Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The expense of cheap eats...

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.


Linking up to Fat Tuesday and These Chicks Cooked!

22 comments:

  1. As always an AWESOME Read!!! <3 it!! I have so much to learn from you!!

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  2. I could not agree more! I once saw an episode on how the Duggar family stocks its pantry and some of their recipes and I was horrified by how they ate. It just made me sad- the frozen tater tot casserole and all the canned food. Ugh. I know it is hard, but if I'm going to spend money on anything, it is high quality food. I'll cheap out on everything else if I have to.

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    1. Yeah, I thought the same thing! I love the Duggars and I admire what they do and how they do it but the tater tot casserole and banana cake mix cake bothered me. Funny thing, I have ten children (half of what they do) and my grocery budget is less than half of theirs. It can be done without killing your budget.

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  3. What are your thoughts on the "Wheat Belly" book? Do you try to minimize wheat at all? It doesn't seem like you do, but I was curious what your thoughts are on the book since you mentioned it. :)

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    1. I am just finishing up that book and it is poorly written (it sounds like a 13 year old wrote it, it's gushy and silly) but there are some really good points. I think what I took from it is the way we have centered our diet on grains and pushed out other foods we need. I think that we all have different tolerance levels for what we can increase and cut back on but clearly there is a serious imbalance in the way we eat now. Furthermore, grain has been hybridized to be lower in fat to make it stable longer and who knows what other changes came along for the ride. We eat Kamut now and I think it is better for us. We like it more and we can eat it more without some of the same problems with some of the kids.

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    2. My comment disappeared! But basically, the book is gushy and bit silly and full of insults like a 13 year old would use (e.g., bagel butt)yet it does point and a tendency in our modern diet to fill it with modern hybridized wheat and push out other things we need. We switched to Kamut and have not had the same problems we were encountering with modern whole wheat. I try to limit the carbs to one or two meals a day and skip them entirely for a couple of days if we are eating junk (like when traveling. But I have no plans to elminate them, just to improve the quality and make sure that we do not eat them at the expense of other foods.

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  4. Anonymous4/03/2012

    Thank you for this post! Sometimes I feel like a food snob because I don't care how much something costs if it is going to nourish my family. I refuse to join the coupon clipping craziness because it is nothing but junk food. I buy handmedown clothes so I can afford to nourish my family with raw milk, grassfed meat, pastured eggs, CLO, etc. It is worth it. My girls are VERY healthy weights at 3 and 1 years old, very solid and they both have only been sick 2 times :) It is worth it to me. I don't have a stocked pantry - I have a stocked fridge, a freezer in the garage, and a second fridge in the basement. Thank you for making me not feel so odd ;)
    Renee :)
    rkohley@gmail.com

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  5. I described you as "beautiful" to a friend of mine who is getting into WAPF eating, so don't sell yourself short!

    Very timely post, as my husband and I are debating how much to spend on groceries each month! I need to email you with my breakdown by food type so you can steer me right. *grin*

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    1. Wow, thanks! That is so sweet!

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  6. Wow! At first I thought you were talking about me! I don't have a food blog, per se, but I do have a large family blog and write about food on a budget quite frequently. I feed 11-13 people on sometimes $600 a month, but I do NOT use white flour, or cream of barf, or anything ever with high fructose corn syrup. I also would not say that you are fat, lol. You look beautiful in your picture!

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    1. You are so sweet! And you are also not the only one who wondered if I was talking about them!

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    2. You were on my list to peek at today and I just did it! You are amazing! Really, really amazing! I am in awe of what you do and how you do it and the way you take a very imperfect situation and turn it into fertile ground to raise a large, beautiful family! I have NO idea how you do it. The next time someone tells me the same thing, I am going to point to you!

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  7. Great post! I think that "saving in the grocery" costs your health in the long run if you load up on processed junk. I wanted to invite you to share it at Whole Foods Wednesday where you can link up whole foods recipes and tips for whole living. Hope you have a blessed day!

    Katie

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    1. Thanks, Katie! I did share it and it looks like a great carnival!

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  8. Dyno-Mom, I ♥ your blog so much!! All your articles are so spot-on but this one is especially timely. Although I'm a mom of a grown (mostly) child, I went back to school 6 years ago. I'm just about to finish up my degree in anthropology, but in the time I've been in school, I've made it my mission to defend the real food camp, as well as disseminate correct information about it and counter half-truths or myths as well, in academic papers I've written. It is truly shocking how few people realize that canola oil is a toxic, dangerous substance, or just assume that eating whole grains will make them "healthy." People also tend to scoff at raw dairy (or any dairy, since "Paleo" seems popular amongst archaeologists especially. I think paleo is a lot better than your average diet, but I do think the inclusion of raw dairy is an important missing factor. Archaeologists though argue for "Lactase Persistence" in human populations, which stresses that the majority of adults are basically lactose-tolerant. I've always said I thought it had a lot to do with pasteurized dairy, but then I began hearing about people who tried raw milk and couldn't even tolerate that (although I think this is not necessarily common, and I also wonder how many of those people lack true gut health). We're Christians, so I'm not sure how much I buy into the whole natural selection idea, but, anyway, I wondered if you would have any thoughts on this?

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    1. I am also Christian and not big on natural selection, but I do think that we clearly change in population over time. At one time the heavy milk drinking Scandinavian populations were seen as giant in Europe. I think this accounts for something that dairy can do for us. Since lactase is damaged in pasteurization I think the current rates of lactose intolerance are meaningless because these people are not eating the same food as previous societies did. I also don't think that the number of people who can't drink raw milk is very large but those I know do fine on cultured raw milk (like kefir).

      I started out with a major in Anthropology and when we studied primate osteology we looked at human skeletons, too. I was appalled by the pelvic cradles of women with large numbers of children which were riddled with holes. Our skeletons were Chinese but I had wondered about societies with low instances of osteoporosis and high dairy consumption and just what those pelvic cradles would look like.

      But your idea that it all boils down to gut health rings true with me! When I think of the damage that antibiotics do to people, particularly the elderly in the form of pseudomembraneous colitis, it is no wonder we have so much trouble with vitamin and mineral absorption!

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    2. Loved your insightful reply! Yes, I too believe that antibiotics (which is also in our food supply) play a huge role in the gut deficiencies experienced today. I am positive this is one reason for my own health issues, because I can recall having antibiotics a fair amount as a child. I'm striving to heal myself with real food.

      How interesting that you also studied Anthropology! My true passion is holistic nutrition, but I figured anthropology isn't a bad place to begin. I never counted on the evolution-coming-out-your-ears agenda though, although I should have known better. It has certainly been an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

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  9. Anonymous4/10/2012

    Hello from a part-time follower. I had given up reading blogs for Lent, so I'm glad to be doing more pleasure reading again. :) Just wanted to point you to a resource I have found invaluable in feeding children, as well as counseling individuals in my dietetic practice (yes, I am one of the dreaded registered dietitians...don't fear - I'm not afraid of fat...or wheat...or sugar...or anything that can be consumed) www.ellynsatter.com - my favorite book is the latest edition of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. I consider myself a recovering nutrition enthusiast. :) My family is better for it. Blessings. -Nicole

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    1. Wow! I think that is great! I was just reading in the new WAPF journal an article written by a dietitian at a psychiatric facility, I believe, and she was trying to do patient education. She was having such a hard time convincing anyone in hospital management that nutrition made a difference in anyone's lives.

      That is a fascinating resource! I was unfamiliar with her. Thanks for the heads up!

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