It is true that I spend more money on certain food items than many people on a $50/week food budget would spend. It is also true that I don't spend as much money on certain food items that many healthy/organic eaters would spend. But I do spend my money on what is important to me and relax on what isn't as important. It is all about choices and learning to say no to unnecessary or less important things.
Based on my personal beliefs and things I have read, here are 6 items I have decided to spend my $200 grocery budget on:
I buy eggs that are gathered by hand and laid by chickens that are cage-free (which can sometimes be a misleading label, I need to discuss this another time) and fed on pure grains with no antibiotics or animal feed. There is no mistreatment of the chickens. How an animal lives has a huge effect on its health and what it eats has a huge effect on its nutritional value. Both greatly effect how the products from that animal tastes. I recently tried to go back to conventional eggs in an effort to save a little money - that was a fail. The first time I made scrambled eggs with them I could not eat them! And on top of them not tasting right, they were not that much less expensive. I now have no problem spending a little extra.
Cruelty Free Meat/Poultry
As I said, the way an animal is raised and fed has a big impact on the food that comes from it. I want meat from animals raised humanly and ethically by a company/farm that cares about the environment. I also do not want to eat meat from animals fed animal by-products or synthetic chemicals. I buy poultry that comes from chickens and turkeys given room to move around and I buy beef that comes from cows that have been allowed to graze freely in pastures on grass.
Organic and Local Produce
While I do not buy all my produce organic or local, I do focus on the Dirty Dozen to reduce pesticide exposure. I also choose organic soy, corn, and tomatoes simply because they are often genetically modified. If there is not a huge price difference between organic and conventional, I will also often choose the organic no matter what the rank is. I also try to buy local produce when I can, though more so in the summer.
I currently buy non-homogenized milk in a glass bottle that comes from a humane dairy farm. Next shopping trip I will be switching over to raw milk from a local dairy. And my cheese also comes from hormone-free cows.Though the FDA does not recognize any significant difference between cows given hormones and those not, I do not believe that we should be filling our bodies with synthetic hormones.
No matter what form it comes in, sugar is something that should not be consumed in large amounts. I love sugar but really do try to cut back on it. And when I do use it I try to use the least processed forms that I can, even if they do cost more. I mostly buy raw honey and sucanat/rapadura (let us not get into that confusing argument!), but also have molasses, brown rice syrup, and sorghum in my pantry. The less processed the better and each of these sweeteners have minerals and nutrients in them not available in their processed counterparts. If we are going to eat something, we might as well gain something from it, right?
I make all of our bread products most of the time, but on the occasion that I do not, I buy whole grain. While this may not make much of an effect in terms of ingredients when the food is homemade, buying a loaf of whole grain bread that isn't full of unpronounceable ingredients is not cheap. But white flour offers is very refined and offers little nutritional value. Food is fuel and white flour is empty calories that causes blood sugar levels to spike.
Again, these are the choices that I have made for my family. They may be completely different from the choices you have made and may be different than the choices that I make a year from now. They are also not absolute rules as to what we will and not eat. I am all about moderation in most things, but I do prefer to keep the majority of our diet full of these six foods, especially when it is my money I am spending.
What foods do you feel are important to spend your money on?