As a follow-up to my last post, I thought I'd write about my less-than-Utopian kitchen. In a dream world, everything in my kitchen would be from a garden outside my door, or from farmers up the road. Alas, living in the Northeast means that I am limited in my selection during the cooler months. Plus, let's be real. I am just too plain tired to cook everything from scratch, every single day. Everyone has a different threshold as far as the food they feed their families. The threshold is based on personal values, budget and taste.
Here's my threshold:
- Personal Values: Whenever possible, I choose organic/locally grown/non-GMO food, fresh or not. These things do not always overlap. I am more likely to choose locally grown over organic but my choices vary from product to product. (Here's why.) I also buy full-fat dairy products. (Again, here's why: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/21/why-you-need-to-avoid-low-fat-milk-and-cheese.aspx).
- Budget: I try to spend no more than $150 a week on groceries. This is slightly higher than the USDA's low-cost plan estimate but lower than the moderate-cost plan estimate. I didn't know this until I was compelled to compare our budget to some kind of national measure. You can see the whole chart here and find out how you measure up: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2008/CostofFoodFeb08.pdf via The Simple Dollar. I keep our budget in check by as buying few convenience/processed products as possible, shopping sales, and making food from scratch. I also make a lot of choices based on how much I'm willing to spend on the organic version of a product. For example, organic apples don't usually break the bank but organic berries can be expensive, so I go for the apples over the berries unless I really need the berries! Sometimes, I just go without if I can't find the organic version or if it's just too expensive.
- Taste: In our family, we consume meat probably one to two times a week, or none at all some weeks, depending on how much money I'm trying to cut from the grocery budget. With red meat, I look for organic whenever possible, and occasionally, I buy grass-fed beef but I find it harder to cook with. Same goes for chicken--I look for the most natural option available to me, and usually end up buying Bell & Evans chicken, which I used to only find at Whole Foods but now can find at Stop and Shop. Bell & Evans isn't organic but I approve of their practices, and I trust them more than I trust, say, the Stop and Shop organic line. I buy fish probably two times a month, and I look for wild-caught, sustainable fish. If there isn't any, I just go without.
So, what the heck do we eat? I plan a menu every week before I go grocery shopping. Here's last week:
As far as where I shop, in the winter months, I do all my shopping at Stop and Shop, other local groceries or Trader Joe's. In the warmer months, I get as much produce as possible from local farms, farmer's markets, and this year, hopefully, from my own garden! I also buy milk and eggs from a local farm. I've been known to make my own yogurt and bread. I would like to make more from scratch but... I'm lazy. (Told you I was keeping it real...)
Probably the biggest expense and health challenge in my weekly shopping is snack-y stuff for the kids. We eat our fair share of Pirate Booty around here, along with crackers, and other carb-y/healthy junk stuff. I try to offset that with apples (and other in-season fruit), baby carrots, hummus, and homemade popcorn.
So, there it is. I've probably missed a few things here but this is the gist of how we do it around here. Share your version in the comments, or write your own blog post and link to it in a comment.