The debate rages on. The health nuts push for locally sourced, organic meats, fruits, and vegetables. They preach the poison of toxins throughout your grocery stores. They talk about being “overfed and undernourished.” They say that America needs to change its eating habits, pronto.
But the cost of that locally grown, organic food? Many folks can’t stomach the idea of filling a cute canvas shopping basket with non-GMO, non-pesticided, non=toxined, perfectly natural locally-sourced, overpriced produce, and maybe a few specialty items that are shipped further than we’d care to admit- all to find that the tiny basket cost the same as your conventional week’s worth of groceries.
The foodies protest. Organic food costs less than your junk food and soda, they retort. (And they’ve got a point there.) I have previously referenced an article by Joe Salatin, in which he mentions a family of four eating a super sized Burger King meal that cost $32. The family says they can’t afford to buy fresh produce at the grocery store, so they have to buy fast food. Joe replies to this conundrum,
“For that amount of money, that family could have purchased a pound of our farm’s grass-fed beef — a premium, world-class ground meat — plus buns, the fixin’s and potatoes for some french fries, and everyone could still have enjoyed a great-tasting quarter-pounder and fries. I guarantee you that a pound of our ground beef contains more good nutrition than that family’s Burger King meal. This is not to pick on Burger King nor its customers. I don’t begrudge people eating there; what I begrudge is people eating there because they think it’s cheap and convenient, and then telling me they can’t afford my product because it’s expensive and inconvenient.” (Read original article here.)
Okay, so organics cost less than eating junk, and definitely less than the doctor’s bills and pills that come with a life of eating fast food and non-nutritive calories. But the fact remains: there are many of us who are trying hard to cook healthy meals from scratch to save money and feed our families well. And for the family cooking that type of food, organic options still cost more than conventional options. There’s just no getting around it.
This is hard to swallow for someone like me. We avoid debt at all costs. I’m always looking for ways to save money or make a little extra here or there. I like frugal eating. But at the same time, the more I know and read about conventional agriculture, the less I feel that I can support a big industry that destroys the local economy, lacks ecological sustainability and is ridden with health problems.
So whats a (REALLY) frugal, semi-health nut to do?
The answer? Smart shopping certainly comes into play. But beyond that, it comes down to hard work.
Food Renegade said in one post that until 100 years ago, all food was organic and local. True. But it didn’t come easy, either. That food was grown with a lot of sweat and a lot of hours working to prepare and preserve it.
Likewise, our own real food journey has been largely driven by manpower. On our budget, we simply cannot afford to eat organically grown food without growing it ourselves. I love fresh produce, but when an organic red pepper can run you $3 a pop, I cannot buy six of them a week. But I can buy one pack of organic seeds for $3.50 that will give us peppers for weeks on end, plus enough to chop and freeze for winter cooking. I love organic, free range farm eggs, and they’re so much better for you than conventional eggs. But at $4.50 a dozen, that becomes hard to do all the time. Hence, chickens. Low-cost, low-maintenance, and a very fresh, extremely local source of nutritious protein.
Do you need to start your own homestead to eat organic well? No. We could talk about how you can save money on organics at the store. But aside from that, I bet you that you can make better use of the resources that are already available to you.
Learn how you can grow your own food in the environment you are blessed to have. (You’d be surprised what you can make work.) Figure out ways to be resourceful to use what you have to grow that food, so you’re not spending hundreds on a garden. Look for the natural resources that are available to you. (Foraging, fishing, fruit-picking in legal public locations… Even your own yard usually has more than you think it will if you look around.) Find frugal ways to preserve your food. Can, freeze, dehydrate, store in a root cellar… There are ways to do all of this that don’t require a lot of investment.
Anyway, these are all for other posts. I cannot possibly cover all these topics in one fell swoop. But the question remains: can organics feed the world?
If you’re willing to do some hard work, cooperate with your neighbor, and think outside the box for how you feed your family… And if the agricultural business would think about how to set up sustainable, bio-diverse systems that work in various environments,and give less privileged folks the tools and knowledge they need to get started… Hmm.
Well, we’ve got a long way to go, haven’t we? But maybe, just maybe, it’s possible.
Real food. A popular phrase that you’ve been hearing a lot of lately if if you are remotely into the health scene. But what does it mean, and how does one go about learning to eat better? And what do you do when everyone is shouting different recommendations at you? It can all be rather confusing and overwhelming at first.
The first step for us was getting rid of junk and trying to buy foods that are as close to their original form as possible. The next steps? We’ve been working on lowering our sugar intake and upping our nutrient-dense options. We’ve been trying some soaked grain recipes, and we can make a mean sourdough after a year’s worth of practice. We are trying to purchase better meat and egg options when our budget allows it. We try to source a lot of our food from our backyard or our own kitchen. We’ve come a long way, yes- but we still have a lot to learn! (This past week I shared a bit about our family’s real food journey if you want to read more.)
Then Trina Holden came along with her newest book, Your Real Food Journey, to meet me where I was at with all of my newest questions: What’s up with people fermenting everything? Should I really bother with raw milk, and if I do, how do I make the most use of it? Can I soak grains without it turning out a funky texture? And how in the world am I going to keep up with these dietary changes?
Trina gently leads her readers into their own journeys, covering topics like good fats, healthy dairy choices, well-sourced meat, and various cultured foods. She also covers grains and sweets (two of my favorites), and rather than shunning them, demonstrates how to incorporate them wisely into a nourishing diet.
But the best thing about Trina’s book? She makes eating real food manageable, and guides you through the process with a healthy dose of grace.
I don’t know about you, but for us, making a lifestyle change takes lots of time. Trina, however, makes the brilliant suggestion to just incorporate one change at a time. When you try to completely change your diet all at once, you are setting yourself up for frustration and burnout. But when you try just one little change (making homemade yogurt, for example), and do it for a few weeks until it’s second nature, then it’s much easier at that point to try another new change.
Another one of my problems with attempting a real food change is that often, I just don’t know where to start with any one particular principle. Sure, I’d love to try making lacto-fermented vegetables because I hear it’s so good for digestion. But with so many different recipes on the internet, it’s hard to know which one to try first. (And I’ll be honest- I don’t want to risk my time and ingredients on something that’s going to turn out gross!)
But for every single dietary change that Trina proposes, she offers an easy starting recipe and ideas for use in your daily routine. So now, fermented veggies are no longer such a huge mystery. I have several recipes to try, and I know some simple ways to incorporate them into an appetizing meal. So next week, I will be trying sweet gingered carrots in a home stir-fry. That doesn’t sound so bizarre, right?
Trina further helps to tame the real food onslaught with convenient meal-planning suggestions and tips for bulk food preparation. She provides multiple recipes to jump start your meal plan for the weeks to come. I know this busy mama certainly appreciated Trina’s sensitivity to the need for time-management!
But then, despite all of our best intentions and available help, I know that we will backslide. One week I’ll be eating super healthy meals full of grass-fed meat, healthy fats, and homegrown veggies- then the next I’m running to the fast food joint twice because I didn’t plan to pack lunches. I ate Domino’s a couple of days ago. I’ve been consuming too many cookies and store-bought bagels. I’ve been falling off the boat in the healthy snack area. It’s been a busy week, and my real food ideals are crashing. (Ironically, the same week I’m writing this book review!)
But the nice thing about reading Your Real Food Journey is that I didn’t feel a giant guilt trip about my backslides. In fact, Trina embraces seasons in life, fully acknowledging that there are times that you just get busy, or are traveling a lot, or are sick and can’t manage to spend all that time in the kitchen preparing better food. And that’s okay! The point is that you take advantage of the times that you can eat better, and don’t fret about when it doesn’t happen. After all, regardless of our best intentions, we’re not really in control of every aspect of our health to begin with!
Who would benefit from Your Real Food Journey? Anyone interested in:
- Cooking more meals from scratch with whole, healthy ingredients.
- Trying new healthful recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.
- Learning how to get more nutrition from grains & make them more digestible.
- Finding out about dairy options and discovering the best route for your family.
- Discovering methods for culturing various foods.
- Finding ways to sneak more nutrition into your every day recipes through bone broth, good fats, and well-sourced proteins.
- Making healthy eating fit in with your unique lifestyle.
- Exploring a summary of real food information in a convenient package.
- Reading information on real food without the guilt trip!
I very much enjoyed this book, and Trina, I may just be your new biggest fan. You’ve re-inspired me to jump back on the wagon for real food, and helped me to remember how easy it can be to make little changes for a BIG return on our family’s health. And you’ve done it all with accessible information, a realistic outlook, flexibility, and a whole lot of grace.
Want your own copy? You can purchase an instant download of Your Real Food Journey here for $9.99 via Trina’s blog. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
I received a free copy of Your Real Food Journey in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are mine.
When we first got married, we were pretty poor. (I say “were.” Still are, but it doesn’t matter!) We didn’t know any better, of course, and we were so twitterpated and happy that the lack of money made no difference. Between our small paychecks and lack of knowledge, we ate a LOT of what I would now call “fake food.” Ramen, bullion soups, Doritos, pre-packaged everything, even (gasp!) margarine.
However, it didn’t stay that way for us. Over the years, we underwent several major changes in our diet as we learned more about what we were putting into our bodies. It’s our goal now to try to use as much, real, whole food as possible in our diets while still allowing ourselves a little flexibility here and there.
Real food has been a catch phrase in the past couple years… I have to admit that I feel a little sheepish embracing any major health trend, but this is one that I feel strongly about. What’s more, I feel strongly about eating well on a very tight budget!
So how did we go from a diet of Ramen and spaghetti to a diet of (mostly) homegrown veggies, (mostly) well-sourced meat and eggs, and (mostly) non-processed food?
The answer is: not all at once, and not all the time.
Eating well has been passed down to me. My great-grandparents grew and prepared their own food out of necessity. My grandparents kept up the gardening/canning tradition, and ate well-balanced meals for as long as I can remember (always including dessert, of course!). My mother always kept a garden and made just about everything from scratch, with packed dinner plates always preceded by a colorful salad.
When Tim and I got our first apartment, however, we were fresh off the college-clueless bus, and most of our meal preparation in school involved pushing a button on the microwave. While we both had lots of kitchen and cooking experience, it just wasn’t in our mindset to do it intentionally for ourselves yet.
What cooking attempts I did make left something to be desired. My first batch of homemade bread was lumpy and dense and I decided that it was a skill I would never pick up. My first roast chicken and accompanying sides weren’t done until 10:30 p.m. because of my poor planning. (And nothing tasted like my mother’s did!)
After moving to a rented house, I had gotten a little better at cooking, plus we tried container gardening. My mom came over and taught me how to can my tomatoes. I tried to do better with nourishing choices, but convenience still trumped calculated preparation most of the time.
Then we moved to a tiny trailer where our landlord told us to go ahead and garden if we wanted to. We dug up a 10 x 10 plot. I bought canning jars, and with the help of my mom and good friends, preserved a lot more of our own food. And one of those friends lent me two books that were largely responsible for a major shift in our eating habits.
The first? Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I approached this book cautiously, not wanting to turn into one of those health nut lunatics who preached to everyone about the evils of McDonald’s. (Yeah, you know the ones I mean.) But as I turned page after page, I became more and more horrified by the intricate problems of industrialized food supply, packaged food, and the lack of nutrients in most of what we consume in the conventional American diet. I also became much more fascinated with the ideas of knowing your food’s source, eating whole foods, and eating nutrient-dense meals. I clearly remember finishing the book and telling my husband, “Wow. This book is making me seriously consider trying to grow all of our own food and stop going to the grocery store.” Two years later, that is exactly what we are in the process of trying to accomplish. (Trying is the key word here.)
(Thanks, Simple Truth, for the image.)
The second book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The author detailed her family’s experience of returning to solely local or homegrown food for an entire year. Yes, you read that right. The family vowed to grow their food or raise it themselves, buy it from a neighbor, or do without it. The Amazon book description puts it this way: “Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.” While I didn’t manage to make it all the way through this book because of some other things on my plate at the time, what I did read was monumentally inspiring to put good food as a priority in our family’s life.
For just over two years now, we have been trying to be (mostly) consistent with eating whole foods, growing progressively more of our own food, and sourcing more of our food from local farmers with quality practices that will nourish both their products and our bodies. Are we perfect? No. Emphatically, NO!!! Did I eat a white-sugar cookie while I typed this post? Yes. Case in point.
Besides, I still have a long way to go. Aside from sourdough baking, I know essentially nothing about fermented foods. I don’t usually keep raw milk. (I’ll pause a minute while all you raw dairy enthusiasts take a moment to collect yourselves.) I don’t get why certain fats are good for certain things and not others, and how to get more nutrition from your food into your body. What exactly do enzymes do, anyway???
Enter Trina Holden’s newest book, Your Real Food Journey. Trina kindly gave me a free copy of her book to read and review on my blog, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it and I am super excited to share some of what I learned with you! Trina’s book was exactly what I needed for the next step in my own journey, and I will be back on Friday with a full review of this real-foodie gem.
Where are you at in your food journey? I love hearing from you!
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