Day Two [Diet Makeover pt. 9]

20120315-070440.jpg
It’s day two. I get up just after 7 and find Brother and Sister sitting at the kitchen counter, staring blankly at bowls of sliced apples their dad got for them. Oh boy, it’s day two, the hardest day.

Mr. Dad says Sister threw up a little already this morning, but there wasn’t food in it (sorry for TMI!), so he thinks the diet is already making some effect…detox? Way to go on the positive outlook, Mr. Dad!

After three fried eggs and some juice, Mr. Dad leaves for work. The kids are still staring blankly at their apples, but my eight year old is up by now and turns on the cartoons, so they stumble into the den to watch with her. Just for the record; I don’t let my kids watch movies till noon at home (or at all on schooldays) but it’s vacation with cousins, and it’s actually an excellent distraction from food cravings. OK, done justifying my mommy morals.

When scrambled eggs were ready, I called the kids back to the kitchen, but Brother didn’t come. Found him laying on the couch, mumbling. I carried him back to his eggs but he was so tired, no amount of coaxing would get him to put a bite in his mouth. I knew he was really hungry, even if he couldn’t feel it, so I stuck a slab of butter in his mouth and told him to suck on it. After a bit he took himself back to bed and sawed logs until almost noon.

20120315-082233.jpg

Breakfast:
Eggs, scrambled or fried in butter
Apples, ripe bananas, mandarins as desired, or as snacks until lunch

Lunch:
Chicken veggie bone broth soup, from last night
Chicken salad on greens with balsamic and pecans, same as Day One, for adults
Peanut butter and apple slices, afternoon snack sent with Mr. Dad

Brother and sister hated having soup again, the moms enjoyed it, and baby Mac sucked it up (literally). My kids (8 and 18 months are the ones I have with me this week) gobbled it up, which is proof to me that children’s tastes can change to include savory flavors as well as sweet; it was not too long ago that my kids were kicking and screaming over soup, too.

Mrs. Mom did a great job on holding the line on no snacks if you didn’t eat your soup; Sister had earned her snacks (fruit, raisins, almonds) by mid-afternoon. Brother only ate about half his soup, so was REALLY ready for dinner.

We had quite a bit of drama all day, begging for toast, cereal, gummy vitamins, tortillas, candy (Mrs.Mom: “Really? We don’t eat candy!”). All these cravings for the exact wrong foods are confirming evidence that we’re onto something here. At one point Brother was upset about not being given bread, “not even one little crumb of bread? You’re so mean!” Oh, the drama.

20120315-083925.jpg

Dinner:
Fajita filling, done all day in the crockpot, over salad greens, topped with Creme Fraiche made yesterday, and guacamole
Note: if you make this, use finely shredded green cabbage tossed with chopped cilantro and lots of lime juice as the base rather than lettuce. The crunch makes it so yummy with this meal. We did not do this as Mrs. Mom was worried about grassiness in breast milk.

After dinner:
Grape jello if desired

After such a hard day food wise, it was a huge relief that the kids loved the fajita bowls and relished dipping their salad leaves in the Creme Fraiche and guacamole. Fun, and so yummy for everyone!

Task list:
Cook and serve above meals
Move completed yogurt to fridge
Start crockpot in morning with dinner fajitas
In evening, bake double batch of banana muffins for breakfast tomorrow (almond flour)
Strain kefir and refrigerate and store kefir grains or start new batch

Economical Natural Meat

Here’s a great way to buy natural meat for less; shop for natural holiday meats the day after the holiday. Yes, while others are camping out to snag electronic door busters, I secretly plot my haul of naturally raised, cage free turkeys. Oh the excitement.

Actually, my mom scouted out and bought the turkeys for me on Black Friday, as I was in bed with a new baby (lucky me) and mom was visiting to take care of my other sweeties so I could stay in bed (lucky everyone else). I have to confess that I don’t exactly remember what she paid per pound (baby amnesia) but I’m thinking it was $.79 per pound for Albertsons wild brand. This fantastic price almost has me liking Albertsons. Almost.

At any rate, my little boys loved the crispy, salt and herb crusted skin. You can see them here peeking over the turkey… Mmm, finger liking good!

Turkeys have a LOT of meat. I just roasted this one, then boned the meat and froze it again to become soups or casseroles.

20120222-003230.jpg

Organic Diet Step 2: Dairy

Not everyone can tolerate dairy products, but for those who can, it is a rich source of minerals, protein, and healthy saturated fats IF sourced from healthy animals. Some people groups in Africa thrive on a diet made up nearly entirely of raw milk from their herds.

Clean Starts

  • Change from conventional milk to organic milk. Skim, 1% and 2% milks have thickeners added to them; opt out by choosing whole milk. Homogenization has been linked to arterial plaque; opt out by choosing unhomogenized. Your choice to skim the cream for your coffee, or shake the whole jug before pouring. Raw milk (unpasteurized) from pastured (grassfed) animals is the BEST milk, as it is richest in minerals, enzymes and probiotics. Dungeness Valley Creamery supplies this delicious cow milk to WA state; if you prefer goat milk, search for a local source.
  • Change from conventional yogurt, cottage cheese, and kefir, to organic products, or make your own from raw/organic/pastured milk.
  • Change from conventional butter, sour cream, and cream to organic butter, sour cream, and cream. Conventional butter was listed on a recent “top ten most toxic foods” list, which is not surprising since so many of todays petrochemical toxins settle in the fats of animals. Yet organic butters and cream have been highly revered by healthy indigenous people groups for their health giving properties.
  • Change from conventional cheese to raw, organic cheese, if you can find it (see notes about raw milk below).
  • Change from “soy dairy” products (soy milk, soy protein) to almond, hemp, hazelnut, or rice milks (hemp having the best nutrition, and it’s delicious) if cow/goat dairy is not tolerated. Organic coconut oil can be used in place of butter for those with a dairy allergy. See note below on why I avoid soy.
  • If lactose intolerance is the reason you avoid dairy products, try culturing your own yogurt from organic milk. When you use a 24 hours process to culture the yogurt (or kefir if desired), nearly no lactose is present at the end of the process. Making yogurt and kefir is not difficult; find directions here. The long culturing process yields a very sour “European” flavor, which can be sweetened if you desire with jams, maple syrup, or honey. I have found that fresh goat milk loses its “goaty” aftertaste when cultured this long. The same process for 24 hour yogurt can be done with whipping cream for amazingly delicious Creme Fraiche.

Some people find that they can tolerate goat and sheep milk products if cow products bother them. Others find that raw milk (unpasturized) is tolerated as it has all the enzymes and probiotics intact to aid in digestion. In addition, high heat pasteurization appears to damage the protein molecule in milk. (The stable saturated fats in cream/butter seem to hold up better to heat than the protein in the milk, making pasteurized butter/cream still a great choice.)

Worried about contamination? Studies which purposefully introduced pathogenic bacteria into raw milk (still “living” with enzymes, probiotics, and immune factors) show that the milk protects itself by destroying pathogenic bacteria. Conversely, pasturized (“dead”) milk no longer carries this protection; hundreds are made sick on pasturized milk annually in the US. Once milk is cultured (into cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.) this risk is lowered by the competing bacteria of the culture. Certified Raw dairies undergo far stricter testing of products than conventional dairies.

Buying Tips

Trader Joes has the best prices around (by far) for a full range of organic dairy products. I buy butter, cream, sour cream, and cottage cheese there. They also have a stunning selection of cheeses, most at fabulous prices. I sometimes buy the Grassfed Cheddar (New Zealand), and sometimes the Raw Cheddar. We also love the Cotswold cheese from England (which is neither organic, or raw, but you can taste the richness of the milk which makes me confident the cows are grazing grass). The Shredded Parmesan cheese (in a bag) is a raw cheese (and high in absorbable calcium); and excellent choice.

I make my own kefir from Dungeness Valley raw milk, which we drink on occasion as well, when I’m not making it into pudding, ice cream, etc.

Goat milk is best fresh (for flavor), so I don’t really recommend buying it from Trader Joes, although if that is your only option (say for a toddler who can’t tolerate cow milk) I would certainly recommend it over any “milk substitute”. Best to find a local dairy for raw milk (as I have), or if you are inclined, buy a goat as a pet which actually contributes to the family table!

If you have to use dairy substitutes, hemp milk is cheaper when you buy a case through a co-op; this option may be available at your health food store. You can make your own rice milk really cheap (and pretty easy) using this Rice Milk Recipe.

The Why

Conventional dairy products in the US come from “factory farmed” cows, which may or may not ever see a pasture, but most certainly dine on soy and corn based feed laced with pesticides, antibiotics, and by-products from slaughter houses. In some states, farms are allowed to inject the cows with growth hormones with cause them to produce more milk, which wears out the cow and results in fewer productive years (but at heavier production) before going to the slaughterhouse herself. (This is not allowed in OR or WA.) Since the food she receives (grain based) is such a poor diet for her, she is likely to be sick often, and treated with antibiotics. You can bet that all the toxins going into her make their way into her milk, and the butter, cheese, yogurt, and other products made from it.

Conventional soy is one of the most pesticide laden crops in the US, and even organic soy can hardly boast a health claim as soy is an endocrine disruptor (mimics estrogen in the body). There are tons of “studies” done to show the “health benefits” of soy. Guess who pays for these studies, and their publicity? The Soy Industry. Lesser known studies link soy formulas to early puberty in girls, delayed or decreased fertility in boys, and doubling of diabetes risk for all children. I avoid it like the plague (except fermented soy products used in traditionally small amounts, such as Tamari).

Is Organic Certification Necessary?

Although USDA Organic certification brings with it peace of mind for the consumer, there is a cost to the farmer (passed on to the consumer) for this rubber stamp. You may be able to find a local dairy which can demonstrate to you the health and humane treatment of their animals, and quality of their product so that you don’t need the label to feel good about using their products. Especially important is to inquire about the feed of their animals; even a cow fed 100% organic grain but kept in the feedlot will not be as healthy as the cow allowed to graze on green grasses.

Finding Local Organic Food

Local farms across the US, as illustrated on localharvest.com

Having a hard time finding local

produce, dairy, and meat?

Try these sites:

www.localharvest.org

www.realmilk.com

www.eatwellguide.org

www.localdirt.com

www.rodaleinstitute.org/farm_locator

www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/farmersmarkets

Once you find a local farm on one of these sites, visit it, and get to know the owners. Ask about their growing practices to see if you ar comfortable with eating the food. Even if they regularly sell at Farmers Markets, you may be able to negotiate a better deal directly at the farm, especially if you offer to pick up your produce at a time during the week which helps out their harvest production, or if you’re willing to take the “ugly” produce.

AND . . . Keep your eyes pealed as you drive through the rural areas of your county. In my area, there are many people with large gardens/small farms who sell their excess at the roadside for several weeks or months of the year. This is truly how I’ve discovered most of my farms. Most of them don’t advertise on the internet for fear of too much traffic.

In the map above, you can see that farms follow population. If you live in Nebraska, you may have a hard time finding a local farm, and you will have to grow your favorite varieties of vegetables yourself if you want them fresh and organic (ready made greenhouses can extend the growing season for colder climates).

Local food is seasonal. You can’t expect to get raspberries from a farm in January (at least not in the Northwest!), and you might not even be able to get chicken eggs at that time of year.

So freeze the produce you can in season, and when it’s not in season and/or you run low, look for large bags of organic frozen veggies at places like Costco and Grocery Outlet. Trader Joes has small bags of frozen veggies for prices that compete with the bulk prices of the warehouses. This is a great way to find organic spinach, green beans, broccoli, corn, and more year round.

Affording Organic Food

In a comment on another post, a reader stated: “As much as I try to buy organic, it is so expensive and not widely available.”

This is so true, but we can be glad to see organic food becoming more available, and there are ways to save with organic food. My top five recommendations:

  1. Bulk up your diet with veggies; organic or conventional veggies which are low on the pesticide list (see my Consumer Wallet Guides). Veggies, whether cooked or raw/salads, are naturally cheap fillers, and good for you! Buy in season when available (super cheap from local farmers/big gardeners), and frozen when not in season.
  2. Stop buying expensive, unhealthy snacks, deserts, and sodas, and instead choose smaller portion snacks of organic or natural yogurt, nuts, fruit, homemade muffins. When your grocery cart is a quarter full of crackers, chips, cookies, ice cream, and sweet drinks, you can bet about 1/3-1/2 of your grocery budget is going to these items, which aren’t even part of your meals! Choose filtered water with lemon or lime over sweet drinks, and then “treat” yourself occasionally to an Italian Soda made from Mineral Water and a 100% juice from a trusted brand (like Knudsons). Keep deserts for special times, like birthdays, and then make or get something REALLY good from the best ingredients.
  3. With the grocery money freed up by eating more veggies and buying less snacks, deserts, and drinks, invest in better meat and dairy products. Grassfed meats are best, and it is possible to buy a half or quarter beef, lamb, or hog for your freezer directly from a farmer for a great price per pound. If you can’t buy grassfed, look for free range chickens, and organic or natural beef at Trader Joes which has good prices. Always buy seafood wild caught; watch for sales.As far as dairy: always buy rBST free, and try to find grassfed or organic. Many artisan cheeses, some from Europe, are superior even to organic US dairy in that they are grassfed. Again, the Trader Joes prices are amazing for both cheeses and milk/cream/butter/sour cream, etc. One good option, if you have the ability, is to buy good milk/cream and culture your own yogurt/kefir/sour cream. Since we are a big smoothie family, we save about $15 each week because I culture 2 gallons of milk into kefir and yogurt, rather than buying those products ready made.
  4. The best diet for most people is heavy in veggies, meats, fruits, with some dairy and nuts (if you have no allergies to those foods). Grains and legumes can be good additions/fillers if they are properly prepared, however, most Westerners have far too much of these bulking complex carbs in our diets, and our waistlines are proof. However, they can be good fillers if you find you are too hungry without them. If you buy them in bulk (dry) and prepare them from scratch at home they should be super cheap even when organic.
  5. Shop Smart:
  • Buy directly from a farm or grow your own. This is often cheaper, and you’ll know where (and who) your food comes from.
  • Shop at Trader Joes: they often have the best prices around.
  • Compare prices on the internet (research sources), and with Co-Op buying.
  • Check out Grocery Outlet for clearance prices on natural dairy, organic olive oil and some other shelf items, as well as personal care products (always read lables!!). Conventional stores (Safeway and Fred Meyer in my area) often have organic items on clearance in the bins near the back of the store/warehouse door, and clearance stickers on refrigerated items in the cold cases (near to expiration date items should be used immediately or frozen). Pair with a coupon for a great deal (see below).
  • Become acquainted with Couponing Strategy, as shared/taught/blogged in many blogs. My favorite is frugallivingnw.com. The basic idea is to use a coupon on a product which is on sale to get a great deal. Although most of the deals are for conventional products, there are coupons and deals to be had for organic products. Many organic coupons are for items in the snacks/crakers/prepared foods category, so these coupons aren’t the best way to save (just stop buying those expensive foods, as discussed in point 2). But even still, there are valuable coupons to be had, and steal-of-a-deals to be scored. Hint: go to organicvalley.coop to register for dairy coupons, and to seventhgeneration.com to register for household product coupons. Then hang on to your coupons until a great sale comes up, and stock up for a few months. (No, I am not advocating extreme couponing, and neither do the blog sites.)

Organic Grassfed Hot Dogs

It’s hot dog season, so I was thrilled to find the delicious Applegate Farms Uncured Organic Grassfed Hot Dogs at my local Trader Joes for the great price of $4.99. Sign up for their newsletter, and then you can print off the coupon for $1 off 2 packages of hot dogs, making it $4.49 apiece when you buy two.

The ingredients are: organic grass-fed beef, water, sea salt, celery powder, organic onion powder, organic spices, organic paprika.

Cloth Diapering Myths Debunked


My first two children spent all their diaper years in paper diapers, and even though I felt small bursts of guilt when I thought of our contribution to landfills, I didn’t consider cloth diapers an option. I mean, cloth is so yukky and hard to do, right?

Wrong. But it took two cloth diapering friends to debunk my myths.

Myth 1. Washing Cloth Diapers is a lot of work.

It’s work, but not a lot of work. Like 2-3 small loads a week, and I don’t even fold, I pile. It’s also a little work to keep up a stash of paper diapers, and this is eliminated.

Myth 2. Cloth Diapers are uncomfortable to the baby/ aren’t as healthy as paper.

Maybe vinyl pants are uncomfortable, but not the new laminated or fleece cloth covers (which there are dozens of choices on). Paper diapers do tend to wick away better, keeping baby dry, but then mommies tend to rely on that and not change the paper diapers as often as they should (this was me!) and that paper diaper can heat up. Some people think hot paper diapers are associated in male infertility when those baby boys grow up. Whether or not this is true, I’m just glad to avoid those clear bead things (chemical absorbants) which are use in the paper diapers and the bleach in the paper which is a known carcinogen.

Myth 3. Cloth Diapers are ugly.

Oh, they are so cute, with colors, patterns . . . whatever your flair. What’s ugly is a plastic bag of cartoon printed paper diapers, and later a pile of soiled paper diapers.

Myth 4. Cloth Diapers and hard to put on.

There are several methods of diapering (inserts, all in ones, prefold plus cover, etc.) but each is pretty easy to learn. With the new Snappi fasteners, it’s easy to secure the cloth diaper without pins, and most covers velcro on like a paper diaper.

Myth 5. It’s better to throw away the mess.

A (non-stinking) diaper pail which is dumped into the wash is so much nicer than a trash can of diapers stinking up the garage every week. And, ever thought of all the poop entombed in the landfill forever? That seems like a ecological nightmare.

Myth 6. Paper Diapers are a pretty cheap luxury.

Huggies from Costco was costing us about $40/mo. That’s times 30 months or so (if they potty train early). I think I can get more fun out of $1200 than buying diapers. 🙂

Myth 7. It’s All or Nothin’.

Even doing cloth diapers, I still use paper when we travel. And now on my 2 year old who is potty training (fingers crossed) and keeps the paper one dry a lot (Seventh Generation: no bleach in the paper diapers).

How To Start Cloth Diapers

There may be better ways to start cloth diapers, but I gave myself a challenge to spend about $80 and try it for 2 months. That way, if I hated it I could resell the diapers on diaperswappers.com and still be ahead money-wise.

I started reading some diaper websites, and was amazed at all the options (it can be overwhelming). What I finally settled on is the most simple, cost effective, and easiest method I know.

Cotton prefold from greenmountaindiapers.com because they are extra wide so they fit better. (Started with 12, at the end of my trial added another 12.)

Snappi from babyworks.com for fastening. (Started with 1, got another as a spare.)

Thirsties cover from babyworks.com to cover; reuse all day long unless a blowout. Fits well, few leaks, cute, good price. (Started with 3, but quickly had to buy 3 more so I could get through at least 2 days.)

Read about using Cloth Wipes here.

5 Gallon Bucket with lid which I had on hand; for throwing the soiled/wet diapers in (breastfed baby; but for baby eating food, the poop gets flushed down the toilet first). No solution in the bucket, I just dry bucket. When the bucket is full, I do laundry.

Laundering: dump bucket into washer, rinse bucket with 1 cup white vinegar which I then pour into wash. Rinse cycle on cold with vinegar. Wash cycle on hot with tiny bit of Bioclean soap and scoop Oxyclean. Second rinse in warm, no soap. Line dry the covers, send cloths through drier on hot (or line dry in summer).

That’s it.

It’s doable, cheap, and soft on my baby’s bum. What’s not to love?

A Chinook Book Birthday

Last spring I purchased a Chinook Book* -a green version of an Entertainment Book- for my area (Portland) and realized that the coupons expired on Oct. 31. Since my birthday is the 30th, a plan immediately formed in my head: spend an entire day shopping at organic and eco-friendly shops, and redeem as many coupons as possible. Or least as many as affordable.

So the morning of my birthday, which fell on a Saturday this year, my husband and I set out for the city, baby in tow. (Our three older children were watched by our dear friends Keith and Sandy.) I had clipped out the coupons which I wanted to redeem and charted a course. My rule for the day (which I broke once) was that all the places we shopped would be with a coupon/discount.

1st Stop: Joann Fabrics

OK, so this wasn’t a Chinook Book coupon, but I happened to have two 40% off coupons, and took the opportunity without kids to stop in a choose 2 cuts of flannel to make into PJs for Christmas.

2nd Stop: EcoCarWash (SE Portland)

The coupon was for a free wash…I think their soaps are non-toxic, and water is recycled. Clean van, good to go.

3rd Stop: Bob’s Red Mill

Yes, the flagship store. Smells heavenly even before you walk inside…Heiko checked out the breakfast menu with a 1/2 price coupon, while I stocked up from their bulk section on a few baking items I needed: tapioca flour (for GF baking), baking powder, yeast (non GMO), etc. I used the Buy One Get One Free coupon on two 25 lb bags of tapioca flour, and a $.75 coupon on the yeast. Then I sat with Heiko (french toast and fried eggs) and had a gluten-free marionberry scone, while we showed off the baby to an elderly lady sitting near by.

4th Stop: The Healthy Bread Store (right across the street!)

I ran in while Heiko did a drive by (it was raining) and bought 2 loaves of day old Good Seed Bread (“say no to bread on drugs”) with a 2 for the price of 1 coupon.

5th Stop: Drive through Ladd’s Addition Neighborhood

Admired the rose gardens and gorgeous fall leaves.

6th Stop: Artichoke Music (Hawthorne)

Again a drive by for Heiko, while I went in a bought a rosin for my daughter’s violin practice; hers had broken. Used the 25% off coupon. Store with many beautiful folk instruments.

7th Stop: North Portland Wellness Center (North Portland)

It was now pouring, so we sat in the car for a bit while I fed the baby, then ducked into the Center, which is in a nicely restored Craftsman. I chose two scented handmade soaps with 2 coupons for free soap…mmm, the citrus scent smells so nice in my bathroom!

8th Stop: The Meadow

Here‘s where I broke my rule: I had no coupons for The Meadow. However, it had recently been recommended to me as a great place to get good sea salt. And what a selection!

The Meadow has over 150 different kinds of sea salt from around the world; this is the largest collection of salts in the world to their knowledge. We sampled several, chose an economical grey salt for multipurpose cooking, and splurged on a bar of dark chocolate and a small bottle of flake salt for sprinkling.

Besides salt and chocolate, The Meadow sells only two other wares: wine and flowers. Salt, Chocolate, Wine, Flowers…somehow it all goes together, doesn’t it? As we checked out, I asked if they give birthday discounts (perhaps I wouldn’t have to break my rule…). No, but she she gave me a flower instead. How sweet! Love this shop.

9th Stop: Laughing Planet

Hungry for lunch, we walked 2 doors down to Laughing Planet, where the staff was having a scary costume contest (ugh…the one thing I don’t like about this time of year). But the Draper Valley roasted chicken burrito (Heiko) and bowl (me) were delicious and hit the spot. We sat by the window and watch a friendly old dog in the courtyard while other patrons admired our baby. Oh yeah, we used the 20% off 2 entrees coupon, and left the coupon for 2 smoothies for another patron.

10th Stop: Pharmaca (NW Portland)

Heiko strolled the baby while I chose eyeliner and lipliner pencils to replace the ones I’ve used up. Jane Iradale and Dr. Haushka brands respectively were the colors I liked best (after much debate), and I used the $5 off $20 purchase coupon.

11th Stop: Pottery Barn

After a parking change to avoid being ticketed, we browsed through Pottery Barn, an icon of eclectic and cozy decorating. I didn’t have a coupon for this store, but I had a gift card, which is even more fun. However, after browsing, I decided I’d rather wait for the after Christmas sale to redeem my gift.

12th Stop: Restoration Hardware (across the street)

And of course we always have to stop in here when in NW Portland: Heiko loves to look at all their do-dads and stocking stuffers. However, this year was a disappointment, as they have seriously cut down on the kitsch. And their looks has changed too: the sage walls and cream trim have been replaced with grey walls, ceiling, everything. Cool at first, and then the drab begins to feel depressing.

13th Stop: Anna Bananas

Of course there are several coffee shops right on 23rd Ave, but we went a couple streets over to get our late afternoon lattes at this place, since we had a 2 for 1 coupon with them. The Milky Way has almond and caramel syrups…yum.

14th Stop: Estate Sale

Lattes in hand, we ventured back into a few 23rd Ave. boutiques, then followed the hand written sign half a block to an estate sale. Found a great flat basket for gathering herbs (was told it is called a trug) for a few bucks (OK, no coupon, but it was still a great deal).

15th Stop: What’s Upstairs

Nice resale shop with a boutique feel on the top level of shops. The lady was kind to stay open a little longer while I tried on a cute top (25% off coupon).

16th Stop: Wild Wood Restaurant

White-linen restaurant with food that’s too gourmet for my husband (we had that discussion). He had the steak and I the quail; lovely flavors in sauces, veggies, and meat, on plates too large for the food (part of the definition of gourmet). Of course we used the 2 for 1 coupon for our entrees.

17th Stop: New Seasons Market

Heiko dropped me at the door to collect our free organic french baguettes and hand stuffed sausages (apple chicken feta, which was good, and Bratwurst, which was also good but still nothing like a true Bratwurst in Germany). 4 coupons redeemed.

18th Stop: Home

Where 3 happy children in pajamas greeted me with birthday cards, and we all sat down to dark chocolate cake (GF) sprinkled with flake salt before sending the children to bed and playing pinochle with Keith and Sandy. Even though they beat us, it was still a fun ending to a great day!

*The Chinook Book offers some great money saving coupons. It costs $20, and I saved more than that in the first two purchases I made with coupons this spring (items I was purchasing anyway).

Kid Water Bottles

Wanting to switch from plastic cups in the car to a stainless option for your kids? I was too, until sticker shock hit: retail on Kleen Kanteen’s 12 oz. canteen for kids is $14. 95. That would be for each kid. And you just know one of your kids is going to leave his at the park.

So I went shopping, online that is. I ended up purchasing the Green Sprouts Stainless Steel Water Bottle (12 oz.) from Lucky Vitamin for $8.20 (actually, it was 2 years ago and I think I paid less). The cap is a (safer) plastic, but the water sits in the stainless steel, so it’s hopefully not leaching anything we don’t want in there. (And I don’t recommend putting anything in it except water.)

The advantage of the Kleen Kanteen is that you can buy their sippy lid to use with the bottle when the child is small. However, we’ve found no problem with having our little guy drink from the Green Sprouts sports top when he was 1 year old. Both brands have the same non-toxic credentials:

  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride) free
  • BPA (bisphenol-A) free
  • Lead free
  • Phthalate free

I’ve been quite happy with the Green Sprouts bottle. They aren’t indestructible (my 2 year old flipped his top back and forth enough to recently break it from the strap) but still going strong after 2 years is good in my book!

The Shopping Habit

We women have gotten a bad rap for shopping. But being a good shopper is a valuable skill. And let’s face it; if we never shopped, we’d all be naked and starving. (Unless you live on a farm, and even then it’s debatable.)

Shopping can be a healthy habit, if you know where and how to shop. This means finding Quality at a great Price for those of us on a budget (that’s most of us!).

Quality

I find that making a habit of doing my weekly grocery shopping at a store which has a wide selection of natural and organic products is the most important healthy habit to start. That way, when I am out of a staple, like ketchup, instead of wondering about the quality of ingredients in the standard brand, I can reach for the organic bottle. It’s there, I’m there, it’s what’s going home with me.

Different parts of the country have different grocery chains, and it’s great to see that some of them are bringing in more organic lines. Here on the West Coast, O organics is a store brand carried by Safeway, Naturally Preferred the Fred Meyer brand, and Wild Harvest the Albertson’s brand. There are also many national brands of food and household supplies that are now being carried in the supermarkets, from Seventh Generation cleaners and diapers to Muir Glenn tomato sauce to Organic Valley dairy products. If a standard supermarket is all you have in your area, take advantage of all the natural and organic products you can. (And check regularly for store coupons for these “new” organic brands. . . some of these special coupons often can be found near the pharmacy.)

However, dedicated health food stores will give you a more complete selection, and probably a better price. They are popping up all over the country, so chances are there is a Wholefoods Market or Sprouts near you. Although generally considered more of a specialty foods store than a health foods store, Traders Joes really should be considered both, as they have a commitment to no artificial colors or preservatives in any of their food, and they have a huge number of organic items available.

Price

Staying within your budget is not only healthy for your financial future, it is emotionally healthy, and it’s a must-do for a healthy marriage. But sticker shock over those organic prices can leave any newby to green shopping in despair. Not to worry (or despair), there are lots of ways to stretch the budget while buying natural products.

Buy Local: farmers markets, or farm stands will have produce at peak ripeness, and often for less coin than the less-vibrant veggies at the market. Locally raised pastured for high Omega-3 content beef/lamb/pork/chickens can be purchased direct from the farm and picked up at the butcher (you’ll want to find several friends to split a large animal with). Farm fresh eggs and milk if available are also excellent staples for which to find a local source. Check localharvest.org and realmilk.com for farms local to you, or do as I did, and knock on the door of someone with animals on their acreage. You might just find your own personal source for meat/dairy/eggs.

Buy Seasonal: many local fruits can be had for a bargain when they are at peak ripeness, and if you pick them yourself you can get an even better deal. I have purchased 100 lbs of apples in the past for canning into applesauce and freezing as pie filling. This summer, I plan to pick 150 lbs. of blueberries and strawberries to freeze for smoothies year round. (Yeah, wish me luck.) It will be a lot of work, but I’ll save a bundle over organic frozen berries or even conventional frozen berries at Costco. (And maybe I’ll have a tan to show for it too. . .)

Buy with a Co-op: There are several distributors nationwide of natural products which will allow you and a group of local people to organize yourselves into a monthly co-op with a drop point for their shipment. Savings are realized from near wholesale pricing, and bulk pricing. In the Northwest, Azure Standard is an excellent full-selection coop company, with the bonus of their own extensive organic farm which supplies many of their bulk grain and veggie items.

Buy in Bulk: See above for Co-op ordering. Also, some stores (such as Fred Meyer in my area) will allow you to order a case of a product for 10% discount. I have also heard that Whole Foods will do this at 15% discount, and sometimes near wholesale. And of course, comparing the price per ounce on the small and large bottle of the same product will often mean greater savings on the larger bottle.

Buy Online: nutritional supplements, body care, household products, and some specialty foods can be purchased through online stores. Iherb.com is an excellent company with slashed prices (30-50% off) on lots of brands, great service and low or free shipping. Using code RON268 gives you $5 off your first order. I order every other month to have a $40 minimum order for free shipping. Lucky vitamin also has good prices, although the minimum for free shipping is $100. They carry some brands that iherb.com doesn’t so I do order from them a few times a year. Online buying can also be a money saver for one-time purchases, like cloth diapers.

Buy on Sale, with a Coupon: In the last year I began to follow a couple of coupon-ing blogs. It really is amazing some of the deals that can be found, even on organic and natural products. Read this post about coupon-ing for natural products. The idea with couponing is to save your coupon until the item is on sale to score a really great price. If you are going to do this, find a local blog that lists all the weekly store deals. When there’s a great sale, stock up!

Buy from Discount Stores: Look for natural body care products at Marshalls and TJMaxx. The Grocery Outlet also often carries natural body products, and organic foods for great deals. Lastly, another plug for Trader Joes: they don’t run sales because the have their rock-bottom prices available all the time. I shop there weekly for excellent prices on organic dairy, breads, pantry items, and frozen veggies. Of course, at all stores you must know how to read your labels to know what you are buying, and some of the “clearance” type discount stores (like TJMaxx) may have an old formula of a natural product which carried parabens, and now the manufacturer has reformulated it. Read my post on How to Read an Ingredient Label.

Meal Plan, Make a List: this allows you to stay focused on what you need at the store, and to avoid filling your cart with “filler” items that aren’t parts of meals you’re actually going to make. A rule of thumb on dinner planning is to plan for 5 dinners a week, so you can have one night for leftovers and one night to be out. And then have at least 2 easy meals in your pantry/freezer (like spaghetti) which can fill in if you don’t end up with leftovers or go out.

Plan to not buy cereal. . . even the “healthy” cereals are way too shelf-stable to be “real” food. And they’re pricey. Read Breakfast: Off to a Great Start for some breakfast ideas.

Plan for healthy snacks, too, but don’t let these dominate your budget; focus on the meals. Avoid buying bottled drinks unless it’s a special occasion; they are calories you don’t need, and can wrack up your bill. (Not to mention the environmental impact.) Quality teas and coffee, filtered tap water with lemon or lime, and organic raw milk are real nourishment to your body, and are easier on the budget.

Action Plan:

1. Look up your local Farmers Market or farm stand and begin going weekly for your veggies and fruits.

2. Locate a local natural food store at which to do your other marketing. It doesn’t need to be the same day of the week as the Farmers Market.

3. If possible, locate a local source for raw milk and pastured eggs (eggs can often be found at Farmer’s Markets, but they sell out early!). Again, pick-up days will likely differ from your marketing day.

4. Begin to set aside $50-$100 of  your monthly budget to purchase a side of beef, lamb, or pork. Find a ranch which offers quality grass-fed (not grain finished) meat; you will also need the freezer space to store your meat when you purchase it.

5. Begin to order (bi-monthly works well) from an online retailer such as iherb for savings on personal care products and supplements. Read Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off.

6. Find a natural coop which delivers to your area for bulk item orders.