This month in the Eat Well, Spend Less series we’re looking back on what’s changed over the past two years in the purposeful way we feed our family.
This month marks two years of the Eat Well, Spend Less series. Last year for the one-year anniversary I covered a lot of the ongoing changes we were making as a family and a bit of the reasoning for them. As I was considering how our food habits have changed since last year I feel a bit like a broken record playing the same 3-second loop over and over again. First, let me share with you what has stayed the same in the last 12 months, and then we will take a look at a few things that have changed.
The food culture in our family remains largely unchanged. We focus on eating whole foods and cooking from scratch. Simple meals are king for everyday eating, and we choose to focus on high quality ingredients over fancy methods most nights.
Back in October we again split a side of beef with our neighbors. We’ve found that 1/4 cow is a substantial amount for us, and the only time we’ve had to buy beef outside of that is if we want to host a party or cook for a crowd with a specific cut of beef. For our home use, we’ve been happy to adjust our expectations and stretch our cooking knowledge to include all cuts of beef in our meals.
Last year I shared some of the cost savings that comes with buying in bulk, estimating that we save hundreds of dollars a year for 1/4 cow over purchasing the same cuts separately of either grass-fed organic or conventional beef in stores or at the market. It is definitely an investment up front, but it is one that is worth making for us. I looked at Craigslist for freezers, and in my area you can find a good chest freezer or upright for $50-$100, which means it would pay for itself in less than one year.
Our milk continues to come, cream on the top, in glass bottles to our front door. I’ve tried their free-range organic eggs, too, and the quality was definitely worth the price. The CSA share is something we’re currently considering. The only thing holding us back is that we enjoy our weekly farmers’ market trips in the summer and autumn months, and we aren’t certain how to juggle both, but the convenience factor is definitely nice.
Plants continue to take up 85% or more of our diet, and we’re adding more and more produce to that. I don’t believe that I drew the long straw four times to get kids who eat their fruits and vegetables. Instead, it’s something we work at, and there are still items that each of them doesn’t appreciate, and there are nights where they stare at their plate and frown. For the most part, however, all four eat a wide variety of produce for all three meals and their snack. It is something we work towards daily, and we will continue to reinforce until they move out of the house.
One thing that I realized I was failing at this last year was getting back to the basics with my kids. Sometimes in the effort to get food on the table, it’s easy to overlook the simple things: “This is how you boil pasta,” “we cut the pepper like this and remove the seeds—oh, and let’s have a talk about capsaicin,” “the yeast rises while it sits because–.” These simple lessons are valuable, and being able to talk about them with my kids is what will make them better cooks, not because they know how to follow a recipe, but the why and how behind making the recipe.
One of the greatest lessons in cooking is actually thinking about the simple parts of it. Mandi talked about this in one of her recent posts, how learning the basics of how to cook actually helped her to enjoy the process more. I think this is something we all need to consider, both while cooking ourselves, and while encouraging others to cook, your kids included. We’ve been making a lot of pasta, hand-rolling gnocchi, whipping up batches of ricotta, and preserving lemons lately.
Some of our backs to basics are a bit urban homestead: tapping the maple trees to make syrup, planting seeds for the garden, learning how to jam the raspberries from our bush or how to freeze strawberries for later. What I really am looking for here, though, is just to get them to understand and know the basics, to have food be a part of their lives and the way we live, and for those processes to be intentional, even when they are rushed, hurried, crazy with life.
Late in 2011 we learned a few things that may trigger Kjell’s neurological episodes that were landing us in the pediatric ICU on a regular basis. After a visit to Mayo Clinic and a few probing questions, I came home with a list of food additives, seasonings, and dyes that may act as triggers. These things aren’t necessarily the direct cause to what was happening, but we opted to start avoiding them to a greater extent. They were already things we didn’t purchase or consume at home, but I hadn’t been avoiding them when we visited relatives or spent some time at a friend’s house, or even things I really thought about when visiting the neighborhood restaurants. It turns out that I needed to.
By avoiding common triggers for migraines like food dye and, most importantly, monosodium glutamate (the dreaded MSG) at all meals, we’ve been free of hemiplegic migraines and have shed our yearly trips to the ICU with tubes breathing for him. It’s really something that deserves a post of its own, and it’s been a long time coming.
- Aimee from Simple Bites shared 12 ways to get you eating well and spending less that she has learned over the last two years of the series.
- Amy from Kingdom First Mom reminds us that we’re all doing our best when it comes to food and family.
- Carrie from Denver Bargains looks at clipping coupons versus reducing food waste.
- Jessica from LifeasMOM looks back on what has worked to keep her meals budget-friendly and delicious.
- Katie from Kitchen Stewardship kept it real by revealing how food and dietary choices have changed her family’s food budget.
- Mandi from Easy Homemade let’s go of food guilt and shame while she works towards her second trimester.