Here lately the buzz words are “green” “organic” “local”, but all of those tags come with hidden agendas, and can be hard to find without really knowing your sources. Knowing your sources can be terribly overwhelming in the beginning. Many challenges insist you throw out all the bad stuff, go to your local organic food mart and load up on the food there. I don’t think this is the way to do it-at all.
*Just about anything you have to buy already made is not going to be your best choice. Does this mean you can never buy it? Of course not! In the end you will know what is best for you and your family. What I prescribe here is ideal, but it takes a while to get to the point where it is fully your lifestyle. Try to stick to the outer aisles of the grocery store this time of year. We will have a video cast of a trip through on one of our own shopping trips in the near future, but are still working out the details. There are so many options for buying food!
*DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF! And by that, what I really mean is, if I have a choice, with my budget between eating organically, but only a few select veggies, or eating locally, I am going to choose locally-often if I know my provider, they may use organic methods, but like I am in my farm, not want to deal with the junk the government put small guys through for certification. Even further, if I can feed my family mostly vegetables and fruits and meats within my budget, but can’t feed them those things if I opt for organically grown, I am going to feed them the non-organic. I can’t control my flow of cash, and I would rather they were eating all those healthy things, and deal with pesticides now (see my next thought for more on this). This is heads and tails above eating convenience foods like boxed mac n cheese, hamburger helper, velveeta and frozen pizza (I’d like to qualify that as all the time, as well. Sometimes it is necessary or a treat to have those items. Just not all the time).
*One of the really important aspects to eating locally is that you know your source. This importance has come up numerous times in the past weeks as people are finding that their large sources for food are not as up front with them as they’d like to believe. A woman allergic to corn thought her meat supplier was grass based only to learn the processor used a corn based lactic acid spray in the butchering. That is important, and something that you can only be sure of when you have the chance to talk one on one with your suppliers. That generally means looking beyond your supermarket, and at other sources like the local farmer’s markets, farm stands, farms and ranches, and locally supplied stores. A source for searching these sorts of suppliers out I LOVE is localharvest.org. Great, great for finding where to get local goods. You type in your zip code, and bam, there’s a list of what’s available. If you can shop this way, it is better. We buy most of our meat through local ranchers that we have a good relationship with.
*Buying local does not equal buying bulk! A lot of farmers realize you cannot afford to purchase half of an animal at a time, and thus offer smaller packages, whether you use them to just get a taste of what they have to offer or to get you through your week to week. I love buying my meat in bulk-it *is* more affordable in the long run if you can adjust your saving style to plan for doing it each year (though my beef rancher has a payment plan), and I don’t have to worry about the meat counter at the grocery store very often. CSA’s are a great way to eat locally as well, but even they often offer smaller shares, or have farm stands on the side.
*One of the big ways you can help provide yourself with wholesome, chemical free food is to do it yourself-if you have even a little bit of yard that gets a fair amount of sunshine, you can grow your own food. There have been some great articles lately on growing a lot of food in a small place-instead of a bunch of flowers, plant a victory garden (will have more on this once outdoor planting season commences in the Midwest). Most plants that provide food are flowering, and have pretty foliage. We will go into more detail with this as the growing season moves forward, but it really isn’t difficult. Another option for growing your own food, though a bit more ambitious and costly to start, is backyard chickens. If your city regulations allow, it is fairly easy to keep 3-6 birds in a chicken tractor (a small movable enclosed chicken structure the keeps the birds fully penned, but allows access to fresh grass, is mobile to keep their droppings spread, and predator proof) for a supply of fresh eggs, and every couple years, birds for chicken stock and pulled chicken recipes. I know a few ladies who have done this rather successfully and plan on adding a number of meat birds to the mix this year, as they can be kept just long enough to be big enough to eat, which is generally when they start to try to crow as well, thus alleviating issues with noise that are often the caveat of being able to raise birds in town.
*Processed food, whether organic or not, is more expensive to buy-in the long run. As you are transitioning to using more whole foods, it may cost a little more. If you spread it out, though, and buy a large bag of carrots this trip for snacking on (get the whole carrots here. Baby carrots are actually a PROCESSED food-I know, crazy, right? They are not actually baby carrots, but carrots that have been cut into smaller pieces, then peeled and treated with chlorine, rinsed and packaged for convenience. It is just as easy, more affordable, too, to buy the bigger bags of full sized ones and just wash them when you get home. If they are organic, you don’t even have to peel them first. I get the organic ones and my kids just grab them straight out of the fridge. I only worry to peel the non-o ones.) these will last you a while in the fridge-not all vegetables are quickly perishable, the next trip make a point to get a bag or two of dried beans like garbanzo and black beans to keep on hand to make a bevy of great, nourishing dishes, like one of my favorites, hummus (yes, tutes will follow on a lot of this).Small steps, and once you buy one item, give it a permanent place on your list. As you do this, you will get closer and closer to buying only real foods as you travel the aisles-really the perimeter of the store.
The first steps are transitioning to WHOLE foods. You can worry about organic and even local, after you get in the habit of just eating differently. Some people have made comments about having nothing to eat when they start buying this way. There is so much TO eat-you just have to retrain the way you think. Instead of potato chips for snacks, choose fruit or veggies, with a hummus or homemade sour cream dip. Instead of store-bought crackers, make nut crackers (they take like ten minutes to bake, maybe three to mix up) to have with some chevre or cream cheese and honey, or a personal favorite, cream cheese and a locally or home-made pepper jelly. Small changes. Meals are not hard-meat or beans, vegetable or two, maybe a little dairy, nix the pop and go with iced tea, water, milk, and sparkling juice (that you can make yourself to bypass how insanely expensive that stuff is-and overly sugary compared to what you can do at home. More info later).
It is true that even once you start on whole foods that each area has more steps you can take to be even healthier in your pursuit, but it is all just one step at a time. Focus the next couple weeks on just transitioning over to whole food eating.