This is a search term that comes up pretty frequently on my blog and I am going to try to address it specifically this week. I have written about urban food deserts and making affordable choices but I clearly have an advantage that some other families do not have. This does not mean I am wealthy; far from it. But I am definitely middle class and have middle class concerns whereas there are some people who have intense food security issues. I am also blessed to be a stay-at-home mom which means my time is more flexible and I do understand that there are women who must work outside the home. I am a big believer in the choice to stay at home and cook and clean and wipe noses and that it is worth more than any paycheck every could give me but I am also acutely aware that this is not always possible. For some, that second income is not about vacations or living in the right school district or having newer cars. For some it is about buying food and paying the electric bill in the same month. For some who choose to stay at home, their budget is always constricted and they need to find ways to eat well but eat cheaply. So I am going to try to address these concerns; for both on tight budgets and those who are essentially working poor.
When I think about the emails I receive and the questions that people ask me, there are a few topics that come up all the time.
1. I am already busy, how can I possibly fit this in?
Over the next week, I will be focusing on this part of the equation providing five minute a day chores that you can do to make homemade nourishing but still budget friendly food. I will also have a list of foods that need no special prep so you can start meals quickly. I will also have some ideas about store bought prepared food that, while still a compromise, are the best choices you can make when time and money are at a premium.
2. I can't afford meat from animals raised on pasture!
This is a real concern. You will need to find the highest quality foods that you can in the price that you can afford. My chief way of affording more meat direct from the farmer is make use of organic whole chickens from Costco. When I buy them a case at a time (which is 8 birds), they are a measly $1.74 a pound and I get the bones. If you are really strapped for cash, I think the case price for conventional chickens is something like 79 cents a pound but no matter how strapped you are, always get the bones! When you make proper bone broth (see how HERE), you are able to get all the remaining vitamins and minerals as well as collagen from them which means you can get by on less meat. You can also get a tremendous amount of protein from eggs and high vitamin eggs, even if not organic, are priced right and offer so much. Worried about the cost of eggs? See my post HERE. Don't know what to do with eggs? See my post HERE.
3. I can't afford or legally obtain raw or find non-homogenized dairy products!
This can be tough and while I would contend that in a perfect world, all of our children would have access to these health giving foods but I know that this is not a reality. There is a hierarchy to dairy that seems counter-intuitive. The issue of whether or not the milk is organic is second to whether or not it is over processed. If you have to choose, choose less processed conventional milk and cream over organic UHP.
Best: raw, whole, clean, tested dairy from animals living on pasture
Better: low-temperature pasteurized dairy from pasture raised animals, non-homogenized
Acceptable: regular pasteurized hormone free skim milk combined with regular pasteurized heavy whipping cream (one cup cream and 7 cups milk for every half gallon, for more info see HERE)
Tolerable: regular pasteurized hormone free whole milk
Avoid: any dairy product that is ultra pasteurized, even if it is organic! UHP brings milk to such high temperatures that the delicate proteins can be damaged and contribute to leaky gut (see HERE).
You can culture your milk to add back important enzymes and probiotics if you only have access to processed milk. I, in fact, do not want to cook with my precious raw milk and use store bought milk for cooking and baking though I do soak with raw milk. Depending on what your budget and the law in your area allows, combining raw and processed dairy can be an economical choice. To find out more about making ridiculously easy room temperature yogurt and cream cheese, see my Viili 101 link about or click HERE. If you want to make thick and creamy Greek style heated yogurt without a maker, see this post HERE. Properly made yogurt it is not too hard and because you can culture it for a full 24 hours you can be sure that it is low in lactose and high in enzymes.
4. I can't afford organic foods!
I usually find that people are not thinking they cannot afford fruits and vegetables as much as they think about organic processed foods. Skip the processed foods and zero in on grains, fruits and vegetables. In many cases you can get bulk frozen vegetables and berries affordably at Costco. If that is not an option, try to stick to the low pesticide crops according the Environmental Working Group's testing. See HERE for what foods are dirty (best to buy in organic) and what is more clean (conventional is okay). Remember, you can improve the bioavailability of the nutrients if you lacto-ferment them and stick to the cheapest ones you can find like cabbage and carrots. Buy as little processed plant foods as you can, meaning buy rolled or steel-cut oats in bulk and avoid cereals and buy grains to grind or flour and not baked goods. Need to learn how to make bread? I have an idiot-proof over-night sourdough that takes almost no work. Try it out! You can find it HERE.
If you are looking for an easy introduction into the Weston A. Price style of eating or for an easy yet thorough sourdough baking book, take a look at the My Books page and find out about my inexpensive eBooks. You can also find them by clicking HERE. If you have a burning question or a need that you want to make sure that I address, you can email me or leave a comment here. If this post has you thinking, I have more money saving ideas on my blog which you can find below.
Other resources on my blog:How to Shop in Bulk
Creating a Food Budget
Pinching Pennies by Buying Pasteurized
Linking up with Fat Tuesday!