“Real Food” on a Budget – Guest Post

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on November 9, 2010

A guest post from Lisa at 100 Days of Real Food

Earlier this year, after reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan and watching Food Inc., we decided to make some pretty dramatic changes to the way we were eating. It just made sense to know where our food comes from and be able to pronounce the ingredients in the items that we were eating. Not to mention Pollan refers to a lot of the packaged items that we used to buy as “food-like substances.”

So in May of this year our family (which includes two children ages 3 and 5) set out on a journey to go 100 days without eating a single ounce of processed food or refined ingredients. We put together some rules that we followed (including no sugar or white flour!) and blogged about our real food pledge on www.100daysofrealfood.com. We loved the response from readers, but one thing we couldn’t help but notice was the amount of feedback we got on how much all this real, organic, and local food costs. This is why starting on October 4 we began “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget”. Our family of 4 has $125 a week to spend on food (which is less than we would get if we were on food stamps) while at the same time following our original real food guidelines as much as possible. We are of course blogging about this journey as well and invite you to join us!

In the meantime though, I want to share some valuable lessons I’ve learned so far which are helping me stay within our strict budget…

–       Organization and meal planning

–       Minimizing waste (putting uneaten food back)

–       Knowing and using what we have on hand (especially if it is perishable)

–       Making substitutions in recipes to reduce how many things I have to buy

–       Maximizing “cheap” foods (like bananas and beans)

–       Making sacrifices (i.e. water instead of milk)

–       Reducing consumption of meat and desserts

Soon after starting our budget I realized that bananas must be the cheapest fruit on earth. So I would also like to share one of our favorite recipes that we make with bananas…Banana Ice Cream!

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Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 bananas (frozen – see below)
  • Less than ½ cup milk
  • Variations if desired: peanut butter, chocolate sauce, chilled espresso, or other frozen fruit…get creative!

Directions

  1. Peel the bananas, break them into thirds, enclose them into a Tupperware container, and stick them in the freezer overnight (or longer). I usually throw bananas in the freezer whenever they are about to go bad, and I’ve left them in there for weeks before so there is no rush.
  2. When you are ready for the ice cream just put the bananas in a blender with 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup milk. I don’t have a fancy, expensive VitaMix so I have to shake my little cheapo Target blender around a bit to get it all to blend properly. Just keep adding small amounts of milk until the consistency resembles ice cream. I like to top the finished product with homemade granola.

It is that easy.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

A stay-at-home mom of two, Lisa Leake, radically changed her family’s diet by cutting out all processed food and refined ingredients earlier this year. With growing popularity she chronicles their real food journey through a processed food world on 100daysofrealfood.com.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacy @ Delighting in the Days November 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

That is great! I love to see people dedicated to making healthy eating a possibility for their family! Very inspiring :)

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jesser November 9, 2010 at 2:58 pm

I look forward to reading your website! We spend a LOT of $$ on (healthy!) groceries every month. I am constantly trying to reduce how much I spend and read lots of tips, but most of the good deals out there don’t seem to apply to broccoli and quinoa. Good luck on your project!! :)

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The Working Home Keeper November 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Awesome! Can’t wait to check out her blog. Our budget is $125/week for our family of 6. We eat local and/or organic/organically grown with grass-fed and pastured meats. Love finding sites dedicated to real food!

Mary Ellen

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janet November 9, 2010 at 9:25 pm

My DH and I spend $150 a month on groceries. All of it unprocessed, whole foods. Actually, there are very few sacrifices that need to be made as long as you follow Lisa’s recommendations on organization, minimizing waste … As food prices contimue to rise, being able to control your spending is crucial. Good luck to you all, you can DO IT!

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Amy M November 10, 2010 at 4:12 am

Great post. I will be reading the blog.

Janet… Can you give us an idea of your meals and shopping list. It is just me and DH during the week and to eat healthy we end up spending $150 a week or so… When we dont have that much we end up eating unhealthy. Thank you!

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Mary Beth November 10, 2010 at 4:04 pm

I can’t wait to look into this more! I am always so discouraged when I try to create a grocery budget with a lot of fresh foods! I have done really great recently though with making sure to actually use everything that I have purchased fresh! It makes me cry to throw away poor produce that has become rotten just because of my lack of discipline when it comes to cooking!

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janet November 10, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Hi Amy,
We eat a lot of fresh produce that is purchased at local ethnic and produce stores. We eat small portions of high quality meat and fish purchased at Ralphs, Fresh and Easy, Henry’s. We fill out our diet with some whole grains ( brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, flaxseed, oatmeal) and dairy ( 1% milk, eggs, homemade yogurt). I do not buy processed food and I batch cook each Sunday for the rest of the week.
This week’s menu consists of BBQ Ribs and Black Beans, Pad Thai, Homemade Cream of Celery Soup and Garlic Bread, Chopped Salad, Burritos ( Black beans, carmelized onion and chicken), Ratatouilli, Moroccan Stew and Rib eye steak with brocolli, carrots and yam fries.
We don’t starve, for sure :)
The #1 tool is to set a budget amount at the begining of the month and deduct your grocery expenses each time you go to the store so yoou always know how much you have left. Once you get to $0- you shop from your fridge, freeezer and pantry. Period. Hope that helps!!!

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Lorie November 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

$125/week is a far cry from the $250 we were spending a month. I say were because we are on food stamps which is allowing us to eat more healthy. We’re getting about $650/month for our family of 5. Right now, food stamps is the only way we can eat this well.

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janet November 13, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Everyone CAN feed a family a VERY healthy diet on WAY less than $650/month. Will that healthy diet have items like soda, cookies, frozen food… no. But it will be much better for you and your kids and cost much less.

I do not understand why so many people believe it is more costly to eat well. That just is not the case if you follow just a couple of “rules”.
1. Have a budget and Stick To It! 2. Set price maximums on what you buy ( the max you will spend on an item). 3. Meal plan each week using what you have on hand and fill in on staples as necessary. 4. Shop strategically at markets that may be different than the ones you are used to (ethnic stores, 99 Cent only…) 5. Properly store what you buy and Use Everything Before It Spoils.
If you do just those 5 things, you can slash your food costs by 20-50%.
I speak all over So. California on this topic and have just finished writing a book on the subject as well as being a financial planner. I know this is acheivable for all families

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