Friday, February 29, 2008

What I believe about food

I believe I am a thinking woman who makes the choice to be content.
I believe we should do the best we can with the budgets we have.
I believe in encouraging one another.

That said, there are some very real questions brought up in our discussion this week. Here are a few I struggle with:
  • Are my children entitled to a balanced and nutritious diet, or foods as optimal as my husband's paycheck can afford?
  • Should I strive for balance and use the rest to sponsor a Compassion child?
  • Is it better to drive 10 miles farther for local food, or walk down the street to buy groceries instead?
  • Am I discouraging you because I can do this for $50, or does this give you hope that you could eat for less if you needed to?


Anonymous said...

Meredith, it's Friday afternoon; do I really have to think?

Okay, I will. For my daughter and I:

1. I feed us nurtionally balanced meals (most of the time) and some treats (more than we should have, I'm sure).
2. I do not sponsor a child but I do buy food for the church pantry for the homeless on most shopping trips, I bake casseroles and provide desserts for the homeless shelter monthly, I contribute to the Salvation Army, etc. I don't think there is anything wrong with giving treats to the family if I can do so within a reasonable budget and also contribute to those who have nothing or very little.

3. I buy most groceries at the store (Aldi's or Wegman's) but shop at the local farmer's market on Sunday morning during the summer and fall. I get fresher produce, I support local agriculture, especially the farmers who are organic or near-organic, and I support local farmers so they can keep the land undeveloped. I get up earlier so I can drive the 30 minute round-trip and do my shopping before church. The food is better, fresher (usually picked the day before), and I can get better varieties than most stores sell. Our market also has organic, cage-free eggs and whole chickens for sale. It's worth the time and effort to me.

4. I am not at all discouraged by your efforts. I'm much more encouraged and I've actually started making up a menu plan for the coming week, which I will complete this weekend. I'm a single working mom and that planning alone will help me a lot. I will not be cooking from scratch EVERY night, but I will do so some nights. Other times, it will be convenience foods. Simply having a plan means I know what food we have, when it's being used, and it will hopefully not turn into a science experiment, which will save us money!

Amy Dacyczyn probably said it best for me: When you read the Tightwad Gazette, I don't expect you to use every idea. Take what works for you and use it. Use the articles fire your imagination to improve your life and finances. That's what I think your blog, as well as others that I read, does very, very well!

Meredith said...

I did not mean y'all have to answer these questions!

I just wanted you to know that none of what I've shared this week is black and white.

There are real considerations you and your family have to make.

IF you have the luxury of making them.

But those are YOUR choices, and they are neither inferior nor superior to mine.

Natalie W. said...

Meredith, my husband is in the Army and deployed overseas...I eat freezer pizzas, overpriced small containers of sorbet, and store bought cookies. (presently, I'm addicted to ginger snaps) Regardless, I delight in the ideas presented on your site and the beauty and thought behind them. It inspires me and helps me look forward to the season in my life when I will get to take care of a family. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

1)we do the best we can, we have the money we have...and i have to make it work, so not always balanced....but best we can do within budget....and not as healthy as we should but that's habit i think more than anything

2) we will be sponsoring compassion kids, as a family it worth it to me, to buy lesser cuts of meat as long as we're all i can sponsor, for us yes..

3) compromise, is it better to use up gas and polute , by driving so far, or go closer, i think its 6 of one and half a dozen of the other, do what works at that moment, if you can plan trips it works...

4) i can do 50$ a week too, sometimes less and sometimes i think its nice to see what others can do as well...

Celina in canada

Anonymous said...

I struggle with the issue you brought up with your first question.

Technically we could afford an expensive all organic diet on my husband's paycheck, but to do so would require us giving up many other things:

-A solid retirement. Feeding my child expensive food now only to become a financial burden on them later would not make sense.

-College fund. Ditto to above. Would my son rather have organic strawberries now or have his college paid for later?

-Books, museum trips, and many other educational extras. Nourishing the mind and spirit is as important as nourishing the body.

-Travel. We are blessed with my husband's job to live overseas and be able to take many other trips abroad. As with books, I believe this nourishes the mind and spirit and is a tremendous opportunity for our son.

Everything in life is a trade off and I try to find balance and buy local/organic when I can, but it is not my number one priority. I think I do pretty well in simply cooking from scratch and avoiding lots of processed foods.

BTW, I am very encouraged by your efforts. For the first time in a long time I sat down to make a weekly menu and use up pantry items.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

I found your 1950s cooking experiment to be fascinating and encouraging. I'm especially intrigued by the fact that you lost weight while eating a diet that seemed so heavy compared to today's meal standards.

I think that nearly everything we do in life leaves us with what-ifs or should-I-haves. You really just have to go with your convictions and make sure that they are concrete and not just based on the mood of the moment. Then rest assured that you've done your best with what you've been given.

Jennifer said...

1. Are my children entitled to a balanced and nutritious diet, or foods as optimal as my husband's paycheck can afford? As long as our kids get everything they need and little bit of their wants, I think we are all doing the right thing.

2. Should I strive for balance and use the rest to sponsor a Compassion child? that is a personal opinion. I can't afford the monthly commitment of sponsoring a child at this point, so we do what we can by donating food whenever we can.

3. Is it better to drive 10 miles farther for local food, or walk down the street to buy groceries instead? That is a tough one for sure! I do believe in buying locally as much as possible, you are supporting local people by doing this. I think the environmental impact of walking to the store might offset buying from far away, but probably not. You are saving 10 miles of gas and emissions, however the food you bought probably traveled thousands of miles to get to you.

4. Am I discouraging you because I can do this for $50, or does this give you hope that you could eat for less if you needed to? Sometimes I do get discouraged seeing people feed their families for much less than us, but I have to take into consideration our situation that others might not be affected by. Food allergies, larger family, etc.

I think that we all need to just do the best we can. It is always good to strive for better, but not to the extent of making life miserable for everyone involved.

Chrissy said...


I too found your 50's menus encouraging, not to mention inspiring. I pulled out an old cookbook from the 40's that belonged to Hubby's G'ma. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading it. I'm also getting some great ideas. Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous said...

Michelle's thoughts are very similar to mine... I have been "all around town" nutritionally speaking, and for a while I was on the Nourishing Traditions bandwagon. (A lovely way of eating, but a drain on my finances, energy and sanity... I was warned though!) I did "take away" some values from that though.

I love how I'm starting to see how frugal, simple, and nutritious can converge. I think you've done a good job illustrating that, Meredith.

And I won't/can't buy organic all the time. But if I can afford to buy local, I would.

Great series of posts, I really enjoyed it, on the 1950s cooking.

Harper said...

I think it is wonderful that you take the poverty of others into account when planning what to feed your family. I have spent much of my life volunteering and/or knitting for charity, so my community involvement has rarely been food oriented.

I find it surprising that nutrition and economy can be at odds with each other. The weeks my husband and I make an effort to eat a balanced diet are the weeks we spend the least.

Considering your ponderings about frugal "nit picking" last week, it's probably worth the light math to figure out how much gas you expend (and the cost of it)to travel to locally grown food and compare it to the time you spend walking to the local grocer rated at $10/hr at least. It is also pretty easy to hunt down which fruits and vegetables are the most easily contaminated by pesticides and such. Perhaps the extra gas is worth while on some items but not on others?

Finally, I am getting over the shock of spending a whole $50 on groceries this week. My usual budget ranges from $15-25/wk depending on whether I need meat, cheese, milk, and/or eggs. When the sales are particularly good I can do it for under $15. Of course, I have no children yet, but I do live in a very expensive part of the country and shop at a midrange grocery store.

Last week's posts were wonderful. I have to wonder if part of the four pounds you lost were from spending so much time on your feet? And I am definitely going to try that scalloped potato recipe.

Anonymous said...

Balance is important. Organic, healthy food can be bondage, just like a Big Mac addiction.

I know a man who doesn't go to any social events, because of his chosen diet. I understand some individuals have allergies or health issues. However, those people don't frown on others. They politely excuse themselves, and eat the things they can.

Your posts have inspired me to cut back on our food spending. I want my kids to eat healthy, but that doesn't mean they need to eat all the apples, bananas, and carrots in three days. You are right. Planning is the key.

Patty said...

I am encouraged by your menu plan for $50.
We don't eat red meat which allows us to purchase more fresh fruits.
I shop early in the morning when foods that are on thier last sale date are marked down. Not expired but soon to be. I freeze them.
You are an inspiration as always.
In raising my family, we did the best we could on the money we had, sometimes that meant Kraft Mac and Cheese as part of a meal. My children are healthy adults with good health habits.

Rebecca said...

I'm always encouraged to hear that other people are doing what they think is right for their family.

A LOT of people in my life think I'm nuts that my grocery bill is so small. They just cannot understand and while wishing theirs was as small, they are not willing to do the work.
It takes time and effort to make things from scratch, to garden and to spend hours at "pick your own" farms and farmers markets to get very cheap, very healthy food.

We don't buy a whole lot of organic. However, we have a u-pick farm about 15 miles away that offers everything from strawberries and snap peas to apples, pears and plums. We pick hundreds of pounds at pennies of what it would cost us to get at the store. This particular farm is nice because they pride themselves on using minimal pesticides, only using them when absolutely necessary.
I get all of my grains at the natural food store because they sell it in bulk and it just so happens to be organic.
The milk thing is what I struiggle with. We don't use a lot of it because my kids are sensitive to dairy products, but paying 7 dollars for a gallon? Eek I cringe at it and gultily pick out the 2.50/gallon stuff and try to ignore the things I read about hormones.

Mrs. Darling said...

We have plenty of money to buy anything we want in the line of food. Having said that though I will tell you that I can a lot of my stuff from local farmer in the fall and summer. I also grow all my own blueberries, apples, grapes, and much of the veggies. I live on a half acre city lot.

I grow all my stuff organic so the kids can browse through the gardens a their leisure and eat what they want but Im not really into buying things organic. Its just never been a priority of mine.

I would never be discouraged at your budget prices. I say good for you. I guess Im way on another limb about this. I find it so much easier to save money in other areas than in groceries that I don't pay much attention to our grocery bill.

We eat VERY LITTLE packaged food. Our meals are healthy and nutritous and we sit down as a family for every dinner. On weekends the family is at the table for all three meals every day. This is our way of life and I dont sweat it.

Meredith said...

I am going to have to close comments temporarily. I will open things back up again later this week.

Daiquiri said...

Meredith- You're definitely more inspiring than discouraging for me! There's just a peace and a contentment that shines through your posts...a simplicity. Whether I'm fixing fugal meals or making a package pretty with whatever I have on hand...I often think of you.

One of my friends said something that really stuck with me: "do your best to bless, not impress". That's my mantra as I'm cleaning the house, making coffee, and lighting the candles for the Bible study we host each Thursday "bless,not impress... bless, not impress, bless..."

It's that simplicity in thought that reminds me of you (not to say that you're simple minded!).

I feel that this is what you do for seek to bless, not impress (although, I must say, know how to SHOP, so I'm often also very impressed!).

My, I'm feeling chatty. Sorry for the novel. Have a great evening.


Tubo Family said...

Hope this means you are feeling better. I enjoyed the series on 50's cooking and following along as you ask yourself questions about balancing sometimes conflicting priorities.

I think the big picture is that the answer will be a little different for each person/family--even if both parties espouse similar values, each will have access to different resources within themselves (i.e. cooking skills, organizing/bargain hunting for menu plans), their families (health issues such as diabets & allergies, cultural preferences), and communities (local bargains, choice of retail stores, availability of farmers markets).

~Red Tin Heart~ said...

This post encourages me to try to do better. xoxo nita

Anonymous said...

Hi! I don't think I've commented before but I've been subscribed and reading with google for a while. I thought I'd try to answer these questions :-)

Are my children entitled to a balanced and nutritious diet, or foods as optimal as my husband's paycheck can afford?

I think my children are entitled to the healthiest diet I can give them. This means we don't spend money on chips and lots of bad snacks. I prepare meals that are good for them and we have fruit, cheese, and other healthy things that are filling that they can have between lunch and dinner. We don't eat lots of desserts either unless I happen to find something on sale or have time to make something from scratch. Breakfasts are probably the easiest meal to change to healthy for little bit of price because good whole grain cereals are at a good price comparison. We love Kashi cereal! Add some citrus and you've got a great balance!

Should I strive for balance and use the rest to sponsor a Compassion child?

We tithe to our local church, and give offereings to other places. I don't think I have to make the choice. I can do both because of God's blessings.

Is it better to drive 10 miles farther for local food, or walk down the street to buy groceries instead?

We live in a small town that has a highway down the middle of it but its not convenient to try and get on it and cut off drive time. I know all the shortcuts through town anyway ;-) We do drive farther sometimes to go to the farmers market but we also try to buy the majority of our food on the military base we live on. Also, we don't mind the drive to go to a u-pick place because a) we get exercise while we are picking, and b) we get a GREAT bargain -- ie 20 pounds of tangelo's for $5!!

Am I discouraging you because I can do this for $50, or does this give you hope that you could eat for less if you needed to?

No discouragement.. I've loved reading your feed. I'm not sure how many kids you have and what their ages are, etc.. so I know they might not be the same as mine and different dynamics make a different price point. I enjoy all the tips you give!

God bless,

Anonymous said...

If you were discouraging me, I wouldn't be here reading almost every day.


Anonymous said...

There are few areas in our budget where we are willing to spend a bit more, but for us, natural (ie. organic, unsprayed, etc.) food and really solid nutrition are one that is important to us.

However, we still do this on a tighter budget than most families we know, and I strive to get at least 50% of our food either organic or natural. We purchase next to nothing packaged or processed, cook mostly from scratch, try to buy in bulk whenever possible, buy discounted items (ie. marked down milk, veggies, etc.) and stock the pantry when we find deals.

Because we believe that with nutrition and food, you either pay now or you pay later (in poor health and habits), we choose to go more frugal in other areas of our budget instead, all the while doing the best we can to keep our food budget very, very reasonable.

But should we strive for balance? Yes, by all means! I don't knock myself out trying to get every single item organic. I do what I can do, and leave the rest, without stressing out over it. I would rather be able to keep our budget low enough to faithfully give to others, than be able to buy my absolutely ideal grocery list.

As for the local food, personally I think it is better to get the local food, despite the driving. My reasoning is that although it feels more right to walk to the nearby store, you have to consider that you haven't really saved the cost, energy, resources, etc. It's already been payed for by someone else- that food was transported, often thousands of miles, in order to be convenient for you. I would say, try to combine the trips to the local food with other necessary errands or family activities, and try to space out shopping trips as much as possible, to make the distance worth it.

Nope, you never discourage me! We each have different situations, circumstances, life seasons, resources available to us. Most of the time, it's just pointless to compare ourselves with others.

I live in Canada, where groceries are far more expensive than in the US. I could get discouraged about the fact that I pay nearly double what you pay. Or, I could take into consideration that I am doing my very best for where I am at, and be content with what I am able to do.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are feeling a bit better. (I am guessing that you are because you opened the blog again for us to post notes)

Yes, children are entitled to the best food a parent can provide. That is a given. That does not mean a parent should go to the poor house to do it either. I think it is a big help when a parent shows a child that food is not 'free' for the taking..IE..takes the child to the grocery store, takes the child to the farmer's market, shows the child how to garden, if possible takes a child to a farm or ranch so a child can see where beef, pork, and chicken and eggs come from. Kids learn the MOST when they SEE it with their own eyes.
Your blog is a wonderful inspiration, a tool I often use to learn a new way to look at things. Even at my age, I can still learn. Roxie

Anonymous said...

Hope you feel better soon, I miss clicking your site and not seeing something new, I have been reading you for several years now and I really enjoy it. Stay in bed and rest and we will hear from you when we hear from you.

Renee said...

Great posts Merideth, not discouraging at all! You have blessed many women out in the cyber world and given the skills to encourage Titus 2 womanly sharing for encouragement galore. Keep on posting. Your photos are like eye candy! :-) Thank you.

Anonymous said...


We miss you terribly. I check your blog first thing every morning, before making the coffee and reading the paper! Those are strong sentiments coming from coffee-drinking Seattle!!!

Get well SOON.


Anonymous said...

Meredith, I do hope you are not seriously ill and will be back "to work" very soon. You are missed and good thoughts for a speedy recovery are being sent your way!