Budgets, Rules and Going Forward

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Happy 2013!


With the new year here I thought it would be a great time to give an overview of our food philosophy and this blog. When I started this blog late in 2009 I struggled with a name for it. I had been writing about food on a family blog that I had at the time. So much in fact that most posts were food related and there was very little about anything else. 

We had began changing our diet at the beginning of 2009 after reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.  At first my husband and I did not think it would be possible to eat the way outlined in the book without drastically increasing our food budget. The problem with that, we didn’t have the money to increase our food budget. I’ve seen lots of well meaning articles and blog posts indicating that by cutting out other expenses we could put that money toward better food. For us we didn’t spend money on extras. No cable TV, cell phones, fancy anything, etc. My goal was to share that it was possible to transition to a real/whole/traditional foods diet on an average budget.  I decided on Real Food for Less Money since it seemed to best portray what we were doing and wanted to share.


The Budget

When we first started on this food journey our budget averaged $512.50 per month for our family of five to seven (five plus adult children that lived here but did not always join us for meals).  We somewhat began this journey while living on the west coast but became very serious about it once we settled here in Wyoming. Living in a brand new place and being completely new to real food along with a tight budget did present some challenges. 

One of the first things we did was source grass-fed beef. I didn’t realize it at the time but the rancher I called about beef never expected to hear from me again. I let her know we had just moved here, were in fact still living in a camp trailer (our house was not yet up) and my husband worked as a custodian. She was certain that I would never follow through — I guess I didn’t sound like the typical person who would choose to spend extra on higher quality beef.  A short time later I did call her back and started with her beef CSA, ten pounds of grass fed beef per month.   Ten pounds of beef per month is not very much. We were fortunate to be able to stretch that with a couple of antelope that first year (two antelope is about 70 pounds of meat plus we some of the bones for broth).  We also were able to source raw (real) milk. Our budget allowed for one cow share which was one gallon of milk per week. Besides for meat and milk we also concentrated on changing our fats. One of the first changes we made was to stop buying margarine and to buy butter.  We also switched over to coconut oil and olive oil.  Our basic process was as we used up something that didn’t meet our ‘real food’ criteria we replaced it with its real food counter-part as best we could while sticking with our budget.


We did increase our budget slightly during that time to accommodate an extra cow share which gave us two gallons of milk per month bumping our budget up to $540 per month. In June of 2011 we were able to increase it to $650 per month (in 2011 we averaged $659 per month including many meals dining out). Most of that increase went to milk bumping us up to 3 1/2 shares (3 1/2 gallons per week) which gives us ample milk for drinking, making kefir, yogurt, cheese and most of our baking needs. We still only get the ten pounds of beef per month with our CSA, my husband and one of my girls fill our chest freezer up with wild game plus we raise our own chickens (finding free-range or pastured chickens in my area is a challenge) and ducks for meat and eggs.  $650 per month is really a very comfortable budget for our family of five in our area (we really are only five now, the older children no longer live here and are doing quite well on their own).  We did increase our food budget in August of 2012 somewhat. We actually decided that we wanted to beef up our pantry/food storage. We reworked our budget to allow $900 per month specifically for food storage plus $450 per month for ‘regular’ purchases.  This was a temporary budget until we met our food storage goals then we went back to the $650 per month.  Note: We do eat from our food storage not just buy things that will sit in the garage until we ‘need’ them.  Replenishing our storage items as we eat them will come out of our regular budget.


Real/Whole/Traditional Foods

You will often see me write real/whole/traditional (real) foods because that is how we eat. Real and whole foods are not necessarily traditional foods.  Real and whole foods are foods in their most natural state. They are not processed or are minimally processed. You will find lots of people that write about real or whole foods and have a diet completely different than ours.  An example is a person could be a vegan and follow a whole foods diet. 

When you get right down to it, we actually follow more of a traditional foods diet. We try to eat foods that our ancestors would have eaten by following the Principles of Healthy Diets from the Weston A. Price Foundation. Reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Dr. Weston A. Price was a huge eye opener for myhusband and me. It really drove home how traditional people ate and how that may vary depending on location.  A traditional diet is not one size fits all but will have many similarities.  We mostly eat grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, wild game, healthy fats (animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil), whole grains that have been soaked, soured or sprouted and some organic produce.  MOSTLY.  We do not follow a 100% traditional diet. Our rule is 85/15. We do still eat out and buy some things that don’t fall into the real/whole/traditional foods category which accommodates for the 15%.   Plus while it is now easier for us to get organic produce that is by far our biggest challenge so we do the best we can. The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list has been very helpful for our produce choices.  Once again this year, we’re going to plant a garden with hopes of growing some of our own pesticide-free produce.

2010 garden


What Exactly Can You Expect to Read at Real Food for Less Money?

A short time ago I did an interview with Chaya from Pantry Paratus (you can listen to part 1 of the interview here and part 2 here) and one of her questions for me was something like “what can people expect to read about at your blog”.  That is a very difficult question for me to answer! While I very much to try to keep the focus on Real Food for Less Money, you will often find many other things depending on what is going on in our lives.  We are working on food storage so I share about that.  I’ve been struggling with some health issues that I think I have figured out (maybe) so I suspect I’ll be sharing more about that journey.  Food freedom is important to me so I share on that when needed.  Sometimes I think I should focus my parameters a little bit more but in order to share our real food journey I keep it pretty loose. And I try to keep it very real– I’m not talking about real food but real life.  While our overall food rules are the 85/15. One day might not look nearly that good and the next day might be 100% real food.  Here is a picture of a complete 15% item. 


This is the birthday cake I made for our son.  While the frosting is was a very delicious cream cheese and butter I’m pretty sure the blue food coloring negates any benefits of the butter. And the candy on top… well we won’t even talk about that.  I am certainly NOT recommending that you make a cake like this, really you should be making desserts like these from my friend Wardee at GNOWFGLINS, I especially like the looks of the Sprouted Brownie Cake. And truthfully, those are the type of desserts we usually eat–85% of the time. 😉 

You may find that you need to be 100% diligent in your food choices. Again, real food is not necessarily one size fits all and you need to do what is needed for your health. I do hope that you will still find some valuable information and recipes here.


Going Forward

I actually don’t know what the future will hold for this blog. We continue to learn new things as time goes on.  When we first started down this real food path we didn’t realize the correlation between food and health.  As this discovery continues I imagine I will share much more about what I learn. Our diet may need to be adjusted as we better learn what works for us. As things change for us it will affect what I blog about since I do want to ‘keep it real’.

Something I’m hoping to improve on in 2013 is the photos that go along with the posts. With Pinterest being such a wonderful way to share and save articles it has become extremely important for bloggers to make sure each entry has a post. Plus pictures are nice to look at. For my most recent birthday my husband gave me The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. I have to tell you that the pictures are absolutely spectacular.  I love looking through the book and drooling over everything  (while many of the recipes are not exactly in line with how we eat most of them would work just fine with a few modifications and substitutions).

While I have been trying to improve my pictures sometimes it is a challenge.  Photography does not seem to be a skill I possess.  Add to that the fact that most of the things I share are the things we are actually eating and concocted while standing at the stove as opposed to a recipe that I have spent time developing, it often is not the best time to take a picture. It is usually dark out (the flash doesn’t make for good photos) and at least one person is constantly repeating “I’m hungry”.   Many of the photos on here are of the dish bubbling away on the stove. I apologize for that and would like to tell you that things will change… however they may not.   In the mean time, please do enjoy the occasional decent photo I take, like this muffin picture which is one of my favorites.


What you would like to talk about?  Are you new to real/whole/traditional foods and not sure where to start? Wondering what might give you the most bang for your buck?  Concerned about how to get the family on board for this journey?  Please ask questions and/or leave comments.  Some days I feel like I’m talking to myself on this blog so it would be great to chat with you also. Your comments are a terrific indicator of the type of posts you would most like to read.

Photo Credit: Fireworks, all others are mine



Millie Copper
Millie Copper is a Wyoming wife and mama. After reading Nourishing Traditions in early 2009, her family began transforming their diet to whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods—a little at a time while stretching their food dollars. Millie is passionate to share how, with a little creativity, anyone can transition to a real foods diet without overwhelming their food budget. Millie began blogging in late 2009 and has amassed a collection of frugal recipes and methods. Her specialties include cooking with wild game and creating “Stretchy Beans”. Discovering a love of writing, she has penned four books focusing on healthy eating on a budget and is trying her hand at fiction writing. Learn more at MillieCopper.com.


  1. Amy Richards Thompson

    I discovered this blog about a month ago and I just want to tell you that the budget parameters really impressed me. I don’t actually track my budget, so I don’t know how much I spend. I only know that throwing away ‘left overs’ is over here! I enjoy your perspective very much!

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      Thank you Amy! I hate to admit to this, but if I am not diligent leftovers still get away from me. It’s definitely a process for us.

  2. Kathryn Arnold

    You are NOT talking to yourself. Most often I barely have time to skim and scan articles, taking time to share the link on facebook or pinterest if I really want to be able to find it again or think enough friends will be interested now or in the future. Real food for less money is where I’m at these days…more every day! Keep up the good work…we’re here, even if not vocal.

    BTW, you might check out another blogger – wholenewmom – for her homemade natural blue food coloring post.

    On my mind at the moment…bone broth on a barely-can-afford-bones budget with almost no refridgerated storage room available. Can I make bone broth that will keep at room temperature long enough to drink it all?

    I pray that the new year holds blessings and growth for both of us…you, as you develop your sustainable lifestyle – me, as I focus on my Christian commitment to walk with God.

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      Hi Kathryn,

      I checked out Whole New Mom’s food coloring. It is terrific. I had thought about trying to use blueberries but thought they would turn purple. I never thought of cabbage.

      Can you do a perpetual broth? Keep the broth hot in a crock pot so it is always ready to use and never needs refridgeration? Something else that I have been intending to try but haven’t yet is making broth and then dehydrating it. Loving Our Guts has detailed instructions on broth dehydration. You might also consider a thermos for keeping broth hot for the day. We have a bullet style thermos that keeps broth steaming hot all day. In fact, it was left in the car overnight once and the broth was still very hot the next day. I used a cooler outside over the holidays when my fridge was way to full. Everything stayed plenty cold. Of course, if you don’t live in Wyoming the “natural” fridge might not work for you. I personally wouldn’t risk leaving broth out at room temperature for more than a couple of hours without some intentional method to keep it hot or refrigerator cold.

      1. Kathryn Arnold

        Hmmm. This is an idea I hadn’t really considered well…perpetual broth. That could work, though I’m a bit hesitant about committing a heat-producing device to that schedule given that it will likely appear on the electric bill. I’d seen a dehydrated broth post but put the idea on hold for when making broth is a simpler issue. I pinned both of the posts you provided. Thank you.

        Change in my life in the near future is likely. Much as I’m trying not to imagine in any limiting demands regarding God’s will, I would surely be pleased if it evolves to include growing my own food and owning a dehydrator. 🙂 I need people to cook for!

  3. Frabk

    Hi! Millie,
    Thank you for sending this post. It has beeb a long time since I read your blog. I am interested in your mive to a new location. I am interested to move from NJ to TX and get a few acres with my brother and become food growers of our own foods.
    Also I would like to hear more about your food storage and what kids of food you chose and why. I hope to be readin about them in the future.

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  4. Stephanie

    Millie, I’m just glad to be back in touch. The whole real foods for less money is quite the needed topic here as prices go up and teacher furlough days stay up…meaning fewer paid days. We continue to raise our own chickens turkeys, pigs and some veggies. We have goat milk in season. Working on the cow thing.. We glean where we can..bluberries and pecans are two biggies. Two other big issues for us are food storage on a really tight budget… And dealing with food intolerances…hoping to heal the gut and eventually add some things back in…all still on a really tight budget. Thanks for what you are doing here!

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      Hi Stephanie,

      You all are still doing so much! Gleaning is a wonderful thing to be able to do. I haven’t found any wild things to glean here. I did hear from a friend that there are berries on the mountain. Furlough days are hard 🙁

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