I have very consciously not written a post that outlines all of my philosophies around food and eating. One day the time will be right to summarize the way that my family eats in a post. For now, I find it best to inspire you, my dear reader, in small, digestible pieces. Making small changes, taking on eating and living well as a lifestyle change, is what I’m all about.
Eating organic, local, whole foods can be expensive, and often they get a bad rap. Unfortunately, at this point, organic food is more expensive than conventional (although a strong point can be made that you're getting much more nutrient density $ for $ when you buy organic, whole foods). When I say “organic food” I am talking produce, meat, dairy, nuts and seeds - whole real foods. I am not talking about buying organic Oreos and feeling like you’re making a healthier choice (and complaining about how expensive “organic food” is).
Supporting local farmers that are raising their animals well, and using organic practices, costs more money upfront. Most food (especially food from animals) in the supermarket is heavily subsidized, so we’re not actually paying the true cost for our food. Chew on that for a minute. Many of my food values include voting with your dollar, investing in your health now rather than later, and supporting local farmers who are doing the job right.
How do you know if your farmer is raising their animals well, or using organic practices? A farmer doesn’t have to be certified organic to be growing incredible food. A few great question to get the conversation going:
Do you spray your produce?
Do your cows eat grass and hay? Do you feed them any grain?
Do your chickens spend some time on pasture?
The reality is, if you’re not used to shopping at farmers markets and directly from a farmer, it takes a while for your budget, mindset, maybe your significant other (!) and priorities to adjust.
Here is part I of my best tips for making the transition, and ways to save money while you’re at it.
1. It’s not all or nothing, start with small changes.
Figure out which food your family eats the most of - is it eggs, yogurt, peanut butter, chicken, or berries? Whatever it is, swap this out first. If it’s eggs, ideally look for eggs from chickens who spend some time on pasture. If it’s yogurt, whole milk organic plain yogurt is best. If it’s berries, look for organic frozen berries when berries are not in season. Make a list of the 4-5 foods your family eats the most of, and start there.
2. Stock up during sales, at the end of the season, or get a "share" in a farm. Consider a chest freezer!
Find your favorite frozen peas, blueberries and frozen bone broth on sale? But you can’t stock up because your freezer is packed? It may be time to consider a chest freezer! They cost anywhere from $200-$400, which is a big investment for many of us. If this is a goal, put $20 away every month towards your freezer, and after a year, you’ll have enough. A freezer is an upfront investment that has serious return. Being able to buy food in bulk, while it’s on sale, and maybe freeze some fruits and veggies during the summer months, is the investment that keeps on giving. My favorite part of having a chest freezer? Being able to walk downstairs, open the freezer and grab dinner. We keep ours stocked with meat from our cow and pig share, chicken from Vernon Family Farm, frozen wild seafood, frozen fruits and veggies, homemade bone broth, nuts and a whole lot more.
3. Buy Bulk Spices. (pictured)
Most health food stores have a section where they sell spices in bulk. It is a HUGE money saver to buy your spices this way. We buy 95% of our spices in bulk - curry powder, chilli powder, black peppercorns, dried herbs, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, plus many more. Make a list of what you're low on and head to your local health food store (if you have one!).
4. Cook once, eat twice (or three or four times).
Making a big batch of something - soup, shepards pie, curry, meatloaf, lentil salad - provides leftovers. Left-overs not only save you from spending money on lunch or dinner the next day, but it's a guaranteed way to have a built in healthy meal. Because it's not feasible for most of us to always be in the kitchen, cooking double fish, chicken, pork at dinner and having enough for leftovers is a win win win. Another tip - making salad for dinner? Get out your glass containers and make a couple extra for the next days lunch. It's hardly extra work to cut up a few more veggies, and come lunch time you'll be so glad you were prepared!
5. When buying organic produce use EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
The Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen is a list of the top 12 most pesticide laden crops - the fruit and vegetables to be sure to buy organic. The clean 15 are the "cleanest" and aren't as important to source organically. If you have the means to buy all of your produce organic, it's certainly the best choice for your health and our environment. But if you're on a budget, or just making this transition, the dirty dozen/clean fifteen is a great place to start!
As always, small and consistent changes is the best way for most of us to get these changes to stick. Don't feel like you have to overhaul your life at once, there is a lot to be said to making small changes so you don't get overwhelmed. As long as you are progressing, that's all that matters because remember, it's about progress, not perfection.
Part II, coming soon!