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Feeding The Family When Money Is Tight

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feed family tight budget

It’s almost the end of the month and payday is just around the corner. You’ve done pretty well all month with feeding your family healthy, non-GMO foods you feel good about. But you’re in the final stretch. The cupboards are almost bare … and everyone is hungry for some good food. A trip to the expensive and trendy “health” supermarket is completely out of the question. You can barely afford the scratch-n-dent section at the local grocery store at this point in the month.

So what do you feed the family, without compromising your values on food quality? What is a broke, yet health-conscious person supposed to eat?

While it’s a difficult chore, it can be done. You can still feed your family healthy, nutritious, non-GMO food for pennies on the dollar. You may have to sacrifice a few of your ideals, and prioritize what is most important. For instance, I tend to stay away from produce at the grocery store that I know has been trucked-in from hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. But on a really tight budget week, I may have to forgo my personal rules about “eating local” so that I can stick to my ideals about not feeding my family GMO-laden, neurotoxin-filled food.

What should I buy, then?

Fruits and Veggies. If you don’t have a garden and you rely on farmer’s markets or the supermarket to buy your produce, you’ll have to be a bit more relaxed about what you purchase til payday arrives. Organic produce is probably not an option. So, if you have to buy conventional fruits and veggies, opt for those that are on the “safe” list, commonly known as the Clean Fifteen:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Sweet Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Papayas
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sweet Potatoes

If you have to eat non-organic fruits and veggies from The Dirty Dozen please wash them and peel them if at all possible.  

Here’s where it pays off to be involved in local community agriculture. I am a frequent visitor to our little town’s farmers market. I go once a week and buy a few items that I can’t or don’t grow in my personal garden at home. This has allowed me to build worthwhile relationships with the regular farmers who sell at the market.

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One week a farmer asked me if I wanted some of his no-spray blueberries, like I typically purchased each week while they were in season. I said, “No thanks, we’re on a tight budget this week and I just can’t afford them today.” Guess what? That kind farmer gave me not one, but two containers of blueberries for free because I had been such a good customer to him. It was a win-win situation as I realized he cared more about my family than I knew, and after that day, I made sure to give him even more of my business when I could.

Grains. Organic grains are probably out of the question. However, you can look for better grains, such as choosing brown rice over white rice, or wheat flour over white flour. Couscous and quinoa can be affordable options if you shop around and catch them on sale. In our family, we eat more brown rice when the budget is tight.

Meat and Protein. Grass-fed and organic meat may be a stretch on a tight budget. At the very least, look for hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats. If meat is too expensive, supplement your diet during this period with local eggs, beans, and organic dairy as you can afford. (Just another great reason to have a few of your own chickens, if you can!)

Dairy. Dairy products are the one area where I have a hard time compromising, even on a tight budget. They are filled with hormones and as a mom to three little children, I’m just super-conscious about buying organic dairy products. If it means we have to eat lots of brown rice, beans and sweet potatoes all week so I can afford hormone-free milk, then so be it. That’s just my personal conviction and your mileage may vary. Just be aware that almost all conventional dairy products are filled to the brim with hormones.

There are other ways to build your family’s food security, too.

Don’t wait for a paycheck crisis or an emergency to hit. There are some pretty simple things you can be doing week after week, month after month, to help keep your family eating well … even at the end of the month!

  1. Build a pantry. Sure, it’s hard to think about doing this when money is tight. However, it can be done, bit by bit. Simply stock up on items when you can afford to do so. Even if it is just buying one extra item each week, that amounts to more than you had to start with. When you spot healthy foods you eat on sale, stock up if you can. NOTE: This is different from “radical couponing.” I do not suggest you buy cans of chemically laden food for your pantry just because you have a coupon. Instead, focus your efforts on stocking your pantry with healthy, GMO-free, pesticide-free, toxin-free food!
  2. Grow your own garden. If you’ve never gardened before, you’ll be amazed at what you can grow in your own yard. Whether it is a just a few tomato plants or ten rows of corn, growing SOMETHING is a great step towards expanding your family’s food independence. If you’re already an established gardener, consider growing new items to add to the mix. Learn about year-round gardening and start growing and eating your own food.
  3. Home canning and preservation. Once you learn the ins-and-outs of home gardening, you can begin to can and preserve the healthy food you’ve grown for your family. This is an excellent way to stock your pantry, by the way. Canning, freezing, and dehydrating food are skills we all need to know if possible. Even if you don’t garden much, you can preserve good and fresh food you buy at the farmer’s market.
  4. Bulk shopping. Bulk shopping at the “Super-Size Mart” isn’t what it used to be – there tends to be lots of GMOs there, too. However, you can find good deals on bulk grains, such as brown rice for a smaller cost. You just need to know how to look and compare costs.
  5. Find freebies around you. Can you trade garden bounty with friends? Does your neighbor have an apple tree that you could pick from, with permission? (I once had a neighbor who had a neglected apple tree – the apples fell to the ground each year, never being harvested!) Do you have wild blackberries growing behind the house? Look for “free” food sources … but always be safe about it.
  6. Skip, or simplify your snacks. Snacks are great – kids and adults love them – but they’re not exactly necessary if you’re really struggling to get by until payday. Go extra-frugal and stick to your three square meals a day. Or, if you must have a snack, choose something like a spoonful of peanut butter.

A good rule of thumb I always try to remember is that bad health is extremely more expensive than good food. Make wise choices … even when the budget is tight!


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