I ran out of sugar yesterday. I decided last night that, then, that I’d replace my bag of organic, fair-trade sugar in the morning. The last one had lasted me several months, but I was down to my last half-cup.
First thing this morning, I walked to the local Ten Thousand Villages – where I always get my sugar — with Lydia in the jogging stroller and picked up a bag, grabbing some fair-trade cocoa while I was there.
As the lady was ringing it up, she pointed out that the price had gone up. I looked at the price tag for the first time. Six dollars! For two pounds of sugar! That was quite a jump – it had only been $4.75 the last time I’d bought it.
I decided I was going to have to be even more sparing with my sugar from now on.
I refuse to buy conventionally-produced sugar, which is highly processed, and, more importantly, often brought to us through highly exploitative practices. I want to be sure that the sugar my family consumes was bought at a fair price, helping small farmers earn a decent wage, and grown in a sustainable way. But at that price, I just can’t afford to use much.
I already don’t use granulated sugar often. Even the organic, less-refined kind is not great for your health. More often, I use either maple syrup or honey, which at least have various vitamins, nutrients, and (in the case of raw honey) beneficial enzymes. Lately, I’ve been making a lot of sweets using only dates, and no other sweetener whatsoever.
All of these sugars are expensive. Like, really, really expensive. A one-kilogram bag (2-pound) of organic, fair-trade sugar is now six dollars. A 500g (pint) jar of raw honey costs the same. The best price on maple syrup I’ve been able to find is $12 for a liter (quart). So I have to use them all very sparingly. We just cannot afford to eat much of any of them. When I use them in recipes, I try to cut back as much as possible. With granulated sugar, I usually cut the amount by quarter or half of what the recipe says.
Fresh fruit is another rather expensive source of natural sugar, and unavailable (if you live where I do) for a good chunk of the year. So we’re limited to small amounts throughout the year.
And that’s why I’m rather glad natural sweeteners are all so expensive: they make frequent sugar-snacking prohibitive. We can’t afford to eat a lot of sweets.
It turns out, only buying natural sweeteners is good for your health because not a lot of people can afford to use them much.
The high cost of natural sugars has also forced our family to be more resourceful. My parents took up bee-keeping last year, so they’ve kept us stocked with free raw honey. (We just have to help with the harvesting). And we’re religious about tapping our maple tree every year and boiling down the syrup. And when sweet fruits are plentiful in the summer, we work hard to preserve as much as we can through canning and freezing.
We’ve found some very economical ways to source natural sweeteners. However, these sources are limited, so we have to carefully ration it to last throughout the year.
Which works out quite nicely, considering the way our bodies were designed. The reason we humans crave and love sugar so much is because we were designed to gorge on and enjoy sweet fruits just a few times a year when they’re in season. We weren’t meant to stuff our bodies with sugar every day of our lives. Sugar is a precious commodity that we are meant to enjoy only occasionally.
Because the real stuff is a precious resource, it’s expensive to buy.
And I’ve decided I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m glad. It puts a natural cap on how much sugar we’re able to consume. So bring on the six-dollar bags of sugar. It’ll make sweets all the more precious.