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I work hard to feed my family whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods. We eat things like grass fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, offal, antelope, elk, venison, and salmon. We drink raw milk, kombucha, kefir ‘soda’, dairy kefir smoothies and plain water. We enjoy lots of fruits and vegetables and the occasional dessert. I cook with high quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, chicken fat, beef fat, duck fat and real butter. To some people our way of eating sounds odd. For us we love the variety of foods and the way eating in this manner helps us feel.
When I first started learning about eating whole foods I read the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. It is a very large book full of information and it left me feeling overwhelmed. But at the very back of the book is an article called Limited Time, Limited Budget Guidelines, for me this article was a great starting point. One of the suggestions is to make stock. So I did. I now make about a gallon of stock a week. Making that one small change was the beginning of our Baby Steps toward better eating. We have chosen to make these changes slowly over time. That way our two teenage daughters were eased into it after eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) their entire life and so that I (being chief cook and meal planner) did not get overwhelmed. And to be honest, so our grocery budget could handle these changes.
I’m sure most people have a grocery budget. Some budgets are larger than others. The USDA puts out their handy little calculator that tells the average that people are spending in different categories (thrifty, low cost, moderate cost and liberal plans) and research by the USDA shows that in 2007 the average* US consumer was spending 9.7% of their disposable income on food (this includes food prepared at home and away from home). I’ll tell you that my family spends less than the amount that the USDA figures for the Thrifty eating plan but more than the national average of 9.7% of our disposable (post tax) income.
If you are doing the math in your head you have probably come to the conclusion that we do not make very much money. That would be an accurate conclusion. My husband (Joe) works full time and I work less than part time from home (about 50 hours a month as a bookkeeper). We have 5 children. The oldest a college junior, the second 19 and married, the third 14, fourth 12 and a 10 month old baby. Currently living at home is the 14 and 12 year old and the baby. Plus the 19 year old and her husband live on our property in our camp trailer (they eat about 75% of their meals with us). We have made some pretty drastic choices in order to thrive on our 1 plus a little more income. One choice that we haven’t made is to cut our food budget, in fact we spend more on food now than we did when both Joe and I worked full time.
Do I like spending the amount of money we do? Yes and no. I like the way we eat because changing our eating has changed the way we feel. My 14 year old daughter (Kiki) was the first to point it out. We were gone from home for about 5 days and ate alot different than the way we do here. On our way home she told me that she couldn’t wait to get home and eat our ‘real food’ again because it makes her feel so much better. Both Joe and I have a history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). As long as we eat a clean, real food diet we do not have any IBS symptoms. My 12 year old daughter (Lulu) while never diagnosed with IBS showed many symptoms of it. Those are now gone.
On the no side, in my past I was ‘conditioned’ to look for the best deal on groceries that I could. Without ever considering what was in the food we were eating. Of course, I tried to follow a low fat diet (like I’d been told by everyone to do) but that was my only concern besides for price. Now I still like to find a good deal but my criteria for what constitutes a good deal has changed. I sometimes see grocery specials though that are amazing and I think ‘oh, I should get that’ like the canned vegetables for 39 cents a can. Then I remember that we don’t actually eat canned vegetables (I do have a few cans on hand though in case of emergency). Re-conditioning my brain has been a bit of a challenge.
We are still refining our eating. The food we eat today while immensely better and more nutrient dense than the foods we were eating last year at this time could still use improvement. We still need to improve the quality of some of our choices. My hope for this blog is to be able to track the purchase/choices that we make and to be able to use it as a guide to continue to make needed improvements. Plus, it’s always fun to share one’s passions. I am passionate about feeding my family whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense foods.
*Government surveys show that lower income consumers spend a larger percentage of their available income on food than middle or higher income consumers. They spend up to 25% of their income. Source