My email below is mainly me up on my soap box spewing my organic propaganda. 🙂 A few friends had asked me “How do you buy organic for your family on a budget?” and it turned into the following!
Subject: My Organic Novel
Sorry you had to wait a whole day for my “tips”, but I have SO MUCH to say about this subject! You better cozy in. This will be a long one.;)
Fact #1 – Good food is going to be more expensive because it cannot be produced in mass factory quantities and does not have the shelf life of a Twinkie after the apocalypse.
So my tips are not how to buy cheaper food, but how to wisely spend your money so you don’t break the bank. I was feeding four full grown adults and a growing little boy for consistently $180 a week (this bill was not completely food. It included our household items like cleaning supplies, diapers, etc.). I purchased food for all breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.
From here on out I am now referring to processed food as “garbage” because that is what is it and where it should be: in the garbage. Ami, I used this technique to help convert my husband. Its simple word association. 😉
I want to tell you why I went all hippie, tree-huggin’ organic. His name is Drew. When he was 3 months old, I went to the great wall-o-jars to buy his first baby food. And I was completely disgusted! I know that kids have survived for years on that garbage but not my baby. I was not about to feed him some mystery meat slathered in preservative sauce from a vacuum packed jar. GROSS! So after reading jar, after jar, after jar… I finally decided on Earth’s Best Organic Fruits and Veggies only. I also decided that day to make my own baby food. Yep, I’m one of “those” moms. And I’m so happy I did! Drew eats everything! I would cook us a meal and before I added any spices, I would spoon out some for him, puree it while our food finished cooking, feed it to him and freeze the left over to take to daycare. He was eating Chicken and Spinach Fettuccini Alfredo, Beef Goulash, Roast Turkey with Cranberries, Jambalaya, etc. We started his palate very early. He ate what we ate from day one.
Ok, so here goes: First, I want you to think about your fridge. Picture it. Look in the crisper drawers. Oh wait, what’s that on the shelf behind the mustard? Can you see the shelves in your fridge? Is there space between items in your fridge for proper refrigeration air flow? Or is it jam packed with who-knows-what? Does each shelf have a purpose? How often do you clean your fridge? How often when you clean your fridge do you find expired items? How often do you throw food out? How many heads of lettuce have ended up in the bottom of your trash bag? THAT’s MONEY! ALL OF THAT IS WASTED MONEY!
Before Organic, we were the worst refrigerator offenders. On grocery day I actually used to take our trash can over by the fridge to clean it out to make room for all the new groceries. That’s a ton of waste! How did we solve this problem? Planning and list making. We plan every meal. We do not waste any food. We shop on Sunday and by the next Saturday our fridge is EMPTY. (well, except for staples like ketchup, jelly…) That save us so much money. We never go the store without a list (we use an awesome app called “Our Groceries”, it connects all our phones). Now, I’m not saying we have a calendar that says: Monday=Hamburgers, Tuesday=Spaghetti, etc. because what if you are not in the mood for spaghetti on Tuesday? Plus my husband hates being told what to do. If you tell him what to do, I guarantee he will do the opposite to spite you. So I empowered him!
I have a dry erase board. On Saturday, I hand him 3 Everyday Food Cookbooks (I also grab 3 books – FYI: $10 for a year subscip.) and we each get to pick 2-3 meals. That gives us 5-6 dinners and then we can order in or go out once a week. (Another way we save money, we rarely eat out! Plus that garbage is bad for you anyway too.) Each meal must be paired with something green. I do not care what it is but there must be something green and colorful on your plate everyday. Your plate must be colorful! Remember this: BEIGE FOOD = BAD. If everything on your plate is Brown/beige/yellow (think chicken fingers and fries) it is garbage. Ok, back to the planning… So Chris gets to pick meals and we plan them in a way such that if one recipe calls for 1/2 an onion, another recipe will use the other 1/2 of the onion. Get it? Why the Everyday food Cookbooks are good is because they have a section called Grocery Bag. Which is 5 recipes that share ingredients just like this and they put your entire shopping list on one page for you. Super easy. Its where I stole my idea from.
Then I take the meals we picked for that week and write them up on a dry erase board. The board lists all of the meals that we currently have ingredients in the house to make. So we do not forgets what’s in the fridge! We take it one step further and on odd nights I go to the board and pick a meal and on even nights Chris gets to go to the board and pick a meal – but we’re nerds. No food is wasted. We save money by eating at home. And we are always trying new and great foods! (I attached a pic of the menu board from this summer!)
Now for the shopping… We LOVE Meijer Organics. The brand is awesome. And cheaper than name brand organics. I have a theory too. I think Meijer is planning to convert all their store brand stuff to Organic. To become certified Organic you must be producing your product organically for 3 years before the USDA will stamp it. I think (this is just a theory) that all the Meijer Naturals products are in their 3 year wait period for Organic certification. They have tons of foods to choose from! So if they do not offer something in Meijer Organic, I will purchase it in Meijer Naturals. Meijer Organics (MO) offers yummy snacks for kids too. Cinnamon Graham Sticks, Honey Graham Bears, Cheddar Ducks. They even have their own version of Ritz crackers and Wheat thins that my MIL thinks are so good I have to ship them to her in Arizona! You can buy anything in MO. MO Spahgetti-Os, pasta and sauces, milk, eggs, bread, peanut butter, jelly, ketchup, mustard, oatmeal, spices. Everything. Other good name brands are Stoneyfield, Earth’s Best, Annie’s and Muer Glen. But they are name brands, so they are more expensive. For beef we buy Naturewell, you can get it at the meat counter. Naturewell has no chemicals, no “natural additives”, no added water, no hormones and no antibiotics.
Ami, I saw you comment about yogurt. Drew loves yogurt! He eats it everyday, sometimes twice a day. But we buy him Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt! And Meijer ALWAYS gives me print-out coupons each time I buy Stoneyfield. You will find it on the top shelf in the yogurt section. Its called Yo Baby, Yo Toddler and they also have Yogurt Tubes. Don’t give in and buy them the garbage yogurt anymore. YUK! Buy them Stoneyfield. They will love it, who cares if it says “baby” on it! Its SOOOOO good. But I think that has more to do with it being made with whole milk. Lol. Or if the kids can finish a large yogurt cup, buy them (you guessed it) Meijer Organics yogurt!
Canned veggies are garbage! Gross! Fresh produce or believe it or not, frozen. And I’m not talking Green Giant’s frozen broccoli in processed cheese food chemical sauce. I mean MO frozen veggies or even Bird’s Eye Steamfresh veggies. Quick and easy. Pop in microwave for 5 minutes and you have freshly steamed green beans. And even though Steamfresh is not organic, I will list all the ingredients here: Green Beans. That’s it! Not even added water. FYI: 1 serving of Del Monte Green Beans from the can contains 32% of your daily value of sodium!!!! Steamfresh = 0% sodium!
I am a big believer that fruit juices are also garbage. You will not find apple juice boxes our house. Milk or water for Drew. You will also not find soda in our house either. I would rather eat my calories than drink them. Think of that brown, opaque sugar water coating your insides absorbing into your cells. How is that fuel? We also cut out all the caffeine. We found that the more caffeine you consume the ore you eat throughout the day and then you get that 2pm dragging feeling. Now, since we have been off all caffeine for about a year now, we eat less and I never get tired half way through the day.
We also do not keep ice cream, cookies, and candies in our house either. Drew honestly believes fruits are desserts. We have to save it for the end of his meal or else he will fill up only on fruit. He has his own shelf in the fridge that is just for his weekly fruit. His fruit obsession is so bad that while potty training we would try to bribe him with candy and say “Drew, do you want to go on the potty and get a special treat?” He would say “No gank you” and run away. He could care less.
Now because we buy a lot of milk and A LOT of fruit, sometimes it makes sense to buy in bulk. And we are fortunate enough to live near a Costco that carries a lot of these Organic items. But you have to be smart about your bulk purchases. It does you no good to buy in bulk if you do not plan accordingly and the food spoils. You’d be better off just buying them at Meijer. Costco even sells Organic Ground beef and Organic Chicken Breasts at great prices, but in very large quantities!
My one complaint about Meijer- the fresh organic fruits and veggies selection is slim. Well at least at the Chesterfield Meijer. Danielle says that the Grand Blanc Meijer has a really good selection of Organic fruits and veggies. So you may be in luck. It’s all depends on local supply and demand. So, we actually subscribe to a delivery service! www.doortodoororganics.com(DTDO) It is $23 per week and a very nice man named Pete brings my fruits and veggies to my door! (I still buy my berries at Meijer, at least they have those in the store) My $180 bill I told you about earlier included this $23 for grocery delivery. I select what items I need for that week’s menu on Saturday, upload on the website, and on Wednesday Pete leaves it all in a cooler on my front porch. Drew is SO EXCITED to see what is in there each week, It is a game we play. He names all the fruits and veggies and counts them for me. We keep him very involved. If you decide to try out DTDO, let me know. I can get you 50% off your first order.
“But how do I get my kids to eat different? They already have their favorite foods.” You ask. Empower them! Get them involved! We have steps in our kitchen up to the counter
and Drew helps “cook” dinner each night. He gets to stir, crack eggs, dump measuring cups, etc. Chris plays along “Mmmm, who made this? Its so good.” Drew yells “I did daddy!” Remember, you are the parent. Do not cave. They will not starve themselves. They may have a night where they do not like the food. Then they will be just the more hungry for breakfast in the morning. Their palate will adjust, and it will not be overnight. Stick with it.
It makes me SO upset to see obese little kids. It is not the kids fault. The kid cannot drive. The kid does not have money. The kid is not the one making food choices and buying the food! It’s the parents! The kids will eat what you give them because they have too!!! I’m not being mean. Its not like you are going to feed them something that is inedible, come on, you have to eat it too! So you know it will be good. It just will not be GARBAGE! Let them learn to crave berries and avocados instead of mechanically separated chicken by-products dipped in partially hydrogenated soybean oils. GROSS! I can count on one hand the amount of times we have taken Drew to McDonalds. Fast Food just is not part of our lifestyle.
Can I give you another one of my wild, unsubstantiated theories? Milk and Meats. You should only feed your family Organic Milk and Hormone free Meats. Tell me how many medicines you were allowed take while you were pregnant and/or breast feeding? ZERO. Why is that? Because the medicines would pass through your system into your milk and then be ingested by the baby. So tell me why is it ok to pump cows with TONS of hormones and antibiotics so their udders enlarge and produce 5x times the normal amount of milk? And then we are supposed to feed our kids milk every day for “strong bones” and to make them “healthy”? But what about the 9 year old girls who reach puberty now and the kids who are now resistant to antibiotics. Do you think this is unrelated? I do not. Something has changed in the generations and I think it has more to do with how we process our foods and what our kids are ingesting. For example, there is me, who was feed milk every day of my childhood and I am a ridictulous E cup. And my sister, with the same genetics, who has never drank milk or ate dairy or beef in her life due to an allergy and she is perfect-sized A/B cup. Think about it… where does all that garbage go????
So, this information is great and all, but here is my weakness…. Jet’s Deep Dish Veggie Pizza. Mmmmmmmm. And absolutely nothing about it is organic, I know! I just love Jet’s pizza. We all have our vices, but let’s just have them in moderation, OK? If the mass majority of your meals are organic, whole grain and wholesome…. then you are on the right track! If 90% of your diet is organic, hell if only 80% is, that’s better than nothing!!!! You are doing the right thing 🙂 This is not a cold turkey thing. Start incorporating things until it becomes a way of life. And I promise you, as soon as Jet’s makes an Organic Pizza, it will be the only pizza I will buy!
Tip #1- Plan your meals. Only buy what you need.
Tip #2- Buy Meijer Organic brand.
Tip #3- Frozen, steamable veggies.
Tip #4- Buy certain item in bulk. (Be very careful with this one!)
Tip #5- If Organic produce is lacking in your area, have it delivered!
Tip #6- If 80% of your diet is organic, that’s better than nothing!!!! You are doing the right thing 🙂
For the non-believers in your house/family, have them take the orange challenge. Buy two oranges. One organic and one garbage orange. Peel, section, and blind taste test. The proof is in the taste! Garbage oranges are picked green, then sprayed with carbon monoxide (yes the gas that will kill you in your sleep if you breathe it, now you are eating it) to force them to turn orange even though they have not ripened. You are left with a flavorless, dry, disgusting piece of garbage. The organic orange is allowed to ripen on the tree and picked at its fullest flavor and juiciness and then raced to your local grocer. That is why it is more expensive. Because it is worth it! It is the Coach purse of oranges. Yum. I even converted my old school dad, who is now the biggest orange snob I know. He only eats organic Cara Cara oranges, la-de-da!
Be prepared. I get so much crap for feeding my family good food, people are always inspecting what I bring for lunch each day. I get the “That’s too expensive”, “Organic is a scam”, “I turned out fine and I never ate organic” all that crap. I used to be nice about and keep my mouth shut but not now. Now I just say “That’s fine if you want to feed your baby that garbage, but my baby is worth it to me give him the best.” I was sick of having to take their insults for doing what I know is right. You WILL encounter these people. Be strong. I’m not kidding. And you know what??? For our company Christmas party, I signed up to make sloppy joes. I came home from Walmart with a 5lb tube of Walmart’s GreatValue Ground Beef and GreatValue Ketchup etc. Chris’ jaw dropped, I think he thought I was sick in the head. “Ah, what are you making?” he asked. “Those jerks make fun of my organics everyday so they are getting mystery meat in chemical sauce and they will like it!” He laughed and left me to my cooking. My sloppy joes were fine, I was not going to make Organic ones for people who obviously would not appreciate them. I even ate one at the party. But I would not serve one to my son. BTW, the snacks after Jamie’s bachelorette party and for her pre-wedding gluten free brunch were all organic. All for you ladies, because I love you and I do not want you to grow udders. 🙂
Wow! I told you I had a TON to say. Ask me any questions. I have opinions on everything! Lol If you find any good buys, let me know!
PS: NEVER buy sour cream. Switch it out and use 0% fat free plain greek yogurt instead. Don’t tell your family. Put it in a bowl and see if they notice. Mine didn’t! And now we have a entire greek yogurt shelf in the fridge! 1 Tbsp Sour Cream = 31 cal, 1 Tbsp Greek Yogurt = 8 cal and double the protein!!! We don’t even buy veggie dip. I mix packet of hidden valley ranch dill dip with 1 tub of greek yogurt and we dip our veggies in that. Drew loves it!