When Fair Trade Products are Cost-Prohibitive

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Do you want to support fair trade practices but don’t see how you can work it into your budget?

Don’t think you need to overhaul your entire grocery budget right now.  Making too many changes at once leads to burnout and abandoning the project of making changes in the way we buy our food. Additionally, most of us (myself included) have a limited budget with which to eat, so I suggest is focusing on 3 common grocery items:

Coffee (or tea, if you prefer)



“But fairly traded coffee/chocolate/sugar is expensive!”

Can we break that statement down a little bit?

fairly traded- We know this one. It means that the producer/farmer has been paid a fair price for labor and product.

coffee/chocolate/sugar- all  of these are luxuries. They are delicious in many cases. Some days I feel like I need all 3 of them to survive, but as far as facts go, I don’t actually need them. (I do want them and enjoy them!)

expensive- this is a subjective term. There is a cost tied to coffee, chocolate, and sugar (and any other product). What we are mostly likely saying when we say that fairly traded items are expensive, is that they cost us more money than we are used to paying, right?  The truth is, cheaply purchased counterparts are expensive, too, but not to you; they cost other people their freedom, health, and childhoods. There is always an expense somewhere. Who’s going to pay it? What’s fair?

Here is a plan of action (myself included) for whom cost is an issue but want to support the fair treatment of farmers:

  1. Zero in on the luxuries you spend your dollars on. Luxury purchases are food items are those that while they may in some aspect enrich our lives, they are not actually necessary. Today, I am choosing to focus on my big 3: coffee, chocolate, and sugar, but your choices may be different from mine. 
  2. Buy fewer of those items. The average person doesn’t need a 5-lb. bag of sugar, a regular supply of chocolate chips, or cups upon cups of coffee. Buying fewer luxury items cuts back on spending and allows those items to be the luxury they really should be.
  3. Look for sales in your area or online. All 3 of the items I am focusing on today tend to go on sale at one time or another. Stock up them.
  4. Buy in bulk when you find a sale and then store properly.
  5. Get creative. Instead of your regular chocolate chips (because they can be hard to find fair trade), use recipes using cocoa (a cheaper, longer lasting chocolate ingredient) and sugar you bought on sale.

What do you think? There is no way I could fit the whole issue of cost and fairly traded products in one post. What would you add? What questions or objections do you have? Please share!

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