I've been pondering food and grocery shopping and stewardship quite a bit lately, and probably even more so today as I begin my green smoothie cleanse. Side note: if you ever put spirulina in a smoothie, make sure it's well blended! Here's a bit of what's on my heart right now...
Not too long after we moved to Florida, I found the Grocery Game through a website I frequented. It seemed like a great idea - match coupons to sales, stock up at the rock bottom price, save lots of money. I signed up, began buying newspapers, clipped my coupons, started buying in multiples and building up my supply. I spent about an hour a week getting everything ready for my shopping trips, and was glad to trade that time for the savings.
And it went well for a few months. I was excited to see my stash of food grow and was happy to be stewarding our money well...
...until I realized that what I was buying wasn't necessarily the sort of food I want my family eating. Everything was in a box...or in the freezer...and the ingredient lists were long and full of words I couldn't pronounce. We had lots of food around and it was all purchased at a good price - sometimes even free! - but it was significantly convenience foods. While it might have been filling, it certainly wasn't nourishing.
And while I did of course buy fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, I couldn't get past the nagging thoughts that while I might be stewarding the money well on the surface, what about deeper implications of all of of those processed foods? What was it doing to our bodies? And what were the agricultural, environmental and human costs?
We've always been concerned about our food sources, and how they're impacted by the messed up food system we live with as a society. Because of some health issues, we've also always been concerned about what those foods do to our bodies. We want to support the family farm and responsible agriculture as much as possible. By carefully following the Grocery Game, we weren't honoring those beliefs.
It's not just about the dollars we hand over to the grocery store, it's about so much more.
I've come to believe that the best foods are whole foods - for our bodies and for the world around us. I believe that foods are best closest to the way God created them...which is why I will gladly enjoy an ear of corn, but try my best to stay away from anything with any of the many, many names that processed corn products masquerade as.
I ended my subscription to the Grocery Game and over the past four years, have spent quite a bit of time studying food and nutrition. Influenced by books like Nourishing Traditions and The Omnivores Dilemma (among many others), I've begun doing crazy things like soaking my grains, attempting (rather unsuccessfully so far) to make my own sourdough starter and baking with coconut oil, whole wheat and alternative flours.
The way we eat has changed pretty drastically.
So has the way I shop.
And I've found that when you eat a predominantly whole food diet, there aren't a lot of coupons to be had. Surprisingly enough though, we're spending about as much now as we did during that time that I used the Grocery Game. While I don't have that stockpile, I do have the knowledge that I'm fulfilling my dual needs of feeding my family nourishing foods and doing it in a way that stewards our money beyond just cheap food. I don't need a cupboard full of salad dressings when I can make my own for cheaper, and be confident that they're not filled with mystery ingredients.
And that hour a week I used to spend getting ready for my shopping trip? Well, I figured out that that's about the same amount of time I now spend getting grains soaked and making my own bread. Rather than grocery shopping every single week, I do one big trip at the beginning of the month and supplement with our produce co-op. I might make 2 or 2 other small shopping trips each month, but that's about it.
There are a few things I took from the Grocery Game, though, that I still find helpful. Sales are cyclical. Stocking up at the lowest price is good. Combining coupons (when I can find them) with sales (though only when they're for things we already eat) is great. Having a stock of toiletries bought at the lowest price is pretty handy, and pretty easy when I use websites like Coupon Mom (and there are tons of other free ones out there!).
It's still a learning process. I was excited to stumble across this food buying club yesterday and am trying to see how I can work some of their grassfed beef and milk products into our budget. I'm also thrilled to begin this class this weekend - even though I've been cooking since I was in middle school, traditional cooking is a very different thing and a bit more complicated. It's nice to have someone who can walk me through it.
It is a learning process, but it's one that has been a complete blessing and one that I will continue on.
Affiliate notice: the books and class are all links that I am an affiliate of.