I want to start off by saying I do not want to offend anyone or make anyone think I have all the answers. I don't. I just want to share what I know, what I've learned, and the changes we have made over the last few months. Also, I have a degree in Literature and spent four years of my life writing multiple 10+ page opinion papers every week. I did edit myself as I was writing this, I just have alot to say.
I have learned that there is a difference between feeding my family and feeding my family well. As I have said before, in our 4.5 years of marriage, we have had some very hard financial times. Some of those times were our own fault and some were put on us by God to teach us how to do things His way. Either way, food has always been on the forefront our minds. When we couldn't pay our bills on time (or at all), we would spend what money we had on food we couldn't afford. We have had to stand in line at a local food bank for two bags of groceries. We used credits cards to buy $200 a week in groceries with no regard to price. We ate during those times. Sometimes it was hot dogs and rice, other times it was steak and shrimp. We were always fed and have never actually gone hungry. We may not have liked what we had, but our bellies were full. We were never quite content with our eating habits but as long as we ate, we weren't too concerned with quality.
Since we have learned how to manage our money, we are paying closer attention to what we eat. Using coupons has been a huge factor because I have to take a few extra seconds to look at cost and quantity so now I also notice ingredients and quality. In my quest to save money, I have looked into other options for produce and meat since they have been the majority of our food budget. There really isn't a clear cut, sure fire way to save money on fresh food at the grocery store. So, I looked outside of the store's walls to see what other options we may have. In doing so, I was inundated with what I call neon signs from God.
- One of my guilty pleasures is The Ellen DeGeneres Show. On March 10, 2010, Jonathan Safran Foer was the main guest on her show. Ellen is on at 3pm, a time when my husband is normally at work, on this day, he was home. He was busy doing something, but when this man started talking, my husband stopped and sat down. It created a conversation, as Foer says, in our home. See the interview here.
- After posting something on Facebook about us wanting to change our eating habits, a friend told me about a local food co-op. I had looked into buying directly from farmers in the past but, honestly, to create a co-op is alot of work and I just dropped the ball.
- At the co-op, I saw our pastor's wife and started talking to her about wanting to eat better and she asked if we had seen the movie Food, Inc.
- After watching that movie, our hearts and minds were changed.
I have been very vocal about what is on my heart and the number one question people are asking is "How do you eat well and stay within your budget?" For us, our number one concern is meat and meat by-products. I believe we were created to eat meat. "Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything." Genesis 9:3 I do not believe we were created to eat meat farmed in factories. With knowledge, we were able to talk about our priorities. Eating well has become a priority but since we do have limited income, we have to set limits. Meat (and milk, eggs, and cheese) is first, produce is second, and everything else comes after that. If I can't find meat we can afford that week, I get creative and we eat more meat-free meals. Surprisingly, it really doesn't hurt anyone! I used to try to cook one meat-free meal a week but my husband said he HAD to eat meat. Once he learned about the factory farm industry, he didn't need meat so much anymore. It's amazing what education can do to your mind and stomach!
You can still shop with coupons and buy things on sale. Publix carries hundreds, if not more, of organic products, including meat. They also have coupons available for most of those things, just like every other item in the store. Whole Foods Market has a coupon policy similar to Publix and has store coupons online and in store. Mambosprouts.com is a great resource for organic coupons. But again, just like any product, get on the mailing list of brands you like. All of the tips I listed here still apply. You may not save as much as you would if you weren't shopping thoughtfully because healthy foods do cost more, but set a budget and decide what is important. Making small changes will create big results.
Knowledge is key when eating well. We have a town farmer's market but I learned that the people who sell produce there are not actually farmers. They just drive to Publix's distribution center and buy their produce in bulk. It is cheaper than in the store but it's not organic and it's not locally grown. Ask questions. Do research. Learn what your body needs and doesn't need. Discover companies or individuals that do business in way that makes you proud to buy their products. Be vocal and you will find you are not the only one concerned with feeding your family well!
I am very passionate about this and would love to get a conversation started. I want to address any questions you may have so please comment!