As I wrote a couple posts ago about the choices we make and the supply chain I realized that I wouldn't really be able to complete my point. I could talk about the importance of removing oneself from the supply chain, but I couldn't really talk about how to do it without being entirely too verbose for a single post. So here is my followup. This is where politics and Betty Home Maker, or Benjamin Home Maker merge in my mind.
First I just have to say that it's not practical to cut one's self off from our society or economy entirely. It just can't be done in a way that most people can achieve. Instead one can work bit by bit, piece by piece to minimize your dependency on the systems of the world we live in.
Being that this is a food blog and given that I said food is the part of our lives where this is most important I feel I must start there. I believe that our dependency on the supply chain for food is more important than any other aspect of our lives because food is the one thing we get from the supply chain that is not ever an option. We don't always need medical care, we can survive with a backpack's worth of clothing, we don't need cable, or internet, or gaming consoles. They are all either luxuries, or only necessary at certain times of year or periodically. Those needs can be anticipated and planned around. So while the supply chain's control over those things is significant it's not like food. A lack of food will kill, either slowly or in some cases quickly. It will prevent brain development in children, it will cause disability in adults. It makes us ravenous, and angry. Hunger destroys reason, and stunts the development of children, including vital brain development. It is for these reasons that I believe that food is the most important dependency we have on the supply chain, and the one which we must apply the most focus to breaking.
As I said above we must go about breaking that dependency a piece at a time. A person cannot go from eating out almost every day to making all of their food from scratch. Instead you can look at how you go about eating now and pick up one new food related hobby, or learn one new recipe that you never knew before. The best thing about this process is that it lends itself to a social structure. You can use sites like http://www.dabble.co to connect and find affordable educational opportunities. You can cook with friends on a regular basis, or just bum around the internet looking for trouble to get into in your kitchen and it can all seem terribly entertaining, but over time it develops into something more substantial.
I will throw out a couple very simple things you can do to start off. Learn to make krauts. My local food coop uses the term Kim Chee, but Kraut is a bit more accurate. You can easily make a home made condiment at home from raw vegetables by shredding them, salting them, spicing them and then pressing them into a large recently cleaned glass container to ferment. The process is incredibly simple and there are several wonderful resources out there to learn more (here is a good example). Add in almost any vegetable you can think of and replace the seasonings with whatever you like and you're in the fermented relish business. My house recently went vegetarian and lunch is often cheese sandwiches with copious kraut thrown in for flavor, live enzymes and easy to access vegetable nutrients.
So with that small hobby that can allow for great creative expression via food you can allow yourself to stop buying most relishes, as you can make kraut style relishes easily. You can cut out a decent amount of meat consumption even if you don't go entirely vegetarian, and you've just begun to crack the door on realizing how much you can do for yourself.
You can replace complex cleaners with vinegar, water and a dollar store spray bottle in the kitchen.
You can look for pasta sauces that are sold in mason jars (the safeway generics often are, just as an FYI) and re-use the jars instead of buying your own or using Tupperware.
The options go on and on. One little thing at a time. The best part is most of these techniques are beneficial to you. They save you money and give you a little bit more control over your own life and fulfillment as you go.
Everything I've listed above are things I do in day to day life, and I certainly do other things to try and keep a level of independence from the corporate supply chain.
I read financial news on a fairly regular basis because I'm a strange breed of geek. One thing I've seen consistently is that pay is starting to creep up again, but consumer spending is not. The people at the top of the system are starting to take notice and they are worried that people aren't spending even though they are starting to make a little bit more money again. Well for one thing the "more money" that is being made is crumbs at best. The other thing that not enough people are talking about is that as a generation we have been profoundly impacted by this recession. My grandparents survived the Great Depression and that experience informed every aspect of their lives and the way they chose to live it. They were industrious and knew how to do for themselves in ways that our parents' generation did not. Now though we are at another cross roads where we have to learn to take care of ourselves, and we may well have learned similar lessons.
When you purchase everything pre made for you the money creeps to the companies that provide that service. When things crash no one has the skills necessary to adjust, tighten the belt and start doing for themselves again. It's critical we re-learn that lesson, and along the way we just might start to extract some of those resources from the top of our system again, simply by not feeding the money we have back into it.