I am delighted to have my dear friend Kelly, from Once a Month Mom (OAMM), write today’s guest post. Kelly and I met a few years back while planning our weddings, and quickly hit it off.
Kelly is one of those people who will bend over backwards and do anything to help a friend in need. Not because she has to, but because she cares. So when I put out a desperate plea for guest posts, Kelly quickly offered to write one. Read below to find out how you can eat whole foods without sacrificing tons of time or your entire paycheck.
Is it all worth it?
Contrary to popular belief you do not have to be wealthy to enjoy fresh, local and organic foods. Although there are items to which you will pay a premium, it’s about finding the balance with the items you can save on and spending a little extra. There’s also a huge advantage to planning ahead and watching the sales.
I have always been into food and grew up in a wonderful family where we cooked together and made some great meals. I was also fortunate to grow up in a wonderful part of California where local and fresh food were in abundance. I moved to Colorado 11 years ago and through college I did my best to eat well, but who am I kidding, I was more focused on having a good time than what I was consuming. As I started to grow up, move into a house, and start my marriage I began to realize that working on my body meant not only moving and exercising, but working on what I put into my mouth.
We gradually began to eliminate all items with high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and overly processed ingredients. NOTE: All food is “processed” in some way, picking it out of your garden and bringing it to the table is a process. However, pumping it full of added vitamins, minerals, sugars and chemicals for added preservation and to maintain taste is not what I want in my food personally. We began reading books like The China Study, anything by Michael Pollan and watching movies like Food Inc and gearing up for the release of Forks Over Knives.
When I became pregnant with my son, my desires changed even more and I wanted to make sure that all the nutrition we were both getting was nothing but the best. I had my moments, but for the most part I did exceptionally well. As Connor began to eat solids, I made all of his food and found that even when we bought canned food for convenience, he hated it. Interesting how the tastebuds of someone so small and innocent can know the difference.
If you are interested in making changes towards a more wholesome style of living, one of the first things to do is to look into joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Share farm. Simply head to this website, enter in your address and see what’s around you. Another great way is to head down to your local farmers market and ask about shares. CSA’s can range from produce, meat, herbs, mushrooms, poultry, milk, eggs, you name it! In our CSA, we get vegetables, fruit, and eggs. Our share comes to about $30 a week. Sounds like a lot? Well not quite when you think about what I would spend at the local grocer for organic eggs, $5.99, fruit $6-9/lb, and veggies $4-8/lb. I’m also saving a trip to the grocery store by picking up my share on the way home from work weekly. There are even some shares out there that deliver to your door! Find what’s available near you! Here’s a sample of what we received in just one week of our share:
You can also start a garden!! Look how pretty mine was last year…
I’ll spare you the details of how it ended up for a different. But the herbs came out great!
Yes I know that bananas are not local to anyone here on the mainland, so how do you know what to spend money on for organic vs conventional? The Environmental Working Group has a wonderful list which ranks produce from best to worst in terms of exposure to pesticides. Save your money on items such as avocados, onions, and asparagus. And splurge on items like blueberries, celery, apples and potatoes.
When it comes to meat such as beef and poultry, similar to Leila, we’ve begun to eat more vegetarian meals to help our waistlines and our wallets. I do buy local and organic beef and poultry. I choose to spend the extra money to know where my meat came from and knowing it was treated in a humane manner with no exposure to chemicals or antibiotics. I choose to buy locally because I know that if anything should happen to my meat or if something is not right I know who to contact. I buy in bulk, I buy at least four chickens at a time and we are slotted for ¼ of a beef side this year as well. Buying in greater amounts can be sticker shock at first but we’re saving over $3/lb on our ground beef especially, and $2/lb on our chickens. Again you can look up local producers in your area here.
BBQ Chicken Pizza made with local poultry
Read your labels, there are some generic brand pantry staples out there that are listening to the consumer and coming out with natural and organic items. For example look at this pasta:
This is a name brand whole wheat pasta. Doesn’t look like a lot of ingredients does it? But who has Thiamin Mononitrate and Niacin in their pantry to whip up some pasta? Didn’t think so. Yet, this box of pasta costs roughly $5.
This is a generic brand, organic pasta at my store. It was $3, and contains ONE ingredient, flour. I believe they forgot water and egg, but still, there are ingredients I can relate to. And because I haven’t had time to make my own pasta just yet, this is what I feel comfortable buying for the convenience.
On the left this is your basic generic store brand tomato sauce, it was on sale for the same price as non-organic and definitely worth the cost. On the right, organic apple cider. This is your discretion, again read the labels and know what’s inside and make the choice that’s best for you.
DIY isn’t just a channel or a fad, its about saving yourself money in every aspect of your life. This last summer I was a canning mad woman. Tomatoes, peaches, applesauce, pears, tomato sauce, and pickles oh pickles. For around $20 you can get a boiling canner, a the canning bible, and start canning yourself. It’s pretty foolproof, don’t be scared, give it a try. Just this last March, I decided to make my own vanilla extract. I’ll tell you how it turns out in September but I think it will be delicious. Who needs a gallon of extract? I do. I go through 2 ounces of extract a month approximately. I pay about $5 for those two ounces, so for me a gallon of vodka for $23, vanilla beans for $40, and free jars, was totally worth it. You don’t have to make a gallon, but I would strongly suggest you give it a try, vanilla has an extremely long shelf life and is a fantastic hostess gift or for the holidays.
Lastly bulk freezer cooking has become a standard in my meal planning with our family. Last fall a friend introduced me to Once A Month Mom, a blog dedicated to freezer cooking. I did a few menus and I was completely hooked. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I had cooked in bulk before but never like this. I began to compare our grocery bills from previous months and saw the savings just adding up. My first month I saved $300! I found myself still adjusting the menus to support my family and our approach to no processed foods and more real food. Interestingly enough, they put a call out for contributing writers for a new whole foods menu. Guess who got picked? ME! (Here’s a link to the recipes I’ve posted to date.) But the most exciting news is that, starting tomorrow, there will be a monthly Whole Foods Menu to cook from! There are also Gluten Free/Dairy Free, Diet, Traditional and Baby Food Menus for you to choose from. Provided in these menus are: A complete menu with breakfasts, lunches and dinners that will last you approximately one month or more, a complete grocery list for the recipes chosen, labels for your freezer packages, and a full instruction list to get you through a power cooking day. Wait, that’s not the best part…the recipes are completely adjustable to the number of people you are serving! Just two of you? Great! Power cooking with two friends? We can handle it! Yes I love to cook a fresh meal, but I work full time and if dinner isn’t done in 30 minutes, on a weeknight, it’s not worth it to me. Therefore these freezer friendly meals have come in quite handy for our family. Not to mention when I have a client go into labor, my husband can have a healthy meal ready in no time.
I like to call myself an educated consumer now. I am aware of what I’m putting into food and creating for my family. I make a conscious effort to read labels, buy as local as possible, and buy organic when feasible. Being an educated consumer is a constant learning process, and I believe one that will be never ending. There’s no reason you shouldn’t start today. Take it one step at a time. It’s not an overnight change, it’s a lifestyle.
**Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
** All pictures are courtesy of Kelly @ Once a Month Mom. Please do not use.
Do you shop your local farmers market or get a CSA box? Have you read any of the books Kelly mentioned, or seen any of the films?