Which Potato Do You Buy?

Let’s talk potatoes shall we? The lowly dietary staple that everyone and his brother runs down as the unhealthiest thing ever. So simple, so ordinary we use it to describe lazy people ( couch potatoes ) or plain eaters ( meat and potato kinda-guy ). That potato.

Let’s just say straight out of the gate that I adore potatoes in just about any form. And I firmly disagree with any notion that they are unhealthy in any way. That isn’t what I want to talk about today. Nope, not at all. I want to talk about the processing of good healthy food into stuff that isn’t as healthy and costs a mega-truckload more to buy using the lowly potato as an example.

Are You Paying More to Buy Unhealthy Food?

Walk into a health food store and you’ll find a full aisle of potato chips made with various cooking oils, heat sources and flavorings. Most of these chips are little better for you than standard Lay’s Potato Chips. Seriously. They are by and large produced using some polyunsaturated oil all of which we should cut out of our diets as much as we can. (For more info read What Makes a Diet Good? ).

That isn’t my main point here, though. What I’d really like you to notice is how incredibly expensive it is to buy potato chips compared to just a plain, healthy raw potato!

Kettle Chips $.33 p/ounce $5.28 p/lb
Lay’s $.22 p/ounce $3.52 p/lb
Raw Potato $.04 p/ounce $.64 p/lb

By buying potatoes as pre-cooked chips we are now paying 500 to 900% more! For something to eat that is actually a lot less healthy for us. Does this make any sense to you?

So Forget the Coupon Clipping …

The big money in grocery savings comes from cutting out the processed crap.

I know, I know we love this stuff and it’s so convenient. But cutting out chips will make a huge contribution to both your health and having enough money for things like grassfed beef and real dairy.

Let’s grab the low hanging fruit first … cut out any remaining processed food items, slowly as your family adapts to the change. This is one of the steps in The Granny Plan, my book with a detailed plan to help you get real food into your families daily lives.

And I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the only truly healthy packaged potato chip I’m aware of:  Jackson’s Honest Organic Potato Chips. I have been known to grab a small bag while I’m out shopping and they are oh so good! They are cooked in coconut oil. I can’t afford to do this too much though ;-). If you’re gonna keep buying chips anyway, and I know some of you will, this is the way to go.

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Real Food at Walmart – The Dairy Section

The Walmart dairy section on first glance looks like it’s got it’s act together, organic wise. After all they have a lot of organic labels here, Horizon being the most prominent one. Horizon’s parent company Dean Foods has a strong partnership with Walmart. Thus they are stocked in a big way. All isn’t peachy-keen though in dairy organics land though. Virtually all organic dairy is ultra-pasteurized dairy, and Horizon is no exception.

So what’s the difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk?

Is this really a big deal? Yes, it is. Ultra-pasteurized dairy products do not require refrigeration before opening and have a shelf life of months. They are a highly processed food. But I know it’s really easy to overlook the difference.

Ultra-Pasteurized Milk is a newfangled food, avoid it whenever possible

Okay, so most of the seemingly good choices in the Walmart dairy aisle are not-so-good. So what are we to do here? What else can we pick from? We have several compromises we could choose to make.

First and most obvious is to simply buy regular whole milk. This is going to be from factory farm dairies with the cows fed GMO grains, antibiotics and hormones. So not so good a choice.

We have Promised Land HHST Pasteurized milk on the shelf at Walmart. This is rBST and rBGH free. I haven’t heard much about HHST pastuerization but Wikipedia had this to say:

1q The other technique is called higher-heat/shorter time (HHST), and it lies somewhere between HTST and UHT in terms of time and temperature.

So not the best, but at least it’s not treated with rBST or rBGH. Since this is a Texas based company I’m not sure how wide a distribution this sees across the country.

Perhaps other regions stock a brand of lower temp pasteurized milk. Ideally, you’d go for a vat pasteurized brand, though I didn’t find anything like that at my Walmart perhaps you’ll have better luck in your region. If you can’t find vat pasteurized next go for whole milk that simply isn’t ultra-pasteurized and hormone free if you can find it. Never choose 2% or skim milk.

So being certified organic is the lesser concern here, though I’m still concerned. Non-organic milk is produced by factory farmed cows eating the same GMO grains we talked about over in the previous post on Walmart beef.

Pasteurized but not ultra-pasteurized …

rBST and rBGH free …

What about cheese and other dairy products?

I did find a number of interesting cheeses like Kerrygold Dubliners Grassfed Cheese in the deli section. I’d stop by this section first for the highest quality cheese. Also, lots of Cabot brand cheese. This is simply labeled “pasteurized”. Butter choices are limited but they do have butter in stock amidst all the PUFA spreads.

Pasteurized cheeses …

 

Butter choices are limited but they are there …

That’s it for this week  … Next week we’ll look at dry goods like grains, flours, pastas, canned goods, condiments, etc … Should be fun!

This post is part of a series – Real Food at Walmart

Introduction: Can it be Done?
Part 1: A Quick Tour of Walmart
Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables
Part 3: Fats and Oils
Part 4: Meat and Bones
Part 5: The Dairy Section
Part 6: Pantry Foods
Conclusion: The Nature of Compromise

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Is Everything ‘Organic’ Real Food?

What jumps out at you when you first arrive at Costco? There’s the crowds, the TVs at the entrance, and the pallets of mostly processed junk food near the door. There’s all the clothes and the books, the luggage and appliances. It’d be very easy to get the impression that there’s no real food to be found here. But if you keep walking to the back of the store you begin to find it! Real actual ingredients, some of them from good sources! I was thrilled to find many good deals on good ingredients when I joined.

But, not everything that seems wholesome at Costco is wholesome.

If you shop at Whole Foods, or any other natural food store for that matter you’ll begin to recognize many products at Costco that normally can be found only at more upscale and expensive stores. No wonder this store is so popular with the diet conscious crowd! The brands may give you that warm glow that can only come from shopping where it’s easy to believe the buyers care about quality. If you feel that warmth, watch out! You’ll be susceptible to … wait for it … Organic Label Syndrome!

What is Organic Label Syndrome?

Okay, it’s a joke I just made up, and not a very funny one at that ;-)! But I am pointing to something that we all need to maintain some awareness of when shopping wherever there are lots of organic items. Organic labels are absolutely no assurance of wholesomeness or quality when it comes to packaged processed foods! At Costco I found many foods that I would put on the “Absolutely Avoid” list that have organic labels. But strangely I find the presence of even these bad foods reassuring, just because I recognize the brands as producers of organic foods … just makes me feel at home. I’d bet I’m not the only one too. I must have a touch of Organic Label Syndrome!

So What Are Some of These Foods?

If you look closely this organic milk is ultra-pasteurized … and unrefrigerated.

Here’s the UHT label

This bouillon was the subject of one of Food Renegade’s decoding labels posts…

Everyone love’s Annies, but take a look at this label …

Here it is … Mac-n-Cheese is super easy to make from scratch!

How about frozen food? Here’s an Amy’s pizza with spinach … sound nutritious?

Check out the label …

This agave brand is found in most health food stores … there are many issues with agave.

Just a small sample …

Of what I found … not to pick on Costco though, you could go into any natural or high end grocery store and find even more of this stuff. By way of reminder, don’t decide based on the huge print labels instead read the fine print ingredient label. It’ll tell you what you need to know.

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3 Dangerous Ways to Save Money on Food

Here at Granny’s Vital Vittles I talk a lot about how to save money on real food. It concerns me greatly that there are many people in this world that have trouble getting real food to eat due to money issues.  I’d love to see a world where everyone gets real food to eat! 

Now, in order to do that everyone needs to understand what real food is available to them and what they can afford.  Most people believe that real food is too expensive for them. Not the case at all! Now, maybe the highest quality real food 100% of time isn’t affordable. I know I can’t afford that. But it’s affordable for everyone to eat some reasonable quality real food every day. And for the majority it’s possible to enjoy that same reasonable quality real food all day everyday. 

I see many people making these mistakes. Heck, I’ve done them myself many times over the years to help hold the food budget together. Some are cutting out meals and increasing the quality of the remaining ones. Some are just plain cutting costs. But these are dangerous tactics, my friends. These are practices that Granny would have frowned on. You would have received a very stern lecture indeed for saving money by doing any of the following things.

Make no mistake doing these things will impact your health. Maybe not today or tomorrow but a price will eventually be paid in health in the future in order to save money today.

Skipping Meals

This is the biggie I see both young adults and older people doing. What’s the common denominator? Neither group is responsible for feeding young kids! And both groups tend to feel that it won’t hurt them one bit to skip a few calories and lose a little weight.

What would Grandma say about this practice? She’d have plenty to say I’m sure! For a moment just picture every grandmother you can remember in every movie you’ve ever seen and what stereotypical behavior is she engaged in? Usually trying to get someone to eat a meal they’ve just said they don’t want to eat :D. It was common knowledge that skipping meals undermined your health. 

Think that not too many people are *really* doing this? Think again.  This is a very common strategy to reduce food costs. Here’s just one example from the book The American Way of Eating:

“I find that by sleeping late, eating breakfast, taking care of laundry and such and then heading to work, I can keep my meal requirements to just two: late breakfast and then my free late-afternoon meal between the lunch and dinner rushes. I can feel apathy about my meals settling in … I find that if there’s any gnawing hunger between my meals, on workdays I can placate it with soda or a ‘dead’ food … Accordingly, my grocery bills plummet.”

With a little planning and a little time skipping meals will not be necessary anymore to keep your food bills in check. If you’re doing this I highly recommend following The Granny Plan.

Going for the Cheapest Choice

Families tend to go for this one though it’s become way more common in all groups. Students are famous for doing stuff like opting to eat Ramen to get them through the days following draining their bank account for a weekend trip with their buddies. Families commonly employ this tactic by carefully comparing prices between specific foods and deciding which to buy based entirely on cost thinking it’s the only really relevant factor.

Eating poor choices for awhile may be unavoidable from time to time, it’s true. It has happened to me and my family on occasion.  But please, try to ensure that this only happens when it really must.

Don’t do it so that you can eat dinner at an expensive restaurant with a party of friends only to find that you’ve run out of food money for the week. Don’t do it so you can have the latest whiz-bang gadget first. Don’t do it to squeeze out a little extra from the budget for multiple after-school activities. Don’t do it to save for that retirement cruise you’ve always wanted to go on.  These are bad trade-offs. We’re all tempted from time to time but try to resist. 

These decisions are all about priorities. It’s easy to accidentally prioritize something over eating well particularly when friends and family are pressuring you. Financial decisions come at you fast and furious sometimes and we all do the best we can. Just ensure that it happens only when unavoidable … try to keep the accidental mis-prioritization to a minimum.

Relying Heavily on Low Nutrient Foods

If anyone you’re feeding has high-calorie requirements you’ll be pretty familiar with this last strategy. Sometimes it seems the only way to fill up the bottomless pit is with high calorie low nutrient food. Athletes, people with very physical jobs, very large men and teenagers come to mind. The bulk of low nutrient high calorie food is fast food or processed foods. But some of it is still real whole food that could or should be a part of your diet, just not the bulk of your diet. Instead work at increasing the nutrient density by adding foods that pack a punch nutrient-wise but are very affordable. Organ meats for instance. Broth is also pretty inexpensive.  If you increase the nutrient density of their food you may find that they begin to eat less overall. Their bodies are receiving the nutrition they crave and so calorie requirements are reduced. Many people have reported just this when they go on a nutrient dense diet.

Have you tried any of these dangerous strategies to reduce your food bill? Do you feel they are dangerous? What would your mother or grandmother have to say?

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Why Healthy Food Doesn’t Cost as Much as You Think!

Perception is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Take this picture for example. It looks for all the world like water is spilling into thru the wall and into a hole doesn’t it? Yet it is just the angle of the camera. If the photographer walked around to the other side of the drawing and took a picture we’d see something that would look pretty much like what it actually is: colored chalk carefully drawn onto a street. We probably would have trouble making out what it was intended to be a drawing of!

Our perception of everyday things can be just a skewed. Sometimes things can seem like simple common sense but still be wrong, dead wrong. Take the common belief that eating healthy is very expensive. That it is something beyond the reach of the average joe. Take this quote from USA Today for example:

“Almost 15 percent of households in America say they don’t have enough money to eat the way they want to eat,” Seligman said. Recent estimates show 49 million Americans make food decisions based on cost, she added.

When people hear this they think “There are many people who simple cannot afford to eat in a healthy way.” No, there are many people telling us that they believe that they cannot eat in a healthy way … huge difference! This belief affects their reality by making it less likely that they will buy and eat the healthy choices that they in fact could afford.

Does this mean they are dead wrong and if they’d get their act together they could actually be eating sushi everyday, or the kind of salads sold at upscale restaurants, or even steak and lobster? Absolutely not! Few can afford to eat in this fashion regularly. What it does mean is that there are many different ways to create a healthy real food diet. This isn’t an either steak and lobster or Kraft mac-n-cheese kinda choice. That is a false dichotomy. We don’t have to afford baby lettuce produced by virgins in the finest soils … produce common and organic is fine! Plain ground grassfed beef is fine … no need for steak if the budget does not allow for it.

A Little More for Some Things, A Lot Less for Many Others

Experienced real foodies know that while you pay much more for some items you end up paying way less for others. Say you spend twice as much per pound for meat. That isn’t at all uncommon. But at the same time you give up buying deli chicken from the grocery store, or boxed cereals, or frozen dinners. Or say you were in the habit of ordering pizza every Friday for movie night. Now you make a fun buffet mexican meal instead. The takeout pizzas cost about $16 each and the grassfed beef taco dinner costs around $10 for a family of four. That’s a savings of $6 right there, but hardly anyone just orders a pizza. Instead they order dippin’ breads with sauce, and big bottles of soda bringing the bill to about $30 with tax. Then you need to tip the driver. You could save $20 just by buying that grassfed beef and making a nutritious and fun dinner at home!

Lots of things are like this. When I shop at a grocery store I route around all the Betty Crocker boxes, and packaged wing-dings, and frozen ready-to-heat pot roasts all of which costs substantially more than their nutritional value would support. Buying them will take a bite out of your food budget. Buying plain potatoes, or bags of plain rice and spices in quantities larger than the tiny rip-off jars they usually have on the spice aisle instead of these convenience foods makes all the difference. These plain foods are dirt cheap let me tell ya, even in their organic versions. Pound per pound, calorie per calorie, nutrient by nutrient they are cheaper dollarwise than the cheap processed foods so commonly eaten by those trying to eat within a budget.

Average Food Budgets for Real Food LESS than Average USDA Food Plans

In my post Real Food Economics 101: Real Food vs Average Food Budgets I give details about what several real food bloggers are spending for food, person by person. This makes it easy to compare. My findings were that virtually all of the real food bloggers were spending less per day per person than the USDA’s moderate food plan costs. I give more detail on how that is achieved in Real Food Economics 101: Strategies to Reduce Food Costs. I hear from people every week who have even lower food costs than the ones cited in my post. This is real people … this is doable!

Dealing With the Perception of Added Expense

While the belief that eating the real foods way costs double or triple what a conventional food budget does is totally false the fact the many perceive it that way is not. The perception of expense alone can cause grave difficulties in transitioning a family to real food. And these problems are interpersonal in nature. Like say your mother-in-law not only thinks you’re endangering the kids with raw milk but you’re wasting tons of money to do so and whispers to your husband about it whenever she has a chance. It’s eating away at his resolve to feed the kids real food since his job isn’t really secure and he’s worried about saving more money as a cushion. Or maybe your spouse never goes to the store and has little idea of food prices but believes everything is cheaper at Walmart. They reason that since you’re on a budget that is really the only place your family should buy food. These problems of perception are very real obstacles to transitioning to real food. In fact I’d venture to say they are about the biggest problems in transitioning to real food with a desire for the comfort of familiar foods coming in a close second.

These perceptions won’t disappear overnight that’s for sure. In many cases they may never go away. You may never persuade your mother-in-law that your food bill is less now than it was before. But you can be aware of the issue and provide your husband with the supporting information he needs to be assured that this new way of eating is not only healthy but is in fact saving the family money. Dealing with these problems is mostly a matter of being aware, remaining calm and presenting the facts to those involved in the decision making. Absolutely do not pay much attention to what those that are not directly involved think of your food decisions. And lastly, it’s a matter of persistence. These things can take some real time.

An Important Exception

While most shoppers are buying convenience foods and eating fast food there are a sizable minority of families that have cut out all processed foods and eating meals out and are still having issues making ends meet when it comes to food. I do hear from them and I get it. Just wanted to give them a shout-out in this post that the problems addressed here are not the issues they are directly dealing with. I hope to write something soon that will more directly deal with their situation.

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Dr. Oz and Poor People’s Food

Poor peoples food. Just the phrase has a grating feel to it, doesn’t it? Just like a sneer.

This week Dr Oz wrote an article for Time that implied that those who actively question the quality of supermarket food are simply food snobs who are seeking an elevated status based on the purity and sophistication of their food choices. This article contained a sneer, but this one was for people working hard to get better food for their families and not for poor folks. The article implied that the only reason anyone would buy clean, real, organic food is so they can be seen to be the kind of people who can afford to completely avoid supermarket food.  Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is waking up to the fact that ordinary, processed supermarket food is not wholesome or good. And increasingly it is being seen as poor people’s food. And people are getting mad. The issue is that not everyone can eat as much clean wholesome food as some are able to do. This is an issue of economics and ultimately has little to do with snobbery … that’s just a red herring.

But I think we should talk about that red herring. This article is not the first place I’ve seen this kind of argument in the media. There have been many articles with basically the same stuff but from less well-known authors. It’s important to talk about because it is really distracting. Everyone has strong feelings about this it seems. Nobody wants to be looked down on, or become the the kind of person who looks down on others. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people really upset!  Spinning the argument this way gets people off the topic of the availability and affordability of wholesome food which are the real issues here. So let’s see if we can put it to bed and get back to the work of finding ways to make real food more affordable so we can all have more of it in our lives.

A Kernel of Truth

Like most arguments, this one contains a small kernel of truth. Have you ever felt that people look down on you for your food? Felt that you were looked on as lower class because of your choices? I know I have. The bag boy who asked with a smirk if I made Hamburger Helper with all the ground beef I bought. The cashier who seemed to pity me for my cart with dried beans, rice and unbleached white flour. The coworker who implied I was xenophobic and narrow-minded for my dislike of sushi to name a few instances. I think we all have experiences like this from time to time.  And the truth is there are snobs out there who do in fact pride themselves on their high-class food. They enjoy these little moments where they can boost their ego just a bit at the expense of someone else.

And then there are little food snobberies brought on by advertising. What, you don’t buy brand name beans? Instead you buy the store brand. Or you never buy processed foods. Believe it or not when I was a child this was a mark of poverty! Middle-class families bought processed store brand foods. People thought you were poor if you had to pinch pennies like that. No one would buy from scratch ingredients with the work it entails unless their budget forced them to. While this attitude has completely flipped now, I still see some remnants of it here in Texas. Like the cashier I mentioned above.

I live in an area where you can find people who will skip meals to afford to eat at a hot local restaurant. Where some folks are embarrassed for people to know what the actually normally eat when no one is looking. They don’t have a lot of money to eat this expensively all the time but they’d like for people to think they do. This to me is the real snobbery, using food as a status symbol and an identity at the expense of health. I doubt this is all that common though really. For whatever reason we do see some of it here.  And this kind of snobbery is relatively common in the media. This is the snobbery to which Dr. Oz refers.

Behaving this way isn’t healthy so health is clearly not the top concern. They are missing meals or eating ramen and mac-n-cheese when alone, so they can eat expensively when someone is looking. While they give lip service to healthy eating it just isn’t the main worry, or they would balance out their food budget more.  This lip service to health makes it easy for the doctors of spin to mix these folks up with those who just want healthy food for their families.

The Doctors of Spin

Dr. Oz implies in this article that average people will happily accept the compromised food found in the average grocery store. That only the 1% eat well, and the remaining 99% of us can be satisfied with supermarket fare. This is stated as an irrefutable, unchangeable fact. So we the 99% should just accept it. He thinks that the 99% will just ignore or not understand the firehose of negative information coming out about GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, excitotoxins and other food additives. That we don’t need to concern ourselves with way the animals we eat are raised. That we won’t realize that the poor are dying younger than the well-off, a statistic that is getting worse now for the least educated of the 99%. He implies that to do otherwise is to become a wanna-be snob. In contradiction of the facts he asserts that “the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets”. I don’t know about you but I don’t find the “considerations” needed to avoid toxic foods all that simple. I suspect Dr. Oz doesn’t either.

Make no mistake the PR firms working for the the food industry are well aware of the awakening to the state of our food supply. They are seeking to spin this situation to their advantage thru a kind of divide and conquer.  But we are smarter than that :-).

All of Us Want Clean Wholesome Food

And I mean everybody! That includes the people who boldly say they don’t care while pounding down cheetos and coke. The difference between those who eat pretty well and those who eat really badly isn’t really about caring. It’s about believing you can make changes that will make a difference. Those who say they don’t care have lost hope of meaningful change. They feel 100% good food is unaffordable so why bother at all. The people who want to be seen buying expensive food also want clean wholesome food all the time. They just aren’t willing to give up higher status to improve their overall diet.

I think part of the reason why people become discouraged in their efforts to eat better is anxiety about being on the outs with everyone! Their friends and family who don’t know a lot about eating better might think that they’ve become food snobs who feel they are superior in some way. And those real food people who do everything so perfectly may look down on me for the compromises I have to make to fit the budget, to keep peace in the family or just to satisfy a little whim here and there.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Come on in the water is warm and inviting. We all make our compromises and we’re all just trying to keep abreast of the food news and keep our families as well fed as we can. And as for your friends and family, they do truly want what is best for you. And who knows, maybe the changes you make will inspire them to make changes of their own. Making those changes didn’t make me a food snob and it won’t make you one either 🙂 .

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Real Food at Walmart – The Nature of Compromise

This series has been quite the whirlwind ride for me … I’ve learned a lot from my exploration of Walmart’s grocery shelves and from sharing my findings with all of you. Mostly I’ve confirmed what I had expected from my first post, that real food shopping at Walmart would involve a lot of compromise. Those that must shop there, or at any chain store, for whatever reason will be heartened to know that they can make it a considerable part of the way towards a 100% Real Food diet.

Walmart will take you about 30% of the way …

And that’s nothing to sneeze at! In fact, it’s a great start for someone new to scratch cooking and real food. But ideally, you wouldn’t want to compromise this much and stick to just Walmart for very long.

Walmart has a lot of conventional produce choices, lots of CAFO meats, limited dairy choices and a lot of decent grain and pantry food choices. The animal foods have some serious limitations. Only a tiny percentage is organic, which means basically all of the animal based foods are from GMO fed animals. This is a pretty big liability when you depend on these foods for vitamin A, D and K. This is the main reason why I’d put the percent of real food possible at Walmart at about 30%. But the small amount of organic produce concerns me too.

The Nature of Compromise on Real Food

Writing the series has been an exercise in compromise for me … I’m a local foods done Grandma’s way kinda gal. I think this is the best way to eat well frugally and have less stress about the whole thing. I decided to write about Walmart though, out of concern for those in food deserts and those whose families are in transition from the SAD diet to a real foods diet. I’ve taken a bit of heat about it since Walmart isn’t the most popular company. Still, it’s the largest grocer in the United States, and that fact makes it the elephant in the room in any discussion of food quality and affordability. Walmart’s advertising does a great job of positioning the company as the low price leader and those with tight budgets often feel compelled to shop there, almost out of a sense of obligation to keep expenses down. This perception of reduced costs along with the difficulties of starting out finding local food create a sizable obstacle to getting started with real food. What I’ve learned from this series is that it needn’t be, if compromises can be accepted early in the transition. And if folks can come to believe deep in their souls that contrary to what the Walmart ads would have you believe there is a cheaper way to feed your family! And that way is scratch cooking with plain, wholesome ingredients.

All of us start somewhere, right? We are all on some point in the grayscale spectrum from a completely processed food, junk food laden diet right thru to a 100% pristine perfect real food diet. In reality almost no one eats 100% pure junk and almost no one eat 100% real food. It’s a bell curve basically. So everybody from the novice on up to people with years of experience eating this way are making some compromises. Compromise in our busy, pressured, hectic world is inevitable. In reading and learning all about real food none of us truly wants to accept any compromise at all. We all want to have totally clean, nourishing food and live in completely safe non-toxic environments. And each of us us different resources, abilities, duties, obligations and talents. So some make it further on the path to 100% real food than others. Usually we make a mad rush to do what we can ’til progress just kinda stalls and we seem to be stuck where we are at. Then we decide to live with compromise since we can’t seem to get further.

Or if you’re starting from a mostly processed food diet and your family is used to that then to keep from scaring them away from wholesome food by changing too fast it would be a good idea to compromise. You’d go slowly and introduce new from scratch versions of favorites one at a time. You would still want to continue buying most of the old favorites in the meantime, gradually switching them out one by one. To do that you’ll still be going to Walmart, if that is where you shopped before. You could keep doing this until you’ve exhausted all the real food compromise foods at Walmart. Next, start shopping for improved quality foods locally, again one item at a time. You keep going with this until you hit a wall of time or money, then decide to compromise.

All of us real food folks have been thru this process and have decided on a level of compromise that is a more or less comfortable truce in the battle of getting wholesome food for our families. Some of us are at 60-70%, some are as high as 90-95% real food.

But, suppose, as we are assuming for the sake of this series there are no other sources of food around you and you’re stuck with just Walmart? Then 30% real food is as good as it gets! Many people feel this is their situation. If this is true, you’ll find yourself needing to make a choice. Stay where you are and accept that 30% of the way to real food is as far as you can get, or move somewhere with more abundant food resources. That sounds extreme but this is your health we’re talking about! Fellow real foodie blogger Emily at Butter Believer decided to move this year when she hit a wall in her ability to find good, affordable, wholesome food in Hawaii. Not exactly a food desert, but it is an island  . 30% real food isn’t a compromise I personally would feel comfortable making for very long … yes, it’s far better than a strictly processed food diet, but it would still have a number of serious issues.

But first, before taking drastic measures, assume that you may be overlooking some sources of great local food. Chances are good that you are. Almost none of us grew up buying anything from anywhere other than a store. We’re inexperienced at finding local stuff … we need practice! First thing, get in touch with your local Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Ask them about sources for the things you want to buy local as first priority, things like raw milk. You can also look on LocalHarvest.org to see if any farmer is selling anywhere near you. If you can find one, ask them if they know anyone else for your other needs. Do they know of any buying coop’s in your area where you can buy pantry items in bulk? Azure Standard makes grocery drops all throughout the west and some of the midwest, for instance. There may be a buying club near you or perhaps you could start one. If there is anywhere at all where local farmers gather to sell produce stop and talk with them about what you’re needing. If they can’t help they may know someone who can.

Transitioning to Pantry Storage and Local Foods

Moving the family from processed food to real food choices was a pretty big step for all of us. Buying whatever real food choices the chain groceries have, then moving on to buying a few things locally is a MAJOR step forward! If you’ve come this far give yourself a big pat on the back … you deserve it  .

Ok, so now that you’ve basked in the glow of your accomplishment are you ready to talk about the next step forward? Great! In my opinion, the very next thing to do is start building up a pantry. Last spring I did a series on cooking from the pantry called The Pantry Principle. A pantry helps in so many ways to make the life of the cook easier and the food budget more affordable. The series is a great place to start learning about how to make pantry cooking a part of your life. Over the holidays I hope to elaborate further.

This is the final post in the Walmart series … hope everyone’s enjoyed it  ! I’d love to hear your tips on locating good sources of local food, especially in places where it may be hard to find.

This post is part of series … Read the rest by following these links

Introduction: Can it be Done?
Part 1: A Quick Tour of Walmart
Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables
Part 3: Fats and Oils
Part 4: Meat and Bones
Part 5: The Dairy Section
Part 6: Pantry Foods
Conclusion: The Nature of Compromise

 

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Real Food at Walmart – Pantry Foods

We’ve come to the last group of foods in our Ninja-style Real Food shopping at Walmart. This group is a catch-all … basically all the foods that are not quickly perishable. This includes grains, flours, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, canned goods and condiments.

Really, this stuff is the easiest stuff to find at Walmart. Why? Because it’s non-perishable! Walmart and any other grocer just loves that  . Large grocers became profitable with the advent of processed foods precisely because of the long shelf lives. And if they can get a higher markup because it’s organic they are even more pleased. So here we find the greatest number of organic labels. If you must shop at the large chains like Walmart, here is where you’ll find the majority of foods.

Most of the choices here are pretty straightforward. Basically, you’re just looking for the simplest ingredient labels. Rice bags with ingredients of “Rice”, peanut butter jars with ingredients of “peanuts, salt”, etc. And they’re are examples in many, many categories. And if you can find and afford organic definitely go for it  .

Shopping Online

This is also the section where you will find the most benefit from shopping online. Walmart offers virtually all of this shipped to home for free. However, the prices aren’t the best. For instance, Walmart will ship you wheat berries in 6 small packs at the rate of $6.73 per pound. Amazon will also ship to you for free organic red wheat berries in a 25 lb bag for $.84 a pound. This is huge! So check the prices against other websites before you order! The only advantage I can see here is if they will ship to store, and you must pickup there rather than have it delivered to home. But many grocery items do not have a ship to store option.

Flours, Grains and Beans

Found several whole foods companies represented here, Bob’s Red Mill, King Arthur Flour, etc. Also lots of good plain grains and beans.

Bob’s Red Mill …

Whole grain flours …

Lots of rice both brown and white varieties …

Lots of legumes …

Rolled oats …


Nuts, Olives, Seeds and Dried Fruit

A few peanut butter choices shown here, but there were more.

Plain nuts are kinda stale at Walmart overall but the olives, peanut butter and dried fruit looked pretty good.

 

Dried fruit …

Canned Goods, Condiments and Assorted Goodies

Lots of organic processed choices like spaghetti sauce and condiments. Some decent wine and lots of organic tomato sauce and paste!

Organic pre-made Spaghetti Sauces …

Saw quite a bit of the Newman’s Own label too …

Sea Salt was available at this store for your ferments. This could also be ordered online …

Muir Glen is well represented on the shelves at Walmart … good prices too!

That’s it for our store overview! Whew, made it to the end  . Next week I plan to review what I’ve found in writing this series. I’d also like to talk about the nature of compromise in the “Real Food” world and it’s place in our constant drive to find better food … see ya then!

This post is part of series … Read the rest by following these links

Introduction: Can it be Done?
Part 1: A Quick Tour of Walmart
Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables
Part 3: Fats and Oils
Part 4: Meat and Bones
Part 5: The Dairy Section
Part 6: Pantry Foods
Conclusion: The Nature of Compromise

 

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Real Food at Walmart – Meat and Bones

This week I wandered into the land of CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) or factory farmed meat at Walmart. I wanted to see if in the sea of packaged meat I could find anything that was grassfed, pasture raised or at least hormone and antibiotic free. What I found surprised me, though I doubt it will surprise anyone else  . My local grocery chain, HEB carries quite a bit along these lines, even in stores that have very few organic products on the shelves. Walmart is falling behind in providing healthy meat choices. No grassfed or pastured choices at all. A little bit of hormone and antibiotic free chicken was pretty much it.

My Main Concern with Conventional Animal Foods

Aside from the outrageously unhealthy and inhumane conditions in which these animals are raised, I am very concerned about the grains they are raised on. At this point most if not all factory farmed animals in the US eat large amounts of GMO corn and GMO soy. When we eat these foods, we are also eating what the animals ate. While all the animal foods at Walmart *looks* pretty much as Granny bought it, it is really a newfangled food. So it’s really important to transition from these compromise foods to real food choices as soon as you can.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at what Walmart offers …

Lots of Variety in Cuts

As you would expect with such a large meat department Walmart has lots of choices when it comes to cuts. All the usual choices can be found with a few unusual cuts thrown in.

Lots of variety in cuts …

I’d be a bit wary of factory farmed liver …

Bones for broth can be hard to find

Walmart has a small stock of bones for broth making. I did find some feet and some oxtail. No soup bone packages though.

Oxtail makes a great broth …

Beef feet might be useful for broth making …

This was a nice surprise! This sausage is made right here in my hometown, Elgin Texas.

Pork neckbones useful for broth making …

Harvestland Chicken

A reader had mentioned in a previous post that she found this brand mixed in with the Tyson chicken at Walmart. I stumbled across it at my Walmart too! I couldn’t find out any specifics on their feed so I’d assume it’s the usual stuff. They do however raise their birds without antibiotics and without cages, so that’s an improvement.

Antibiotic free chicken … Buy this whole and use the bones for broth.

What if my family cannot transition to healthily raised animal foods soon?

If you cannot transition to healthily raised animal foods soon consider reducing your use for awhile. Just how to go about it depends a lot on your individual situation. Family preferences are really going to come in to play when it comes to meat. Consider if you could reduce the amount of meat your family eats and emphasize good cheeses and milk. Serve a few vegetarian dishes and a few more egg based meals. Egg choices at my Walmart aren’t so hot either (more on that next week), but at yours they may be better … I can easily see some regional variation here. Could you eat more bean and grain based dishes? How about skillet meals or casseroles that stretch your meat out?

I’d try to limit this phase to only a few months at most though. In the meantime I would brainstorm any other possible way you can get grassfed beef or lamb, pastured pork and chicken. I realize that for some of my readers this may be a daunting task. After all, this series assumes it’s not possible at all! But if it is possible for you, this is the second step, right after eliminating bad fats in priority in moving to a real food diet. Eating wholesome animal foods is hugely important to you and your families health. This will take some time and planning for many, I know it isn’t something that can be done overnight. My next series will be dealing with transitioning to local food and I hope those who find this difficult will find some help there. For now I’d just try to reduce eating conventional meat at whatever speed your family handles well.

Next week we’ll continue with Walmart’s dairy section …

This post is part of series … Read the rest by following these links

Introduction: Can it be Done?
Part 1: A Quick Tour of Walmart
Part 2: Fruits and Vegetables
Part 3: Fats and Oils
Part 4: Meat and Bones
Part 5: The Dairy Section
Part 6: Pantry Foods
Conclusion: The Nature of Compromise

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