Eating traditional foods means eating foods the way humans have eaten for thousands of years, eating foods that were around before foods were made in factories or heavily refined. It means eating healthy, natural animal and vegetable products, eating animal fats and bone broths, eating fermented vegetables, focusing on sourdough breads and generally eating real food. It's really not weird, but it is a little outside the mainstream in many American households.
Anne Marie of Cheeseslave.com is hosting a Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival and so I decided to write a bit about how to eat traditional foods on a budget. When most people first decide to eat real food they run into one major problem: real food is expensive! We quickly realize that eating a healthy, traditional diet rich in animal fats, properly treating grains and a variety of cooked, raw and fermented vegetables goes a long way towards making your family more productive, happy and generally healthy but man, what a price tag! You can buy Hamburger Helper and Campbell's soup for pennies, especially with coupons and in store specials. Grassfed meat, raw dairy and organic produce are rarely part of a blue light special and always come at a premium price. A good diet lowers long term medical costs, increases your energy and ability to do the work and play you want to, and can increase children’s learning and future abilities. How to get this magical diet on a budget (and we all have a budget) is the key to making the lifestyle change stick.
Here is my collection of ideas for transitioning to a more traditional diet and for doing traditional foods on the cheap. This post will explore a couple of ideas to get yourself ready to transition into a traditional diet. My next post will be list of hands in the dishwater, feet on the ground how-to tips on making your kitchen healthier and your wallet a bit happier.
First and foremost: Educate yourself. There are lots of free resources for information out there to help you learn about traditional diets and their benefits. Check out books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast, Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and Nina Planck’s Real Food: What to Eat and Why from your local library. If they don’t have them ask about interlibrary loan.
Read articles on websites like the Weston A Price Foundation site, the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation website, and Nourishing Our Children. You can also join online communities focused on traditional diets. The yahoogroup Discussing Nourishing Traditions and the forums at Cooking Traditional Foods are some great ones but there are LOTS more out there.
When you are ready to start making a real change in your kitchen, then make two lists. One of things you already do “traditional food style” in your kitchen and one of things you really want to do better. The first list may include things like “We like butter”, or “I make a point of shopping at farmers markets” or “We choose low sugar foods whenever possible.” Little things make the biggest difference.
Make the second list no more than one page, or maybe 30 items long to start with. Once you have brainstormed the list then prioritize it. This will become your roadmap for converting your kitchen. You can’t do everything at once so you need to focus on some aspects of a traditional diet before you can focus on everything else. For example, some families have prioritized access to and consumption of raw milk. They make a point of joining a herdshare or a raw milk car pool. They learn to make yogurt and kefir and drink lots of raw milk. Other families, due to finances, health, or just preference, prioritize soaking all grains or learning to make their own fermented vegetables or beverages. Your first priority may simply be learning a couple simple, from scratch meals and scheduling family dinners. You can’t do it all so choose your battles. You’ll enjoy your new foods more if you aren’t feeling overwhelmed by everything else you haven’t done yet.
In the next post I'll lay out my in the kitchen tips for making real food work in your budget.