(While I’m enjoying my newborn, I’m pleased to share this guest post by Nikki from Simply Striving.)
I love a good challenge. That’s what grocery shopping was for me. I enjoyed clipping coupons, determining my meal plan based on sales flyers. Trying to save more each week. It was a good game.
Then I found myself pregnant and started researching what I should be eating to nourish more than myself. I scoured articles, followed studies. I educated myself on terminology. I saw Food, Inc. And my eyes began to open to a world I knew nothing about. Farming practices. Insecticides. Processing guidelines. Regulations. GMO’s. Fillers.
My convictions took a strong hold. I knew our grocery cart needed to evolve dramatically to meet my family’s needs. But our food budget couldn’t afford a major increase. We couldn’t afford to stop all of our habits and go 100% organic. Our budget was too tight for that.
We couldn’t afford to mess this up.
My husband and I sat down and came up with a strategic game plan which ultimately comprised a list of priorities. We took them one-by-one to see how our budget strings would handle the load. Our hope was to eliminate the worst food offenders in our grocery cart first and see how much more we could do from there.
Here was our progressive list:
1. Read labels. We decided to eliminate partially hydrogenated, MSG, unnatural food coloring, as well as ingredients we couldn’t pronounce or explain first. I couldn’t believe how difficult this made buying things as simple as sandwich bread!
2. Organic is nice, but not when twice the price. We agreed to abide by the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list. I thought this would be the easiest change. Pushing the cart passed the 99 cent strawberries was harder to do than I anticipated!
3. Know where our meat and dairy are coming from. With grass/vegetarian fed, free range, no hormone or nitrates added being our goal.
That was it. Those three things sounded easy enough. I was wrong.
We had to come up with a new eating menu. Our taste buds had to change. I had to learn to cook all over again as I couldn’t rely on most of the canned or boxed goods I was used to using. (I’m from the Midwest. Casserole blood runs deep.)
After researching, experimenting, failing, trying again, refining, and finalizing, we came up with three guidelines our grocery cart needed to abide by in order to support our desired menu while sticking to our tight budget. They are:
1. Packaged food is an extravagance. Cereal is not necessary. Even if we find something sold in a box or can that passes our criteria, it is most likely not necessary. If I can make it cheaper, then I need to find the time to do just that. I have to remind myself often there are cheaper options for breakfast than quality cereal with milk. Even with coupons.
2. Less Meat. Quality meat is expensive! We had to scale back by half. Instead of each having a whole chicken breast or pork chop at a meal, we split one and have larger, filling sides to compliment.
Limiting our weekly grocery list to two meat items works best for us. We’ll stretch those out for a few meals or more vegetarian meals will be planned to compensate. We discovered eating vegetarian is cheaper and had to come up with meals our family enjoyed as a result.
3. More Produce and Nutritional Grains. When all is considered, produce is cheaper than buying meat and packaged sides for every meal. There is more nutrition in bagged rice vs. boxed. Grains like Quinoa are even better! Vegetarian lasagna or stir fry can be quite cost-effective and more filling.
It took nearly 3 years to get to a place we are comfortable with, but the results speak for themselves.
My husband and I both lost weight. We began being conscious of portion control with the higher priced foods we were buying. The side effect was an added bonus!
I discovered one of my migraine triggers was MSG. My head has never been happier.
Our taste pallets improved. Eating vegetables is no longer a struggle. And I never thought I’d like salmon!
We want to eat out less, which provides extra money to explore our produce aisle.
The strings haven’t snapped. We’re feeling great and loving food again. I’m so thrilled with where this grocery cart journey has taken us!
How about you? What grocery guidelines do you try to abide by? I’d love to hear.
Nikki is a loved wife, stay-at-home mom to her boisterous preschool son. Her stillborn son awaits her in glory. She journals her thoughts on a blog titled Simplystriving. There you will find her journey of seeking joy in the everyday while simply striving to become all that God has made her to be. Nikki shares her tips and tricks to living a simple, frugal life on her Facebook page. Stop on by ~ she would love to meet you!
Flickr Image Credit: Riekhavoc