This is a pretty big subject so I plan to make this a series covering the cost of real food and applying the 80/20 rule to managing your time and money in the kitchen in depth.
Would switching to a real foods diet break your budget? On first glance, it seems the answer is yes. At least, that’s what you’ll hear from most quarters. Clean, wholesome food costs money, real money, and most people simply cannot afford it. Only those with big incomes can afford it, most of us can’t. If we look at individual food items like raw milk for instance or butter, I can see how people get this impression. Or if they are trying to replace processed food items for better processed food items of a similar kind. There can be some big price gaps here. But if you look at the overall picture of what it takes to make up a diet the gap generally completely disappears. This is particularly true of families that are eating out a lot or buying a lot of processed grocery items.
I propose that real food is affordable …
Real food is affordable by most everyone reading this post. Notice I don’t think it is affordable for everyone. There are some obvious exceptions like the homeless and people living without any cooking facilities, but I suspect they won’t be reading this. And I’m not saying it’s super easy. Making real food affordable and doable time wise can be challenging, particularly when you’re new to it. But I know you’re up to the challenge, ’cause you really care about what you and your family eats. Caring is all it really takes! How do I know you care? Because you are already doing the research necessary to take those first steps, or you simply would not be here reading this post! This post is for you, and I think that together we can work out how to make real food affordable for you and your family in your specific situation.
Good Fast or Cheap
Looking at this problem, just kinda walking around it and pondering, it looks like the classic project management triangle problem to me. In case you aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this: You’re trying to accomplish a goal. A certain amount of time + certain amount of money = some level of quality. If you want a high standard of quality you’ll need lots of time or lots of money or both. If you don’t have that then quality will suffer. So you adjust according to how much time and money you have. You could emphasize just one, but mostly people pick two.
So people wanting free time and money eat cheap fast food and believe they have cheap and fast. Or they eat at expensive restaurants and believe they have good and fast. Or they buy processed food groceries and believe they have cheap and fast. Real food cooks buy real food and cook at home and have good and cheap! Are you surprised by that? Well, we’re only compromising on one point. Admittedly, this takes time and it is the point of the pyramid we’re compromising on. But with a little thoughtful planning we can whittle this down and our pyramid will be more balanced … things will take less and less time.
The 80/20 rule in practice
Shooting for 100% is where most efforts fall apart, in my opinion. If you try to attain a 100% real food diet in our food universe you will need very large amounts of time and money indeed! It isn’t a realistic goal for most, if not all of us. Don’t get me wrong, I think some people can come close. Personally, I always hold 95/5 as a goal. But if you are just starting out 30/70 or 50/50 is much more realistic. And the other part of the 80/20 rule applies here too; the first 80% of the goal requires only 20% of the effort! So getting to 80% real food is relatively easy … that should be very encouraging! So start out slowly, one thing at a time, one habit at a time. Before you know it you’ll be there :-).
It seems to me that a lot of the angst over affording real food revolves around this one thing: Awareness that something better exists somewhere in the marketplace. Something that we know we cannot afford. This is the awareness of high standards, and is in my opinion a good thing to maintain. Yet, just knowing it exists places us under pressure to switch immediately, yesterday would be even better ;-). We feel guilty choosing something lesser. So we tend to kinda shut down, feel a little depressed and like “What’s the use?”. And then we don’t make the choices that are an improvement, sometimes a big improvement that are within our reach. I plan to talk some more in later posts in the series about how to maintain an awareness of really high quality items that are either beyond your budget, hard to locate or time consuming to aquire ,without stressing out :-).
I know you probably have a tough customer or two that needs to be convinced …
There is most likely someone in your life that is skeptical that all this can be done affordably. If you share a bank account with them you’ll need them to on board with the changes. In this series we’ll cover a few specifics that I hope will give you the information you need to be persuasive on the issue of budgeting. This is a tough and emotional issue for all of us and we all need all the support we can get!
Over the next few weeks …
We’ll review in detail:
- Real food budgets vs SAD food budgets.
- Not stressing a not completely real food diet.
- Ways a real food diet saves you money.
- Strategies to reduce real food costs.
- And more! I’ll keep’em coming as long as I have ideas to share :-).
In the meantime check out A Good Enough Cook from the archives!