Perhaps I am a rebel. I just cannot fathom spending $200 a week on groceries. This is the average cost for a family of 4 in Northern America. With today's economy, and the reoccurring costs that a family on a limited income faces, how do people afford this? Oh, right...mothers are sent to work, the children at daycare or public school. We don't do that. I made the commitment over 5 years ago to be a stay at home mother, and almost 2 years ago devoted my time to homeschooling our children. Running a household on a single income is not a simple task. Part of my commitment to stay at home, came with the obvious responsibility for me to work steadily on reducing our costs. As a stay at home mother, my job is now to save money..in anyway I know how. Whether it be by cutting coupons, planting a garden, patching jeans, or making meals from scratch. I posted the status "We splurged at a total of $46.73 on groceries this week" to my facebook profile yesterday and to my amazement, quite a discussion arose. I know our budget is slightly out of the norm, but really didn't for-see it being such a discussion starter. There were a few of my friends who shared in my budget beliefs regarding food, but for the most part, a lot of my friends were shocked that I could get by with so little. One comment "What do you eat?", had me really thinking. I wanted to tell her the total truth. We eat very bland food. Not a lot of taco's, no fancy bakery breads, not much by way of imported cheeses or select grade cuts of meat. We eat what we make, what we hunt and what we find growing wild. Fresh carrot sticks from the garden are the kids treat. It's nothing to see them toting off with a bag of apples and cleaning the whole lot of them off in 10 minutes (between the 3 of them). Just up until a few weeks ago, when we were visiting friends, did my kids EVER have fluff. You know, that marshmallow'y spread that kids love. Yep..they asked "what is that". Don't get me wrong, we do buy "snack" stuff from time to time. This weeks was one box of cereal, a bag of popcorn, and sunflower seeds.
Well, it's a long story...Here's part of my response to the many questions that arose on my published status.
"we've been chowing down on apples (I bought 4 bushels a few weeks ago) raw carrots sticks, homemade kefir smoothies, raw broccoli, and such. Still lots coming in from the garden. I have canned a lot of fruit juices, also have lots of berries and jams put up for winter, and so we sometimes buy banana's when they are on sale. The only things we do spend money on weekly is milk, cheese, eggs, grains and toilet paper. Just recently we've transitioned from boxed cereals to oatmeal. I still do buy one small box for the kids as a *treat*, but in this house, that lasts all but 3 hrs. I've noticed, that when only whole foods are available, that''s what my kids eat. Come winter it will get a little harder, as the diet can get pretty bland, and so we do supplement ans spend more on fresh produce. I plan to restart my sprout garden once the ground freezes..we use it as a lettuce substitute. It's pennies to grow, can be grown on the table top and nutritionally packed and my kids eat it like chips when they are hungry. I'mm looking into growing wheat grass for juicing this winter(to add into smoothies/popsicles)..it is very healthy, plus I have 27lbs of it stocked for us (and the rabbits) to eat for this winter. Don't get me wrong, there are weeks we spend far more than $46. The week we bought the apples, it was over $60 just for the 4 boxes, but it beats paying the top price for them in February, plus they store very well. Our potatoes we picked (150lbs) off a field after the harvester had went through. It was considered our phys-ed/practical life skills class. We make the majority of our household supplies. (soap, shampoo, deodorant, face washes, laundry detergent, fabric softener ect) and all of that pays for it'self as the profit from selling those items to others covers the cost of making our personal products."
One friend asked, "when it comes to packing the kids lunches and staying away from junk its too tempting.....is it something you acquire a taste to or what's the secret.....I'd love to offer the kids better choices but I guess I don't know where to start....any suggestions as to how you got going with introducing it to your family"
Well..I find it takes time for everyone to get used to eating differently..especially My husband. He likes packaged foods, so gradually sneaking stuff in works here. I might bring in one new food every 3-6 mths. And as I bring something new in, take an old (unhealthy) one out. For example, I have learned a lot about the negative impacts microwaves have on people..and have wanted to get rid of ours. My husband has always opposed this idea! He believes the risk is minimal...but then 2 weeks ago our microwave quit, and we have not replaced it. I am hoping that, if I just don't bring it up, perhaps he will forget how convenient it was to have, and passively agree to not get one. (besides, we just don't have the cash for one anyways). Some of the things I have tried to introduce have not been a hit at all, but I just try and try again. The biggest thing is to make it easy. If having good foods is at the cost of a lot of hard work and agony, then the benefits aren't that great. Stress can bring your health down just as much as bad food. To explain more, just be simple. Once small change is one step forward. I can look down the road to where my ideals and dreams are, but if that is all I ever do, then I am defeated before I even start. Ask..what can I do today to move towards that place? Well, today I am trying to stop my 3 year old from filling his belly with the package of hot dogs that we bought (as per the husbands request). He has had one as a snack, and is asking for more. I will put them into the freezer (to be hidden) and so then he won't have that for his next option. Next time I will offer him some oatmeal, or popcorn. When the choices we are use to having are not longer available, and we are hungry, other things become more attractive.
Perhaps I will blog more on how to practically apply some traditional life stills..something of a "how to" series. It seems that the more I learn and share what I am doing, the more the people around me take interest and want to learn...and I am all about sharing that. I believe that is one tradition that is fading today...passing on our traditions to the next generation. Somewhere, somehow, we forgot to teach our daughters and sons how to live life. We started to depend on others for our welfare and safety. I think that if my Great-Great grandmother were to see the society that she herself started when she pioneered in the "New World", she would shake her head. I don't think a picture of our main street, plastered with fast food joints, dry cleaners, and fitness gyms would reflect the vision she had for her descendants when she settled here. This is "Why" I want to be different. I don't want to be a blind consumer. I want to know that I have worked hard for the things I have..and that those things are worth the sweat. I love the gratification of providing a full meal for my family with only pennies invested. I love hearing my kids tell me, "Hey, we picked those potatoes! And that is the bird Daddy shot the other day." when eating our meal. That is the drive behind my madness. Besides that, I am very cheap. Too cheap in fact, that I haven't bought Kraft Dinner in over 2 years because they raised the price to over a dollar a box.
I have a lot of plans for our future. We need a wood cook stove. That will be a huge investment for us..but it's on the someday list. We want a farm. Someday. I plan to buy chickens this spring for eggs. I am extending our urban garden and building a small green house. My eldest son and I plan to take the hunters safety course together in May. I want to be TV free. I want to read my bible more. I want to pay off dept that is incurring interest so that I can afford to give to charity. We want to rig up a wind power generator when we move out of town. I want to learn how to sew pants, and button-up shirts. The list goes on and on...and day by day we get closer. Slowly. In time. Some people say it is inspiring. I say, it is a life of hard work. Honest work. I hope that the inspiration that comes from my sharing is the kind that propels others to reach their own goals..that encourages them to help themselves. And I am willing to share, whatever I can along the way.