Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Snack sharing and grocery budgets

We recently joined a family music class for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. The class is fun, and I'm really happy with the program, the structure and the teacher. I'm also really happy with the class rules. Well, one class rule in particular: no food or beverages in class.

This makes my life so much easier because I do not have to spend the hour keeping cereal, crackers and string cheese out of H's reach. I do not have to find a way to politely decline when other moms generously offer to share their snacks with my daughter. We can just enjoy the class. I love it!

Almost everywhere else we go is a different story, though. Last month we attended a few Mommy & Me events at The World Forestry Center, and snacks were provided. I'm sure most moms totally appreciate the free munchies, but for me it is troublesome. Kids run around with little cups of Cheerios and puffs, and I am constantly intervening as H reaches for their snacks (not because she is hungry, but because she wants what they have). I didn't intervene fast enough on every occasion, though, so much to my chagrin my paleo baby has eaten a Cheerio or two. C'est la vie, but I don't want this to become a regular thing. I started bringing my own snacks for her after the first incident, and that helped. Still, it doesn't take away her curiosity about what her friends are eating and it doesn't change the fact that we are going to have lots and lots of experiences like this in the future. Experiences where people offer her food and we have to turn it down. Experiences where she gets a hold of some processed food items. Or experiences where I have to be "that mom" who won't let her child eat the party food. I just wish the practice of non-stop snacking among kids wasn't so prevalent, and I wish more places had no food or beverages policies. I mean, is there really any reason why a child can't go 45 minutes without a snack? I think not (unless the child is truly hungry, in which case perhaps the parent could take them aside and give them something to eat?). But I highly doubt this is going to change in my favor, which means I just have to continue to be hyper-vigilant and I also need to carry patience and grace with me at all times.

Now, on to another topic. Grocery budgets. Or lack thereof. We spend a lot of money on food. A lot. Today I went to the store and spent $144. Some of it was not food (like a mother's day card for my mom and some sunscreen), but it is still a lot -- especially considering that I spent $72 on groceries on Sunday and will probably need to go the store again before the weekend is up. Sometimes I cringe when I swipe my debit card, but then I quickly remind myself that quality food is so, so important. I've noticed that there seems to be an expectation among a lot of people that food should be cheap, and that it is somehow an accomplishment to leave the grocery store having spent as little as possible. While I realize that many families need to be very, very careful about the amount of money they spend on food and other necessities, cheap food is not the answer. I remember seeing a meme on Facebook that said something like "you are what you eat, so don't be fast, easy or cheap." So, so true! I pay $4 a dozen for farm-fresh eggs, and we easily go through four dozen eggs each week. I know I could spend 50% less (or more!) by buying eggs at Winco, yes, but those eggs are not the same as the farm-fresh eggs. They are often pale, small and flavorless. And they tend to come from corn-fed chickens that live in substandard conditions. Their nutritional profile is very sad. Not the type of eggs I want to serve to my growing toddler (or myself!). I personally believe that quality food should be a priority in the budget, even if the budget is $200 a month for the whole family. I'm not saying that everyone should spend and prioritize the way I do, but I think it would be so helpful to public health as a whole if we could somehow move away from the mentality that food should be cheap. Of course, this is a complex issue and I am not even scratching the surface. I'm just stating my thoughts!



9 comments:

  1. Do you have an actual budgeted amount for groceries? I'm often curious what other Paleo or Paleo-ish people are spending per month.

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    1. Hi Sally,
      No, not exactly. It varies depending on whether I need to buy lots of meat for the freezer, for example. I do not have a set budget but I think spend around $600 in a typical month.

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  2. We are living in Cincinnati, having recently moved from Pdx and spend WAYYY more than 200 /mo . I think eating whole food/ paleoish in Portland is easy . I too am curious what your actual budgeted amount is for groceries is/ mo. Here I buy as fresh as possible ( and its hard to find that) on discount when possible then employ the freezer method to keep us below 500/ mo for a family of 3. ( Oh and I am the one who is better at/ enjoys cooking/planning/shopping so my budget is usually spot on what we need with very little splurges).

    Thanks for the info!

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    1. Ours is about $5-600/month for our family of 4 (and that includes laundry soap/dish soap/toilet paper and other basics at the store). Granted, we do nothing else, besides eat :-). We don't eat out often.

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    2. Hi Alec,
      I do not have an exact budgeted amount but I think it typically comes in around $600. I could probably do better though if I were more organized!

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  3. My family has the same non-existent budget issue. Our son is a *super* healthy eater thanks to being born with his Celiac and Dermatitis Herpetiformis genes activated. (He requires a no gluten, no soy and no corn diet. This means not even table salt because of the corn in iodized salt.) We have been struggling with our out of control fresh food/farmer's market budget and have come up with a few solutions. We invested in a deep freezer and buy meat like they are running out of it. We called around to local farmers and did the half an animal deals. We also invest in freezer veggies when they are on sale. Our biggest savings will come with our garden which is going to help our budget through the winter as well. While we can't have chickens in our town, our friends town allows it so we bought a few chickens that we leave there. Perhaps you can find a little outsourced food growing to help your egg consumption.

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    1. I love our freezer, too! It was such a great investment!! And I am hoping our next home has space for a garden and chickens! Thanks for your comment.

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  4. I get a little irked by food sharing too. Yesterday I was helping my 5-year-old look for books in the library while my 16-month-old played in the baby area. A minute or two later, I turned to see her eating a completely paleo 1/2 eaten brown apple--how gross! Why would people bring food in the library? It's not like we live in the artic and can't easily partake of our snacks outside looking at the lovely ocean. My first is gluten and egg intolerant, so we could easily decline The Goldfish offers. Now that I have more parenting confidence, it's easier for me to just tell my younger one that we don't eat those foods, period. Most of the people we see at these play dates already know I am *that* parent who forbids all of the crack-food. I do bring acceptable snacks anywhere I suspect snacks might start to dominate the scenery, but I do not encourage them. The frequent "healthy" food at toddler gatherings these days are sliced grapes, so mine gets to binge on grapes or strawberries at play dates and comes home to her meat and veggies at home. On an exciting front, my daughter got into our local charter school that is a sugar free school--it's definitely a step in the right direction. I was definitely not looking forward to dodging cupcake laden birthdays 20 or more times a year! It's bad enough trying to navigate the birthday party circuit. Leave the cake alone people. My kids get cake about 6 times a year--on our immediate family birthdays--not all of our friends, acquaintances, and cousins. See, even saying cake six times a year seems rather excessive, now that I think about it! That's not even including sweet food for each of the candy-junk-food-laden holidays (XMAS, Valentines, Halloween...). I get tired just thinking about all of it.

    Oh, and our grocery budget is insane. Pastured eggs here are $7-8 a dozen! Luckily, we don't seem to have much luck when it comes to egg re-introduction here.

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  5. ...this is *first world problems to the extreme.

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