food (not eveything, but much of it) for our family. This does require some sacrifice in other areas (ex. we’re the only family in our neighboorhood with just one vehicle, no trailers, quads, etc; we buy much of our dishes, clothing, furniture second-hand). Not everyone can make these choices because they’re barely feeding their families or surviving. But so many of us can and ought to be more purposeful in our spending (myself included).

  16. I saw those same oranges and lamo me went for the bigger box.

    I did do a mental note of seeing organic mandarins for the first time though.

    Now I’ll have to go back and buy them!

    1. @Sandi, You’re not lame. 🙂 I admitted that I hestitated, too. It’s hard when we’re budget conscious and cost still has to play into our decisions or there won’t be enough food to go around at the end of the month. Still, I’m trying to make conscious decisions like this when I can. I can’t do it all the time either!

      But yes, go back and buy them because Ry tried one this morning and said they were amazing! 🙂

  17. Which grocery store did you find these in??? I was just lamenting feeling not good about buying standard mandarins that may be lacking in nutritional value AND use up a bazillion fossil fuels to be imported…. Sure haven’t seen them in Save-on. Where do you go?

    1. @Jessica Lauder, I go to 2 EE’s, hon! On Fraser Highway, up near the Fleetwood Rec Center. I bet spud has some, too. I’m not into them being imported either, so this makes me feel at least a lot better about buying them. If you don’t get out there, let me know and I’ll pick up an extra box for you to grab from my house, if you like. 🙂

  18. I was faced w/ this decision just yesterday and thought about many of the things you just mentioned. It is so very tough for a family on a budget, though, to buy the organic. Often I have to go back and forth depending on the month and the budget. I would love to always eat organic, but some months that just doesn’t work out.

    I do think we are seeing some changes though…I am seeing much more selection in stores where I don’t remember there being as much before. I can’t help but thing that demand will eventually create supply.

    Great “food for thought” here!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Breastfeeding: The Memory of Emily =-.

  19. Fabulous post!! Great deal on the oranges too! Food Inc. was awesome as well. You have a lot of good points. You go girl and keep on going!!! Love your blog 🙂

  20. I love Two EEs…very satisfying to walk out with a nice full box of fresh fruits and veggies. You have given me something to think about when we next stock up.
    Lovely and inspiring blog by the way…I am officially un-lurking!

  21. Our local food Co-op put on a showing of “Food Inc”. It was a great movie! We had already made some good choices in the past, but we are now conciously making great choices when it comes to feeding our family. We buy lots of stuff at our local food co-op (like locally grown wild rice and honey) and we made a big step and purchased a quarter of a cow, instead of buying the grocery ground beef. We feel better about what we eat, and we are showing our kids how important locally grown food is. I can’t wait for the summer, our area is doing a community owned farm. We will get baskets of fresh produce all summer!

  22. I have two teenagers and we are all allergic to corn and soy so we don’t have much choice in the store, but I still vote with my dollars to an extent. I have boycotted all major food companies that have additive-laden foods on the market even if they offer an “acceptable” option. I feel very strongly that companies like Kraft and Dole are purposely sacrificing the health of the consumers for pure profit. If it was up to me all products with corn and soy derivatives (GMOs) would be taken off the market today or at the very least unable to advertise to children. My problem is convincing others to join me in the fight.

    About Walmart, I recently moved back to a bigger city in Mississippi with more options but for 2 years I lived in rural Alabama. Walmart was the only store in a 120-mile radius with ANY organic veggies available. I bought all of them as well as the unwashed lettuce (conventional since organic wasn’t even offerered) which had been replaced with corn-derivative “pre-washed” lettuce in bags in all the other stores. The cashiers always looked at us like we had two heads when we brought our cart through their line (full of produce and that’s all) and frequently had to ask me what some of those foreign vegetables were called so they could look up the price (artichokes, beets, asparagus, jicama, etc.). I’m not joking.

    Those two years in Alabama were eye-opening to me in so many ways. There is a huge problem in America, especially in the rural areas. This part of Alabama was filled with gardens (conventional – I couldn’t even find a load of organic compost in three counties – for most I was the first person to even ask for it) but there wasn’t even a farmer’s market anywhere around. I drove past acres and acres of pastured cows that were destined for the feed lot and had to order all my meat online. The poorest county in Alabama is paying someone else to wash their lettuce. (Have you ever looked at the price difference between bagged lettuce and fresh? You certainly pay extra for the addition of GMO corn.)

    I guess I would have to say that I am thankful for Walmart or we would have starved in Alabama, but I am still so very happy to be 5 minutes away from a Kroger and 20 minutes away from a whole foods coop now. I would also like to say that the real food movement has not reached rural Alabama and they need it in the worst way.
    .-= kc´s last blog ..Fermented Vegetables are easy and fun =-.

    1. @kc,
      But then again, if it hadn’t been for that Walmart, you would have had probably 2 or 3 other grocery stores in driving distance.
      Also, what do you mean by the addition of corn derivatives in pre-bagged lettuce? I’m usually pretty current on the newest crap the industrial food industry is trying to pull, but I haven’t heard this one. Or are you talking about plastic bags that are derived from corn?
      I must sympathize with the living in Alabama thing though. I used to live in Florida, which wasn’t as bad, I’m sure, but I remember one town I used to go camping nearby, all they had was this tiny supermarket that had about 4 isles and a 1 wall produce section. Not another grocery store for a 45 minute drive, no produce stands… nothing…. fields all around. In those sort of areas you almost have to just grow your own. Not that that’s ever a bad option.

  23. Food Inc. is a good thing to see.

    Every now and then at your local PriceMart/Save on/Overweighti Food group stores you will see people walking around with a handheld computer doing inventory. Those are the people you want to ask if they have something in stock. Probably for a straight year, there was one organic item that was always understocked. They were always out. We mentioned it to the guy one day and after that, it was always stocked!
    .-= Katherine´s last blog ..Garden surprises =-.

  24. I only wish that I could find organic clementines here! We eat a ton of them this time of the year. I, too, often choose organic for the same reasons. I feel strongly about voting with my dollar because if I do not do it, I can not depend on others to do it for me. I also like that people will look and notice that we buy organic and ask why. That gives me the chance to explain organic gardening and maybe influence them to switch also. Now I am off to find that movie to watch it!
    .-= Stacy´s last blog ..Giveaway over at Simple Mom =-.

  25. Nice post. I agree. I’m also getting into organic, and I support local whenever possible. I’m also Canadian (Albertan), so I understand your frustrations that you’ve expressed.

  26. I can see this happening in my area as well, as stores like Fred Meyer are starting to carry more and more organic products.

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