For about a year now, one of my favorite blogs has been "100 Days of Real Food." Her mission is intense - no refined or processed foods of any kind (including flour and sugar and grains), but her approach is extremely laidback and accessible to the slow beginner.
She provides recipes, articles and facts for motivation, and such great tips for trying to eat healthier with kids in the house. I love her views on food, but I've never had the guts to try this with my own family, usually falling back on budget and time.
But then! For Christmas, I asked for a new cookbook, Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. This cookbook makes me giddy! It makes me dream of living on a farm and making my own butter and yogurt, canning fruits and veggies, and filling my home with smells of fresh bread, herbs, and homemade goodies.
About a week ago, my sister-in-law, Julie, blogged about trying an eating plan called Whole30. It's very similar to the Paleo diet, with lots of meats and veggies, and not much else. They really liked the positive effects it had on their bodies, and when Steve read the blog post, he started talking about how he would like to try something like that.
Now, I can tell from experience in our 8-year marriage that one of the things Steve and I jointly suck at is follow-through. (It's a bummer.) We get really excited about some new thing and then never stick it out. P.S. This would be why P90X and their hour-a-day workouts did not work for us. So when Steve started talking seriously about his interest in the Whole30 plan, I suggested we try to switch to "real food" instead. It's more of a lifestyle change instead of a diet, and with as many restrictions as there are, I think it's more realistic for us than trying to eat only meat and veggies. I just had a feeling we wouldn't stick with something that was so extremely different than our normal eating behaviors.
I'm a firm believer that for major changes to work, both spouses have to be on-board; otherwise, when one starts to cave, the whole idea gets scrapped. Okay, so first, our motivations: overall healthier eating was a big one. We also watched a movie called Food, Inc. that was very inspiring and informative as far as what goes in our food and who controls it. I don't know if it's been pregnancy or that movie, but I've been a little bit of a vegetarian ever since. :) It definitely inspired us to try and buy organic meat as much as possible!
And then there was the sticker shock! I am an Aldi girl through and through. I've been proud of the fact that I can feed my family of four (or five, if Mel's home for dinner) for the same amount that Steve and I spent on groceries when we were first married. It's taken a strict budget and really good planning. My mom and sister tend to be foodies - gourmet meats, brand-names, that sort of thing - but I've always bought the cheapest foods I could find. (Not saying this is a good thing!)
After reading the "100 Days" blog and seeing Food, Inc., we decided it was worth it to try and fit organic, grass-fed meat into our grocery budget. I know that seems extreme, but we feel we can make this change without becoming overwhelmed.
Our take away: In a perfect world, we'd walk out the door today, only shop at Trader Joe's and local farmer's markets from this point on, and feed our family fresh, local, and organic food from now on. The reality, though, is that our grocery budget would literally double. I know this because last weekend was our "beta test" - we went to 4 stores in 2 days (including Trader Joe's and our local farmer's market) and spent almost $250.
We decided that we weren't able to do everything organic or local at this point in our lives. I know that produce has pesticides on it, but we're still going to buy our fruit and veggies from Aldi. We are choosing to buy organic meat from this point forward. I'm hoping to be able to buy and freeze a stash when we have extra money here and there. Especially since Steve is traveling so much during the month of August, our dinners will be much more low-key with just me and the girls, and I'll have some extra grocery money to buy extra meat and freeze it.
The other change we're making is buying local milk. And again, the sticker shock almost killed us. I can buy two gallons of milk at Aldi for $5.00. At the farmer's market this weekend, they were selling one gallon for $7.00! Wow! BUT...I really feel that this will be a great benefit for our family! So much has been written and studied about the hormones that go into milk. If I have a stock of meat built up, I think I can set aside $15.00 for milk. We'll see...
I'm sure I wrote way more than anyone actually wanted to read, but it helps me to process as I write. This is a big change in our way of thinking and our approach to food. There are so many resources out there, but for now, I'm sticking to my blog and my cookbook to help me in the beginning stages. I'm learning that "only real food" doesn't have to mean organic, it just means completely unprocessed. And I think I can do that. I haven't been perfect - Mel and I ran to Dairy Queen for cheeseburgers and ice cream sandwiches at 9:00 last night - but I know these are changes that are good for us and especially the girls!