Why our food is not expensive enough and the meals are prepared too fast

A friend of mine said something the other day that touched a theme I have been struggling with and defending for a long time. She said „lets publish with practical tips and recipes to live your life healthy (…), quick affordable healthy food and how to source it cheaply“. With „cheap“ and „quick“ she caught the trend absolutely 100%. And this is where I get in arguments with everybody. I strongly believe, our food is not expensive enough. It is too cheap. Way too cheap!!

And if you don’t agree already here – I ask you – when is the last time you went to help a traditional farmer work in his / her garden?

I have. Not long ago. In fact we have our own garden. And I tell you – it is a hell lot of a work. I have also spent almost an entire summer on a Swiss farmers market. Selling my teas. Next to local farmers. Selling their vegetables to prices we all know, they can never pay their living with.

The farmers in this region – they work part-time jobs. They work 14h a day. They work really really hard to sustain their simple living basics. Shelter and food. Some of them have families, kids that need to go to school. A salad for 3€ – do you have any idea how many labour hours are in that salad? And how many salads would you have to sell to have a decent income of 3’000€? (About the number to survive in Switzerland with a family – but with survive I mean survive. You don’t go eating out or buying new fashion wear with that amount of money.)

Lets make the calcul. 3000€ that would be 1000 salads. I have been to the farmers markets. I have seen how many people go buy their foods there. And I can tell you – to start with – never ever do you get 1000. Never. Why? Well, next to the farmers markets are the supermarkets. The salads sell at 1.50€ the piece. They come from Spain. From Holland. From Italy. They are grown in huge greenhouses. With machinery and cheap labour work. This is what we got used to. And then we complain, that the vegetables at the markets are too expensive. The local vegetables. Coming directly from the farmers.

Superfoods. Chia seeds for example. That tiny little seed is coming from China. We grew Chia plants last year in our garden. They didn’t even flower. And if they did flower – we might have had 20 seeds afterwards. For one Chia seed pudding (a very trendy breakfast among vegans and health-food addicts, I love it myself) you need a quarter cup Chia seeds. I don’t know how many seeds they are but definitely more than 1000. If I had to grow and harvest those seeds – I would probably spend half of my summer looking after the plants. But in the supermarket, I can get the seeds from Chia. A whole bag for 6€. Organic certified. China. Do you think the people there get 10€ an hour? I don’t think so. Those seeds have been planted, grown, looked after, harvested, cleaned, packaged, labelled, shipped to Europe, distributed to our shops and finally sold to me. And they cost 6€. That is madness. Simply madness.

I had Chia seeds this morning. And I ate them slowly. I almost said out loud “thank you” to everyone involved giving me this delicious breakfast. They are coming from too far to not be mindful about.

I hear people saying „ I have no money“. But they walk around with Nike sneakers, the newest iPhone and a 1’000€ jacket. Yes, I would have no money neither after I had spent it on those things. I don’t judge. We all make lifestyle choices and they are ours to make. But I stay with my argument – food – is not expensive enough. Our farmers can hardly sustain a living with the prices being dumped with foods imported from all over the world, grown in cheap greenhouses, tended by cheap labour force. It is the same stroy for cheap fashion.

But if you are reading this and you say to yourself – hang on – I hardly manage to buy decent food with my salary, it is already too expensive – don’t worry. In the system we are in, food won’t get more expensive. And if it would – we would probably have had a radical revolution and shut down all the supermarkets. It would be long after Dunnes and Pennies have gone bankrupped because people no longer buy fast fashion. It would be in an area, where you and I both live in a community, we live of the land and trade regional goods. It is not going to happen. But I still encourage everyone to take a look at their finances and write out all the tiny bits and things that you are buying – and decide wheter you need them or not. And from there – allocate all the money after you have payed the bills – to your health. To food. Seek local farmers. Talk with them. Connect. And try help out to get local fresh food directly from them. Look for community gardens if you live in a city. You can grow your own food there. Slowly build a community of likeminded people that want to put their health first.

We need to start to take responsibility. And make every single day choices. We decide, which area in our lives we want to grow in – we decide, wheter the sneakers or the lunch is more important. And as long as the sneakers are more important we have a problem.

I do have a solution for the problem and the solution is not only for 1st world countries but for everyone. It is called community. That is no new solution.That is what broke down when we started to produce in masses and force people to sit in front of a computer, working hours and hours for products and services that no one needs. Leaving our food to some big companies that mess it up completely for the local community to sustain an independent living. Dependency.

It is our power to free ourselves. It might take a generation, it might take two or more. But we can make the choices and changes we wish to see. We can put our health first. We can spend more money on food and less on jeans.

And take our time. Meals need to be prepared and cooked and eaten in under an hour. That is the time we are given or we give ourselves for our lunch break. Honestly – our body and brain work on full speed all day long but we only give that machine one hour to recharge. That is minimalist, don’t you think? If we could eat faster, we probably would and some people do. Lets have a sandwich at the desk. Saves 1 hour. Great. One hour „saved“.

Lifestyle choices. And here I make a shortcut. I boil everything down, all my arguments and what is left is… self-love. Am I important enough to take my time to prepare the fuel for myself and to enjoy it? Am I worth recharging? Do I allow myself to seek balance in my life. Do I allow myself to seek happiness and joy? Knowing the day I die, I might be able to say „I have lived“?

It is not easy, we are not enlightened and we are not perfect. We are all in different stages in our lives, in different circumstances. And each and everyone does what he or she can. For some it might be simply switching from buying fast food to buying fresh food. From others – taking 30 minutes break instead of 10. For others – cooking their own meal and eating it mindfully. For others again – growing their own food, cooking it and sharing it with the community. We don’t need to all cook, we don’t need to all grow food. We can share the work, I can cook for you today, you give me your home grown salad tomorrow and your neighbour helps you fix your toilet the day after. If you live in a city and are entangled in a cycle of “working full-time and still only just about manage to pay your rent and bills” – you might consider to live with others. To reduce the rent. To quit smoking. To stop drinking alcohol. To join a local exchange system. There are many little choices we can make. Break the system.

My point is – no matter where you are at in your life – if you are reading this and wanting to make a change, that you can feel brings you closer to yourself, to your health and well-being – you are at the right place. Keep going. Make tiny steps, one after the other. Don’t seek to be perfect and give up simply thinking about how that might look like. One baby step and the next. That’s how I do it. And some days, I find it very difficult to prioritise myself and my health and I go a step back – I go back to the basics which are – drink enough clean water. And my only goal for that day is to drink enough water.

With that, thank you my dear friend for letting my thoughts wander with your inspired innocent idea and I wish you all a loving day! Make yourself first priority for today.

Sonia Sarina Birrer