|A friend's poorly stocked fridge.|
My father and his mother used to say all the time, "La barata cuesta mucho," which means, "cheap things cost more." Think about the times when you economized on something only to have it break or fail or need to be replaced with something that cost more. Sometimes economizing isn't economical. That is not to say that I don't try to keep a lid on expenses but rather that there are somethings that I don't try to skimp on too much. So if you are looking for the lowest possible grocery budget and tips on coupon-ing, you are reading the wrong blog.
I was reading some blog posts from a new blog (new to me, it is a well established blog with a solid following) which had a focus on large families. The mom is clever, dynamic, with an admirably cheerful attitude and abiding faith and one of the things that she prided herself on was her food budget which was low beyond low. She feeds her family of 13 on something in the range of $800 a month but this economy comes at a price. She buys the 25lbs bags of white all-purpose flour at Costco which is low in protein, fiber, and minerals and so must be "fortified". They eat cheap white pasta and potatoes which can be found on sale for next to nothing and her sauces are made from (what I call) cream of barf soup. Her photos of her well organized pantry included plastic canned food trolley things that allows one to put a can in the top and it will roll down to the bottom so you can operate on a "first in first out" system. Her recipes included a cheese pizza made with a white flour crust and canned tomato soup as a sauce. She revealed that the cost of this meal was something like 35 cents per person. Wow. That is a lot less than I spend. When I make cheese pizza, I figure mine costs something in the range of a buck a person. My recipe is frugal but mine is a whole grain sourdough crust; a white sauce made with garlic, cream, and a small bit of white flour; and lots of shredded mozzarella and a bit of grated Parmesan cheeses and I sprinkle it with organic oregano. I can feed my family six large pizzas for about $11-$13 depending on the amount of cheese I use. That is three times what she spent.
Maybe her kids are not obese or not asthmatic or free of food allergies. She looked remarkably thin and trim, thinner than me. But that does not mean that there are not problems with eating this way. When we look at the intellectual legacy of Price and Pottenger, these things sometimes take a while to show up. Dr. Catherine Shanahan in her book Food Rules discussed pigs which were deprived of a specific nutrient during gestation and yielded piglets which lacked eyeballs and which in turn were able to have piglets with eyeballs just by returning the nutrient to their diets during gestation. One generation can be all it takes to have unhealthy children and one generation to have healthy children again. She is a loving mother and really on her game when it comes to homeschooling and raising spiritual and intelligent children and I am reticent to sound critical but I think she has not yet seen the cost of raising kids on what Sally Fallon accurately calls "ersatz food stuffs". It makes me think of the Chris Masterjohn presentation at the WAPF conference last fall, which was shown at my local meeting last month. He showed graphs which demonstrated how sometimes it takes 6-8 years to see the dramatic increase in cancer risk associated with refined vegetable oil use. It can take a while before the costs begin to show up in the body.
Five years ago when my son, Greg, was hospitalized with asthma we were required to meet with a nutritionist. We really thought that perhaps we had been mislead in the way we had been eating and tried to follow her well meaning advice. She was thin and pretty, but wore a little too much make-up and carried a diet soda with her everywhere. At the time I did not question anything she said or did. Her thick make-up and need for caffeine could have hinted at some nutritional deficiencies, or not. Maybe she was really hearty. But her diet assistance sent my family's health in horrific downward spiral. We are still digging ourselves out years later. Food allergies, more asthma attacks and another kid diagnosed with asthma and we decided something was wrong. One of my kids who was classified as underweight packed on the pounds until he was very overweight. We have now held his weight (and waist size) steady for two years as he grows taller and into the weight that he put on. He clearly cannot handle whole grains in the amounts we were trying to shove in their mouths. Whole fat raw milk has helped him keep his weight steady while the low-fat milk fattened him up. The asthmatic kiddos are all off conventional medicine. Hubby took off the weight he put on. We are all better. We are all happier. We saw immediately the benefit in the foods we were eating. While I will never know what contributed to Greg's problems in the first place, I can tell you what helped him overcome it and it was not fat-free milk and whole grains nor was it canned milk and white flour. It all boils down to how much you are willing to pay for your food. Now or later. Dollars or breaths.
But who to believe?
The people who write real food blogs and the people who write politically correct diet blogs are often all similar people. They are devoted to their food philosophies and are often beautiful and very thin. It gives them credibility. Two of the biggest players in the WAPF food blogs have both written about how they were always thin and trim, even when they ate poorly. They have that body type which tolerates poor diets well. They want us to trust them because they feel better than ever before, because nagging ailments have gone away or because they have watched family and friends get better. We actually trust them because they are thin and pretty. That is part of the problem. I trusted the nutritionist at the hospital because she was thin and pretty, because she was attractive she must have been right. Even though she wasn't.
I am not thin and pretty. I come from a long line of women with big families and wide, child bearing hips that got them there. My great grandmother gave birth to twenty children, all at home, with no problems. Women in my family put on weight easily but produce breast milk that can take a baby who was 9 pounds at birth into an 18 pound baby at three months (yes, I did that, with no solids or formula). You won't believe me and what I say because I am thin and pretty. You will consider what I say because I have never felt better, because my nagging health problems have gone away and because I have seen dramatic improvement in my family and friends. Then you will eat better and see improvement in yourself. That's what you should believe. Ultimately, that is why you read my blog and others like it. Not because you want to eat the cheapest way, but because you want to feel the best.