Seems like the internet is abuzz with information on eating well, eating healthily and eating whole and/or organic foods lately. My family has been eating whole foods for years. However, I am finding through discussing nutrition and eating better with others that the expense, or the assumed expense, of eating well and the fact that many people don’t know where to start with whole food recipes, keeps them from attempting to change their diets.
Whole foods are not necessarily expensive when you do your shopping and comparing. Organic foods are very expensive in most areas of the U.S. I have had to adopt this philosophy when it comes to food:
I will educate myself about nutrition and nutritious food preparation.
With my budgeted grocery money I will buy the best foods I can afford and prepare that food in the best way I know how.
I will work at finding healthy foods I can afford.
I will not stress and worry if I can’ t afford organic foods.
I will not allow others opinions to create guilt and envy in me.
I will be a good steward of what God has given me.
Not everyone is at the same place in life, so every one can’t afford to buy organic meat, vegetables and other foods for their family. But we can all buy the best we can afford, learn to prepare it healthily and perhaps even grown some of our own foods to help cut down on cost and so that we can have organic foods.
Here’s what I have done to help my family eat more healthily. We have six people at home right now so I understand what it is to struggle to feed everyone healthily and on a very tight budget.
The first thing I did was to educate myself about whole foods and organic foods and what a truly healthy diet consists of. The American people are finding out slowly that they’ve been handed a load of junk when it comes to what is healthy and what is not. If you haven’t been informed in the area of nutrition, here are some resources you should read and view.
As far as I am concerned, the following resources are required reading and viewing if you want to learn about nutrition and the fallacies that the FDA has perpetuated with the American public. I have a general knowledge of nutrition and health that I gained in college and through life experiences. You probably also have some understanding of nutrition. These resources will build on what you know and challenge you to make healthy changes.
- The movies Fast Food Nation and Food Inc. There are other movies like these, too. You can search out the ones you want to view.
- The website for The Weston A. Price Foundation and GNOWFGLINS (God’s Natural Organic Whole Foods Grown Locally and In Season)
- The book by Sally Fallon called Nourishing Traditions.
Second, I looked through many, many cookbooks and recipe collections to find recipes that reflect the way our I want to feed my family. I found a few books and some websites that I use frequently for ideas and recipes. I collected these recipes and put them in a binder.
It helped that I had already started making simple meals. I stopped making casseroles and complicated dishes years ago. Simple recipes with few ingredients is a good way to make sure you are eating healthily.
Then finally, I set out to change our eating habits, without breaking us, by doing these things:
* Got rid of the JUNK. I eliminated chips, purchased cookies and desserts, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners and processed foods, canned soups, packaged crackers, boxed meals. Love your Velveeta? Yeah, I know, me too. But there are healthy alternatives to Velveeta and real cheese tastes better. In fact, there are healthy alternatives to almost all the junky foods we’ve grown to love.
* Cut down and changed the fats we consume. I use grapeseed oil for frying and olive oil for using in dressings and toppings. I have also cut down on the amount of frying I do. We are southerners and we do fry some foods every now and then! For those big frying jobs, I use palm oil and coconut oil in small amounts. I totally cut out butter substitutes and shortenings. That was a problem for biscuit making. Instead of shortening I use lard. I guess that’s shocking, but lard is a natural product and used in small amounts, infrequently, it is better for us than shortening. I use butter in some recipes for flavor.
* Made the switch to Whole Grain. Use whole wheat in place of refined wheat flours. Buy or make your whole wheat crackers, bread and treats. I started using quinoa more often. I had started using it about 25 years ago, but not very often. Now we have it about twice a month.
* Use dried beans instead of canned ones. Dried beans are still very inexpensive, cheap even! Cook them, separate them into meal sized containers and freeze them. We eat beans about three times a week.
* Made our own! You can make your own taco seasoning, cajun seasoning and other seasoning mixes. Most of those mixes contain other ingredients that you don’t want like MSG. Consider growing and using herbs instead of seasoning mixes and making your own version of Mrs. Dash! Its inexpensive and easy to do. I started making our yogurt about 28 years ago, you can make it too. Try my yogurt tutorial.
* Started buying organically grown meat… but don’t stress if you can’t afford it! The only real organically raised meat I can find is elk. I buy it in small quantities. The rest of the meat I buy, is not locally produced. Most stores now offer chicken that is produced without hormones and antibiotics. My philosophy is to look for the best I can afford. Buying better quality may mean that you must cut down on the amount of meat your family consumes and that you must be more frugal with your leftovers.
* A price book is a great idea. I just recently started using one. I go to three different stores on grocery day. They are all within 2 miles of each other. I write down prices for items that I use frequently and then compare them so that I can get the best price on an ongoing basis.
* Buying Bulk. I buy all my flours, meals, baking supplies and some meat there. Look around your own area, there may be more than you think. Try Googling for “Bulk Store Locater” sometime and see what you can find.
*Started growing our produce. We grow nearly all our own produce and yearly we are increasing the amount we grow. You may not have space or knowledge to grow your own. Lack of knowledge can be cured! And a good place to start is your local Home Economics and Ag-Extension Office . Check the Yellow Pages. They will have growing information pertinent to your area.
Lack of space is a bit harder to contend with. But we have container gardened with great success over the years. The Ag-Extension Office is the place to start for this information, too. But consider some internet sites:
- Container Gardening Tips
- Gardening Guides For Container Gardens
- Clemson University Fact Sheets for Gardening, Insect Control and Food Safety
Of course when you grow it, you need to know how to preserve it. So a its a good idea to get a Ball Canning and Freezing Guide. There are sites all over the internet that will teach you how to can and freeze too, but the best source is your local Ag-Extension office. They have all kinds of literature and even a Home Economist to walk you through it.
The next step I recommend is to find a good cookbook that has economical and really good tasting recipes. I can start you off with three books that I own and can vouch for and some websites where I go to find simple whole foods recipes.
- More With Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre
- Saving The Seasons by Mary Clemens Meyer
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon – this is the book I used to learn about kefir and it brought back to me the things I learned in the past about naturally fermented foods.
- Wardee’s GNOWFGLINS site
- The Nourishing Gourmet with Kimi Harris
- Annette’s Sustainable Eats site
Since I made these changes, my family has felt better, been healthier with fewer colds and ailments, some have lost weight and I have definitely saved money. I hope you will start the process of learning how to eat more healthily.