Is it Possible to Eat Real Food on a Budget?
So you’re convinced. You know that regular grocery store meat is produced under devastating conditions. You know that it’s toxic. And in contrast, you know that high quality animal protein is one of the best ways to nourish your family with superior nutrition.
Off you go to the local farm-store to pick up your very first package of “100% Grass-Fed” beef!
YOU are a rock star!
At least you were… until you looked at the price tag and nearly fell over from the shock of it.
I’m not going to lie. High quality protein comes with a really high price tag. So do organic veggies and raw milk for that matter. Is it even possible to eat real food on a budget?
The Coupon Culture
Even worse, you’re pretty much never going to see a coupon for real food… like, ever. You know why? Because big corporations don’t make much money when you buy real food. It turns out that there just isn’t much profit in tomatoes. Their goal is to entice you to buy low quality (and addictive), packaged food. They can charge $6/lb for things like Doritos that cost them only pennies to produce. Now that’s profit! And greed. And a complete disregard for the well-being of mankind.
Most of us have lived all of our lives in a culture that tells us that the best home-managers have the super-power to whittle their grocery bills down as far as they can possibly go. We’ve trained ourselves to collect coupons, buy generic brands, and hunt for bargains. This is especially true for things we consider “necessary” (but not fun). For instance, we’re shocked and offended to see pastured eggs (breakfast for a week, by the way) advertised for $4/dozen, but don’t think twice about picking up a latte for the same price. We consider it a priority to update our phones and subscribe to Netflix, but spending even a penny more than absolutely necessary for food… well, that’s just wasteful!
Although this sounds like a harsh criticism, it really isn’t meant to be. It’s simply an acknowledgement of the culture we find ourselves in. This is how we’ve been raised to think (most of us). We believe we are entitled to cheap food because it affords us the ability to do the things we really want to do in life… like take vacations, see movies, and buy the latest technology.
But friend, does it do any good to have those things if we’re poisoning our families?
Pay the Farmer Now or the Medical Bills Later
And honestly, you’re either going to pay that charming organic farmer now or you’re going to pay the medical bills later. There actually isn’t a convenient option that comes without consequences. There never has been. Maybe God didn’t intend for there to be.
Either we take our health seriously and make sacrifices to eat real food or we accept the chronic disease that comes with eating the products marketed as “food” in most of the grocery store aisles.
Maybe you’re thinking…
“But my dad’s doing fine and my grandma’s eaten this way her entire life!”
But are they really fine? By fine, do you mean full of life and vitality? Or are they on multiple prescription medications for chronic health conditions? If not, your family members are in a very small minority of aging Americans.
Even so, it’s also important to understand that circumstances are rapidly turning for the worse. The quality of our food supply has been in a decline for about 75 years, but 1996 marked a BIG change: the beginning of genetically modified food. Have you noticed things like allergies, eczema, and chronic respiratory problems increasing more than just a little bit since 1996? (I’m not even going to mention the huge changes in the vaccine schedule since that time… we’ll just save that for another day.)
What worked for our grandparents and parents… it’s not going to work for our children. It is not. This is a different world. Food is being produced and manipulated in new ways everyday, with little to no testing I might add.
But back to that price tag..
How on earth could ground beef possibly cost so much? Do they feed the cattle caviar and champagne? Do they give them fur-trimmed parkas to wear in winter and Gucci fly masks in summer? Is their bedding made of GOLD??!?
Subsidies for Conventional Farmers – Regulations for Organic Farmers
Well at $5.99/lb and up it sure seems like it.
But it turns out, that’s the real price -the actual price to produce meat.
Scratch that.. It’s the actual price PLUS the cost of all the fees, paperwork, inspections, frustrating regulations, and ridiculous hoops the government demands these organic farmers jump through. (For more information on the difficulties of selling real food products – check out Joel Salatin’s book Everything I want to do is Illegal)
Conventional farming is heavily subsidized. There is no such thing as a package of ground beef that costs $1.88/lb. This is not reality and it never has been. You receive that price at the grocery store because of the government’s intervention and subsidization on behalf of that conventional farmer (in the form of YOUR tax dollars I might add).
The organic farmer, however, does not receive ANY subsidies from the government.
Too bad the conventional farmer doesn’t have to pay fees to certify his meat as “toxic”… just sayin.
But such is life on a spoiled planet. We must accept it and make a choice: Do we roll along with the rest of society on the conveyor belt of chronic disease and degenerative illnesses? Or do we make a financial sacrifice to opt-out?
Throughout nearly all of human history it has been completely normal (and necessary) to spend as much as 30% of one’s income on food, often times more.
Just fifty years ago, Americans spent about 23% of their income on healthy food (at that time they called it “food”), while spending only about a third (7%) on health care costs.
Today, those numbers are reversed. Currently Americans spend about 6% of their income on food, and 3 times as much (22%) on health care. I know that financially it’s pretty much the same difference, but what about overall quality of life?
Is it really reasonable to think that we can maintain good health while spending the smallest portion of our budgeted expenses on food?
But a Budget’s a Budget…
I’m sure you’d agree that one can’t create money simply by justifying the need for it. So what’s to be done??
Certainly there are those who genuinely cannot afford the extra expense.
That was our situation. When we first began learning about real food, we had no cell phones, cable, Netflix, or family vacations to cancel. We weren’t spending money on soda, junk food, alcohol, or cigarettes for goodness’ sake. We really didn’t have much disposable income at all. So we made the changes that we could make – very – s-l-o-w-l-y – over time, and eventually felt called to buy a much smaller house out in the country where we would have the freedom raise some food ourselves.
Maybe you’ve got a large family living on one income.
Maybe you’ve got a husband who is not at all convinced that real food should be a priority in your budget.
Maybe you aren’t even able to pay for absolute necessities this month.
What can you do??? Will you ever be able to eat real food on a budget?
Do you have no other choice but to eat the cheapest packaged food you can possibly find for the rest of your life?
I don’t know you.
I don’t know your circumstances.
One thing is for sure, in this world we will have trouble. We will all suffer to some extent due to the sin, greed, and recklessness of others (not to mention our own poor choices.)
Encouragement for Considering How to Eat Real Food on a Budget
I want to encourage you to look closely at how you live… at how you eat. Don’t continue buying cheap food because it’s convenient. It won’t always be convenient. Cancer is not convenient.. at least, that’s what I hear.
Make one change at a time.
Every change is worth it. Each and every change is making a difference.
Take a step. Get started.
You don’t have to be perfect tomorrow morning. It isn’t all or nothing. Every. Single. Change. Matters. Take the Pepsi, throw it in the garbage. Amen. Move forward.
Make reasonable sacrifices wherever you can.
You’ll thank yourself later. I promise.
Plan to eat a little less.
Real food is nutrient dense, satisfying, and not at all addicting. You will be full and satisfied on less food overall. I highly doubt you’ll be binging on hard-boiled eggs. Nope. With real food, when you’ve had enough, you just stop eating.
Make some (hopefully temporary) compromises.
Life is a journey. Maybe you just can’t afford that grass-fed beef, but you could get the package that says “no hormones or antibiotics” for now.
Remember to prioritize relationships!!!
Friends, food matters! It matters so much! But how we love others is MORE important! Do not run out and ruin your marriage over this! Determine to make your health a priority, but not THE ONLY priority!
Ask the Lord to provide you with nourishing food and the creativity, opportunities, and determination to make it happen.
Do your very best
and leave the rest in God’s hands.
Remember stress is a killer too…
at least as bad, or worse, than a poor diet. Do not waste your life stressing over what can’t be changed.
There are still a list of several changes I’d like to make for my family, but at the moment those things are beyond my capacity (financially and otherwise). Over the last several years, that list has gotten smaller and I am so thankful. I thank the Lord for the changes we’ve been able to make and for our improving health. Then I leave the rest of my hopes and dreams for our family in His hands.
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Are you just getting started with real food?
Have you found ways for your family to eat real food on a budget?
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And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.