But today, I have a confession: my pantry is almost empty. The shelves are bare except for a bag of cereal, some marshmallows, some Cub Scout popcorn and a can of sweetened condensed milk.
Now before you panic, don't worry, it is not because we can't afford groceries that our shelves are empty. Instead, it is simply because I just don't want to buy the junk anymore. I want to feed my kids good food - not processed, chemical laced, fake food.
But it is hard. Especially on a budget. Especially in North Dakota.
I adore coupons - and for quite a while I was doing the super coupon shopping. And I loved it! The thrill of the deal. The adrenaline rush I got from getting $100 worth of groceries for pennies on the dollar. The overflowing cupboards and pantry. And then I started taking a long, hard look at what I was buying. And I wasn't impressed. I had been doing some reading on food allergies and gluten intolerance and what I learned, to say the least, truly concerned me.
And then I started watching Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution".
Ok, I was slightly grossed out by some of what I saw. I started reading more labels and paying attention to where my food was coming from.
And then I watched the documentary, "Food, Inc."
That was the nail in the coffin. What we are eating in this country is making us sick and we need to do something about it.
So I am now educated, informed...and completely frustrated.
I can feed my family on the cheap - but what am I feeding them?!? I can fill my pantry with all kinds of cool snacks that my kids love - but what will be the side effects 10 years down the road? I would love to say no more Super Store shopping for me - but have you priced whole, organic food lately? Especially in a state where our growing season is short and fresh fruits and vegetable grown locally are only available for about 6-8 weeks out of the year? I would love to buy some organic, grass fed beef but don't think I should have to take a loan out to do it. Egads.
What is mom to do? For the most part, I have no idea. *sigh*
But I have come to this conclusion (are you ready for it): I can only do the best that I can do.
That rocked your world didn't it. (*snort*) In other words, I need to start small - I need to start somewhere - and I need to build from there. For us, that means no more "Hamburger Helper" at our house (my kids love that stuff - ick). It means I purposely have not been buying cereal so my kids learn that you can have eggs, or fruit or oatmeal for breakfast. It means I am trying to learn to make my own bread (uff-da) and cook more from scratch (this is actually going fairly well.) I have not bought a corn dog, chicken nugget/patty, or hot pocket in months (I did buy a bag of pizza rolls once but it was an emergency.) We grew some of our own veggies this summer and bought some more at the Farmer's Market - even though what they charged me just about made me choke on my gum. I made hummus and discovered I liked it!
And most importantly, I am having this discussion with my kids. We watched "Food, Inc" together and I am teaching them how to read labels. I am asking them to learn to make better choices. And we are learning together.
We still love our pizza and I confess, we have hotdogs in our freezer (I know, gross) but the point is we are trying. And Keith is in the fields right now so next to the trail mix and fruit there will be some licorice and a few candy bars. I will be drawing a line in the sand very shortly when it comes to school lunches (I do not care how much they like them, "Mac Sticks" are not real food.) And some good news, when we do eat out, our kid's favorite restaurant is Subway. In fact, a while back we were feeling lazy and decided to 'treat' the kids to McDonald's - we were all highly disappointed for even the kids admitted it did not taste like good food. We agreed that if we never ate another fast food burger ever again, that'd be OK with us (now a Culver's Better Butter Burger, on the hand...)
Like I said, it's a work in progress...
Educate yourself: Full episodes of Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution" can be found HERE. "Food, Inc" is available at your local video store or for instant download on Netflix. In the meantime, here is a short clip:
How do you balance eating healthy with eating frugally? Do you struggle with what to buy at the grocery store? What are your favorite healthy eating tips?