Monday, March 26, 2012

Food Basics 101

The main purpose of this blog is not to show how to save money. There are many others where you can find that information if you look.  Here I'm all about healthily eating, but I also don't want you to think you have to break the bank to do that, so I think a few tips on eating well without spending the rent money are in order just to get you thinking.

First let me say that eating Paleo does not absolutely require grass-fed beef and organic fruits and vegetables. Because you are trying to put the healthiest food you possibly can in your body, these foods are certainly ideal, but we all know life is rarely ideal.

Doing the best you can with what is available to you will improve your health (and that of the loved ones eating your cooking) 100% over the SAD diet. Cut out grains, legumes and processed sugars and you will have followed the most important of the Paleo concepts. You may or may not cut out dairy. That is a choice. Many do, many don't. I think it really all depends on how your system responds to it and only you know that.

Dairy as well as occassional treats like berries, chocolate, nuts and red wine are allowed by Mark Sisson on his Primal diet, which is why I prefer his more relaxed approach, and why I choose to follow his recommendations and base my blog on them. You will find recipes here for all of that. How much of that you choose to make part of your life is of course up to you.

However you end up structuring your particular way of eating, buying food to eat and cook will be a necessity, so I think spending some time looking at the options before we get into the nitty gritty of actually planning your meals is useful.

If you are new to Paleo start where you are. At your grocery store choose the best you can afford. Grass-fed meat is the best, hormone-free is next best, but if all you can afford is plain old hamburger then make do with that. If that was my position I think I would choose to eat it only occasionally (like maybe once a week for variety instead of once a day) and plan to incorporate more foods like organic eggs that are affordable to all but the most destitute, but that's my preference.

Whatever you do, remember what you give up (the SAD convenience diet) will probably be more important in the long run than what you add. However it is also worth noting the argument that you will find on many Paleo blogs and websites. Spending today on good food will save you big time on medical bills tomorrow, so do keep this in mind when making your food decisions.

Enough said.

When deciding where you will buy your food, don't just look at the normal options. Even within supermarkets there are differences in price and quality. If, for example, you live in a small town and the one store in town is your only choice, then there are ways to save there as well.

I make an effort to save on non-food items so I can afford to spend more for the food ones. Get organized. Set up a storage area for extras (under the bed will do) and buy things like toilet paper, kleenex, shampoo and toothpaste only when it's on special. These things seem to regularly get marked down on a rotating basis. If you refuse to become brand-dependent for all but a few favourites this will help your budget as well.

Make a list of what you use in your household and put aside a little money every week to stock up. (Starting with as little as $10 can make a big difference over time.) Soon you will get to the point where you only buy these items on special and that's when you will really start seeing the difference.

Of course, use a little sense. Keep a list of what you have stockpiled in your planner so you don't forget you have it and buy more. Also, hopefully obviously, under the bed is not where you store liquids or breakables ...

.... but paper towels, toilet paper, and other bulk supplies can live quite happily here.

Alternatively to shopping specials (or even in addition to) you can buy bulk. This can apply to both food and non-food items. Drugstores and large chain department stores such as Zellers sell cleaning and paper goods, and their prices are usually much less than in your local grocery store. And if you watch for sales there and use coupons you can save even more. (I won't go into saving with coupons here. There are lots of blogs that explain how to do this. If you're interested you can start with . You will find all kinds of tips here for saving money as well so it's well worth giving this a read.)

When it comes to the actual food your doing all this saving to be able to afford, you will do best if you go back to basics.

Eat fruit and vegetables in season and try your hand at canning and/or freezing when the price is cheap. (It really isn't difficult or time consuming these days and I will cover how tos in later posts.) Find a local farmer's market. More and more cities and towns are running them on a regular basis, often on a Saturday morning so check your local papers or do a quick google search online. You won't find everything organic, in fact probably most of it won't be. But it will be fresh and local which is often just as good.

Unfortunately the whole process of getting certified organic is something a lot of small farmers can't afford, even though in many cases their food is just as good for you if not better. In this case you will just need to go with trial and error. You're not likely to find anything really horrible and you might find a farmer with whom you can build a lasting relationship. After all selling to you without paying a middle man is in her interest as well.

Look into joining an organic food co-op. These too are now becoming more and more popular. Years ago you had to be prepared to take your turn volunteering for food sorting etc. duties, but these days with more and more people working more and more hours, this practice has died down considerably.

The only thing to watch for is whether the co-op you choose actually sells the food you want to eat. Unfortunately many will give you tons of potatoes and other starches in your weekly basket, but this does vary. 

And lastly, look for a local farmer who will sell you grass-fed beef without the middleman. You might have to share half a cow with a friend (or a few friends) but many now will sell you smaller packages. You will get a lot of ground beef but if you follow my plans that won't be a problem. I plan to give you many ways you can prepare it, and believe me, grass-fed pastured ground beef tastes much, much better than a steak full of hormones any day.

I finally found just such a farmer last year. He not only supplies me with grass-fed meat but has also put me in touch with his neighbours who supply me with chicken, eggs and pork. I have to drive for an hour to a neighbouring city and we meet in a parking lot under cover of darkness. (Just kidding about the darkness part, but we do meet in a parking lot.) Sometimes we get a few inquisitive glances from passers by as we exchange cash for mysterious unlabeled boxes, but I really don't care. I like being thought of as a mystery woman and the good eating is definitely worth it.

So as you can see, you always have options. Some will be easier than others. All will work if you are prepared to put in a bit of time to check them out. Your health is worth it don't you think?

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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