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When the discussion of real food comes up one of two things is almost always mentioned. Cost and time.

Many people believe that a diet based on real/whole/traditional foods is monetarily out of reach for the average person. Yes, high quality fats and proteins are more expensive than their lower quality counterparts. Yes, buying organic does increase food costs. But with a little creativity and careful choices a real food diet doesn’t have to break the bank.

Now let’s talk about the time issue of a real foods diet.

Does eating a real foods diet take more time than a Standard American Diet (SAD)?  In my opinion, yes and no.  Yes, I do spend more time in the kitchen than I used to but on the flip side, there are many, many real food dishes that take very little time.  I aim for a nice balance depending on what my schedule requires.

I recently read an article that suggested that people eat convenience foods because they don’t have the time to prepare the meals and then clean up afterwards.  So the question on my mind is exactly how much time does it take to eat a real/whole/traditional foods diet?

One option to alleviating the time factor would be to buy high quality commercial items. Depending on where you live you may be able to purchase a great quality of sourdough bread, all of your ferments, and other pre made items.  Real food convenience food.  BUT what if you are not only dealing with time constraints but also with budget constraints?

Time and money. Two big things and back to the original questions that almost always comes up.

For this month’s addition to the ongoing series Someone Else’s Shoes, we are going to address both time and money.

Last month for two weeks my family followed the Thrifty Food Plan monetary guidelines established by the USDA.  This was a great experience but some of the feedback from the experience showed that many people felt that the guidelines put out by the USDA were rather generous. I admit, my husband and I thought they were too! However, starting from an empty kitchen did prove to be challenging the first week. We had only 21 cents left at the end of the week! For our family of 5 the guidelines gave us $172 each week (read in-depth what we purchased and what we ate).  Figured over the course of a year this would be $745 each month. Last year, in real life, my family averaged $659 each month on our food purchases.

The Frugal Zealot

Amy Dacyczyn the author of The Complete Tightwad Gazette calls herself the Frugal Zealot.  While I do not consider myself a zealot I do try to be thrifty when possible. More often than not, this has been out of necessity rather than choice.
For this month’s series, we’ll be following my families actual food budget. We will not be starting with an empty kitchen like last month but rather sharing how we really shop on our real life budget.  Last month’s experience was lasted for 2 weeks. For this month we’ll go for 4 weeks and 1 day.  An entire month based on how our actual family budget functions.

The Time Zealot

And the other side of the coin. I struggled with whether Time Zealot sounded appropriate. Is it possible for us to be fanatical about our time? I decided yes, it is. Very few of us say we have too much time on our hands (I actually did tell a friend this once, now she teases me about saying that since I’m rather busy these days).  It certainly is easy to become fanatical about our time or lack there of.

So how much time does it really take to have a real foods diet? That is the second part of this month’s experience.

Unlike my real life food budget, we’re going to be doing things different than usual for the time part.

You may know that I am a huge fan of meal planning. HUGE. I like the organization of having a plan in place. I like knowing exactly what I need to pull out of the freezer or put out to soak. But I’m the first to admit, that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for this kind of thing. And perhaps it is not the most time productive way or even monetarily productive.

For this 4 week and 1 day experience, I’ll be chucking my menu plans out the window. In the spirit of Amy Dacyczyn and her Frugal Zealot examples we’ll be following a second example from her book that she dubs “The Pantry Principle”.  While I do menu plan, I do also somewhat use this principle.  When putting our menu plan together I shop our pantry first (pantry encompasses freezer and all food storing areas) and then add in what is needed.   For this experience, we’ll go without our menu plan and decide on the next days meals after supper each night.

Because this is a departure from our regular ‘style’ I’m not sure how this will play out on the time issue. To be quite honest, I’m not exactly sure how much time I do spend in the kitchen each day. The original edition of Someone Else’s Shoes did feature working and real food so I have an idea of time from that week but not on a ‘normal’ week. I work from home which allows me to take a few minutes as needed in the kitchen. It will be interesting to see how much those few minutes add up to. And keep in mind, from the article I read, it is not just the cooking but the cleaning up that are a deterrent for eating real food. Cleaning up time will also be tracked.

The Experience

So there it is 4 weeks and 1 day of  Money v. Time.  This experience will start on April 23 and run until May 22. Come back on Monday, the 23rd for the kick off and rules.  And on Tuesday, the 24th for the great giveaway/sweepstakes that will be going along with this month’s experience.

See the posts in this series:

Money v. Time Kickoff


What is your favorite time saving tip for real food? I’d love to hear your suggestions.


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