Apr 27 2010

We’re paying more for food than ever before


Lynnae had a great question on her blog the other day: “Is it really more expensive to eat healthy foods?” For me, right now, the answer is a big YES.

I used to be able to get a week’s worth of stuff for around $50. “Stuff” is the key word there.

I combined coupons with sales (and took ’em to places that doubled their coupons, when possible). And I filled in the gaps at Aldi.

It felt great to spend so little on groceries for the week…on paper. I don’t think our health felt so great. There was plenty of junk — from straight up junk food (chips, cookies) to the more innocent-looking stuff — canned goods, boxes of instant dinner-type things and so on.

There was some healthy things, too — but not nearly enough. It just wasn’t a priority. My biggest goal was a low grocery bill.

When I was in labor with my son Jonathan, I developed a condition called pre-ecclampsia. It was mild and it was detected just about three hours before he was born, but still! I had it and it was probably my fault. Some research has shown that poor nutrition and diets low in protein can be one cause.

I’m not going to beat myself up for it — after all, Johnny was healthy and I was also fine.

But with Baby #2, things will be different.

I don’t want a repeat of pre-e. And I don’t want an IV while in labor at all if I can help it. I think if I do well with nutrition, that’s my best hope at preventing problems.

Awhile back, we watched Food, Inc. (available free online here for a limited time). That really got our attention. We also enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and realized that we really do need to cut the fake foods out — NOW.

So we’re trying. We still have a long ways to go before I have this whole “eat well without spending a fortune” thing figured out.

We’re joining a CSA which will begin in June. Since we’ve already paid for it (it amounts to about $13/week), we figure it will help lower our costs during the five months it is active. And, as fresh food becomes available locally, we should be able to get some for a better price than I’ve seen in stores lately.

We buy organic when possible. I bought a carton of organic strawberries today for $4. The conventional pack was $3. I am not exaggerating — these were the best strawberries we have ever had. And they were shipped all the way from California! I think if I had eaten one straight from the strawberry patch, my tastebuds would have exploded.

I did skip some of the “good” beef this week, though. I wanted to get a roast. At $6/lb., the three-pound roast I had wanted would have been $18. I’m sorry, but I just can’t justify that expense.

So I think I will go to another store tomorrow to see my options, and I just may buy a conventional cut instead. Probably not as nutritious or protein-dense, but it’s better than nothing…right?

All told, today I spent $95 at Right By Nature, which is a good 30+ minute drive from my apartment.

I spent $37 on fresh produce. That isn’t much less than my old $50/week grocery budget, total!

I spent $17 on dairy items.

About $12 was on boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I don’t like messing with chicken bones too often, so that’s the (expensive) cut I usually buy.

The rest were things like organic raisins, Parmesan, cooking spray, and dried seeds.

I’ll need to go to another grocery this week to get some meat and more milk.

I think the best thing I can do right now is to just be patient. Prices ought to go down this summer, at least a little. I need to make sure that we minimize food waste — no carrots left to go bad, no wilty lettuce, no spoiled yogurt.

And eventually, one day when I have a house, maybe I’ll have a little garden. And maybe I’ll have a big freezer where I can store sides of happy cows.

Mostly, I am thankful that while I’m cringing at my new grocery spending, we can at least afford to buy these things. It’s really sad when families are torn between choosing low-nutrition foods over nutrient-dense ones because of cost.

How do you save money while eating healthfully?


mint tag

Be sure to create a free account at Mint.com, which is Intuit’s successor to Quicken Online and a great alternative to Microsoft Money.

Apr 20 2010

A cheaper, healthier chocolate chip cookie


I am a cookie monster. I have no restraint on portion control when it comes to cookies. But that’s starting to change, now that I’m becoming more nutritionally minded. I still think it’s ok to have some sweets now and then, as long as you’re reasonable about it.

I used to make the Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe (the pan variation because it’s yummy and faster than individual cookies).

I’ve been tweaking the recipe to make it a little less junky. Here’s what I did. The original ingredient list is on the left and the replacement is to the right in bold:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour  2 1/4c whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt I use Real Salt which is unrefined sea salt — supposedly more minerals
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened and real butter, not margerine
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4c organic Sucunat, which is a brand name of an unrefined sugar. Basically, cane juice in solid form. Supposedly has more minerals. Granulated sugar has none.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar I skipped this entirely. Yep, reduced the recipe by half the sugar!
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Use the real stuff
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips. I used 1c of “natural” chocolate chips. They have no artificial ingredients.
  • 1 cup chopped nuts Omitted because Shane has a possible nut allergy. I suppose I could add raisins for a variation.

I do realize that these modifications do not make these cookies healthy. Not at all. But, it is better than it was before! I cut the sugar in half, and the chocolate chips in half (also reducing the sugar there).

You can definitely taste a difference in these cookies compared to the original recipe. Duh. But they still are sweet, and they still taste good and hit the spot.

Rather than doing the pan variation like I usually do, I’ve been making the dough and keeping it in the fridge. I scoop out just enough for a few cookies and bake them.

Reducing the sugar and chocolate chips has an added bonus — it’s cheaper!

Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

I hope I can inspire and encourage you to improve your situation. See disclosure.

I'm adopting a much slower-paced posting schedule, and treating this as a hobby blog now.

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