I never intended to write a series on food budgeting, but it seems as though I am headed in that direction. I thought that one post would cover it, but the conversation in the comments decided otherwise.

Ever since I wrote an article called The Cost of Nourishing Food: A Follow Up To Going Grain-Free I have had your comments on my mind. Most of you agreed with me, but a couple of you challenged my thoughts and expressed your frustrations with the debate. I welcome debate and challenge. One of the reasons I write here is in order to challenge the way people think, including myself.

Pampered Mom said:

To assume that there are these legions of folks out there who have all sorts of “extras” that can be cut from their budgets means that we’ve already made this an elitist issue. Lets face it, there are folks out there who have little left to cut and they’re the ones who most desperately need real, honest to goodness, nourishing food.

I hear the phrase “elitist” a lot when I read about the real food “movement”. To be honest, it really frustrates me. Why? Because eating real food is not just for the wealthy, it is not out of anyone’s reach and it is not a right, but rather a responsibility.

The truth is real food got pushed aside when convenience foods, which are truly elitist, came on the market. My grandparents were dairy farmers with six children. They didn’t have the latte factor to contend with, they didn’t even have insulation in the attic where my father and his five siblings slept. Their average temperature in January is 10 degrees. What they did have was real food and lots of it – a garden for preserving, fresh milk, lots of butter, and from what my Dad tells me “not another steak.” They are nearly ninety now and are probably in better health than most of the baby boom generation, and even much of my own generation.

I do believe that there are people out there who have nothing left to cut out of their budget. This is you if you have the most basic of food, water and shelter. This is you if you spend nothing on entertainment and do without much of the modern day conveniences that we are told we “need.” This is you if you live in the most humblest of homes in your area.

This is not us. We laugh when people ask us if we are “ok, financially”, because we still see places where we could cut back. We choose to live in a less expensive, older apartment and not purchase clothing or toys without much consideration, if at all. To some people that makes us look as though we are lacking. My grandparents lived much more humbly than we do. So does much of the rest of the world.

If you are not among the majority of Americans who have much more than they need and don’t even realize it, then do what you can with what you have.

I think the third item in your list – “do what you can with what you have” – needs to be a lot more than an after thought added in there.

Absolutely! Do what you can with what you have should be an overarching principle, not an afterthought. Clearly, I didn’t communicate that very well.

When I first posted Why Grains Are Not Necessary for a Nourishing Diet I was trying to bust conventional wisdom and share a diet that may be healing for many people. Optimal does not mean necessary. A compromise can always be reached.

For example: we have been discussing adding back in some sprouted legumes and grains in April for budgetary reasons. There is a priority in our lives right now that requires us saving up a bit of cash and the one place where we can pull it from, without taking away from paying off loans or our monthly savings, is to bring down the grocery budget a bit.

Optimal vs. Reality vs. Compromise


Here is a list of nourishing food ideas that can be broken down into three categories: what is optimal, what is reality in our home and how we would compromise if need be. If I had to cut my grocery budget it half we would not eat as cleanly as we do now, but I know we could still feed our family real food in some form.

optimal: 100% organic produce, grown in our own backyard
reality: organic produce from a CSA and a small garden, conventional produce that is not high in pesticides
compromise: conventional produce

optimal: 100% grass-fed meats in various forms, preferably from our own animals
reality: organic, grass-fed meats in the cheapest forms: ground beef and whole chickens from local farmers
compromise: conventional meats

optimal: organic, raw dairy from pastured cows or goats, preferably our own
reality: raw, pastured milk from a local farmer and raw cheeses from Trader Joe’s
compromise: conventional cheese and fermented conventional dairy

optimal: grain-free
reality: grain-free for now
compromise: plenty of sprouted/properly prepared grains

optimal: plenty of raw butter from pastured cows, preferably our own
reality: plenty of store-bought organic, pastured butter
compromise: plenty of conventional butter

The thing is we can all strive to achieve what is optimal for our health. And we should all be moving towards less dependence on a food system that is not sustainable. After all, growing your own food is never elitist.

In the meantime, when sacrifices must be made, we can still eat real foods that will nourish our families far more than anything from a box or drive-through.

The biggest investment you can make to nourish your family is not money, but time and perspective.