The Food Justice Young Adult Volunteers in Boston have been doing things the old-fashioned way this year and have been making things at home that we would normally buy at the store—and for a lot more money.  This comes partly from our commitment to simple living, partly from our passion for food justice and creation care, and mostly because we’re volunteers living on small monthly stipends and don’t have a lot of money.  So far we have experimented with growing our own produce, freezing and preserving produce from our CSA or local farmers markets, baking bread from scratch and cooking hand-cut pasta, making our own salad dressing, making our own laundry detergent, and even “making” our own chocolate (where we mostly learned about where chocolate is grown and how it is made.)

Back in the fall, as we stood in the kitchen at 10pm on a Tuesday night, hour 2½ into after-dinner food preservation, blanching another batch of corn and boiling tomatoes for sauce, we would joke how it felt like we were pioneers getting ready for winter, or on the Oregon Trail getting ready to travel—luckily with 21st century technology. I realized that what we were doing was not revolutionary, it was actually going back to what our grandparents did on a regular basis, and what my grandmother tried to teach me but I wasn’t all that interested in. Using fresh, local ingredients and making things from scratch just taste better. It’s more rewarding to have a finished product that was made by hand than if it was purchased from Walmart. There’s a little bit more integrity in our food and how we spend our time and money.

There are many things we take for granted because they come in a prepackaged box, a plastic bottle, or with several layers of cardboard. We’ve lost the art of “homemade;” the term now gets thrown around for cute art projects found on Pinterest. We trust and find comfort in things in plastic containers with manufacturers’ labels because that’s what we’re used to, and what advertising companies want us to want. We forget that we end up paying more for things we can easily make at home. Not only is it cheaper it’s much healthier for us to bypass the chemicals and the plastic and make things at home, or buy things that other people have ethically and safely made. Even some of the products marketed as green and eco-friendly are just jumping on the current marketing bandwagon and are usually overpriced and not that much better in the long-run. Just because something looks different and isn’t what we’re used to does not make it bad or less than.

Through our DIY experiments I also learned that these processes do take time, supplies, and knowledge that are not feasible or desirable for everyone. And I don’t think that I will continue making all of these things myself for the rest of my life. I have, however, fallen in love with making applesauce and I don’t see how I can ever buy it processed in a jar again. Throwing together my own personal salad dressing with olive oil, lemon, honey, and salt has become almost a daily habit, and if you even get a chance to tour an organic, fair or direct trade chocolate factory I suggest you do so. Finding and making these small changes that match the right frequency and match your lifestyle can make a big impact in your budget, diet, and maybe even your faith.