Affording Wholesome Foods

This year's garden!

We are giving gardening another try this year…

As our children grow, it is becoming more and more expensive to buy organic and/or wholesome foods for our family. We just had to raise our food/grocery budget again and we are already trying to plan how we are going to afford eating wholesome foods next year. We are a part of two different CSA’s. One is a meat CSA and the other is a vegetable CSA. We save a lot of money by paying for our meats and veggies a year ahead of time. We pay for our share of meat and veggies once per year and then get the items directly from our farmer on a weekly or monthly basis, depending on the type of share.

Even with the money we save by being a part of a CSA, it is still difficult to afford wholesome foods. We buy a lot of items in bulk online. This requires a fair amount of planning. We did not start out buying everything in bulk, but gradually over the past few years, we buy just about everything in bulk, aside from a few perishable items. It does take some time to research the best prices, but the savings are well worth it.

We recently added a resources page where we list some of our favorite online sites for purchasing items online, as well as for information. Be sure to check it out here when you can. We would also love to hear some of your favorite places for deals.

In the summer, we try to stock up and preserve seasonal items since it is when these items are cheapest. Typically, we take our girls berry picking and come home with enough berries to make jam to last us till next season. In addition to doing some canning, we also freeze many items. We puree and chop tomatoes for use throughout the winter. We roast and puree pumpkins in two-cup increments to use in smoothies and for pumpkin bread. We make a few jars of lacto-fermented vegetables, which are an excellent source of probiotics, enzymes, and other nutrients.

This year we are trying to grow our own garden…again. If you remember, we tried to have a garden three years ago. It failed miserably. Now, three years later, we have finally worked up enough courage to try it again. This time around, we are using raised beds and have planted cauliflower, radishes, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and cantaloupe. We have also arranged for someone to come water our garden while we are gone on vacation this year. Three years ago our only harvest was a single tomato. We are hoping to at least surpass that meager crop. If we can figure out gardening, it would definitely help our food budget, as we are finding we eat more vegetables than our CSA provides.

Even though we just had to raise our food budget, it is interesting to note we still fall below what the national average is for a thrifty family. According to the USDA (2013), the average “thrifty” monthly cost for a family of four (two adults and two children ages 2-3 and 4-5) is $551.60. We now spend roughly $520 a month and that includes both our CSA shares (veggies and meat) and buying wholesome foods (organic fruits and miscellaneous other organic foods, whole grain flour, Rapadura, grass-fed butter, little to no processed foods, etc.). If you are curious where your family falls in the USDA rankings of thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost, and liberal family food budgets, you can find their chart here. They also have food budget charts available here for past years as well.

I was surprised where our budget fell on the USDA chart. I often think we spend an exorbitant amount of money on food. I am always looking for ways to cut our costs while still buying wholesome foods. There are things we could have in our home or things we could do as a family that we do not. Our family simply values what we eat over other things. Every family has priorities and when we look at where money is being spent, it is a clear indicator of what is valued in a home.

It can certainly be difficult to afford wholesome foods. Even if one can afford to plan ahead, buy in bulk, etc., often the significant savings comes from doing things from scratch. Not everyone has that kind of time or desire. For families in which the adults work full-time, it is tough to find time to cook or preserve wholesome foods. It is hard to maintain a garden, make every meal from scratch or go to a farmer’s market, which may only be open once a week to buy in season fruits and vegetables. More and more grocery stores are offering more wholesome processed food alternatives, but those options are typically more expensive than making meals from scratch. Every family is unique and needs to work together to find a balance of food choices that fits within their budget and desires for wholesome eating.

What about you? How do you make buying wholesome foods more affordable? Do you try to make everything from scratch? How do you fit wholesome foods into your lifestyle? Is it do-able?

*This post is shared at Cultured Palate.
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Smart phone. A Year In.

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It has been one year since I got an iPhone. Several years ago, prior to my stay-at-home mom days, when I was working in the advertising industry, I swore I would be one of the first in line whenever Apple decided to enter the phone industry. I have always been a lover of all things Apple. The company has mastered the art of ease of use, top-of-the line functionality, dependability, and outstanding customer service.

The iPhone came out after I became I stay-at-home mom and I simply could not justify spending the money on the phone (my current phone worked just fine) and subsequent data plan. A year or two later when my phone (of three+ years) died, I went back and forth about whether or not to get the iPhone. Finally, after looking at the quality of the other (non-smart) phones on the market, I decided to get the iPhone since I knew it would last. Additionally, my husband was going to be traveling extensively during the next year and we liked the ability to do Facetime.Over the past year, I have started to write a post about iPhones (or smart phones in general), but I decided to hold off till I had at least tried mine out for a while.

Despite working in the advertising industry, I am not a lover of all technology and mass media. I have serious concerns about the social ramifications many technologies pose to our society. I admit, technology is handy and has brought about many positive changes to our world. Yet, as with anything, it also has the potential for serious adverse effects as well.

Having thoroughly studied media effects in graduate school, I frequently find myself in a mental tug of war between technology and ideology. Most of us have heard rants about technology ruining our sense of community and creating a strong desire for instant gratification so I will spare you the discourse here. Similarly most of us know that having a phone in hand can be quite useful in a pinch and invaluable if you are someone who needs to have quick access to information, as is the case for many on-the-go persons. Still, others have substituted using a smart phone instead of a computer/camera/iphone, etc. thus potentially saving a fair amount of money.

Now, as a one-year iPhone veteran, I admit, I still find myself stuck in the middle of a mental tug of war. I am constantly evaluating whether I am on my phone too much versus having enough information about whatever topic to make an informed decision. Last week, I got tired of the battle and stopped by Verizon to see when I could get out of our smart phone contract.

Apple simply has done too good of a job with the iPhone. It is incredibly handy, but I find myself (a research fanatic even before having an iPhone) constantly wanting to look something up, check social networking sites or shop online. There is always something to do on an iPhone. Therein lies the crux of the matter, at least for me. I already have enough to do. I already have enough distractions. I desperately need moments of quiet and solitude to settle my mind and rest my spirit.

Perhaps I should be more disciplined instead of just giving up the phone, but why fight a battle that does not need to be fought? There are enough other battles that require my concentration and discipline without adding an unnecessary one.

Even more important, in my mind, is continuing to hone the ability to think for oneself. Yes, this means I may make a wrong decision here and there, but that is where we all grow. Beautiful things happen when we think for ourselves. We are able to simply “be” and rest in knowing we have a capable brain that can reason and decide what to do without needing to poll friends or consult with Google. We do not need second by second updates on our favorite games; instead we can find delight in anticipation and curiosity. We do not need to share everything with everyone, but can find peace and rest in keeping some things between just ourself and the Lord for this is where trust in the Lord blossoms.

Verizon told me I have another year to go before I can surrender my iPhone without paying an exorbitant fee. It does not make financial sense to break our contract a year early, so I will be keeping my iPhone for another year. I will savor the features I enjoy most about the iPhone over the next year, like its fabulous video recording abilities and being able to facetime with family. Yet, I know, at the end of the year, I will be thankful to return to a non-smart phone.

This post is shared on Raising Mighty Arrows.