If I had to sum up the past 11 years of my personal real food journey, I’d say I have gone from poptarts to psycho to chill. No one liked the psycho phase – not even me. I coped by drinking Pepsi. Do not ask me to make sense of this. Read the details here, if you dare.
Now, I’d like to spend a few minutes answering a much requested question as of late:
“What are your current real food priorities?”
Now that I’ve been doing the real food thing for 11 years – if I had to make a list of the foods I feel are most important to buy and put them in order of highest priority down to lowest, what would that look like? Also, where does organic fall in this list? What about raw? How about grass fed? What about hormones? How about margarine? Oh, c’mon. Everyone knows how I feel about margarine.
(Just in case: DON’T EAT MARGARINE EVER, EVER IN YOUR LIFE, EVER.)
The past few weeks, I have spent quite a bit of time pondering my current food priorities, which no doubt, may look different than yours. If you’ve been reading here for years, you’ve watched my priorities change along with the seasons in my life (psycho to chill ~ little boys to teenage boys ~ small budget to huge budget). I look forward to hearing about your priorities too! For now, here are mine:
1. Fruits and Vegetables
You know I can’t say enough about eating many, many fruits and vegetables every day. I do buy some of them organic if they are available and within my budget – but mostly – I just buy them. Organic is best, absolutely. But I found that I was not buying and eating enough when I was focused on only buying organic produce. I live in too small a town to have enough organic options, plus the cost is prohibitive for my family. We go through pounds and pounds of produce every week. I spend at least $100-$150 on fruits and vegetables alone – every week. I would triple that number if I bought exclusively organic. I can’t, so I don’t.
Organic or not, a big variety of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables is definitely my highest grocery priority.
2. Healthy Fats
I considered making this my #1 priority, simply because switching to real-food fats is what I always advise as one of the easiest healthy changes a person can make. But seeing as I eat more veggies than butter every day (shocking, I know) – I went ahead with fats as number 2.
I see fats as super important in our diet – and I believe eating the good kind is crucial. Our bodies struggle to digest and utilize hydrogenated oils and chemically created oils. It’s best to avoid them altogether.
On the other hand, coconut oil is a health food rock-star. Real butter is recognized by our bodies and can be very nourishing. Palm shortening is easily digested and a wonderful alternative to crisco. Olive oil is wonderful (but best at low temps) – great for salad dressings.
If you change nothing else about how you eat and feed your family – add more fruits and vegetables and switch bad fats for good ones. I can’t say enough about these two priorities. Our bodies need nourishment and in my opinion (based on research and real life) – fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats are some of the best foods that pack a nourishing punch.
3. Good Meat and Eggs
I make this a high priority mainly because we go through quite a bit of meat and eggs at our house. Our sons are athletic and active – they need a lot of good protein beyond beans and nuts!
We are blessed to have access to wonderful farm-fresh meats and eggs (at reasonable prices) where I live. I love that my chicken, beef, lamb, and eggs come from animals who are fed well and allowed to roam free. This is important enough to me that if we ever moved to another location, I would search out good meat and egg sources. Buying regular ol’ meat and eggs from the store would be tough for me now that we’ve been so spoiled with the good stuff. I can taste a huge difference! (But I still say that if store-bought is your only option, you never need to fret. God is bigger than a free-range chicken. Amen?)
4. Whole Grains
Number 4-5-6 could probably be interchanged with one another, but here is where they ultimately landed.
We’ve cut way back on grains – making fruits, veggies, and meat the main focus of our meals. But I still make whole grains a priority because they help stretch our food budget. They also help keep my life in the kitchen simpler. It’s easy for me to whip up (or have the boys whip up) a triple batch of pancakes or a big bunch of muffins or a few loaves of Stir-and-Pour Bread to go with our meals.
It is important to me that our grains be whole and nourishing, not just filling and empty. If at all possible, I do like our wheat, oats, rice, corn, and other grains to be organic and non-GMO. I’m blessed to have a Nutrimill to grind our own flour – which makes our baked goods incredibly delicious.
5. Healthy Sweeteners
I’ve recently shared that I rarely buy sucanat anymore because of the expense. In addition, I can no longer tolerate much sugar. Seeing as none of us need sugary treats, and our boys get plenty from all their outside activities – I am making fewer dessert-y foods overall.
But I love our raw, local honey. We use real maple syrup on our waffles and pancakes. Sucanat or brown sugar are used in my baked goods. And liquid stevia has become a staple. I keep all of these on hand at all times, usually buying them online.
6. Dairy Products
I hesitated putting this one way down here, but when I look at the quality of most of our dairy products – they are usually just straight from the grocery store, which shows that I no longer make this a huge priority. We do buy a gallon of raw, organic milk from local farmers each week. Funny, isn’t it, and my family of big eaters only uses one gallon of milk each week? That’s because we just use it for cooking. None of my boys likes drinking milk, and our natural doctor has recommended that it isn’t a big need. So I don’t make milk a big priority. I love that I can get the good stuff, though!
As for cheese and cream – right now I have chosen to save money by skipping the organic/raw varieties. We buy these items on sale at a regular grocery store.
I should also mention that I do still make our buttermilk from our raw, farm-fresh milk. I only make yogurt and kefir occasionally – mostly in the summer when we’re making more smoothies! (I’ve also been using coconut milk more often for this type of drink – mainly to give our bodies variety of nutrients.)
7. Nuts and Beans
We love making our own Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. I like buying organic nuts if I can, either from Azure Standard or Braga Farms. I buy organic beans in bulk from Azure – though we really don’t go through them very quickly. They aren’t a favorite around here.
8. The Other Stuff
There are many other food items – from spices to baking powder – that I haven’t mentioned here. Just like all the rest – if I find a good organic source for these foods, I go for it. If not, I don’t sweat it as long as it still qualifies as “real food.” We also sometimes buy a convenience food item (like chips!) balancing those with plenty of nourishing options. I feel like I’ve probably forgotten some major food group in this list of priorities – so fire away with your questions!
How about you?
I’d love to hear what you consider to be your top priorities when purchasing food for your family!