THE COST OF GOOD EATING
If you are reading this then you have hung in there with me through the doom-and-gloom videos and ranting and raving about the Food Industry. I have taken all of your excuses as to why you “can’t” change your eating lifestyle- what’s the big deal? (fake food is unhealthy for you is the big deal!), only hippies care about that stuff! (just because I love roaming around barefoot doesn’t mean I’m a hippie, thank you), where would I even begin finding better food? (eatwild.com, localharvest.com), I’m only one person, I can’t change the system! (CONSUMERS are king, not corporations!)- and I have turned them totally on their ear.
Well, all except one and it’s by far the biggest one of all. How much more money is all of this changing over to REAL FOOD going to cost me?
SIDENOTE: I’d like to just point out here how lucky you all are that I’m willing to share the things I’ve learned with you. For me, all of this is a process of digging and finding and comparing and WORK. You all just get to read a blog! I hope, however, that you’re not just taking my word for it. I do hope you’re going out and researching for yourselves. I’m intelligent and I’m doing a lot of research but that doesn’t mean I’m right. The problem with people today is how much we rely on others to provide our information for us instead of seeking it ourselves. This is how we got into this mess in the first place. But I digress…
When I initially decided to make a change to my diet and the diets of my husband and daughter, I had a double blow to consider. My parents had been buying the majority of the groceries in the house. So not only would we have to move to buying our own groceries, which would be a significant impact to the budget, but if we’d be buying organic, we were going to go broke. I had to realistically consider that, as much as I may want to, I may not be able to afford it.
My journey to Whole Foods that I’ve mentioned before crept back into my mind. There was no way in hell we’d be able to afford $25 for a loaf of bread. And if the bread was $25 then my goodness, how much was everything else going to cost? I was worried. I was worried that I would be forced to feed my daughter crap- LITERALLY!- and be the first source of the cancerous, womb-killing yuckiness she’d receive in her life (yes, a bit extreme perhaps, but ensuring her future is everything to me and this worried me).
But I also knew that I really had no desire to shop at Whole Foods. Again, they’re a part of the system that hurts more than it helps and I wanted to unplug from the system. But the PCC Natural Markets was a co-op and that co-op was a part of it that HELPED. Hubby and I decided we’d just go and take a look around.
The first thing we see is the dairy section and WOWSERS! There was so much to choose from, so many labels to read and the prices made my heart hurt. $6 for a gallon of whole organic milk. $9-$12 for a gallon of raw milk or milk from pastured cows (my goal). Conventional milk can be found for $2 a gallon. We were not starting off on a good foot at all.
The meat section was next and I felt the fist squeezing my heart loosen its grip in stunned shock. By the time we made our way through the entire store, we’d picked up a few items to make for dinner that night and my spirits were soaring. Not only was the food affordable but it was actually possible to buy it within my set goal of $75 per week for a family of three (I’m hoping to get it down to $50 a week and I’m certain it will happen).
I know what you’re saying to yourself. “She’s CRAZY! If that pastured milk is 600% more than what I pay for regular, HOW can this lifestyle change be affordable?” Well, the reason why is two-fold and one has nothing to do with organic eating at all.
1) Plan your meals in advance. Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts and snacks. Account for any anomalies such as field trips for the kids and make a little wiggle room to get food for days you may not want to cook, like hotdogs. Once you’ve planned the meals, create a shopping list based on all the ingredients you’ll need for those meals. Then, go shopping. Do not stray from the list. Do not go up and down all the aisles. All you need is what’s on the list so only get what is on the list. If it’s not there, it’s not bought, end of story. Don’t forget about price comparisons at different stores. There are some things I get at Trader Joe’s that are cheaper than they are at PCC and some things cheaper at the Farmer’s Markets, etc. Stick to this rule and you will save money, guaranteed.
2) Eating REAL FOOD costs more money, this is a fact and it’s one my research corroborates. However, eating REAL FOOD does not cost THAT MUCH more. And when I say not THAT MUCH more, I mean that the concern over how much it costs is not valid enough to not make the change (with some exceptions which I will explain later).
This past weekend I went major grocery shopping. I went to the butcher for bacon, I went to the co-op and Trader Joe’s. I stocked up for two weeks worth of meals for the three of us and some nights for the five of us. I spent a total of $200. I was over budget by $50 (admittedly I didn’t stick to the list). I have selected 11 rather everyday items that I will now compare for you. Please note that I took the conventional Grocery Stores SALES prices just to make it REALLY interesting. It goes something like this:
|Bacon||Oscar Mayer$7.69||From the Butcher who got it from the farm$8.50|
|Cheddar Cheese (same brand and size at both stores)||$4.09||$3.59 (weird that it was cheaper at the co-op)|
|Ketchup||Heinz (check out the ingredients, it’s SCARY!)$2.99||$3.29|
|Bread||Store brand Whole Wheat$1.50||Spelt Whole Wheat$3.69|
|Eggs||$2.59||Pastured$2.59 (SAME PRICE!)|
|Family pack Chicken Wings (3 lbs weight)||$6.00 (~$2/lb)||Pastured$9.00 (~$3/lb)|
|Milk (1 gallon, Whole Milk)||$2.89||(Organic, not pastured)$5.69|
|Beef Pot Roast (4 lbs weight)||$9.96 (~$2.49/lb)||$19.96 (~$4.99/lb)|
|Hot Dogs||Oscar Mayer Angus$3.49||Straight from the farm$5.50|
I selected these items for their randomness and their frequency of purchase. These are pretty much staples in most kitchens. I have found that there is a trend toward where your money really goes and that’s bread and dairy. I personally don’t think the meat is that much more expensive, especially considering the quality of meat you’re getting in the natural versus the conventional but you may feel otherwise. We go through a gallon of milk a week so to me, paying $6 for it is not that painful. If I had a household of growing children, I don’t doubt I’d feel differently. But at the same time, I might sacrifice in another area to ensure my growing children were getting the PROPER nutrition… again, that’s just me.
I have also found there’s a bit of what I call an “upfront cost”. This is to replace the things like syrup, ketchup, rice, etc. that you tend to buy in bulk or not very often. I like to buy pasta and things in bulk and so now I’m replacing a lot of these things. This is also sending me over budget in the beginning and wasn’t something I accounted for though I should have. I deliberately have not included produce because I will be doing a post dedicated solely to produce next week.
So there you have it. The way I look at it is, that $20 extra dollars is merely the cost of a co-pay for a doctor’s visit or for over-the-counter or prescription medication. I’d rather give it back to my body in the form of healthier and more nutritious food than to Big Medicine.
I encourage you to visit your local farmer’s markets/co-ops and do your own cost analysis. You don’t have to buy anything to do it, all you need is a pen and paper and some patience. (And you need to not mind having people stare at you as you walk through the store and write things down.) But go visit, take a look, investigate on your own. I promise, the cost is not nearly as bad as most of you think it is. And take it from the cheapest chick in the world, it’s well worth it.