Keep it Simple | Part 1 – Is it Possible to Eat Healthy on a Budget?
Alright so, maybe you’ve decided enough is enough. It’s time to take healthy eating seriously, but where to start? With skyrocketing food prices and huge demands on your time as a busy mom – where do you begin that won’t lead you down numerous – and endless – rabbit holes? Is it actually possible to eat healthy on a budget? Don’t worry, I gotchu.
See, I was there, off and on, for a good decade of our lives. I wanted us to eat better, and tried quite a few “fad” diets out there, but nothing felt right and nothing really stuck. It felt like things had to be one way or the other – eat cheap junk or eat expensive health food (that tasted mostly like rabbit food, and ummm was it *really* healthier anyway?) My head would spin, I’d toss hours of my precious time away staring at grocery ads and the computer screen trying to save a few bucks, searching through endless literature about the “right way to eat” and confusing the tar out of my family with my next promising YoYo diet of the month.
At our height of “Frugality”, early on in our marriage, I would pride myself on saving money. Now, I’m all for saving money, but not at any cost. I spent countless hours on websites like Livingrichwithcoupons (which is an awesome site, btw, just not for sinking 10+ hours a week into! Time = money) compiling “shopping lists” of several different stores, figuring out coupon/deal combos that would maximize our savings (and our stockpile) and driving from store to store to pick up the goods. Only thing was, it was frozen, processed, chemical laden junk 95% of the time (I’ve never seen coupons for the stuff we currently use, and we’ll talk about why later). I was proud of what I was doing, we were saving big bucks, had frozen pizza to last for months (our entire freezer was packed with “deals”) and it was basically my way to “contribute” as a new stay at home mom.
One reason I stopped couponing is that our local store changed some of their policies on doubling coupons, and companies slowly stopped releasing the really good coupons as often. In the peak of the Extreme Couponing era, I remember once getting about 250 single rolls of Brawny Paper Towels, my car was packed floor to ceiling, my husbands eyes nearly popped out of his head when I got home. I think I paid .03 a roll for them, if that. I also was able to acquire over 300 boxes of cake mix and stuffing for our church’s Thanksgiving Outreach one year, and donate lots of soup and other non-perishables to our local Food Pantry that was a blessing to many.
You know what they say though, all good things must come to an end, well this did too (even though it wasn’t necessarily a “good thing” in all aspects). After I had some experience under my belt of life, and the coupons stopped being so lucrative, I realized that cheap food ain’t good and good food ain’t cheap. We went through several years of experimenting with different ways of eating, all together we probably tried almost every “diet” (way of eating, not diet in the weight-loss sense) there was at the time.
At our height of “Organic Perfection” I was dropping well over $300 a week for our family of 5, which is downright outrageous! This figure didn’t even involve toiletries, cleaning supplies, animal food/litter, or any other non-edibles. As you might imagine, it was not sustainable, and my husband was not happy. I was frustrated.
During my year-long Vegan stent (full head of dreadlocks included) I found a cool little store, only about a half hour ride away. My husband’s eyes popped out of his head yet again, over the money I dropped on 3 measly bags of food. I took pride in my fake cheese & Tofurky imitation products, because I wasn’t eating animal flesh so it must be healthy – at least that’s what Earthlings and other “documentaries” of it’s nature would have me thinking. Alas, that’s a story for another page.
Between each fad diet we always went back to our safety net of comfort foods – that’s why they call them comfort foods, right? Honestly, they’re not terrible in the grand scheme of things. I have a huge collection of recipes that we have compiled since our first daughter was born, of all of our family favorites. I have created several “Recipe Books” over the years, and may eventually compile them digitally and create a real, printed book out of them. They’re all home cooked meals, with mostly real ingredients. I actually still use them on a regular basis, even though lately we’ve been referring to the Ancestral way of eating. If you’re familiar with the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, you’ll know what I mean.
Ancestral “diet” as it’s sometimes referred to, in a nutshell, means to eat like our ancestors did. Primal, real food, as close to it’s natural state as possible. There are a few key points that make it different than your typical Whole Foods or Paleo type way of eating, it involves some planning ahead, attention to detail and ingenuity (I like to call much what I do in the kitchen nowadays a Science Experiments) We aren’t perfectionist about it, but we do pretty good. It’s not stressful, and I haven’t felt deprived since we began. So, when I refer to Healthy Eating, I’m going off of this standard, however you can create a healthy meal plan on a budget regardless of what your personal idea of healthy meals is.
In my next few posts, I’ll discuss some tangible ways you can plan, prep and shop to keep your sanity and your wallet intact. Let’s navigate how to seek out the foods, supplements & other replenishable needs you have, in just a fraction of time each week (the more experience you get, ie: repetition, the less time it will consume, you’ll begin to function on auto-pilot)