If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have a lot of opinions about food and willingly share them, even if they’re not popular with everyone (case in point: “My Kid Likes Junk Food. And That’s Okay.“) But reading back through the last five years’ worth of posts, I also see ways that I’ve changed.
As I read more, learn more, talk to more people, try new things, and hear your ideas in the comments and on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page, I occasionally change my mind about certain foods.
These are the four biggest changes I’ve made:
When I made a point to look for them, local eggs weren’t hard to find. My farmer’s market had them. People I knew in my community started raising backyard chickens, and suddenly we were babysitting chickens in exchange for fresh eggs. When I couldn’t find local eggs, I started buying organic eggs. I know it’s not the same (and that terms like “cage free” are not as meaningful as they sound). But organic eggs feel like a reasonable compromise when I can’t buy local.
Bottom line: I’m on a food budget for sure. But compared to meat, even local and organic eggs are a fairly inexpensive source of protein. If I spend $5 on a dozen, that’s about 40 cents per serving.
I’ve long been conflicted about eating meat, mostly because of the way animals are raised. Movies like “Food, Inc.” deepened my concerns. I wanted to take a step in the right direction and buy less (but higher quality) meat.
I started buying grass-fed beef in bulk from a local farmer, then chicken and pork at the farmer’s market. I began working with Applegate as a member of an advisory group called the Sandwich Board and had the opportunity to tour their company headquarters and visit the Rodale Institute to learn about organic farming and pasture-raised livestock. I respect Applegate’s mission of “changing the meat that people eat”. Their meat comes from animals that were humanely raised and never given antibiotics or hormones.
Bottom line: Reducing the amount of meat we eat (by instituting Meatless Mondays for instance) means we can spend more on the meat we do buy. I cut costs in other areas, like buying a lot of store brands and buying fewer convenience foods overall.
When I began my blog five years ago, this wasn’t really on my radar. Then I spent months researching the topic for a Parents magazine feature story (read: “Are Artificial Dyes Safe For Kids?“). I decided dyes were worth avoiding. In my opinion, there’s enough scientific evidence that dyes have an effect on some children. The bulk of the research concerns the effects on behavior (and not just among children with existing attention problems). But worries have been raised about cancer risk too. Even if there’s nothing definitive, it just didn’t seem worth it.
Bottom line: We don’t avoid dyes when we’re out at parties or in other people’s homes, but I don’t buy foods or drinks with synthetic dyes. Food dye is an ingredient that does nothing except give color. With more manufactures using natural, plant-based colors, it’s pretty easy to avoid synthetic dyes when grocery shopping. Making more food myself makes it easier to avoid dyes too.
I already buy some organic fruits and vegetables–things like apples and spinach that we eat a lot and tend to be grown with more pesticides. But I held out on organic milk because I wasn’t convinced it could work with our budget (we go through two gallons a week). There also didn’t seem to be proof that hormone levels differed between organic and conventional milk.
Research does show that organic milk may have higher levels of beneficial fats, thanks to cows grazing on pasture. But I made the switch to organic and local milk because I like the idea of cows given time and room to graze, and knew I was supporting that with organic milk. I also buy milk from a local company called Snowville Creamery, which sources milk from farms that use pasture-based, grass-grazing methods. I buy different varieties, from fat free to two percent (my kids prefer fat free, I like using two percent in cooking).
Bottom line: This change adds about $10 to my weekly grocery bill, which is significant. I try to balance it out by seeking out coupons for other foods I buy. I also try much harder to eliminate wasted milk. A half-finished glass of milk is covered and stored in the fridge for later!
Everyone has their own priorities, concerns, values, opinions, budget, and needs–so you may do things differently. That’s okay. We’re all doing what works for us right now. But I’d love to hear from you: Have YOU made any changes to what you buy, how you cook, or how you feed your family?
Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Applegate this year as a member of their advisory board, because it’s a brand I buy and respect. I am compensated for my time. All opinions expressed are my own.