Health/Fitness
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The Cost of Eating Well

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Everyone knows that eating well ain’t cheap.  One of the biggest reasons I didn’t start down this path of traditional eating sooner was fear of the price tag.  I’ve had many people ask me if my grocery bill has gone up significantly, so I thought this would make a good topic for a post.

First of all, I would like to point out that the cost of cheap food is anything BUT. Make no mistake, we are paying a high price for that “cheap food” — in the form of medication and health care costs and our children’s behavior and attention spans.  Frankly, I’d rather pay on this end than the other.

Second, you may be shocked at how much you spend on food you don’t need. Here are some of my best tips on how to make room in the budget for eating better.

Slash the Grocery List

The first thing to do if you want to make some healthy changes, but you aren’t sure you can afford it, is to start cutting stuff out. You think you can’t afford to switch to organic milk or grass fed meat?  I know.  The price tags are daunting at first.  So start by cutting out the crap you DON’T need.

I have stopped buying granola bars, breakfast bars, boxed cereal, canned vegetables, canned fruits, soda, Doritos, goldfish crackers, ice cream, Popsicles, frozen pizza, salad dressing, and that’s just what comes to mind at the moment.  That is a LOT of savings.

Yes, it is expensive to replace Goldfish with Cheddar Bunnies, but kids can do without boxed snacks of any kind.  Really.  They can.  I promise.  They will be healthier for it, and your grocery bill will make you smile.  (And remember, just because a box is labeled organic doesn’t make it nutritious.)

I challenge you today to stop buying soda, fruit juice, and boxed snack food. Do that for one month, and then look at your grocery spending and see how much you’ve saved.  Then you can put that towards better quality meat and dairy products.  Or you can take it to the mall and spend it on a new fall wardrobe. It’s entirely up to you.  Either way, you’re welcome.

The other thing to cut out is fast food. Go ahead.  I double dog dare ya.  With the exception of a very occasional pizza takeout, I have not eaten or served my kids fast food in about 2 months.  (That’s not to say that my husband didn’t take them to Burger King when I was in Boston last month, ahem.)  I am not suggesting that I’m holier than thou. I’m just saying that it IS possible.  Because anyone who knows me knows that I love my Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Supersize Me and all.  And you know what?  I haven’t even missed it.  Seriously.  I can’t explain why.  I just haven’t.

Pace Yourself

When you’re ready to start making some changes, don’t try to do it all at once.  Start with the foods you eat the most, and switch to a better alternative. When I read (caution: multiple affiliate links ahead) In Defense of Food and Real Food back in July and got religion about what we eat and why, I did as many who started down this road before me suggested, and I began by changing the things that we eat the most.  Now, that obviously depends on each individual family.  For us, that was milk and peanut butter and jelly.  Then I moved on to meat and eggs.  Then to cereals, bread, etc.

You simply can’t do it all at once.  I didn’t want to get overwhelmed so I’ve been trying to pace myself.  I’m working on another post that details the changes we have made so far and the ones we’re hoping to implement in the future, for those who are interested.

But go easy on yourself.  Even though I’ve tried to pace myself and take things a step at a time, I realize that it sounds like I’ve made a lot of changes in a short period of time.  That’s just the way I’m wired.  We all have our own pace, so don’t feel like you have to keep up with anyone else.  Just make the changes that make the most sense to you, as you feel convicted to do so, and let the rest go until you’re ready to try another new thing.  Every change you make is a step in the right direction.

Eat LESS.

We all know that American portion sizes far exceed what is necessary for good health and comfort. Cutting back on how much you eat can help keep your grocery budget in check.

We drink A LOT of milk, like 3 to 4 gallons a week.  Or, shall I say, we DRANK a lot of milk.  When I started paying $5.99 for a gallon of organic, grass-fed milk, I told the kids that they don’t need to be drinking milk at every meal.  There are some who say that we Americans drink too much milk anyway.  So we have been slowly cutting back so that now we mostly have it for breakfast and perhaps one more glass during the day.  My kids are learning to drink water with lunch and dinner, and so far they’re none the worse for the wear.

A similar example is our meat consumption, particularly fish.  I find that all too often I was buying too much and throwing away the leftovers.  When I started paying $15 a pound for wild caught salmon, seeing even a tiny morsel hit the trashcan made me want to cry.  Plus, I found that we ate more than we needed just because it was there.  I decided I’d rather have my family leave the table wanting a little more than end up throwing part of it in the trash, so I’ve started buying and serving less fish and meat.

Along those lines, start eating leftovers. Frankly, I detest leftovers, but we’ve begun eating them more often because it helps extend our grocery budget.  I serve our dinner from the stove, which discourages going back for seconds.  I try not to over-serve the kids, so as to avoid unnecessary waste, and also to help them learn appropriate portion sizing.  Then whatever is left over goes straight into storage containers and into the fridge.  When I have enough food for a meal, I we have leftovers for dinner.  (Or you can heat them up and send them to school in your kids’ lunchboxes.)

Snack on Produce

If you have kids, you know how much they love snack food.  My kids would snack all day if I let them, but I rarely buy boxed snack food anymore. When they want to snack, I first offer them fruit or veggies. I have to be more diligent about keeping fresh produce in the house and being willing to take the time to wash it and cut it up, but I’m amazed at how content they are to eat it when that’s all that’s available.

There is a myth that fresh produce is more expensive to snack on than junkie store-bought snack foods.  Marion Nestle decided to put that myth to the test in her book What to Eat.  I tried to find the excerpt so I could post it here, but I can’t locate it.  Suffice it to say, she figured out that by ounce, produce is cheaper than junk food.  So there you have it.

And just to keep it real, I also keep these homemade granola bars around, and we sometimes make this popcorn.

Make It from Scratch

As I said, I keep homemade granola bars in the house.  I feel good about them because they contain whole wheat flour and oats, and they are sweetened with honey and Sucanat (unrefined sugar.)  I also substitute coconut oil for half the butter.  Despite conventional medical advice, it seems that both of these natural oils have amazing health benefits.

Do you eat a lot of cereal?  Consider making your own. I know, I know, I’m really going off the deep end now.  But have you ever added up what you pay for cereal?

Same with bread.  I was already buying bread without HFCS but I have since started making my own.  It is MUCH cheaper.

I know this post was long.  Believe it or not, I tried to condense.  Try not to choke on your laughter.

Seriously, though.  I hope it was helpful.  I am in the process of saving receipts from all of our grocery purchases for a month.  Then I plan to compare our expenses to a month earlier in the summer, before we changed our eating habits.  It will be hard to compare exactly, because I don’t have records of our cash purchases before I began keeping receipts, but it should give me a decent idea of how we’re doing.  We think we may just about break even, but I’ll let you know for sure after I do the math.

What about you?  Got any tips for extending that grocery budget?

Related Articles:  Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food — Time.com
A Surprising Way to Save Money on Your Grocery Budget — Home with Purpose

Recommended Reading:  In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Join the Conversation

53 thoughts on “The Cost of Eating Well

  1. Hi Jo-Lynne,
    You are doing a great job. I’m starting to think more about what I’m feeding my family, thanks to your research. And may I tell your readers that the granola bar recipe is GREAT! I’ve added cinnamon to the ingredients, which gives the bars a lovely aroma and taste.

  2. Great run-down, as usual. Like you, I have actually seen a decrease in what I spend each week. I think another way to reduce costs is to buy straight from the farm through a CSA or farmer’s market as well. The costs aren’t nearly as high for produce, meat, milk or eggs. AT least not nearly as high as they are in a place like whole foods.

  3. Oh, I’m so glad you posted about this. Guess what I found this weekend?!? Non-homogenized milk that is antibiotic free and from grass-fed cows (it’s only pasturized). Woot! I can’t tell you how excited I was. But, when I saw the cost, I gotta admit, I choked a little. I thought, “How can I fit that into the grocery budget?” But, I think you’re right. If I take a look at the “boxed” stuff I’m buying, there is plenty I could cut out.

    And, I totally get the waste issue. When you’re paying that much, every drop is precious. The milk I bought this weekend might as well have been liquid gold. I made sure we consumed every drop. Which, I’m ashamed to say, is not necessarily how I treated store-bought milk.

    Thanks for continuing to post about this. You’re experience has really influenced a lot of the changes we’re making at our house. 🙂

  4. Michelle, yes! I almost added that. We used to be VERY wasteful with our milk. Not anymore! I pour very small amounts, and I will refill if they want, but they must drink EVERY DROP. LOL.

  5. Beth, yeah, I thought of that after I published. Buying clubs and CSAs do help. Also, I bought a half a cow and split it with a neighbor. The meat is MUCH cheaper that way.

  6. I love all your suggestions. I actually agree with all of them and have read In Defense of Food, some of The China Study and other books. However, I’ve found two other major hindrances to eating more whole foods–time and husbands.
    My husband is the best, but doesn’t like seeing his hard-earned dollars spent on things that are so expensive.
    As for the time thing, we’ve got a 4, 3 and 1 year old. We barely have time for anything but the basics. I’d love some practical suggestions for easy things for us mamas who have little ones at our side all day long. Do you think this would have been as feasible to do when your kiddos were all a bit younger. Sorry to takeover your comments, I’m just excited to see someone “real” blog about this important lifestyle change!

  7. Wow…great tips, Jo-Lynne! I’ve found that our grocery budget has stayed the same or gone down in the several years that we’ve been doing this, even though our family size has actually *increased*! Buying less packaged foods and purchasing items in bulk have been two major factors. I just posted on this very topic last week:
    http://homewithpurpose.blogspot.com/2009/09/surprising-way-to-save-on-your-grocery.html
    Good for you for making these changes! It’s hard to step out and get started, but SO worth it!

  8. Lizz, I’m fortunate that my husband is totally on board. He read the book too. So I’m very thankful for that. I couldn’t do it without his support.

    As far as the ages of the kids, that IS hard. You really are at a tough point. My advice is just to pick the things that are the most important to you and start there. And see how things go. It WILL get easier.

    Also, and I’m sure you know this, but incorporating the kids into the food prep helps by occupying the and also teaching them about eating well. 🙂

  9. LIzz…I agree with Jo-Lynne’s suggestions of including the kids as much as possible. Mine are 11, 8, 3, and 5 months, but I’ve been doing this for about 5 years now, since my older two were about 5 & 3. The little ones have always LOVED to help me in the kitchen…as soon as they see me starting something they shout, “Can I help?!” and run to get a chair to stand on. My 3 yr old is a junk food/sugar fiend, but as long as I don’t have it in the house she doesn’t seem to miss it. If she knows it’s there, she will not let up until I let her have it! I think it’s actually been easier to adapt the kids to this style of eating while they’re younger than for my friends who have transitioned to it with older kids…your kids are at the perfect age to start! And really, it’s not as time consuming as you would think…I don’t find it to be anyway. Is your husband open to reading a book or watching a documentary? That might help him see where you’re coming from…or if he lets you try this way for a month or two and compare grocery bills. If he sees that it’s not really costing much more, he may be more open to continuing.

    Don’t give up! It can be done!

  10. i think it is just hard for me to go against what the doctors are telling me. i serve milk with breakfast and dinner, and they still gave me the feeling i wasn’t giving them enough. and they make sure i serve skim milk. how do i know who to believe? the author of a book (and all the disciples) or the several doctors? i don’t mean to sound argumentative. i’m just confused and i find it a little stressful.

  11. Just this past week I added up all of my grocery receipts for the month of August. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had spent $220.00 less in August than I had in July (and we were on vacation for a week in July!). What changed? I simply replaced the most expensive things I had been buying with a homemade alternative. Homemade granola instead of boxed cereal. Homemade pizza and pasta instead of frozen versions. Homemade salad dressings and sauces instead of the premade items. We ate foods that were, healthier, tasted better, and cost us less. I guess you could call that a win, win, win, situation. Keep up the good work. It is inspiring all of us.

  12. We switched back to the hormone-free milk from Wawa from Organic milk this weekend. Aubryn would not drink the Organic milk and I was pouring all of that money down the drain. For some reasons, she’ll drink the Wawa milk but not the Horizon’s organic milk. At this point, with her size and weight issues, it’s more important for me to get her the calories from hormone-free milk than to worry about whether it is organic. Maybe I’ll try again in 6 months or so…

  13. my secret is produce junction, a wholesale farmers market.
    i can leave there with 5-6 grocery bags full of fresh produce for around $20. i have to drive to get there, but its worth it.
    i picked up produce at the grocery store yesterday because i was in a hurry and my grocery bill was more than $50 more than usual!!! WORTH THE TRIP!!

  14. Hey Melanie. Thanks for speaking up and being honest.

    First of all, for the most part, we aren’t talking about life or death issues here. I mean, making food from scratch instead of buying store bought is hardly radical.

    Second, I do understand your conflict when it comes to milk. I guess, for me, when I started reading up on all this stuff, it just made so much sense. It makes fundamental good sense to me that food in its most natural state, the way God made it, is better for us than highly processed, industrialized, artificial substitutes. And plenty of research backs this up. It just doesn’t all make headlines because it’s not backed by the people in power.

    Although I must say, I have never had a doctor advise me to give my kids skim milk. How old are your kids? Because I thought conventional wisdom advised serving whole milk after a year and then moving to 2%. It is indisputable fact that young children need healthy fat in their diet to grow.

    The issues of which fats are best is also a highly debated topic, and I can understand people being wary of lard and coconut oil.

    All I can say is, the more I read, the more it makes sense, and I am willing to give it a try for six months and see what my blood work reveals. If my cholesterol and blood pressure shoot thru the roof, then I’ll re-evaluate, but for now, there are far too may people eating this way and thriving for me to be too worried.

    Ultimately, you have to do what you believe is best, and I would never ever want to encourage someone to compromise their convictions on how to feed their family.

    I am sharing what I’m doing becuase I’m passionate about it and also because so many people seem interested and encouraged. But I am certainly no expert on medicine or nutrition, and I wouldn’t want anyone to blindly follow what I’m doing without doing their own research and coming to their own conclusions. And I definitely don’t want to cause anyone stress!! 🙂 🙂

    Let me know what you decide.

    And P.P.P.S. (lol) There are many books on the subject, not just one. I just listed the one that addressed the cost of food more than the rest. To help simplify things, I’ll compile my book list on the sidebar in an Amazon widget later today 🙂

  15. Megan, that’s interesting that she could tell the difference. But the red flag to me was the brand Horizon. I have found that all of their milk products are ultra-pasteurized, which means that it’s heated extra high. It actually doesn’t even require refrigeration, it’s so dead, lol. All that to say, I wonder if it tastes different than the regular pasteurized milk?

    I know girlymama gets organic whole milk at Trader Joes – it’s more affordable than the organic milk at the grocery store, and it’s just regular pasteurized.

    That said, I agree that the no-hormone milk is a decent alternative. I buy Rosenberger for my half-and-half and if I have to buy milk at the grocery store.

  16. Great post! I’m so THERE! I tell you, just staying home and homeschooling this year has saved us a fortune on cost and JUNK. No more frozen lunches, junk bars, processed food, chips, etc. We’re reheating leftovers for lunch — good stuff made with real products. “Real food” may be expensive, but junk food is even more expensive! Little snacks that are half-package and minimum food?

    I’m also cutting portions. Your link to the article on French people was a reminder. I’m encouraging my family to ask their bodies during the meal if they no longer feel hungry, and to stop there. Take smaller portions instead of “decorating the plate.” This leaves more leftovers for lunch the next day! I must say that homeschooling does give one more opportunity to see and control the family’s eating, and not dashing around town cuts out the fast food, which we NEVER do (unless traveling).

  17. Thanks for the heads-up Jo-Lynne and Melissa. I’ll have to try the Trader Joe’s milk. I don’t taste the difference but Aubryn sure did. She started drinking milk again when we switched back to the hormone-free milk from Wawa.

    And Produce Junction? Fantastic – I still get all of my fruits and veggies there along with half of my church that goes there on Sunday afternoons!

  18. I still don’t know what I think about milk, but thanks for all the tips. I do believe that it just seems to make the most sense to eat things how God gave them to us if we can. As a working mom, it is near-impossible for me to make EVERYTHING from scratch. But since my baby loves bread and will eat almost nothing else, I’ve started making my own bread (artisan bread in 5 minutes a day–easy as pie!). I’m also being a lot more conscientious of labels and trying to avoid a lot of chemical additives. It’s a step!

  19. thank you for compiling it all for us. It IS really useful and is inching me along my way to feed my family in a more healthy way. I’m starting to make small trades in our foods, but I need to research and keep reading and commit to putting more work into feeding the family. It’s certainly not convenient, but I know it’s worth it!

  20. I totally agree with you on cutting out fast food. My one goal is to get us to stop eating fast food. Completely. Most of it is not that great, and I feel disgusting afterwards. I hate it, but sometimes I feel like it’s necessary. I work full-time outside the home and sometimes just don’t have my crap together. It is a little horrifying to me that every time my DS sees the golden arches, he yells “chicken nugget french fries”. Mom of the year right here!

    We come from a family of hunters, so we got a freezer full of ground venison last year. It is super lean and really not “gamey” (for those of you who are afraid to try it). Saved us a ton of money and sub it for all ground beef recipes.

    Another thing I’m surprised you didn’t mention is growing your own produce to cut costs. I used to grown my own tomatoes and peppers for the season in containers on my deck. Five bucks for a summer of tomatoes and peppers! Now, we live in an area so densely populated with deer that it’s not possible to have a garden, or even anything on the deck. You can also easily grow herbs on a window sill indoors. These are pricey too.

  21. Jo-Lynne, this is a fantastic post. We stopped eating fast food and soda about 8 or 9 years ago. I make pretty much everything at home and we eat organic when it’s going to make a difference. It is amazing how much can be saved by cutting where you just don’t need it. I make my hubby’s lunch every day and he snacks about every 2 hours on fruits, veggies, organic yogurt, nuts and kashi crackers. It’s all good tasting and good for you and it comes out less than the cost of eating out every day.

  22. I can’t tell you how helpful this post (well…all your posts) have been in encouraging me to make changes in my boys’ (and my!) diets. I’ve wanted to make changes for awhile, but it’s all seemed so overwhelming to me, especially with a budget that barely allows for groceries in the first place.

    You’re helping me to take little steps and I already feel better about the changes we’ve made – few as they may be.

    Anyways, my next step is to make those homemade granola bars you linked to (we go through granola bars like there’s no tomorrow!) and I’d also like to look into purchasing organic milk.

    The milk, I could use a little help with. I’m still a little lost as to what brands are actually the real deal and which ones are not. I mean, can I walk into my local Walmart or Meijer and find what I’m looking for or should I just settle with making special trips to Whole Foods all the time? I’d love to hit up a Trader Joe’s, but the only ones I’ve found in MI are too far away from me to make the milk worth it. Help? LOL

  23. It’s pretty sad that “they” have gotten us so confused that we don’t know who to believe. As much as I love our family doc (who we see very rarely, thankfully), still I know that I can’t blindly trust what even HE says. He’s only human and can’t know it all, so I have to be smart and do my own research. This has led me to find out that all of us, doctors included, have been fed a bunch of bunk about saturated fat. It’s a hard pill to swallow, that’s for sure, after all these years of being told how evil things like butter, whole milk, and coconut oil are, but with a little common sense the truth shines through. These foods have been around for centuries, and if it was good for people before heart disease, obesity, diabetes, ADD, (you name the rest) came onto the scene, then it’s good for my family.

    As Jo-Lynne said, don’t believe us! Start googling like crazy and see what you find. My “food conversion” began at http://www.westonaprice.org and I haven’t looked back. Good luck in your search for the truth about how to nourish your families. 🙂

    Kelly

  24. I didn’t read all the responses… I did read your second post, though.

    And all I can say is:
    AMEN & AMEN

    Preach it sister. Live it as long as you can.

    I think you have just come up with a solution to the health care crisis, too 😉 hehe

    US GOVERNMENT, are you listening to her? (No, they aren’t, but preach it anyway, the smart people will understand and see your common sense approach is what will work to make them feel better and need “health care” less!) 😉

  25. Jennifer, yes, good point! I didn’t mention it because our housing development doesn’t really allow veg gardens. That said, we can grow veggies if they blend with the landscaping, so I need to figure out what I can get away with. I have been growing my own herbs on my deck though. LOVE that.

  26. Alexia, the milk issue is a dicey one. The very first thing I avoid is any milk product that is “ultra pasteurized.”

    After that, I personally don’t buy anything but whole milk anymore because I’ve heard that many brands add powdered milk to their lowfat and skim milks. Powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol. Google it for more info, but I prefer to avoid it.

    You should be able to go to any conventional grocery store and find whole milk that is just pasteurized, not ultra pasteurized.

    As far as hormones are concerned, I do not buy conventional milk unless it specifically states, “Milk from cows not treated with rbST.” Cows treated wth rbST produce more milk and are thus more prone to infection. Also, when cows are treated with rbST, that increases their level of IGF-1 (an insulin-like growth hormone.)

    As far as Organic goes, to be certified organic, milk must be taken from cows that are given organic feed and allowed access to pasture. (This is where it gets nebulous. The word “access” may be used loosely, for sure.)

    Unfortunately many organic milks sold at the grocery store (Horizon) are ultra pasteurized.

    Ideally, milk should come from grass-fed cows, but this is almost impossible to find in the conventional grocery store. Organic Valley and Natural By Nature are two organic milk brands that raise their cows on pasture.

    Or of course you can find a farmer and buy it raw, which is the best way to preserve its health benefits, but then you have another whole can o’ worms in regards to safety, etc.

    I have started buying raw milk. The more I read about it, the more I feel comfortable with it. But you certainly can’t find that at the WalMart, lol.

    So. When I am stuck buying milk at the grocery store, I choose organic pasteurized (not ultra) or the conventional whole milk that is not treated with rbST. I feel the ultra pasteurization of the organic milk nullifies the health benefits of organic. But that’s just me.

    Some books I read say not to drink milk at all unless you can get raw or at best organic grass-fed. I don’t go that far, but I feel that it is ideal, if you can get it.

    Did I just confuse you more? You can always call the corporate headquarters of your local grocery store brands and inquire about the rbST.

  27. I am loving your posts about real food, healthy eating, and the lot. I feel the same way, although I do tend to get overwhelmed. I read a book not long ago that addresses some of the same concepts, called “What Would Jesus Eat?” by Don Colbert. That book leans more toward a mediterranean diet, but he does make the point about processed foods that you have addressed. If you’re into reading about food like I am, it’s worth a read. Thanks again for the informative post!

  28. Not to sound like a broken record, but I really do appreciate all the research you do an information that you’re sharing along your “whole foods” journey. For years I have flirted with eating better…I’ve gone through phases. But always ended up with the “easier” way out…fast food, carry out, junk, etc. Baby steps are definitely the way to go for me and the way you evaluate things in steps is really motivating. Sometimes I read people’s posts about eating well and feel totally overwhelmed. I went organic with milk when I was pregnant, mostly because I don’t love milk and drink much of it, and I found that the organic stuff stays good longer. I’ve kept up with it despite the price because having a daughter under two years old, it’s definitely a staple of her diet, and ounce for ounce, probably what she consumes the most of.

    As for fast food…I’m working on that. I’ve gotten much better over the past weeks cooking dinner from scratch. My grocery bills haven’t suffered, because when I plan my menu for the week, I look at what I have and what I need for that menu and only buy what I need for the week. I’m also finding creative ways to “re-purpose” food (I hate leftovers too!). I feel like I’m not saving any money, but when I look at how I’m shopping, I realize I’m not using our credit card anymore when we don’t have enough in the checking account. That may seem insignificant, but I’ve been praying about becoming more financially responsible and shopping with a plan and cooking at home has definitely moved me a step in that direction.

    Also, I’m no spectacular homemaker for a stay-at-home mom, so cooking from scratch makes me feel like I’m doing something really good for my family.

    So thanks for the great post. Keep it up – can’t wait for more!!

  29. Thanks for saying it like it is. We have started eating “more expensively” out of necessity, but the reality is that it is costing us much less. My son was misdiagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s, PDD, etc., etc., it turned out that it was the CHEAP FOOD we were eating (not that we didn’t eat good food too). He is highly sensitive to common wheat (though not spelt) and all of those funky additives in foods: artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives like BHT, BHA, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate, and those funky processed ingredients like hydrogenated oils, HFCS, you know….

    Not only did we change his diet, I changed my career. I left the practice of law advocating for children and starting my own baking company making “expensive” bagels and breads while continuing to advocate for children through my business. Spelt Right Baking….check it out http://www.speltrightbaking.com

  30. My husband and I have switched to a vegan diet in the last month and we have never felt better. We’re eating a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables and snacking on healthy, non-processed whole foods. I want to shout it from the rooftops that cutting out junk food/processed food/frozen crap will make you feel 100% better!

    I’m very wary of the dairy industry now. The dairy industry spends about 70 more times as much money on promoting dairy than the USDA does on promoting healthy eating according to the standard food pyramid. I would encourage you to find other (supplemental) ways to add calcium to your kids’ diets from plant based food: broccoli, figs, beans, almonds, etc. We’ve switched to almond milk and rice milk, which is also calcium fortified, and it tastes great in our homemade muesli for breakfast.

    The only reason cow’s milk has calcium is because the cows are fed calcium supplements. It’s not because the milk they produce naturally contains calcium.

    We switched to the vegan diet for health reasons only, but if we ever started eating again, we would definitely be using organic, free range and antibiotic free farms that are close to home. It’s amazing the amount of garbage that’s ingested from cheap meat selections in the grocery store!

  31. Rebekah,
    I’m also wary of the dairy industry and the meat at the grocery store (ick). That’s why we buy our milk raw/fresh from the farm and our meat, too – from a farmer we know and trust. But we also don’t eat things that are “fortified” at all – as this is unnatural, too. A great way to get calcium and other minerals is from homemade bone broth.
    Kelly

  32. I read this and think YES! I want to do this! I want my family to eat healthier foods and less processed stuff! I want to cook from scratch! And make my own bread! And snack on fruits and vegetables! BUT… I envision sooooo much whining and complaining from my children (and husband) that I bet I would give up after about 1 day. Just being honest. My kids are so picky about what they eat as it is, and I really don’t buy much junk food and I despise all frozen/prepared/boxed meals so I never buy those, but still. How in the world did you get your kids to go for this? Especially the no boxed cereal, snack foods, frozen chicken nuggets? My kids are 12, 10, and 7. I know I’m the mom and in charge of the grocery shopping, but there would be a mutiny!

  33. Donna,

    You don’t have to do this all at once. 🙂

    Try switching out one snack a day from processed food to a piece of fruit. Switch from frozen chicken nuggets to a homemade version (less oil and preservatives). Switch from a high fat chip to a lower fat chip (baked or kettle cooked) and then to homemade chips or fries (we loved baked sweet potato fries here). Once you slowly start removing sugar from the diet (and it’s in everything), they will stop craving sweets and start craving other healthier options. Now that I’ve cut out most sugar from my diet, whenever I eat sugar it just tastes disgusting to me and leaves me with a bad aftertaste.

    I’ve never read this book, but it sounds like a good way to introduce more veggies to your kids’ diet: http://www.amazon.com/Deceptively-Delicious-Simple-Secrets-Eating/dp/B001WAKOXA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1252466872&sr=8-1

    A coworker of mine has a son with lots of behavioral issues. She ended up taking him to a homeopathic doctor who put him on a strict diet that limited his intake of sugar and corn and some other things. She started him cold turkey on the diet and he saw such a change in his concentration levels at school that he was really motivated to stick with the new changes. Maybe you could try a healthy eating experiment with your kids and encourage them to give it a try for a week or two and see if they notice any difference in how they feel or sleep, they may get on board with you.

    Note: these are all suggestions from someone with no kids, so I have no idea if this would work, but it’s worth a try 🙂

  34. I am finding it very interesting that all of the organic milks or milks made w/o hormones are also ultra-pasteurized or HHST pasteurized (step up from pasteurized but not as bad as ultra-pasteurized). I wonder if it because of the lack of hormones that they upping the pasteurization process for some reason in order to sell it commercially. OR because the organic milks are so much more expensive if they are using these ultra-pasteurization processes so that the milk will keep longer making you feel like you are getting more for your money.

    Question from the comments…
    I’ve never heard that milk only provides calcium only because cows are fed it in a supplement. Very interesting and I wonder if that is grain fed cows. I would love to know if cows are eating what they were intended to eat – grass – then would they need to be supplemented with calcium? My understanding is that they are producing calcium naturally when on a grass-fed diet.

    I am on a mission to find grass fed meat around here right now. I can order if from a co-op coming from your neck of the woods, but I really would like to get it local.

    There is so much information to sift through that is for sure.

  35. Promised Land milk is grass fed Jersey cows, no hormones, HHST pasteurized but not ultra. My kids love it.

    I saw a non-homogenized milk at Whole Foods today – with the cream sitting right on top. Still pasteurized.

  36. Janel,

    Here’s a blog post that sort of covers the grass fed cows question you had: http://collegegreenmag.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/commentary-grass-is-good-how-milk-from-grass-fed-cows-can-make-you-healthier/

    Basically grain fed cows are getting calcium through supplements so that they can produce more milk for a longer period of time and be profitable for their owners. If cows are living normal lives and are able to graze without turning into milking machines, their bodies have more time to digest their food and produce nourishing milk.

    Here’s a vegetarian perspective on cow’s milk: http://veg.ca/content/view/139/110/

  37. A couple things:

    (a) You inspired me to make homemade granola bars several months ago and we haven’t bought the boxed kind since. The homemade bars are healthier…and so much tastier too!

    (b) We haven’t eaten fast food in over 10 months. I remember the last time because we were on a trip and our options were slim-to-none on the road.

    (c) I’ve been cutting out frozen pizzas and boxed snacks lately (and we’re not soda drinkers), but I do love my juice. Especially Simply Lemonade. Diluted with water. It’s so refreshing on a warm summer’s day.

    I think your new focus on nutrition is awesome, by the way. I like these posts.

  38. We were doing really well NOT eating much processed food … until I got pregnant. Now crackers and Cheerios and the like are all I can get down during the day. I’ve even started drinking gingerale!

    And then you throw in lack of energy to cook, and we eat far more take-out too … mostly pizzas and Boston Market chickens.

    Oh well .. this too shall pass, eh?

    On another more general note, I think it’s Marion Nestle who points out that all the benefits of produce were studies with CONVENTIONAL produce, so even if people can’t find or afford organic, it’s still a whole lot better to eat produce anyway.

  39. Thanks for those links Rebekah! I really appreciate it- Very helpful info.

    Good golly, we could spend our days just sifting through this info. lol!

    I wasdairy free for about a year. I have colitis and dairy really made it worse. Once it went into remission, I carefully put it back into my diet. So, I have lots of questions about it! 🙂

  40. Just want to let you know I am learning a lot about healthy eating and I appreciate it! It is amazing that if you cut the sugar out of your diet you won’t crave it PLUS you feel so much better! To comment on leftovers-I usually have Thursday night designated as leftover night. M/T/& W nights I make regular meals and Friday nights we go out for pizza. (YUM)

  41. Donna, I have to tell you. I envisioned mutiny. No one was more surprised than I to find that my kids were (for the most part) thrilled with these changes.

    I remember the first sandwiches I made on homemade bread. My kids took one taste and BEGGED me never to buy store bought bread again. SERIOUSLY. And it was my pickiest eater who first made that request.

    Homemade stuff is almost ALWAYS better tasting. They love my homemade granola bars. They had a hard time letting go of cereal, but I go out of myway to make stuff they like instead. My pickiest (my middle child) loves pancakes, so I found a soaked version that uses whole wheat pastry flour (that’s a lot lighter than regular whole wheat, plus, soaking makes it taste lighter too) and she loves them. I make a double batch and freeze the leftovers to make for her on school days.

    Your kids like chicken nuggets? Make them at home. SO yummy.

    When I made popcorn with coconut oil in the stovetop maker, the kids got so excited and proclaimed that the house smelled like the movie theater. Microwave popcorn has never been requested since.

    Same thing with ice cream. They used to ask for Dairy Queen. Now they beg us to make it at home.

    I see that your kids are older, so I know that it would be harder, but honestly, my 9-year-old was the one who was on board first because I explained to him what I was doing and why. He’s actually my biggest supporter now.

    Also, I would take it slowly. And there may be areas that you just give in. Cereal may be one of those. It depends on your kids and what their favorites are.

    And at their ages, they are having more freedom. So let them have their favorite junk sometimes. When we’re at the pool, I let my kids get a junky ice cream bar. Whatever. I try not to make it the forbidden fruit, you know?

    Anyway, I realize that every family is different, and this would be harder for some than others. And for moms that work outside the home, all I can say is to pick and choose the parts that are most important to you. I realize that making everything from scratch would be impossible.

    Oh, one more thing. Try to get them helping you make the stuff. They’re old enough to really be helpful. giving them ownership over parts of it might encourage a better attitude. 🙂

    I dunno, I admit, I had it easy when it came to convincing my kids and husband. For that, I’m immeasurably grateful.

  42. I have been trying to buy more organic food and it is expensive! I have even switched to organic whole milk thanks to your research. It is hard when you look at the prices though! I recently went out of town to a whole foods store and was able to buy raw milk, at over $8 a gallon! Unfortuneatly I think it took too long to refrigerate and now it’s curdled. Organic chicken was $9 a pound and I just couldn’t afford it at the time. I am hoping to start making my own bread though because that will save a lot! Thanks for all the information you have been sharing with us!

  43. Great post, thanks for sharing all these tips! I know we spend way too much money weekly in the grocery store – and we end up throwing away so much food that has gone to waste… including all the snack foods… yes, I have to increase our fruit and veggies purchases for sure and cut down on the crackers, etc.

  44. Toni…Just wanted to encourage you that your raw milk shouldn’t be curdled after only a few hours not refrigerated. In fact, raw milk can be left out on the counter overnight without spoiling. It will begin to “ferment” or become tangier, like yogurt, but it is still perfectly okay. The reason regular storebought milk spoils is because it is dead from pasteurization…there are no good bacteria left to stem the bacteria from proliferating. Raw milk has tons of good bacteria to kill off the bad stuff so it actually stays good much longer, even when not refrigerated. Maybe yours had just separated and needed to be shook back up?

  45. Toni, I was wondering the same thing as Kara about the milk. It shouldn’t have curdled that soon.

    And yeah, I buy chicken from the farm, and it’s much cheaper than at the store. I know, the prices are shocking sometimes. That’s why sometimes we just have to pick and choose. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always afford the organic versions. 🙂

    Making homemade bread is a great place to start, and it’s definitely not going to break the bank. Every little change helps.

  46. Coming out of lurkdom to proclaim this your best post ever. Inspiring and practical at the same time. Your example speaks volumes.

  47. What amazing conversation in these comments. I am taking baby steps to better nutrition, too. You have to allow yourself to be “better than yesterday”. I can’t wait until my husband’s physical in about a month or so – I feel like getting his triglycerides score will be like a report card for all the work I’m doing to preserve our health! (fingers crossed)

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