(Quality produce at a good price)
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. “
-John Ruskin 1819-1900
When I came across this quote it was quite striking to me because of recent happenings and thoughts in my own kitchen. As you know, being a little more frugal is much more important to us right now out of necessity. Joel going to college is actually exceeding our income, but made possible through savings (which won’t last forever). We feel, especially for us, that it is important not to get in debt right now, so we are trying to work hard to stay in budget.
The only item in our budget that has flexibility is our food budget. The rent, our insurance, and other set in stone expenses can’t be cut back on. So I have been getting creative in my kitchen!
But I have to be careful not to allow myself to become “prey” to companies making things “just a little worse” and selling it for cheaper. In fact, I had a very sad incident with Costco this month, where I certainly felt taken in by a big company. We had gotten their sockeye, Wild caught, Alaskan frozen salmon before and been happy with it. It had a good taste, was conveniently packaged, and we saved a few bucks a pound to boot. We still couldn’t afford to have large amounts of it at one meal, so we stretched it out by all sharing a small amount. It worked for us and our budget. So, wanting to be wise with my money, I went back to get some more of the same sockeye, wild caught salmon I had gotten before.
But I knew as soon as I was getting it out of the package that something was not right. In the creases of the plastic wrapping I saw an unusual red tint. As it defrosted, the juices from the salmon had little dots of red in it, floating here and there, and when I cooked it up, it was a bright, very unnatural red. It was definitely dyed.
Now Costco does carry another cheaper dyed, frozen salmon which I avoid like the plague. Is is possible that they accidentally packaged it wrong? Or did they start adding dye to their sockeye? I don’t know, but I am not happy about it.
And the saddest thing of all? I have been really good at saving my receipts, but this one got lost. I have searched high and low for it. We are still going to take it back, and at least let them know we are not happy. But we aren’t expecting to get our money back.
The importance of buying food from those you trust
This brings me to an important concept, being reborn in many circles, of trying to buy as local as possible from people you trust. Everyone is trying to cash in on you, so you must be a wary buyer. Do I buy all things local? No way. I can’t buy certain items, like coconut oil, grown in my area! But that doesn’t mean I have to buy produce from Mexico, if it’s grown right around the corner.
It takes wisdom, knowledge of how the market works, and patience-all of which I am learning myself right now, to get good products for a fair price. It also takes time to figure out where to buy your items. It may take a little while to find a good place to buy olive oil, coconut oil, your vegetables, your meats and your eggs. But doing a little homework on brands, and how things are grown or raised is not over the top, it’s just plain common sense. After all, who wants to be prey for unscrupulous companies?
From reading other blogs, I often get the impression that some people thing that “Nourishing Tradition bloggers“, are food snobs. I hope that I have never given that impression. I am not saying eating like this is always the easiest option and that I don’t have a hard time making it work. But I do place importance on buying quality food. I don’t like buying food that I know is adulterated, cheap, and unhealthy. I hope that this blog does make you think about what you are eating and hopefully make needed changes, but I hope it also encourages you that it can be done!
“But I can’t afford it…“
I’m with you there! I am not saying it cheap or easy to buy quality. How do we deal with that? There are many things to say here, but I just want to share two tips that are really working well for me right now.
Buying From Local Produce Stands and Local Produce Markets
We have a wonderful, huge store that carries many local brands, and mostly organic . They place so much importance on this issue that they color code everything in the store, so you know whether it is locally grown, and whether it is organic. I buy many things there. However, because of their over arching costs of upkeep on a very nice market place, keeping good employees, etc, it’s not the cheapest place to shop either.
Just down the road from me is a local produce market that has organic and local produce at a cheaper price. They aren’t in a nice building and they don’t have as many employees, but I can get some wonderful deals on produce right now. My other option is a local produce stand from a farmer directly selling to customers. You know where you food comes from, can ask questions, and are supporting local industries.
Because of the abundance of Fall produce right now, I can buy it cheaper from one of the above places, and plan my meals around it. It saves quite a bit of money that way! In the above picture, that huge load of produce (all local, almost all organic) only cost 25 dollars, with a 5 dollar of coupon, I only spent 20.
Don’t Try to Eat like Kings on a Peasant’s Budget
The other thing that helps me get quality food without breaking the budget is keeping in mind that I can’t afford to eat like a King. If I tried to eat like that, I would end up buying a lot of inferior, unhealthy products to make fancy dishes. If you look at history, the peasant’s weren’t having steak every other day….and neither am I!
Instead, I concentrate on nourishing “peasant food”. Like hearty stews and soups, sourdough breads, bean dishes, sauerkraut, eggs and a limited amount of meat and fish dishes. I don’t worry about keeping things fancy, but instead I choose to enjoy the simple pleasures of simple, nourishing food.
My encouragement to you is to be wise in how you buy. Buying arsenic fed chicken, dyed cheap salmon, and hormone full beef may not be wise. With a little time and effort you can track down some other options, and if you lower your “king’s standard” to more peasant food, you can much more easily buy frugally, while still not falling prey to those who make things worse, so they can sell cheaply (and make you their prey during the process).
For more tips, read this post, 12 Tips for Squeezing Nutrient Rich Food from Your Budget.
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Very good and well thought out. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I try to shop local too, however many things just a coconut oil, oranges, etc. are not produced locally. It is important to know where your food comes from and ask questions. Even at your local chain grocer. You’d be surprise how much produce at your grocer around the corner comes from local farmers. I was.
And if you are like me and don’t have a nice organic grocer in your area to buy your produce, check out http://www.localharvest.com and type in your zip and find a farmer close by that sells organic produce.
Wonderful article Kimi!
I love localharvest.com! It’s a great resource!
Thanks for the comment. 🙂
The May Family
Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. You are right about of standard of eating. If we can keep that in mind while shopping for better quality our families will all benefit. 3 weeks ago, I decided I would not tetter on the fence of organic any more. And decided we would only eat the good stuff from now on. People I mentioned to thought I was crazy to try to feed a family of 6, on a limited budget, organic foods. But they don’t know how wild and crazy I can get in the kitchen!! I can make that food last for a long time, and by shopping local, I get the best! Thanks again for all your recipes, your information that educates, and your encouragement.
Sarah in the Middle
Hi – I just found your site (through “Real People Food”) and really enjoyed it! I am very interested in nutrition, and am always looking for ways to nourish my little family on a budget. I will be back!
Great post! I am a registered dietitian and read your blog frequently. I think this is great advice.
I thought I would point out that the Costco at least in my area is sooo good about returns/exchanges even without a receipt…just explain your predicament at least via the phone and see what they say…can’t hurt.
By the way I have NEVER gotten the impression from you that you are snobby about this way of eating in fact that is WHY I do read your blog…
God bless you!
The May Family,
“Wild and crazy” is what it takes sometimes, isn’t it! Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a coment! So glad you found me and looking forward to seeing you “around”. 😉
Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I appreciate it!
That’s so good to hear about Costco. We will give it a try, at least! I hate to have wasted money on salmon we don’ want to eat! And I am so glad that you think that I never have sounded ungracious. Thank you!
Totally agreed on the Cosco return policy – I would be FLOORED if you didn’t get your money back! I’m horrible about keeping receipts, and have never had a problem returning something there!
Just wanted to thank you for making the point about “peasant food”… I have recently questioned whether I ought to move in a different direction in my cooking (or maybe “take a break” from cooking from scratch, use more prepared foods?) and am just glad to have an encouraging perspective not to give up on good food in my quest to improve in other areas too. (My husband would thank you if he knew. 🙂
That’s beautiful produce! 🙂 And I have hardly ever seen a more gracious food blog. 🙂
Yeah! I am hoping that they do take it back with a full refund. It really was so nasty to even try to eat (it was so BRIGHT and unnatural looking, not appealing at all).
I am so glad that this post was encouraging to you. LOL, we eat a lot of peasant food around here! But we like it, so we aren’t complaining! I think it can be so very satisfying.
I am so glad that you think this blog gracious. I have been a little worried after reading some other blogs about Nourishing Tradition “food snobs”.
There is a fine line between sharing good information and putting a guilt trip on people.
Thanks so much for the encouraging comments everyone! I appreciate it. 🙂
I love this post! I didn’t even think about some food as being “peasant food” but that makes sense. I don’t need to eat like a King, nor sell myself short by trying to eat inferior foods!
On a side note, your blog has convinced me to buy a sourdough starter–I’ve been meaning to make sourdough for the past 6 months! Thanks for the push to the right site to buy one!
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
No one has accused me of being a food snob, but now and then a friend might say, “Don’t look at what my kids are eating!” So I wrote my post, “I’m really not a food snob!” I wanted people to know that I certainly still have my own “issues”, or ways that I’m not “there” yet, either… chocolate comes to mind! 🙂
This post couldn’t have been more timely. Thank you for your gracious perspective on food and eating. I understand the issues of not wanting to be viewed as a ‘food snob’. I think I’ve crossed that line a few times only to be reminded of the reality a tight budget brings.
We have three kids and my husband is in med school so our budget shrinks continuously. I am a Nutritionist, but I choose to work my clients into my free moments, which with our schedule is a couple of clients a week. Fall has been wonderful for the bounty of root veggies, our meat is ready to be picked up, fresh goose, duck, and chickens. I have given lectures about the “real cost of food”, so I find myself passionate about paying a fair wage for the quality food we buy and having to maintain our budget.
Our big issue is protein. We have a local farmer that we get our organic, free range eggs from, but when you have three athletic children that train quite seriously, and a husband who is also a competitive athlete, it can be tricky meeting everyone’s protein needs. We buy our beef from a farmer and fill up our freezer once a year, same with our foul and we also hunt (although not this year which is making the budget even tighter). When you say that the three of you share a small piece of fish, I wonder “how”?
Great! Have fun with the sourdough. I just love it.
I know what you mean. People can get self-conscience around me, if eating junk food. I am so not wanting to seem like I am judging anyone! I don’t eat perfectly myself!
Protein is a hard one, but yet so important! I can see how sharing one fish could seem a little skimpy to you! There are a few factors there not stated in the post above. My husband, to start with, is a PKU, which means that he is still advised not to eat much protein. (Are you familiar with this? They can’t absorb one of the amino acids, so it builds up in their bloodstream. So they have to really watch how much protein they eat, and instead get their protein from in pill form or in a formula).
He is a very mild case, so he can get away with very small amounts of meat (though he is not officially advised too), but he certainly couldn’t even eat a half of a serving! My daughter is just now starting to want to eat a larger amount of meat, and I didn’t grow up eating fish very often, so I am fine not eating a large portion. 🙂
When we eat beans, chicken, or beef, Elena and I have large portions, and my husband his usual small portion. So it’s only with expensive salmon we stretch so much. 😉
We also load up our freezer with meat. It saves us so much money!
Thanks for this post. I am a frequent reader here. The first time I read through NT I though, no way can I afford to do this.
I made as many little changes as I could.
I never thought about eating like peasants (or even pioneers). I’m so glad I came here and read this.
We joined a local co-op and we will get 10 weeks of fresh organic fruits/veggies for $35.00 each week.
Thats way less than I usually spend on such things!
what a great post…couldn’t agree with you more. it’s difficult to be frugal and have to abstain from things that you wouldn’t have thought about in the past. Right now we all need to do more “peasant eating”…which doesn’t seem all that bad to me.
thanks for such a thoughtful post.
Thank you for the post. I would agree with others that your blog is not at all one that I would consider being a “food snob”. Like others, that is why I read it. There are many I don’t read. I get the feeling that a lot of writers don’t understand the budget issues of some. But even more I feel a lot don’t understand the time constraints some people are under. Both my husband and I work full time. We have two children with a third on the way. We have made a commitment to make our own meals, and we try to buy local and organic when possible. That being said, if I were a single mom, there is no way that I could do this to the extent that we do now. It is about choices, but the choices are not as simple as some people try to make them.
Mary (Mary's Nest)
This was an excellent post. Thank you for sharing how you eat well on a budget. There was a wonderful article in the most recent Wise Traditions Journal that outlined one families “NT” budget and it covered much of what you spoke of.
I try to buy as much as I can locally and am blessed to have a number of great grass-fed cattle ranches in my area. (I live in the Texas Hill Country). I also buy the cheaper cuts of meat and have the ranchers put together a large bag of beef bones together for me for stock…what is that Sally Fallon says…stock is a protein stretcher???
I was so please to learn how hospitable local ranchers can be to try and meet your needs. I highly recommend talking to the ranches, farms, etc. in your area. I have been so pleased with the deals I have been able to work out.
I often get shanks very cheap that aren’t quite good enough to sell for Osso Bucco. Marrow bones cost next to nothing and most ranchers are more than happy to sell me the oxtails since they have told me that hardly anyone asks for them anymore.
I also buy pastured chickens (with the gizzards and feet), eggs, raw milk, and cheese from local farms. The chickens are more expensive than the grocery store but everything else runs less.
I don’t mind to pay a bit more for the good quality chickens because like you said, we don’t eat like kings – – – and I make sure I get every last bit of meat off the chicken and then use the bones to make stock.
Also – I recently attended the Maker Faire in Austin and learned about how I can grow 200 pounds of produce a year in a 4×4 raised bed. WOW!!! I couldn’t believe it but I am giving it a go and already have my lettuce in. I’ll keep you posted.
As of right now, I buy most of my fruit and veggies from local farms and for nuts I rely on pecans as they are abundant in our area. If it’s not in season, we rarely eat it as it would just be too much for our budget…but like you I do buy some things that I just can’t get locally – – – coconut oil, coffee, and chocolate.:) Luckily when it comes to wine, we have a number or award winning vineyards in the area.
Thanks again for such great info. I love your blog.
All the best,
Co-ops are great! It’s especially nice when you are involved directly with local farmers. Fresh food that supports local farmers is a win-win solution.
It can be difficult to take things out that you are so used to having. I find it helpful to concentrate on enjoying what I do have. I can find a lot of pleasure in a simple cup of good tea. 🙂
Thank you so much for the kind comment. I am so glad that I haven’t come across the wrong way. It has made me so relieved to hear people say that! Time constraints are very hard. Even me, as a stay at home mother finds time an issue! I am hoping to do a “nourishing quick dinner carnival” at some point. Hopefully that will prove helpful to everyone with a time budget, as well as a food budget!
Excellent advice. I am afraid there is a little more demand for some of the items you get cheaply in our area, so sometimes it seems a little more expensive. But it certainly has saved us a ton of money to work directly with farmers who raise beef! We also have done the whole chicken thing, but hardly have freezer room for it all. I am hoping that we can raise our own meat chickens next spring. We will see…..
Throwback at Trapper Creek
Excellent post! Knowing who grows your food is very important as your recent Costco experience can attest.
Don’t worry about being a NT snob, it is a great way to eat, and people fear something “different” because it is not information they have heard in the media or from their doctors. We grow our own food, and sell grassfed meats through http://www.eatwild.com, a wonderful source for finding grass based farms.
Love the blog