Every year I start out with a project. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes not. One year January came and I was hooked on reading about life in the country. One year I read Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dillemma and started clearing processed food from our diet. One year we spent New Year's Eve by painting our kitchen. Last year I decided I wanted to read more classics... but, gee, what with having a baby and getting ready to move, that kind of got hung up at Jane Austen. (As in, I read two books.)
This year's project is back in familiar territory. Food again.
I find that this whole "switching to real food" thing is a long, slow process, in which one reads and make changes, reads and makes changes, reads and makes even more changes. Moving may set you back a ways. Where is the farmer's market? Are there any farms that sell pastured meat or eggs in your area? Or will you have to buy practically everything at the grocery store?
We're still in the "buying everything at the grocery store" phase. There is more wiggle room in the budget now that our house in New York has been sold (St. Therese certainly had her hand in that one!), but there is not so much wiggle room that I feel happy about plunking down $11.99/lb for strip steak on sale at Whole Foods. That's why it's cheaper to buy from a local farmer. You'll get about 200 pounds to the side for beef, which will run you about $900. If you can free up the funds, that's a deal: $4.50/lb for all cuts, which is cheaper than I can buy grass fed ground beef at my local Whole Foods. ($5.99/lb is the usual price and sales seem to be rare.) You might say that those prices are still higher than standard ground beef at Kroger's, but have you cooked with that stuff lately? Beef fat is not supposed to be sludgy and orange!
Anyway, my goals are not to eat as cheaply as possible, but to eat real food at a reasonable cost. Lately we are dealing with some health issues and food allergies -- mine, actually, as lately I have had a couple of itchy, wheezy episodes after eating maple syrup (sob) and I am beginning to suspect that my sensitivity to corn may, in fact, be worsening. I have 2 kids with mild peanut allergies, so I buy the more expensive nut and seed butters in addition to organic, natural peanut butter from Costco for the other kids. One of the children who is allergic to peanut butter is also allergic to anything weird on his skin, so I have to use the free and clear stuff, and not whatever is on sale in the laundry aisle this week. And, oh yeah, there's also ADHD, which means no BHT, TBHQ, vanillin, artificial dyes, or conventionally raised fruit or vegetables with heavy pesticide exposure. (An article about studies linking ADHD to pesticide use here.) Another necessity is raw, fermented cod liver oil supplemented with Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, which keeps me depression-free on a daily basis. (I'm not a doctor and make no claims, yada yada, just saying what works for me.)
I want to make it clear that we are not scraping by here financially. But everybody has financial goals they'd like to meet, beyond the realm of basic subsistence. Ours include saving for college (for 7) and paying off our house, in the long term, and collecting enough money to redo our kitchen (which is literally falling apart) in the short term. In addition, I woke up one morning recently and it occurred to me that at some point we will have five boys from the ages of 10 to 17 in the house at the same time.
Ok, so that scared me.
In any case it's time for me to figure all of this out. Coupons? Sales? Costco? Shopping multiple stores?
Have I mentioned lately that I'm not organized by nature?
Fortunately a person can learn. I will never be as highly efficient at saving money or making everything from scratch or canning all my own produce as many women you see on the internet, but the point is that slow improvement makes a difference.
So here are the basics:
- I'm feeding 9 people, including 2 adults and 1 teenage boy. One of us isn't on solid food yet, but that means I'm nursing exclusively.
- We're moving toward a grain-free diet... or at least a graid-reduced diet. I doubt I will be able to have everybody completely grain-free, as there are a lot of us. But we'll be cutting out as many grains as we can.
- We will eat organic, pastured, unprocessed, antibiotic and hormone-free food as much as we can. And local, if possible.
- We will endeavor to use non-toxic cleaning and health/beauty products. Homemade or store bought.
- I will not drive myself crazy trying to pick up "deals" from every store every week. I don't have time for that. Two stores is my limit.
- My monthly budget is $1250 -- for everything. That includes food, diapers, paper products, cleaning products, vitamins - etc. (When I was grocery shopping this weekend, I had to pick up lightbulbs. It's too hard for me to keep all that stuff separate.) That may seem high to some of you, but remember -- slow improvement makes a difference.
I'll do my best to blog about what I'm doing. Maybe I'll even take a picture of a grocery haul or two... if I can stop my kids from putting it away too fast... or from eating it too fast!
(A side note: I will be moving my blog some time in the near future. More about that when I get my act together!)