This month’s experience for Someone Else’s Shoes is two-fold. The two most common conversations that come up when discussing a diet based on real/whole/traditional foods are the money involved and the time involved.
I believe that we can eat a real food diet based on whole, high quality ingredients for an average amount of money. Will this be a ‘perfect’ diet based on the best of everything? Perhaps but it is likely that some compromises will have to be made depending on your budget.
I suspect at this point some people are saying that high quality food is the most important thing and should not have cost limits but on it. I agree–to a point. High quality food can certainly make us healthier and drastically cut our medical expenses, allow us to feel better so we are more productive and give us a higher quality of life. We should put high quality food above other things that don’t bring us these results.
However, what about the average person making an average income who already has cut their expenses and is still working with a tight food budget?
I believe that regardless of your budget, and even your location, you can make changes to your diet that will improve your health. Yes, high quality ingredients do cost more but by choosing wisely and understanding that you will need to make compromises you can still transition to real foods.
Keep in mind, we are on a real food journey. We began this journey over 3 years ago and have been slowly transitioning to a real/whole/traditional foods diet. What does this mean for us? We try to eat ‘real’ food. Food as close to the way God made it as possible. We aim for it to be in it’s ‘whole’ state. Instead of a ‘chicken nugget’ we want to eat the actual chicken. We look to traditional foods, traditional societies and traditional preparations to help determine what we eat. We are striving to follow the Dietary Guidelines put out by the Weston A. Price Foundation. At this point, we aim for a diet that is 85% real/whole/traditional (referred to as real from this point on). The remaining 15% of our diet is not quite there yet.
Our food budget during this time is $575. This is effective from April 23 to May 22 in order to coincide with our actual budget. We are a family of 5. Dad, mom, 16 year old girl (who will turn 17 during this month), 15 year old girl and 3 year old boy. Not included in this budget is the (likely) dinner out that will happen for the upcoming birthday. Included will be all food items purchased to be consumed at home either during this month or in the future.
Each Monday during this time frame I’ll recap the previous weeks food spending. Unlike the experience done in March where we started with an ‘empty’ kitchen this show exactly how we shop and how we eat from our freezers and pantry in addition to fresh foods. We’ll also look at how we stock our pantry as we go along.
How much time do you spend in the kitchen each day? Chopping, stirring, cooking, baking, cleaning up… it all adds up. Does eating a real foods diet add to that time? Just how much time does it take to prepare– from ‘scratch’– most of the foods consumed by a family of 5?
Unlike the money part of the challenge, which is our actual budget, the time part will be a departure from how things usually operate around here. If you were to search my archives you would find many, many meal plans. Our standard operating procedure is every Saturday night I take a piece of scratch of paper and ask for meal suggestions for the week. That’s always a funny time. I can usually count on hearing the following each week: Enchiladas, ribs, tacos… If it was up to my family we would eat those three things each week!
For the next 4 weeks and 1 day we’ll be throwing our menu planning out the window and ‘winging it’. While I have winged it for a week here and there the thought of winging it for that long frightens me. Not really, but it will be interesting. We’re doing this because it has been suggested to me that not everyone shares my affinity for lists and menu planning. We’re also doing this because it is totally possible that my method of a weekly menu plan is not the best way of doing things. Maybe a more relaxed way is in order.
My friend Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS shares her meal planning method in this post. I mentioned in the post the other day introducing this new experience Amy Dacyczyn and her book The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She uses a meal planning strategy that she refers to as The Pantry Principle. Her strategy is to keep a well stocked pantry (freezer, fridge, etc.) and to make meals from this deciding the day before what will be consumed the next day. While I’m totally with her on the well stocked pantry (I do ‘shop’ our food storing areas first when making a meal plan and then fill in as needed) I’ve not put her 24 hour thing into practice regularly. Andrea from Frugally Sustainable has a great post on how she follows The Pantry Principle for her meal planning. At this point, I suspect that we’ll use a combination of Wardeh’s style and Andrea’s style but we’ll see how that plays out.
For these 4 weeks and 1 day not only will the menu planning be gone but we’ll also be tracking how much time we spend in the kitchen. I’ll keep a notepad handy for writing down start times and finish times for kitchen duties. What will be recorded? Everything that is needed to feed our family and clean up after said feedings.
Keep in mind, I don’t do all of the kitchen stuff myself. My children and husband also participate. Sometimes people are doing things together (in our small kitchen it is rare that more than two people are in there at the same time) or sometimes just one of us (my girls swap off evening dishes and they are on their own). I’ll keep track of how that breaks down. And we’ll look at how we could be more efficient. I’ll be back each Wednesday during this experience to share the details of the ‘time’ part from the previous week.
Your money saving and time saving tips will be most welcomed during this Money v. Time experience–in fact, your comments are always welcome. Be sure to come back tomorrow for this month’s giveaway/sweepstakes.
What do you do to help stretch your food dollars? What do you do to help save a few minutes in the kitchen?
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