Reader Question: Where do I start with moving to a natural/organic diet?

 

(Welcome Better Mom readers! I mistakenly linked the wrong post. If you would like to read the post titled “Game Mode Mama (Sergeant or Shepard)” please hop over and check it out. Although I think you will enjoy this post too.)

 

A reader and friend wrote me with this question:

“So I have a question for you. How did you get started with eating more naturally? I read about the organic stuff and Azure and everything on your blog. I really want to start working on that, but I just don’t even know where to start!

I was wondering if you knew about a book that could ease me into being more natural?  I want to figure out what is most important and start with that.

I tired to look at the Azure catalog online and it was totally overwhelming! I know I need to start small but where do I start. We have started ordering Bountiful Baskets (but not organic) so we have increased our veggie intake!

I thought you might have some good ideas on how to start! You are very inspiring with your blog, if you can do it with three kids I can do it with two!”

Some basics about their family I got after asking more questions:

  • They live in Rock Springs, WY
  • They have access to a Super Walmart, Albertsons and Smiths (Kinda like Safeway she says), and have a 3 hour drive to a town with lots more options (including Costco).
  • They could likely find an Azure Standard drop near where they live.
  • They drink a good amount of milk.
  • Have just started getting “Bountiful Baskets” (fresh produce) each week and is having fun integrating that into their meals and diet.
  • This mama does not consider herself a “natural cook”, but wants to learn.

 

First of all, way to go for wanting to improve the way your family eats! The first step is being ready to take on the idea of changing your normal routine.  The way most people have found success in moving towards eating healthier and better quality foods is through BABY STEPS.

For us it started after our twins were born.  We used to joke that we had to get the Cheetos out of the house before we had any children.  For the most part, we were able to make that happen.  Once I saw “Monosodium Glutimate” on the label they were not so appealing.  Although I do still crave a crummy (yummy) Totinos pizza from time to time. Ha.

 

Back to where I was going with this… Baby steps.

Here is basically how our progression from traditional groceries-natural/organic went…

1) Organic produce (started when we were making them baby food and finger foods)

2) Organic milk and yogurt (started when they transitioned to cows milk)

3) Mostly organic grains and snacks(rice, pasta, oats, wheat, etc).  Often we choose Trader Joe’s non organic snacks when we can’t find an affordable organic source because I know it will at least be GMO free.

4) Grass fed beef from a local source (store bought organic when we don’t have it).

5) Farm fresh eggs when we can get them (organic or at least cage free when we can’t).

6) Hormone and antibiotic free chicken (organic when affordable).

7) Organic sugars (usually Wholesome brand) and some baking ingredients, organic (cold pressed usually) olive oil, non-GMO canola oil, organic store bought bread, organic butter, natural toothpaste, shampoo, etc.

This process was influenced by our twins transitions as they grew, what we ate the most of, and developed as we could find affordable sources for each.  We still have a few things in our kitchen that are not organic.  We are not obsessed with only feeding our children organic and natural foods.  We still eat out sometimes and buy non organic foods when organic foods are hard to source at an affordable price.  Making the transition slowly as I have been able to find where I can get each item at a good price has actually been so rewarding.  To know that I can feed our family healthy foods at a price we can afford is such a good feeling.  I feel like I am giving my children a great gift.  As the saying goes, I would much rather pay the farmer than the Doctor.

Here is what I would recommend for your family

1) Keep getting your Bountiful Baskets since it sounds like it is helping your family eat more fresh produce.  If you have to chance to join an affordable organic CSA (or one that is at least spray free and follows mostly organic practices) go for it! CSA’s are usually a great value and the perfect way to get organic produce for a great price.  Supplement your Bountiful Baskets with organic produce from wherever you can find it. Buying a big box of apples from Azure Standard to eat off of would be a great way to get affordable produce.  If they start to go bad before you finish them make apple sauce.   I also recommend following the weekly ad from whatever grocery store that has the best selection of organic produce and then stocking up on whatever is on sale that week (message me if you are not sure if it is a good price or not). Look up the “Dirty Dozen.” And pay particular attention to purchasing those items organic when possible.

2) Since your family drinks a good amount of milk, I would start buying organic milk as soon as possible.  I have done a fairly good amount of research and for us it is totally worth it.  We have gone down on our milk consumption quite a bit, but I still think it is important.  If you are having trouble affording it, at least get milk that is free of hormones etc.  We also buy whole milk rather than 1 or 2%, but I will save that for a whole ‘nother post. 🙂 If you eat yogurt switching to organic would also be a great move. Most people eat larger quantities of yogurt, rather than things like sour cream, cream, butter etc.  Also, large tubs of plain organic yogurt are good value (we choose plain because it is so much lower in sugar). Mix in fruit, jam, honey, or maple syrup if you prefer flavored.  Also, watch for markdowns on organic dairy.

3) Whatever grains your family eats a good amount of could be the next step.  Do you eat lots of wheat? Start there. Do you make a good amount of rice? Do your boys eat crackers or animal crackers regularly? What about oatmeal?  Grains are a great way to make the switch to organic for not too much money.  Purchasing bulk amounts of the grain is always cheaper than purchasing organic packaged or boxed foods.  It is also healthier.  Also, organic just refers to the quality of the ingredients based on how they are grown, and also what ingredients are allowed to be put into the processed foods.  It does not mean that the product is necessarily “healthy”.

4) Find a local farm source for eggs and beef if you eat those regularly.  There is nothing like eating animal products that have been raised on pasture (what they were intended to eat).  Grain fed chickens and cows (even if organic) will not have the same nutritional and vitamin content in their products. A local source for chicken would also be fabulous, but I have had a hard time finding it at a price I can justify.  Research local chicken brands a bit by asking the butcher what they would recommend you purchase (antibiotic and hormone free, vegetarian…and pastured if possible). Also, whole chickens are often more affordable than breasts etc.  We love roasting chickens in the oven and then using the bones for soup/broth after taking all the meat off!

After that go from there.  Also, be sure to have good communication about these changes with your husband.  It is so important to have his support. This transition will mean some changes for your family in both what you eat, and how you are spending your money.  Create a budget, and have fun feeding your family healthy foods! Keep us updated and keep asking questions!

If you bought 1 book, I would recommend Nourishing Traditions.  It is fabulous and has both information and recipies. It will stretch your mind and challenge traditional nutritional information we have been told.  Pretty much everybody who reads it loves it.

Readers…What books or articles would you recommend to her as they work towards eating more naturally and organic diet?

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To follow up on your question in the near future I will write posts on…

-Cheap organic staple foods. Organic foods that give you the best bang for your buck.

-How to cut back in other areas to be able to afford organic/natural foods.

-A list of what stores I generally buy different items at.

-What is a good price? Target prices I like to pay for each of our groceries (when I am feeling up the the challenge of writing this post).

 

I am linking up with Raising Homemakers.  If you are popping in from there I would be thrilled if you said hello! I would love to come and check out your blog too!