Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Eat Well..... Should it Really be this Hard?

The dilemma: how to eat good, healthy, "real" food without breaking the bank. Visiting a friend's house made me again consider what kind of foods I eat. Do I eat real food, or just consumables? "Real" food is characterized by natural, local, devoid of artificial flavorings and chemicals. "Consumables" are items that have come to pass for food, but shouldn't- like overly processed packaged meats, snacks, etc..

On the other hand, it has been my experience that "real" food is usually more expensive than "consumables." $1 for Ballpark hotdogs, $4 for all beef, kosher Hebrew National, or $4 for organic milk and $2.50 for non-organic, etc... Somehow, when I was growing up, my mom fed a family of 5 for $250 a month. Now I can't seem to spend less than $80-100 a week at the grocery store (despite my vigorous couponing, sale shopping efforts). Now I know that over the last 15 years prices have gone up (especially lately with the gas hikes), but there must be an answer.

I think that it is partially about what we eat. Half of what I buy each week is fruits and vegetables and I have not to my knowledge served a hot dog french bread pizza (a favorite cheap dinner growing up). Not that I am critical of that- we had a very tight budget and my mom did an amazing job.

The difference is also about where I shop. I absolutely love Trader Joe's. I feel so satisfied walking out of there with a couple of brown bags full of healthful, natural, tasty goodness. If I could buy everything there I would, but sometimes they are just too expensive for me. In fact, today I noticed that bead went up 30-50c and my favorite cheese (celtic light sharp cheddar) had gone up in price by $1/lb.

So what to do? Well, I think that today I stumbled upon an answer. This morning, I went first to the 99 cent store around the corner. Ours is great. It has a great frozen section (bag of frozen yellow peaches for 99c, great fridge and produce sections (2lbs grapes, peaches, nectarines, romaine lettuce all for 99c), and canned section (tons of organic veggies and soups, sauces, etc...). The fruit is fresh and, by and large, California grown too- not shipped in from other countries.

Paying so little for my fruits and veggies made me feel better about buying the other items I needed from Trader Joes. I spent $60 this week without coupons or buying food that I regret. I got my cake and ate it too.

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