Environmentally Friendly Food in a Surprising Place

When you think of shopping for healthy, organic and environmentally friendly foods, stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as other specialty stores, come to mind. While these are great places to find huge selections of organic foods, and as companies, they have very strong environmentally friendly philosophies and policies, they can also be pricey. For people living on a budget, yet trying to do what’s right for their families and the environment, it’s hard to just switch to doing all your shopping exclusively at these stores. While I have found some things, like bulk foods, to be less expensive and more readily available at Whole Foods, overall their prices are pretty high.

Luckily, I have found that one of our regional chains carries a large selection of organic, healthy and environmentally friendly products. Their prices are VERY good (well, for the Greater Boston area) and they have high quality store brand alternatives for many of the staples. This chain is Market Basket (also known as Demoulas Market Basket, and according to Wikipedia, they do not have a public website).

In the past few months I have added a number of healthy and environmentally friendly reasons to like it as well and today’s trip really reinforced my satisfaction with Market Basket.

As an aside, I will say that you really can’t beat Whole Foods for the way they benefit the environment, everything they do from sourcing food, working with growers, how they treat their employees and cooperating with CSAs, make them a wonderful and admirable company. However, I have two problems with Whole Foods: there are some regular staples/junk food that we’re not ready to live without that they don’t carry, and I cannot afford to just start buying everything there all at once. If I’m going to increase my grocery budget, I have to decrease my budget somewhere else, and that takes time.

Currently I cannot drink milk because of my infant, some people choose to not drink cow’s milk because of the environmental impact of raising dairy cows. Many of those that do not drink cow’s milk, myself included, like to have alternatives and turn to soy, rice, almond, oat and even hemp milk. As a result, I have become very aware of the many brands and choices in this arena. On previous trips to Market Basket I became aware of both the large selection of rice and soy milk in aseptic packaging they carry, as well as the great price on Market Basket branded rice milk: $1.39/quart. You can’t beat that price! However, I have recently found that with coupons, I can beat that price with refrigerated almond milk, my favorite alternative. Today I was very impressed by the large selection of refrigerated milk alternatives carried by Market Basket. They

also had a very large selection of organic milks.

A few other things came to my attention today. I had noticed that while they carry Earth’s Balance buttery spread, they did not have the soy free version that I need (baby can’t have soy either). When one of the dairy staff joked with me that I didn’t have many dairy items in my cart, I asked them about carrying this spread, so I wouldn’t have to go to Whole Foods just for that item. He said he’d contact his distributor and find out if he could get it.

Later, as I was looking at the brown rice selection and I commented to the staff person there that I was really pleased with how many healthy and organic choices they carry,  he replied that that was because he made a point of ordering foods like that.

Some other things I’ve noticed in Market Basket:

  • They are better at clearly labeling where their produce comes from than Stop & Shop, Shaws or even Whole Foods.
  • They have local alternatives (for a fun example click on the Chelmsford label above) and options for much of their food, including packaged items as well as produce.
  • They carry a variety of ethnic and unusual foods. For example, my infant loves “Mum Mum Crackers” which I have only been able to find at Market Basket & Whole Foods, and not at our “giant” supermarkets.

 The next time you are in your local market, look at their selection of organic, locally grown, and healthy food.  If you can’t find something you are looking for, ask someone who works there as they may have it and are often willing to get it.

Happy Greening!

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  1. Alicia,

    Just a word of warning against turning to soy products to replace dairy or animal protein in your diet…the way soy is farmed is detrimental to the environment. It’s sprayed heavily with chemicals, and even if it is organic, the plant itself can’t be grown on the same patch of land for more than a couple years before it uses up all the nutrients in that soil. This means that soy farmers continuously need to clear more land to plant more soy…thus contributing to deforestation & erosion.

    Yes, really nothing can beat the horrors of commercial meat & dairy production, but replacing one evil with another is not really the answer.

    If you can write letters to your local grocer urging them to stock organic/local dairy & meat alternatives, that is the best way to go. If they won’t listen, take your business elsewhere if possible (nearest farmer’s market or CSA).

    Thanks for the great post! This is such an important topic for people to be aware of.

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  4. I like Market Basket too for certain things. If you are buying organic dairy or yogurt, there are many choices at great prices. I do find that the quality and selection varies from Market Basket to Market Basket. Ours in Westford, MA is pretty good and the one in Lowell (maybe it’s Tewksbury) is really nice. Just curious which one is closest to you?

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