The main excuse I hear for not going to all natural, real food after "It's too expensive!" (which is a fallacy after counting in the factors of nutrition, and healthcare costs from eating crap) is "I don't have time to make so many things from scratch!".
This *is* a real problem, because good food does take time. My solution? Single-income households or switching to local produce and meats exclusively. Some of us can't switch to local, because the support structure just isn't there after decades of factory farming. I have also worked out a system of once-a-month cooking, but that's not the topic of the post today, and doesn't completely solve the problem. There's no getting around the fact that if you want nothing but nutritionally sound food, one person is going to have to stay in the kitchen full time, figuratively speaking. Most time is spent planning outside the actual room.
Before my colleague feminists complain, I did NOT say that women should stay in the kitchen. I said we need to switch back to a single income family model. If that means the man stays home, that's okay too. For single parents without domestic help, I feel for you. Feeding a family with good, wholesome food, staying away from additives, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, mono-sodium glutamate, hydrogenated fats, and the rest of the nutritional pitfalls is a FULL TIME JOB. They will benefit most from a plan-ahead, cook-it-all-in-one-weekend-and-freeze-it approach. But that's another post.
Food suppliers have made it very, very difficult to find out exactly what's in your food. They like this obscurity. It means they can cheapen their product without damaging its perceived value. So we parents/spouses/partners who are responsible for what goes on the table have mountains of research to do if we want to buy national brands. Who puts "All-Natural" on their label, when in reality their cows are kept on feed lots, wallowing hip-deep in the filth of a thousand other cows? Who claims to be organic, even though they lost their certification a year ago when they increased their herd size? Who feeds their pigs anti-biotics and growth hormones? You can't find that on a label, at least not in any standardized, accountable form, and if you think how the animal is treated while it matures doesn't affect what the meat is like, think again.
You know the old saying "You are what you eat"? Well, consider that you are what you eat eats, too. How nutritionally valuable do you think the milk will be if the cows that it came from were fed gummy worms AS FEED?
Or think of the example of the grocery store tomato. They look pretty and red, thanks to ethelyne gas, even though they were picked way too early and were grown off-season with too little sunlight to develop their true flavor. That tomato is going to taste like cardboard. You may have even noticed a trend lately in NON-organic produce... it's gotten less pretty, more blemished. I even found a bug in a head of non-organic lettuce recently. A really big one, too.
I'm not sure if this is non-organic producers cutting costs even further, by relaxing their quality control standards to let more produce pass through, or if it's a deliberate attempt to make their product look organic, even if they can't claim it with certification. Or a simple response to a growing consumer trend to prefer something that is less than perfect.
They are certainly on the ball if that is the case. People are getting fed up with factory food.
I can remember opening a bag of Ruffles potato chips when I was a kid, and being delighted by the snowy white, crisp and tasty, perfectly ovoid contents. Have you opened a bag lately? (Considering the oil has changed in the last thirty years, and quite possibly the genetic structure of the potatoes themselves, I'm kinda hoping not) Now when you open them, you see more misshapen chips, more "accidental" brown peels left on, more green spots... when there used to be none. Why? Is it a response to the economy, or a response to what is (hopefully) a growing consumer acceptance of something less-than-picture-perfect?
Since I've gone on for the length of a novel already, I'll wrap this up. But please consider... is it worth upgrading to that shiny new car next year, and having to have two incomes coming in to afford it, if you have to switch to nothing but fast food and take-out dinner because you're both too exhausted to cook? And then, because you're eating crap food, you get even more tired, get sick more often? Is it really worth it?