Search This Blog

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coupon Counter-Culture and How I Feed my Family of 4 for Under $100 a week

I like to save a buck as much as the next gal, and for YEARS prided myself on the ability to drop $50 easily off my grocery bill with the use of coupon, sales flyers and judicious product selection.  While I was saving money on all those thing, what was the real cost to my family and my health?  Coupons are offered for things such as canned soup, boxed and pre-packaged meal solutions, bottle salad dressing, granola bars, boxed cereal, fruit snacks.  Basically all nutritional G-A-R-B-A-G-E! 

Sure, I can get that bottle of genetically modified soybean oil-based dressing basically for free, but as someone with thyroid disease and a history of anxiety and depression disorders - do I really want to be putting that in my body?  Yes, I pay more for the organic cold pressed olive oil I use for salad, but I know what it is, where it came from, how it was grown, harvested and pressed.

Canned soup, in additional to having ridiculously high levels of sodium and additives, often contains hidden starches as thickeners, soy (see above), and are virtually void of nutrients.  Besides that, homemade soup is so easy to make, and can be so deliciously comforting.

Fruit snacks just crack me up.  Take something nature has gloriously provided us, smack the work "snack" on the end, charge $3 for a box...and parent think they are giving their kids the best of the best.  "Why, it can't be bad, it has the word "fruit" in it..."  You know what is in "fruit" snacks? (I can assure you, very little fruit): Pears from concentrate, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Acetylated Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Citrate, Malic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Vitamin C (hey guess what, this is also found in REAL FRUIT!), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Potassium Citrate, Color (red 40, blue 1).  Here's an idea.  Buy the apple at about $0.20 a piece and call it a day.

So here is what I do buy with my precious grocery dollar each week (the products may vary contingent upon price and special offered by my providers, as well as by season, but the average budget remains the same):
  • An organic pastured chicken, at approximately $15 will provide a roast chicken dinner, leftovers for sandwiches or another casserole-type meal, and the carcass will be put in the crock pot with fresh water for soup broth x 4 people in my family. 12 meals at $1.25 per meal
  • A little over two lbs of grass-fed eye roast for roast beef set me back about $14, and at a four ounce serving per person (grass fed beef tends to lose much less weight when cooking - and has a way better nutritional profile than -  than does conventional grocery store beef) will be about 8 servings at $1.75 per meal
  • One dozen pastured eggs $4 (farmer's market)
  • One pound organic grass-fed butter-$7 (farmer's market)
  • $3.75 each week on organic lettuce and wash it myself, spin it dry in my salad spinner, and bag it with lint-free towels to absorb moisture.  That provides my husband and I salads for the work-week lunch. For a little over 37 cents per meal (farmer's market). 
  • At my local farmer's market, a 2-quart basket of  honeycrisp apples (or peaches, or pears, or whatever is in season) runs about $6.00 for roughly 12 pieces of fruit (farmer's market)
  • For the sake of argument, lets say I spend $15 a week on vegetable/grain produce in each item's growing season.  As an example, last week I bought 4 acorn squash for $3.  Halved, 8 servings at a little over 37 cents each. Corn when in season is $5 a dozen (41 cents per serving). Farm stand near me sells zucchini & yellow squash during its peak at 25 cents per piece, and eggplant for 50 cents. Tomatoes & herbs in season are free because I grow them.
  • Milk, yogurt and cheese $25: I grew up running underfoot on my grandfather's dairy farm, so the idea of unpasteurized milk is not something that concerns me as long as it is sourced carefully from reputable farmers.  However here in NJ I have yet to find a good source, besides the fact that the sale unpasteurized milk is illegal. So we do our best to find organic, NOT ultra high-temperature pasteurized sources of milk.The kids drink whole, my husband drinks 2% (and I couldn't convince him to change if I tried) and I stick to mostly yogurt and cheese for my dairy, since I am not very fond of the milk as a beverage thing.
Keeping in mind that there was a lot of estimating above, the total comes to: $89.75.  I will allow myself that extra $11.25 a week for staples like whole wheat flour, an extra dozen eggs, olive oil, coffee, seasonings.  I also bake my own bread, breakfast foods and snacks/cookies, stock up and freeze/can/preserve when there is a great deal on something.  I also spend significantly less in winter when I am relying on my pantry & freezer to supply us from the summer's bounty.

At the end of the day though, the biggest savings is that of our health,  I no longer struggle with mood disorders.  I eat whole foods without hidden ingredients, including olive oil, butter and full-fat dairy, and I have LOST nearly 20 lbs. My son's delays are improving with good nutrition and the total elimination of food dyes.  My daughter's endurance when playing sports has improved,  My husband no longer craves sugar in the way he once did.  We are all better for eating this way, and if it cost us $500 a week to do it, we would find a way.

(This post is part of REAL FOOD WEDNESDAYS )

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Finding Jack's Voice

(a) I have been meaning to post this for weeks and came here today to find this lovely weeks-old post sittting out there in edit mode.
(b) please forgive my tendency to suck at the blog
How many times have you struggled to put words to the ideas coursing through your head?  You know - the times that you have a head or heart full of something that begs to,no, demands to get out but you just can't get the words to go there?

I have written before about my son's difficulties.  It is still very much a work in progress but we make little strides every single day.  He now says "I love you too, Mommy" instead of "I just love you Mommy", which for the longest time we tolerated because it was at least a small acknowledgement of affection, when we could cull little else out of him. 

At the risk of repeating myself with his story, he has rarely exhibited any kind of extreme emotion - love, fear, anger, sadness.  In a tender moment, he would say the words but rarely show affection.  When being disciplined, he will stare right though you or flat-out ignore, which often serves to just make me more angry and frustrated.  We are in the process of doctor's screenings and therapy and appointment after appointment to pinpoint what he needs and how to help him.  It is exhausting.

On August 24,  we celebrated our wedding anniversary and in typical corny fashion, I arrived to pick up the kids at mom's and she had my wedding video all cued up to watch.  The opening song was playing and Abby who is just starting to understand the concept of "happy tears" comes running over to me to cry on my shoulder.  I held her and struggled to get her to articulate how she was feeling.  (For what it is worth, the music from our wedding has always made her cry.  Ever since she was a baby.) I made a comment about her someday having a beautiful wedding and she burst into sobs again.  My adorable weirdo.  I stroked her hair and looked up to see my usually inattentive, usually "off-doing-other-things" baby boy, also wiping away tears.

My heart took a leap.  Jack doesn't react like that.

I rushed over to him and pulled his head close to me, and asked why he was crying.  While I stroked his hair, he took in a deep breath, pulled away from me so he could see my face, wiped away another trickling tear and said as clearly as could be, "because it is beautiful mommy".

It is a little thing.  That gives me so. much. hope.