Last week I shared with you about our dietary history and the principles of our current diet. Today I’m going to pick up where I left off and share about where we shop for food, how to choose food carefully at box grocery stores, kids and pickiness, Papa’s food plan for work, food and weight, our typical grocery list, and a few recipes! While none of these subjects are complete, I believe I will have touched on the major food issues we can relate to. If I miss anything let me know and we can chat in the comments.
where we shop
We’ve used a number of sources for food shopping, including a food co-op, natural food stores, farm stands, small farms, small groceries, and chain groceries. Each have served different purposes at different times, depending on the season and what diet we’re following. With a few exceptions, the following are our current primary food sources.
our own veggies and herbs
For much of the year now, most of the vegetables we eat come from right here at home. We grow foods we like to eat, including vegetables, berries, and culinary herbs. One of our long term goals is to grow more staple foods, including potatoes, corn, and an older variety of wheat. During the winter we eat a lot of home-canned vegetables, but buy additional vegetables at the grocery store to fill in the gaps.
This has been a gradual learning experience; we didn’t jump into full time farming or even an acre garden. Each year we add a little more space to our garden and fill it with a few more varieties of seeds. Even though I have dabbled in gardening since I was a kid, I fully admit that I am a novice when it comes to managing a garden, and each year I face new challenges that I must overcome in order to produce food. Like last year’s mildew on the squash, or the tomatoes that I planted too late the year before, resulting in them rotting before they were ready to be processed. All I can say is, thank goodness for grocery stores while I figure this gardening thing out!
milk from a small farm
Last year we started buying raw milk from a farm in our area. We now buy a gallon each week, which we usually drink at breakfast. You can learn more about our choice to drink raw milk here.
beef through a small grocery beef from a local farm
For the past two or three years we have been buying steak and hamburger two to three times a month through a small grocery store and a general store. Because the carcasses are processed on location the beef tastes much fresher than if we were to buy them at Walmart.
Because these two sources are known for selling local food, and because the beef is processed locally, we made the stupid mistake of assuming the beef was local. What were we thinking?! To confirm this theory I called both stores and asked them where they sourced their beef. They told me they bought it through two different companies, which I was unfamiliar with, but after a few minutes of research online I made the embarrassing and sickening discovery that the beef we’ve been eating came from a Tyson-owned company, and could have been slaughtered in one of their locations. Needless to say, we haven’t purchased any more beef from them.
There is a farm about a half hour from us selling organic meat they raise and slaughter; chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, and more. This week I’m planning my first trip to their store to purchase meat. It will be a little awkward getting meat there simply because it is out of our way and will require advanced planning, but I know it is absolutely worth it. Plus, the prices are comparable to what we were paying before, so we can easily afford the quality. Even though the chicken we’ve been buying is from a good source, we will likely transition to buying chicken from this farm as well.
(a typical lunch of a veggie or two, a fruit or two, nuts, cheese, and occasionally a treat – a biscuit and a cookie today)
Discovering that we were eating Tyson beef, even if it was processed locally, is humbling to admit after suggesting that we prefer eating local food, and really gross to think about since we know Tyson has had a long, bad history. But, we live and learn. We can’t expect ourselves to know everything – we simply have to hold ourselves responsible for the knowledge given to us as we learn. There will always be room for growth, but today we choose to act on what we have learned recently and start eating better meat.
everything else from Walmart
Yes we buy a lot of food at Walmart. We’ve also used Shaws and Hannaford’s, but there is a Walmart right next door to where Papa works, and it is generally cheaper there than elsewhere anyway. We may not be unemployed, but we still have a budget!
Ideally we would use farmer’s markets and co-ops to purchase food we can’t grow, but they are too expensive for us to use on a regular basis. I understand why, and I wish we could support them more often, but it doesn’t make it any easier to afford them.
So, given our choices, this is how we (and you!) can choose food carefully at a chain grocery store to meet our budgets and still eat well ~
- We choose deli meats that are not cured and from well-raised animals
- Veggies and fruits are usually organic and/or from local farms
- We choose mostly foods with ingredients we can read (eg. peanut butter made from peanuts and salt, fish sticks made from single-type, non-ground up fish parts)
- We choose whole wheat instead of white bread products (though I do bake with non-brominated, unbleached white flour)
- We look for terms like – organic, all-natural, no pesticides, no growth hormones, no artificial flavorings, no preservatives, and no sugar added.
- And we love it when we see the source of our food labeled right on the container, whether it’s made in Florida or Maine, we like knowing where the food was sourced.
Because of our experience having to tighten the belt out of necessity and not just frugality in 2011, I enjoy splurging a little on food. When you add all the more expensive healthy snacks like cheese, nuts, and extra fresh fruits and veggies, we now spend between $130-150 on food every week. This goes down a little when we are eating our own produce, but it is still probably a safe bet for cost on average.
It would be nice to think that we could reduce this cost again eventually, especially as we grow and preserve more food, and possibly raise some of our own meat eventually, but even if we are growing and raising our own food, it still costs money to do that. After selling extra eggs, it still costs us about $10 a month to feed our chickens. That’s not bad for the amount of eggs we use, but it’s still $10 a month. If we wanted to reduce the cost of our groceries, we would have to either figure out a way of producing our own animal feed and raise all of our own seed for starters, or figure out a plan for selling extra produce and meat.
kids and pickiness
When we introduced Buddy to solid food he ate everything we gave him. When Girlie was a baby she ate enthusiastically. When Pal was a baby he ate anything I put on my plate. Yes, my plate. Though Chickie still is pretty good about eating whatever we give her, the older three have become insanely picky. They would rather go without supper than eat a large number of things. To say it is hard to find a meal we all enjoy would be an understatement. Just last week, all three threw up one morning because they refused to eat a creamy broccoli and cheese soup the night before, which Buddy had helped to prepare!
Here are the methods we have tried to get our kids off that difficult and discouraging path:
- Deceptively Delicious (hiding blended veggies and beans in other recipes)
- “Take one bite and then you can stop” (that only works if you want to force feed)
- Bribes and threats of consequences (they would be great at withstanding torture)
- Showing how we enjoy the food (they look at us with disgust)
- Letting them help cook it (no problem there unless we expect them to eat it too)
- A variety of foods to find what they like, including common classic favorites for kids (their favorites are very limited)
In the end, I try to put at least one thing I know they like on the table, even if it’s a side dish or favorite veggie, but if they don’t eat what’s on their plate they have to wait until the next meal. It’s not to be mean, it’s because I don’t feel like eating pizza, hot dogs, pancakes, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, spaghetti, and kraft macaroni and cheese on a seven-day weekly rotation for dinner.
As Buddy has gotten older we have found he is slightly more willing to try foods, even if it’s just a bite, but food is often still a battle, even with him. I’ve gone out of my way to serve food I think they will like, even spending far more time in the kitchen than I like, simply to prepare foods that they say kids love. No luck. I’m faced with making two meals for each dinner, which I can’t afford to do, either with my budget or my patience. It is precisely because of this that I gave up trying to wean them off a wheat-based breakfast – each morning began with tears, whining, and tantrums without it. I guess they’ll have to wait until they’re older to expand their taste buds.
Papa’s work week plan
Papa on the other hand is fairly easy to please. I don’t even make him lunch. When we got married I was prepared to make him breakfast before work and pack a lunch for him each day, as I had helped my mom to do for my dad. He made it very clear though, that he preferred taking care of his own work meals and didn’t want me feeling like I needed to do it for him. I think this was as much out of his love for me as it was out of his own interesting preferences :::smile:::
(smoked salmon, hash browns, and asparagus for dinner)
He doesn’t have a big appetite, so Papa frequently has a small breakfast on morning break, and a protein-rich lunch that is easy to prepare. Turkey and cheese sandwiches, chips with humus, granola bars, nuts, and yes, donuts, are a few examples of food he eats at work. They have a fridge and microwave he can use there to aid in his meal preparation, but he generally chooses things he can toss together real quick and eat while on the run, as he also likes to work through his breaks on personal projects, like Bags On Sticks.
weight and food
When I bump into someone I haven’t seen in a long time it is not unusual for them to ask how I stay so thin. I have a few areas that could use some toning for sure, but I have worked to maintain my weight within a certain range that I feel comfortable in. While caring for kids, working outside, and breastfeeding all help/helped tremendously, the truth is that I believe food has a lot to do with it. Similar to how a diet diary keeps a person focused on how certain foods and proportions effect their weight, I try to pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. I only weigh myself every couple of weeks usually, but I know when I have eaten too much sugar or helped myself to too many servings!
Eating three meals a day of good quality foods in appropriate sized portions, and only snacking on healthy choices like fruits, veggies, nuts, and cheese are what I believe help me to maintain my weight.
As for Papa, he is on his feet all day, walking all over the manufacturing plant as part of his supervisory position, and when you combine that with his 2-3 smaller meals you can see how he maintains his weight. But it wasn’t always that way! A couple of years ago he went on a sugar splurge, and frequently ate candy bars and m’n’ms to keep him energized throughout the day. He gained 20lbs just from that change in diet. When he realized his pants were getting far too tight he cut sugar from his diet completely until he lost the 20lbs, in about four months time. Now he says that if he is going to eat sugar, it is in the morning so that his body has time to metabolize it during the day.
Recently, I wrote a post about role models, which included an example about weight. It produced some interesting discussions in the comments that you might find interesting as a follow-up of sorts to this subject. I know food and weight are touchy issues for a lot of people, and different people have different needs. Papa’s and my choices are not right for everyone, and I don’t intend to judge others’ choices through this post, I am simply sharing our story.
typical grocery list and meal plan for the week
As everyone knows, a family’s grocery list is going to change from week to week. Some weeks have more baking products on the list, others have more snacks, meats, frozen foods, whatever. When I thought about what to share in this section, I struggled with how to include a typical grocery list because it changes depending on need. I’ve including a picture of what a sample grocery list looks like for us, jotted down on some notebook paper. This is not a good way of judging what we buy every week, but rather one week out of many.
(a typical menu and grocery list)
Papa does most of the grocery shopping for us. I come up with a meal plan and text him our grocery list every Thursday morning and he goes shopping after work. He’s good at comparing prices, can move quickly when by himself, and since Walmart is next door to where he works it saves money on gas for him to do it. Though he does the actual shopping himself, choosing foods is still a team effort.
The foods we buy on a regular basis:
- A wide variety of veggies, mostly fresh if we don’t have home canned or home grown
- A few varieties of fruits, mostly fresh
- A variety of nuts and seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
- Cage-free, vegetarian fed chicken (we buy Harvestland chicken)
- Non-cured meats (remember we’re transitioning to buying local meat)
- Lots of cheddar cheese (no cheese product)
- A small amount of cottage cheese, yogurt, and butter
- A small amount of whole raw milk (from the farm)
- A small amount of rice, non-brominated, unbleached white flour, organic sugar, and ground flaxseed
- A small amount of prepared wheat products
- Other miscellaneous foods – can’t forget the coffee!
I honestly tried to pick out only two recipes, but it was just too hard! I had several favorites I wanted to share so I could give you a better look at what we eat, but there just isn’t enough room for that. So here are four classics from our home.
Broccoli Pesto Spaghetti
- 1 pkg whole wheat spaghetti
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 heads broccoli
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup water
- 1 vegetarian bullion cube
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
- black pepper to taste
Cook the pasta. Steam the broccoli (or boil it if you don’t have a steamer). Blend the remaining ingredients and the broccoli until smooth. Add to drained pasta and mix well before serving hot.
Poor Man’s Meal
- 2-3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 2 med potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 sliced onion
- 4 kosher hot dogs, sliced
Saute on med-high heat until potatoes are cooked through and crisp. If you wish, add a small can of tomato sauce, and salt to taste.
Wheat-Free Apple Muffins
- 2 c rice flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 c butter, melted
- 1 c sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and oil a 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl mix melted butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add soda, powder, and salt and mix well. Stir in flour to combine, followed by the apples. Put mix into muffin tin by spoonful and bake about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for about five minutes before serving.
Crunchy Potato Balls
- 2 c very stiff mashed potato
- 2 c fully cooked meat, finally chopped
- 1 c shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/3 c mayonnaise
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2-4 TBSP flour
- 1 c crushed cornflakes or prepared bread crumbs
In a large bowl combine all ingredients except flour and cornflakes. Add enough flour to make a stiff mix. Chill for one hour. Shape into 1 inch balls and roll in cornflakes. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice to crisp on all sides. Serve hot. Makes about 6 dozen balls.
to sum up
We’re not perfect, but though certain foods (like heavily processed foods with additives) we choose not to eat most of the time, we otherwise stick to a “less of bad, more of good” motto. For example, if we’re concerned about a wheat intolerance but it’s not a major issue, we’ll eat wheat 4-6 times a week, but not 2-3 times a day like we used to (with the exception of the kids eating more wheat with breakfast than Papa and I).
(marshmallows over the fire, yum!)
We’ve made enough changes to our diet that I’m confident we’ll be fine if we eat modestly with mostly good choices. Many have a passion about a certain diet, and we don’t really stick to a certain one. (Read this really good post by The Prairie Homestead about the food war.) I don’t like feeling like I have to stick to a specific diet or else, but I like knowing that most of my veggies are pesticide-free and most of our meat is antibiotic-free. And like I said, our family is on a food journey – as we learn how to take better care of our bodies we try to make small changes to accept responsibility for new-found knowledge.
And that, my friends, is what our diet looks like.