Pardon me while I eat my organic raw greens with free range chicken IN BETWEEN SIPS OF PEPSI.
That was me just a few years ago. Cute, huh? Makes no sense, right? Those were the days I had a small panic attack anytime someone offered my kids a non-organic apple. No! That will poison them!! It MUST be organic! Regular beef from the store is horrid and so is all milk that comes out of a jug! Oooh, are those Nacho Cheese Doritos? Don’t mind if I do.
Suffice it to say that in the early years of my real food journey, as I was learning about nutrition and food sources, the good, the bad, and the ugly – I turned a little bit crazy. I over-freaked out about all the food issues in America and had nightmares about evil pesticides coming to life and grabbing us by the throats. But all the while, I had an awful time giving up Pepsi, Doritos, and basically anything that started with a de and ended with a ssert. Oh yes. I loved my sugar.
So first things first: If you’re new (or not so new) to eating real food and struggling to trade in all of the “bad stuff” for all of the “good stuff” all at the same time, RELAX. You’ll settle in to what’s best for your family. Your body and taste buds will adjust. Your cravings will change. God will help you.
It took years for me, but I don’t even want Pepsi or sugary foods now. And (shhh), sometimes my kids walk into the room and find me snacking on raw spinach leaves. You don’t even have to tell me how weird the spinach thing is. I already know, because it is obvious, and because my kids have been happy to tell me. (But I also still like a Dorito or three now and then, because when you refuse to read the ingredient list, the disodium guanylate can’t hurt you.)
So now that I’m about 11 years into our Real Food Journey, let me share with you some of the food patterns I’ve settled into. Some of these decisions have been made because I took a big chill pill and realized that when all is said and done, God is bigger than a free range chicken.
I’ve also had to make some choices based on our ever growing food budget needs. With four male teenage athletes in our home, along with a hard working, athletic husband – we buy a huge cart full of groceries every week. If I bought organic everything, free range everything, the very best of everything everything – I would spend $3,000-$4,000 a month on groceries (not an exaggeration). I think my food budget is already high enough, thank you very much.
Real Food Compromises I Make So We Can Stay Within Budget
1. Not everything I buy is organic.
I used to be much more diligent about this – especially when it came to the “Dirty Dozen” list. But as our kids got bigger and began eating huge quantities of food, the cost of buying organic food exclusively became impossible. When it came to fruits and vegetables, I noticed that since I couldn’t afford all organic produce, I stopped buying much produce at all!
So let’s see…should we stop eating many fruits and vegetables because I couldn’t buy them all organically, or choose to buy the “regular” ones so we would still be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables?
Through prayer, I found much peace in buying regular produce and feeding us a wide variety of fresh produce consistently. (This applies to our dairy products too. We have a great source for organic, raw milk, but not for sour cream, butter, and cream cheese.)
When foods are available at reasonable prices I can afford, I most definitely buy organic. But my bigger goal is to fill us with many nourishing fruits and vegetables every day, even if they haven’t been grown in a way I feel is best. God is bigger, but my budget is not. So God wins.
2. Sugar is sugar, so why pay more?
When making treats, I still prefer to use organic sucanat. But I’ve stopped using it exclusively because it costs so much more than regular ol’ brown sugar. At the end of the day, our bodies don’t care what kind of sugar we’re feeding it – it wreaks the same kind of havoc. So that’s another compromise I have made, which you can read details about here.
I do still avoid high fructose corn syrup, which means we use Real Maple Syrup on our pancakes and waffles and to sweeten a few treats (like smoothies). I’ve personally found that Liquid Stevia is my favorite sweetener, though my kids aren’t huge fans. :)
3. The cheese may not be raw. But at least it’s cheese.
I really like raw, organic cheese that hasn’t been turned freakishly orange with food dye. But wow do we go through a lot of cheese at our house. Therefore, to save money, I’ve gone back to buying regular Colby jack cheese blocks at the store. You can read more about this here.
4. I buy pork products at the store.
I have had a huge dilemma over this through the years. Pork is not the healthiest meat choice – I know this. I used to avoid it altogether. Then I started buying a little from a farmer who had healthier, but kind of expensive, pork options. Then, because I’ve found that starting our day with a high protein breakfast really is best for my family of teenage boy athletes (and their non-athletic mom who really feels much better when she eats a lot of protein and fat) – I started adding in more bacon and ham.
It tastes so ridiculously good.
We eat more beef and chicken than pork, but I’ve stopped worrying about avoiding pork altogether, and I typically buy the regular ol’ piggies from the store. I usually stock up when there’s a good price-match option, so this helps save our budget. Then I save time by cooking it up ahead of time for fast breakfasts.
Real Food Compromises I Just Can’t Make, Even if it Saves Money
1. I will never buy margarine.
I don’t even like to type the word. At our house, it’s real butter all the way. I don’t care that it costs more. I trust real butter because it is made from cream and salt – and those are real food ingredients our bodies can use for nourishment. Marga-blech is made in a factory from chemicals our bodies don’t recognize and can’t utilize for nutrition. This makes my stomach churn. Butter for the win.
2. I make unattractive faces when I think about Jif and Skippy.
Peanut butter “spreads,” as they are labeled, contain FULLY hydrogenated oils and a bunch of added sugar. When I learned this, our family transitioned to buying Natural Peanut Butter, though admittedly, we didn’t love it. (Plus I found that stirring it every time we needed it was a big pain in the neck – and messy too.)
Next I started making peanut butter like this, which is more amazing than ever. THEN, I discovered how to make this creamy, spreadable homemade peanut butter and we are all in love. My kids actually brag about this peanut butter to their friends.
3. “Processed Cheese Food” shouldn’t have a shelf life.
I had a hard time giving up velveeta – and I won’t say I’ll never eat it again – but it’s kind of freakish, wouldn’t you say? I’ve noticed that the price keeps going up (over $6.00 for a block, really?) so it’s not like buying it actually saves money compared to making our own cheese sauce.
But who even cares about velveeta now that we can make this amazing Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip Recipe!
I’m probably forgetting a thing or two, but I would say those are the main compromises I make, as well as the biggest compromises I feel strongly about not making. Care to share what real food compromises you make to help you save money – and what you feel like you just can’t compromise on?
Laura T says
This is an interesting and potentially provocative topic…like you I find it intolerable that one has to be a zillionaire to buy locally grown and/or organic food. I firmly believe Farmer’s deserve fair compensation for their goods so I don’t get upset about those prices, but at $6/lb for local ground pork or beef I have to buy less and stretch t further. About once a month I buy the store’s natural pork tenderloin (I know that term technically means nothing but it’s less mystery meat than the anonymous brands in my store). I buy local for other pork and beef. I will also buy whole chickens and the occasional pieces from the store but we don’t eat much chicken, maybe once a week. I always try to buy organic produce or local pesticide free but living in NH I’m limited about six months out of the year to what’s available from within 100 miles and I will buy conventional produce at the store (sigh). Milk is tough too…I have access to Cabot cooperative products in the grocery store from neighboring VT so I usually opt for that with organic options when on sale. We can get local raw milk at $7/gal which I use to make yogurt when I’m organized. My husband uses half and half and I just buy him the conventional…boo. I try to buy only organic flour, I don’t grind my own yet but I just got a Vitamix (!) so maybe this summer I’ll buy some bulk grain.
Ditto on the organic produce :) There is NO WAY I could afford to only buy organic fruits and veggies. We would never eat fruits and veggies! So I don’t worry about it, it’s all in God’s hands :) You actually helped me with this attitude by sharing your thoughts on this a while ago, so thank you for that! I do buy organic spinach just because a)it usually looks better and b) there is just something about non-organic that I can’t get over, lol. :) But everything else is pretty much conventional.
I buy only real butter (we do have a fairly good place to buy organic vs. non and it is only a dollar more, so I usually splurge, lol)
We do buy natural peanut butter from the store and keep it in the fridge which helps with the oil separation. I don’t buy pork, but that is because we (although we are taking a break at the moment because of a tough year) follow the Gracie Diet for the most part which doesn’t have you eating pork. We don’t miss it that much (except for bacon, but there is always turkey bacon!).
I try to buy organic/natural whenever I can afford it, but I don’t worry about it when I can’t and just worry about doing the best I can with the money I have :)
I am in the same boat! I would rather my kids eat non-organic, than not at all. I do have a question though… How do you wash your fruit and veggies? I use a mix of vinegar and water and let it sit, then rinse.
Amen, sister! I’m with you! I used to TORMENT myself over every little morsel that I bought and crossed my family’s lips and then I realized that as long as they were eating an apple and not a bag of “fruit” snacks, we were doing pretty good! I loved that, ” God IS bigger than free range chicken!” And you know what, when we worry and nit pick every aspect of food, we miss out on just enjoying the time God gave us here on this Earth. Satan wants us to live in fear and I’m DONE doing that! Thank you so much for this post!!!
I’m totally with you on not eating margarine and only using butter. I also will not buy Cool Whip and will only use real whipped cream. I also do not buy cream of something soups. (MSG gives me major headaches!) Those are probably my “big 3” non-comprise foods. However I’m sure that occasionally at a church potluck I’ve probably eaten all 3! ???? But I love your line “God is bigger than a free range chicken.”
Our family wont compromise on antibiotic free animal products. Even if the nutritional content isnt that different, we prefer to support those not contributing to antibiotic overuse. We buy organic meat/eggs when we can but we dont live within 50m of a farm (we’re in the socal desert) so our pastured meat is over $10lb. We certainly cant afford that. However socal does have its benefits, organic produce is dirt cheap here due to 4 growing seasons. We wont pay more than $1.50lb for or. And .75lb for conventional.
For compromises, we choose not to consume dairy. Its $15 a gal. for raw milk here. Really our compromises are just choosing to go without. I love these posts. I feel like your compromises also depend on your stage of life. I have toddlers, therefore im not willing to compromise on my sweeteners. I do alot of research to ensure that nothing we eat causes blood sugar spikes. We only use or. Coconut palm sugar, raw honey and pure maple syrup. we also dont consume any grains or legumes.
Lisa W says
Thank you for continuing to share your journey. I try to buy organic when I can, but there is no way we can afford to buy everything organic! God IS bigger! It reminds me of the Veggie Tale movie where they sing,”God is Bigger than the boogie man! He’s bigger than godzilla and the monsters on tv!” :)
I try to never buy regular potatoes or apples. I do my best to feed our 6 kids organic for those. Our kids don’t even know what margarine is, as it’s only butter at our house!
I either buy organic hamburger from Costco or a 1/2 beef from a local farmer. I know I can always do better, but I try. I can’t say that we never eat Doritos. ;) Growing up, my parents never really talked about eating healthy and making good choices. My husband and I are trying to teach our kids to make good choices without being Food Nazis!
God IS bigger and THE best choice always!
Thank you for your steady flow of balanced information and opinions. I recently ( last month) had a major anxiety attack over the food we eat. My husband once again coaxed me out of it saying the same thing you said “God will take care of us.” I have been reading too many blogs and letting myself get too overwhelmed with all the info that is presented out there in cyberworld. Your site is the first site that I started reading and taking advice from back in 2010 when I was trying to feed 6 people on $60.00 for one week. I found so many of your recipes to be helpful in getting back to cooking from scratch and it definitely helped me survive that week with the really tight budget.
Our motto that we are trying to implement in our kitchen for eating is ” Plants and animals”. I mean that is just basic, bare bones advice I guess.
I do find myself feeling better over buying and feeding the family organic produce:
I’m having issues with eggs and milk right now. I am always on the fence about buying organic milk vs conventional. The nearest farm for raw is too far away and too expensive. Any thoughts??
High fructose corn syrup is on my don’t eat list.
And, ground beef. Walmart carries organic, grass fed ground beef so I get that, most of the time.
We have not eaten margarine since 2010, that is another food we don’t compromise on. Butter all the way!
I do feel like food has become the chink in my armor and therefore am susceptible to attacks from the enemy.
Thank you for keeping things in perspective!
This post was a huge blessing to me, Laura…..areas you will not compromise and other items that you’ve put a lot of thought into for you family. I’m new in this – willing and eager to learn but so hard to change at 67! :) I grew up enjoying farm life to the max and eating meat, potato, veggies almost every dinner. (My mother was a wonderful cook!) I have made healthy changes along the way but have a lot to learn….especially in the area of running to Jesus instead of running to “sugar.” THANK YOU for sharing; I appreciate each paragraph so very much.
Thank you so much for these honest posts! You help prepare me for the future . I have 5 boys (oldest is 9 and youngest is 9 months). Back when I had only 2 boys I was really obsessive about everything we ate (due to some health issues). A couple of years ago, I read an article that really stuck with me by Dr. Chris Kresser. He said that when we stress too much about eating perfectly, it increases our Cortisol levels, which is also not healthy. I have learned to do the best I can and not feel guilty about the rest. I appreciate the balance that you have found. Thanks for sharing!
We eat out about 2 meals a week (one lunch, one dinner). This is a compromise for me, simply because I can’t control the ingredients used by a restaurant. I also by frozen produce which, per pound, often costs more than buying fresh. But for the time saver, and the ability to eat certain types of produce off-season, it’s a compromise I can get behind.
I also refuse to use margarine. And, I don’t buy boxed mixed/pre-packaged meals because they usually don’t save any time or money and I can’t control the ingredients.
Now I want to make peanut butter!
You wrote this at a really good time for me to read it! When I was on bed rest for pregnancy last year, I had to stop making most of our foods homemade. I love to cook, and DIY food was the only way we could afford to feed our large family the good quality stuff. But the downside — that had never occured to me — was that if I can’t make our bread, yogurt, crackers, cereal, etc., then we can only afford the cheap stuff. For 9 months that’s what we’ve had, because I’ve had mastitis NINE times now, along with more plugged ducts than I can count and postpartum depression. I’m too run down to cook at all.
I’ve felt so guilty about feeding us this, but you made me realize a really important thing. All our cheap, “bad” food has been very healthy in the grand scheme!!! We get lots of conventional produce, bread that’s only wheat/yeast/water (but I hated that it’s not soaked), dairy, meat, oatmeal. We didn’t start eating Doritos and pop tarts and Lucky Charms! I needed a reality check. :) Next week I’m getting on WIC, and I had felt very uneasy about locking us into the non-organic type foods there. But we need it to get food for our kids, and I shouldn’t stress about store bread so much! So thank you very much for this.
Wic will let you buy organic produce with your checks. I never do because it’s too expensive but overall, their foods are nutritious and it’s been a very big blessing to our family.
Sara Lee is good bread, no high fructose corn syrup. Honey wheat is what we choose. It is fairly reasonable cost wise at Walmart. I pay 2.29 a loaf. I have 4 kids and we use about two loaves a week.
Charlotte, I’m just another reader but couldn’t help responding. It sounds like this has been quite a year for you and your family! I’m praying that you can know the Father’s grace during these hard times. I may be your long – lost twin you never met. :) I too was on bed rest most of last year for a momentously difficult pregnancy and have been having plugged ducts (mastitis comes often too with my babies; this is #4). With each pregnancy I toss my cookies multiple times daily until delivery, so like you cooking from scratch and worrying about healthy food simply isn’t possible. It is survival mode, then life with a newborn! Anyway, just wanted to tell you that you’re not alone and commend you for sticking to nursing and nutrition even when it’s so tough. I’m sure you have tried all of the things that usually help blocked ducts, like nursing frequently, cabbage leaves on affected side, pumping from the side that may be too sore to nurse (insurance companies are required to provide breast pumps free now thanks to Obamacare; I just find out and got one) and lots of warm showers and massage to loosen blockage. Also, after getting multiple blockages, I realized that my underwire nursing bra was causing them; it still happens if I wear clothing that is too restrictive. Also, taking lecithin can make the fat in your milk less “sticky” and prone to blockage. I started taking 3-4 capsules daily of the sunflower kind when I begin feeling sore, and so far it (combined with massage) has headed any major problems off at the pass. I’d never heard of lecithin helping until recently. Like I said, you probably know all this already, but just wanted to chime in and encourage you to hang in there. May you know His peace and rest of soul. Blessings!
Jane J. says
Thank you, thank you, thank you! I agree with a previous comment that when I start to go looking at other blogs where the women (bless them) are making everything from scratch (from food to make up), I get stressed out. I always come back here, though, and I it grounds me when you write posts like this one. Thank you for always being real. Knowing your thoughts in this area is so helpful.
I just found you recently on Instagram and this article makes me want to have y’all over for dinner! We have 9 children, 3 teen boys still at home….I totally get the “feed the boys” dilemma. I agree with all your points. For us, about 18 months ago, my husband and I agreed to avoid HFCS and hydrogenated oils. I think picking 1 or 2 things at a time to tackle is more realistic. Also, my midwife told me 20 years ago that homogenized milk is a main cause of clogged arteries. Raw milk’s large fat particles stay in our digestive tracks, whereas processed milk particles are small enough to enter our blood stream. Store bought heavy cream is not homogenized. Blessings!
This is a completely random question, but why colby jack? I love it, just curious as to why it seems to be the only type you use haha. I’m more of an extra sharp cheddar girl myself, but my husband is not. :)
And thank you for being real with this post, and with your grocery budget. Your blog posts are some that I look forward to the most, and every.single.recipe I have made of yours has been a HUGE hit! <3
Ha! Why Colby jack indeed. I think I always put that one because it is my absolute favorite! But truly, any cheese will do!
I love the slices from the deli counter – the round ones. I like it shredded too…but I don’t snack on it otherwise. I’m so weird haha!! Thanks for answering! :)
I was surprised to read “natamycin” as an ingredient on Kraft cheeses. It’s supposedly a natural mold inhibitor. It sounds so much like medication to me. Anyone know what it really is, or what it does?
I could hug you! I have stressed too over trying to buy the best of the ultimate very best, and arrived at the same conclusions about pretty much the same foods–and relaxed. My adrenal glands and my husband are grateful! Missionaries in foreign fields prepare less-than-ideal produce for safe consumption and manage to stay healthy. I would buy only farm fresh milk, if I could find it. Mostly, I do without bcz store-bought dairy causes me big problems. Coconut milk in recipes is a good sub.
janet c fuhrmaneck says
Wow, you all make me feel so thankful that my Amish neighbor sells her raw milk for $3.50 a gal, along with fresh cream that I can throw in my processor & make into butter in 10 mins. Here on the east coast there is lots of fresh produce & farmers markets. Not that we don’t eat Dorito’s too. Lol! And i, too, have 3 boys that eat! I make a lot of home made pizza. God bless all you moms who are trying your best for your families. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!!!!