Broke but not broken

I don’t know about you, but every time I go to the grocery store I am continually surprised by the cost of food.  It is important for me as a mother to provide good food for my family and I want my children to build life-long healthy eating habits.  That is why I am committed to buying as much organic food as I can, even on a budget.

Recently, in an effort to have less plastic in our house, I took all of my children’s plastic grocery items, plastic plates and plastic tea sets and packaged them up for exchange at a used children’s boutique.  I decided that I would take the packages from the food we eat and turn them into “grocery” for my kids to play with.

I was proud as I looked at my couch set up as the store and saw package after package of organic food.  It became a running joke in our house that each time we would prepare something to eat, my kids would say, “Mom we can use this box for grocery!”

As my couch has become the dumping ground for food packaging, I was proud of the choices that I had made, and at the same time, we were amassing a lot of packaging.  I recognize that we can’t play grocery with fresh fruits and veggies, but I couldn’t help but think, how can I improve on what I am providing for my family.

Photo: Pomakis

At the grocery store I tend to stay away from the center isles.  I buy the dirty dozen and clean fifteen for produce and at my favorite grocery store; I go product by product for all the delightful treats like organic popcorn, cookies and cereal bars.  Even though, I am a bit of a germaphobe, I will even purchase from the bulk section to get the dried fruits that do not contain any sulfur dioxide.

Photo: mypapercrane.com

I thought, what could I be doing better to save money and still not feel like I am poisoning my children with pesticides?  I have one plum tree and two apple trees that my parents planted when my children were born.  We have harvested about nine plums and zero apples in five years. So, I will have continue to buy fruits from the store.  In the summer, we do plant a small garden and it is a lot of fun for the children, but it by no means will provide us adequate produce without supplementing from the grocery store.  I will still have to buy veggies.

I was stumped, what could I do?  I pulled out my dehydrator and started dehydrating my own fruit.  It was less expensive than purchasing them already dried, but that wasn’t going to fix the fact that our food budget needed some real help.

Switching back to processed, pesticide ridden food was not an option. I started substituting less expensive proteins a few times a week.  My kids love one type of all natural nitrate-free sausage! We chose to have eggs four days a week and sausage three days a week.  Eggs are an excellent source of protein especially if you get the omega 3 ones.  This was the platform I was looking for.  What else could I substitute that wouldn’t compromise my desire for the very best options.  I also started buying organic chicken on Tuesdays.  At our local store the organic chicken is marked 50% off on Tuesdays, the day before the sell date.  I just throw it in the freezer and use it as we need it.

I love coffee creamer.  I use the all natural half and half with natural vanilla flavor and sugar.  I decided to just purchase the half and half and sweeten it myself.  This was a good start, but I wanted more.  I already buy in bulk, stock up when something is on sale, use coupons (sometimes) and try to buy in season.  I even started baking our bread.

Photo: Diliff

I decided that I would make what I could to help offset the costs of some of our most expensive items.  We go through a 24oz tub of Greek yogurt everyday at our house.  At $3.99 each we are spending almost $1500 a year on yogurt.  I got on the internet and found recipes for Greek yogurt that you can make in a slow-cooker.  I tried it twice and it still needs some tweaking.  I got the texture right, but the flavor needs some improvement.

This is my start for 2012. I figure that like most things, this is a process and I will continue to find new ways to make this process even better!  Feel free to leave comments with ways that you save too!