Sunday, January 2, 2011

Food Budgeting Part One: Think Real Food

Happy New Year to all!!!

This can be our best year ever...yes, a lot of us in this country and elsewhere are having to be creative about how to make lemonade of lemons, but the nice news is that with some practice it's not only possible, but around here we love lemonade :)

I've decided to break this post into segments instead of my usual monster post, and this week will be putting my mental notes here in black and white, beginning with the subject of some things that ARE working for me as we've already been (of necessity) cutting things way back from our former food budget and eating habits that dovetail with that budget. 

I'll start with something near to my heart:  Nutrition.
It's near to my heart not because I've mastered good eating habits, nor am I a svelte 120 pounds,  nor can I  fit into my jeans from 25 years ago.  I've lost some weight the past year, yet have a lot of pounds to continue losing and am on medications for health problems I still need to solve.

But here's the deal...despair and relinquishment are not the same thing as acceptance of current limitations, and they leave no room for some very simple steps that can, and will, continue to return both me and my husband to good health.

And that is  not only our goal, it is our continued Resolution...every month of the year.

So, what, if anything, have we done right the past couple years in that category, seeing that we still have so far to go?

Well...a LOT...we've changed a lot of habits and spending to nurture it, and have seen results.  And no, we're not perfect and don't have our act all together.   But we love to learn and I wanted to share a little of that changed perspective so that others staring down the barrell of a very short budget don't feel powerless to rise to the challenge...I've felt overwhelmed in the past and have been so encouraged seeing how others solve some of the particulars for their families.  Just sharing a bit of what seems to be working for ours...

First, we keep one particular goal in mind:   Cost.

A lot of people rationalize spending money they don't have because they're told (all the time) some version of the phrases "your health is worth any price" or "this (supplement/procedure/membership fee/etc) is worth it because of the health problems it will save you from later that would be much more expensive to address." 

There are a lot of holistic supplements and treatments Jack and I would glady participate in, that probably WOULD hasten some of our goals more quickly, if not for the cost.

But here's the COSTLY lesson we've learned, and thankfully adopted in the past couple years:  If you don't have the money, DON'T  think the only door to eating and living healthfully is closed...there are many doors.  Just because the money is not there does not mean we're out of options.  This goes for successful lifestyle changes, treatments of medical problems, prevention, and selecting good nutritious foods on a very tight budget.

I had to preface all the other post for this week on this subject by emphasizing that.  GOOD NUTRITION DOES NOT HAVE TO BREAK THE BUDGET.

I'm not a guru on this...we've learned slowly and are still learning. 

We've had to slaughter some sacred cows because of this, as well.  We've had to relax any purist mentality in some areas that are still important to us, but that have to be revised at this moment IN ORDER to facilitate our financial ability until we can reach our goal of EVENTUALLY being more self-sufficient and closer to some of these goals....such as

1.  Eating foods grown locally by small farmers and individuals rather than from the Big Box stores...near to our hearts, this one.
2.  Eating 100% organic, non-pesticide foods
3.  Eating mostly foods grown by us
4.  Eating according to the seasons...seasonal produce, etc.

Here are the goals that supercede those, for the time being:

1.  Being consistent about good eating changes
2.  Stockpiling or otherwise storing extra foods that keep easily for long term storage and are nutritious
3.  Staying away from all or most processed foods
4.  Making it myself in my own kitchen
5.  Coming up with ways to make my own "fast" foods so not everything in the kitchen is time-intensive
6.  Making the nutritious meals taste good...otherwise we won't get used to them and continue eating them
7.  Varying the basics enough that meals with similar ingredients are still appealing even though we eat them a lot
8.  Thinking of survival, simplicity, and self-sufficiency even with every store purchase:  training ourselves to do with very basic ingredients that we could grow if we wanted to or had to
9.  Eliminate preservatives.   If something we buy has a label, choosing the food with no preservatives, additives, food coloring, etc.
10.  Eat for the Cure.   Learning what foods will best support our own particular genetic weaknesses (mine are tendencies for upper respiratory problems and blood sugar issues, Jack's would include high blood pressure) and making them standard fare instead of "bite the nail and swallow the bitter pill" types of cures.
11.  EDUCATE ourselves and DO IT OURSELVES. 

I was in a grocery store the other day and saw a girl in her twenties walking down the aisle, and had a flashback to my young (broke!) days.  In her cart were a variety of boxes and flavors of Ramen Noodles, a lot of pasta, and processed food that price-wise was inexpensive.   I ate like that when I was in college, and it wrecked my health for years.  Not that I'm immune to an annual blackslide into a box or two of Kraft Mac and Cheese, but my mindset is very very different now, of necessity.

I'll go into this further in my next post, but I just wanted to state that the MINDSET before even budgeting on a very minimal amount of money for food NEEDS to be THE HIGHEST FORM OF NUTRITIOUS FOOD FOR THE MONEY.  And THOSE things, thankfully, are the most basic foods...fresh vegetables and fruits, dried beans/peas/lentils, tubers, longterm storage vegetables like winter squashes, quality seeds/nuts/ and some grains.  Preservative-free sweeteners.  

A lot of people have this down pat.  Others, like me, have had to come a long way, baby. 

So....making nutritional goals is first before a single dollar gets spent. 

BUY REAL FOOD.   Food that remembers where it came from, preferably the straight up raw ingredients.   That's the goal.  Anything else, truly, is not exactly FOOD, really, because the more processed those ingredients become before reaching the kitchen, the more they are a substance.

The  most basic elements of our meals are akin to the most basic elements of our budget...sticking to what is essential, not loading up with non-essentials.

That's part one...mindset, before spending a single cent.   More ramble tomorrow...I have no idea how many point there'll be, but at least I'm breaking them up a bit :)

Got food budgeting advice?   We're all ears!


Donna said...

I can use any new knowledge on this subject that I can find. We do eat a lot of bean and rice dishes, split pea soup, lentil stew, etc. I buy ten-pound bags of chicken leg quarters, boil it, remove skin and bones, and bag it in two-cup portions. I remove the fat from the cooled broth and have lovely chicken broth, which I use in several of my recipes.
I really hate using store-bought chicken, knowing how those factory-raised chickens are treated. But if it's me or the chickens, I choose me. Another thing wrong with factory-raised chickens, salt water is pumped into them so you're paying for the water. Ten pounds of chicken really isn't ten pounds.

P~ said...

Very good post. I'm right there with you on this. after last years car accident and our ensuing problems with pain management, the wife and I both full back into the bad habits that we had worked so hard to move away from. This year wee are re-grouping and are looking at things in basically the same way as you.
we'll do our best tho keep the sacred cows happy, but in the end, making consistent and healthy choices will get us closer to our goals than getting hung up on details. Those things will come.
best to you in the new year!

Robbyn said...

Donna, want to do a post here about the ways you guys eat on a budget? Looks like we're doing similar things in certain areas...I need to learn from pros like you! I do the small hens rather than the leg quarters, but pretty much prepare them similarly and get a lot of broth off them, it :) Trying to go more vegetarian is a challenge I'm trying to meet, so am venturing more into the beans and lentils than I have in the past. My body still is adjusting to them. I'm serious about posting...want to? I'd love it!

Paul, heya! I backslid into some's a constant process of awareness and habit to keep improving. It's good the focus is something that starts out really good to begin with...plain ol' great fruits, veg, real foods. I hope this year ahead is the best one yet for you and your household!!