Q: How the changes affected your food budget? I feel like the natural/organic options are always so much more expensive. Also...did it add a lot of time to your food prep?
A: The changes happened slowly, so I'm not sure I noticed much of a difference. We've had to add to our grocery budget over time, but I've attributed it to a 4 year-old who continues to thrive in the 98% height/weight percentile. And, food across the board is more expensive. Hello, $4/gal gas this summer!
This is not to say that I try to menu plan according to sale ads and recently joined a food co-op. (Update: I'm eating local in Little Rock.)
As for natural and organic options being more expensive - YES! they are - but not always. My sister found some organic yogurt cheaper than conventional, last Tuesday. (Tip: If you grocery shop on Sunday-Tuesday, you're more likely to find marked down/clearanced food items.) She also told me that she'd found a Community Supported Agriculture option in her town...inexpensive, locally grown produce. The lady who started it just loved gardening and had extra and started giving it away then selling it. In the beginning she even delivered! As you can imagine, her love (and business) has exploded over the years.
My philosophy on getting and staying healthy has been "pay me now, or pay me later." I would rather enjoy what I'm eating now (natural) than to eat processed food and feel terrible then have to take
About adding time to food prep - hmmm...that's hard for me to answer.
It's happened so slowly so it's routine for me to do the things I do. The biggest part of making healthful changes in your diet starts in the grocery store.
If I don't have chips in my pantry, I can't eat them. (My parents buy chips and I've been eating them like crazy this week!) If the only thing to drink is milk and water, then I can't fill my belly with a sugary drink. If the only snacks I have in the fridge are healthy ones, well, that's what we eat. Hummus and veggies are a common snack, as are apples and cheese. I'm *usually* in the mood for something not-good-for-me but if it's not in the house then I'm usually too lazy to go out to get it. Additionally, it is cheaper to make hummus, but it does take time to make and clean up the mess. When I'm short on time, I buy it. When I'm short on cash, I make it.
A tip for chopping veggies: get a sharp knife and you'll want to stand and chop all day. I've written about my knife infatuation before. If your knife is dull, be kind to yourself and invest in a good chef's knife. If save a quarter everyday for a year, you can splurge and get a $90 knife. It is worth every penny.
Another word for adding time to food prep: start in the morning.
If I haven't been diligent to make a menu on Sunday, then after breakfast each day, I think of a dinner menu for that day. And what baby steps I need to take to get it on the table.
If brown rice will be eaten with dinner, I know that I need to thaw broth. Then, begin boiling it an hour before dinner. It takes about 45-50 minutes to cook and it's been my experience that if I let it "rest" about 10-15 minutes after cooking then it is fluffier, or the liquid is absorbed. I botched several batches of brown rice before I figured that out.
Chicken broth takes 3 to 24 hours to get good and gelatinous. However, the crock pot does all the work. I put bones in the crock, add a few teapsoons of vinegar (to extract calcium from the bones) then fill it up with cold water. Plug that baby in the wall and hours later, a yummy broth. It's that easy, y'all. You can make it more complicated by adding veggies and spices but bare bones broth, is well, bare bones. :)
Well, I hope those answers are clear as mud: make slow changes and it starts in the grocery cart.