Okay, a bit of self-revelation. This is not the promised epic post on food, what we eat, why we eat it, etc. It is, however, a brief snapshot of our life as a family en route. To where, you ask? Well, to here and here and here, oh and here and here. Complicating things is this whole bit. Further complicating things is the fact that we are a one-income household, my husband is a realtor in the midst of a huge real estate crisis, and we are a faithful Christian family devoted to practicing the art of hospitality. Frequently.
Sooo. We make compromises. Do I know that grass-fed beef is far better nutritionally and ecologically than the factory-farmed beef? Of course I do. Do I realize that the relative value of pastured eggs makes up for the greater cost? Yep. Would I love to hand my nearly one-year old son a slice of apple and rest assured that no harmful chemicals ever touched it’s peel? Of course. Unfortunately, such eating is simply not in the budget.
When I read the traditional advice to cutting food expenses, I have to laugh. I love to cook, and have to eat gluten and casein free. So cutting out processed foods and preparing meals at home? Check. I buy meat in bulk and stock our large freezer with it. Again, check. I have even started stretching the protein by supplementing with more vegetable protein in the form of legumes, though I won’t go entirely vegetarian for a variety of reasons not having to do with budgets. (Even my rice and beans usually at least has bacon in it!)
In some areas, I have accepted that we will have to stick to the generally accepted forms of meat. When I can, I buy meat at Sprouts Farmer’s Market that is hormone free … as seen below. When I can’t, I buy at the local Safeway or Fry’s, and I almost always buy on sale. This is the upside to being forced to buy “regular” meat: I am usually able to keep our meat costs to under $2 a pound. I’m not sure why $2 is the magic number, only that I’ve been shopping the sales (and even the last-minute, this meat is about to reach its sell-by date sales) and somehow most beef or pork runs me $1.99 or $1.79 a pound. Using the “Manager’s Special” 30% off, this comes to just about $1.39 a pound. It grieves me that we cannot afford organic, pasture-fed beef, and I know that buying food is not just about saving money; that being said, I take pleasure in working the “loss leader” system the conventional supermarkets use to lure customers in to buy overpriced processed foods. If you look closely above, the only item not on sale was the bananas I bought to feed my ravenous banana fiend of a son. I have told myself that special occasions warrant nicer meat, but usually I can still get away with the sales. Of course, there are times that my self-imposed $2/pound rule becomes a stumbling block, such as when it comes to ground beef. I haven’t bought any in quite a while, despite the fact that Sprouts had no-hormone beef on sale for $2.49 recently.
Strangely, the rule doesn’t apply to fish. I buy Wild Pacific salmon, not the farm-raised “Atlantic” salmon. Why am I prepared to spend $7-$10 a pound of fish and shellfish, while I am not for meats? Beats me. I also buy organic, free-range eggs, despite the fact that they are not as good as pastured. I cheap out and buy “regular” farm-raised eggs for baking.
For fresh produce (and sometimes meats) I usually shop at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. They have fabulous prices, and though I don’t buy all organic, I am usually able to find at least some organic produce at or below the price of regular produce. In fact, after I took the above photo I discovered that a final bag containing some clementines and organic apples hadn’t made it into the shot. I wish I had photos of the Costco (Eggs, Bacon, Chickens and paper goods) and Trader Joe’s (Coffee, Gluten Free Pasta, Canned Goods, some sauces, Cheeses and, (ahem) Chocolate) trips, as well as today’s Safeway (meats and some fruits) haul to round out the picture, a la the Time Magazine article and photo essay on “What the World Eats.” If my fridge weren’t such a lovely “vintage” piece, I’d show you its contents.
And then I go off to the farmer’s market and buy this raw, local honey specially suited to dealing with allergies:
At any rate, our compromises have not been limited to food, nor have they all been willing. My planned homebirth turned into an emergency Cesarean and my intention to solely breastfeed for as long as my son wished has become a nursing/raw milk formula hybrid. I’m not sure how long I will continue to make his formula, either. When he turns one at the beginning of February I may just switch him to straight raw milk, and try to make sure that the other important nutrients are covered by the rest of his (solid) diet. I have given him rice cereal despite the fact that it is likely empty calories, and organic faux-cheerios despite this unnerving fact about extruded cereals. I would love to feed him more eggs, but he thus far hasn’t accepted them.
Then there are the things I’m just not sure about. Take cloth diapers: we live in a desert, and it’s been questioned whether they truly are better for the environment than the extra water to wash cloth diapers. And I do really like the convenience. Or this laundry business: we have a high energy machine, and I can’t make my own detergent. Given that, which of these is better: the “environmentally friendly” one with lavender scent (all-natural, of course) or the “free and clear” version without scent or dye?
On the subject of laundry, it’s shocking how often this dryer ball turns into an infant toy:
Let’s not even get started on all the all-wood toys and organic cotton stuff I registered for, given that his favorite blankie is a lovely polyester fleece number.
So if there is any purpose to this blog, then it is to chronicle our journey, as we think through and experiment with how to live, eat, and love.