Last week when I went grocery shopping, something in my brain snapped. I have GOT to find a way to spend less on groceries. Now, everyone is complaining about high prices these days, and with a special needs diet-most of my family is Gluten Free, and two of us are grain free/dairy free, (unless it's pasta night and then I sometimes cave and have some gluten free pasta because spaghetti with meat sauce is, like, my FAVORITE food ever...but I digress)-food is even MORE expensive because we buy certain “speciality items” like gluten free flour and almond milk and way more cans of coconut milk each week than most americans buy in a decade.
And then there's all the kerfluffle about GMO's. I, for one, think they are most likely toxic and vile and very very bad for us. Interesting that it is the year that GMO's were introduced into the U.S. food supply that coincides precisely when my own health started taking a nose dive. I know causation cannot be proven by that, but suspicion can certainly be aroused.
So, someone on facebook asked me where to begin...HOW does a person avoid GMO's? On a budget? Is it realistic?
I would like to outline some very basic rules to follow and steps to take to get going in the direction of GMO free dining.
1. Eat at home. This goes without saying. When you eat out you have absolutely NO CONTROL over what happens in the kitchen. This is true about sugar, gluten, GMO's...anything. Eat at home and you save money AND you can control the ingredients.
. Cook from scratch using whole foods. Cooking from scratch does NOT mean assembling a meal from pre-packaged ingredients. It does NOT mean opening a can of cream of mushroom soup and mixing it in with rice and some ground meat and calling it a meal. In order to cook from scratch, girl, you gotta learn how to make that cream of mushroom soup. You gotta learn how to make those crackers. You gotta keep the list of pre-prepared foods that you buy to a bare minimum. Yes. It is a LOT of work. I have teenagers who help me, for whom I am very grateful. But the truth is, if they want crackers, they are the ones baking the crackers. If it were just me, I'd not be making crackers, but as it is, I don't really eat them.
3. Know your ingredients. Use healthy ones. Do some research. I happen to love the food philosophies of the Weston A. Price foundation.
a.)The first BIG step I took in improving the health of what I am cooking is that I switched from Canola oil (a big GMO offender) to using only fats that have been traditionally used by humans for thousands of years. I do NOT use margarine, or partially hydrogenated anything. No crisco. No Canola or Vegetable or Soybean oil (also a big GMO offender). What do I use instead? Palm shortening, coconut oil and olive oil, real butter and Ghee that I make at home...oh, and lard if I can find a beef farmer at the farmer's market who sells it (the lard at the grocery store has partially hydrogenated crap added to it). I read in the excellent book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, that one reason we get so many sun burns is that we are eating rancid commercially produced oils...and this has proven true for my family. Since we switched out the fats in our diet, our sunburns have been a thing of the past, for the most part.
4. If you've made it this far down the list, you've come a long way, baby. This (and raw milk) was where we stopped in our food journey for a long time. Then, in the past year (my doctor said no more gluten or dairy and if possible no grains at all) or so I started realizing (after I'd done GAPS for a little bit) that when I eat regular chicken from the grocery, I get gut cramps. Probably all that GMO corn and soy they are fed. I started finding organic chicken and beef at Costco. Yes, it's expensive. I buy it anyway. The other stuff makes me sick and it's a compromise between the cheap regular and the super expensive pastured chicken from the farmer. What can I do? It's expensive. That's how it goes.
5. Read ingredients to EVERYTHING. I started having to read labels to stay off gluten, sugar and dairy...so now it's a firmly ingrained habit. Unless a package is bragging about no GMO's, it probably has them in it. If it is organic, there will be no GMO's in it. There's a website called the NoGMO project, that can be helpful in finding what is what. Avoid Soy and foods that have soy in them and you will be going a LONG way towards doing all of the above mentioned things. This includes practically every food aside form instant mashed potatoes that's been processed. Cookies, crackers, baked goods...those are the biggest offenders. Make your own. It IS possible to find some prepackaged foods that are soy free and sugar free but these are items you can still make easily at home.
6. Condiments: I make my own mayo, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, salad dressings, gravies, sauces...there is NO NEED to buy jars of this stuff. Mayo is not hard to make with an immersion blender it only takes about 30 seconds. I use the internet...I look up how-to videos on you tube and I learn one new thing at a time. Eventually it has all added up.
So what, you ask, DO YOU buy?
I buy raw milk and pastured eggs through a local food coop. I buy a giant bucket of palm shortening for baking. I buy rice flour and potato starch at the asian store. I buy a giant bag of jasmine rice. I get organic veggies and fruits at the food coop. Organic apples and potatoes. Sometimes I buy conventional veggies, too. Sometimes I buy convetional frozen veggies. I can't afford all organic. I grow more organic veggies in my garden, and I have 32 quarts of green beans to prove it. I buy very expensive gluten free oats and brown rice pasta. I buy canned tuna that I've read the label on until I found some that's just packed in water with no soy broth...Costco brand. I buy that organic chicken and beef. I buy almond flour (at Trader Joes because that's the least expensive place to get it), coconut flour and golden flax meal for my grain free baking blend. I buy winter squashes like butternut and acorn, strawberries and grapes. I still buy diced tomatoes and tomato paste because I did not plant enough tomatoes to can my own this summer... I also buy GF pretzels, but those are not eaten often so I will probably stop. I occasionally will buy GF cookies to take to scouts if I know there will be snacks and I'm too busy to bake, but I know it is better for us to bake our own. I buy organic cheese and bulk parmesan at Costco. I still buy Gluten free Alfredo sauce in a jar, and spaghetti sauce (having read the labels). The alfredo is one thing I need to ditch and make myself. I totally can, just have not done so yet. I buy honey, maple syrup, plain almond butter, peanut butter (the crappy kind with hydrogenated crap in it) but it gets eaten only rarely...and I have been known to also buy Nutella. I buy walnuts and almonds and raisins and prunes and dates. Salt, baking soda and powder and apple cider vinegar and balsamic and red wine vinegar. Olive oil. Dry lentils and beans. Curry powder, cinnamon, other spices and herbs. Onions and garlic. Sea salt (did you know Iodized salt has SUGAR in it?). Stevia drops. Organic butter. Tea bags and sugar for the kombucha. Ginger for the homemade ginger ale. Daisy sour cream. Sunflower seeds. ...you get the picture. I'm sure I've forgotten something. But it's basic boring stuff and I cook it and make stuff and we eat.
Convenience foods I still buy: Instant mashed potatoes (yes, I know...), Waffle fries, GF sausage links, Alfredo sauce, Chex cereal (well...we are finishing it off..won't be buying more), All natural brats and hot dogs (no msg etc), nitrite free bacon, spaghetti sauce, and turkey lunch meat. I buy these things because I have a boy with food related sensory issues and he has to eat something...and well, bacon. I read labels and make the bad stuff the least bad as possible.
I'm not perfect. I still probably eat too much "sugar" even though it's from honey and maple syrup.
If you want a good blog to read that goes more expertly into depth on some of these food issues, I highly recommend www.foodrenegade.com
Meanwhile, happy shopping, cooking...and eating. And yes, you will be broke. Broke and hopefully healthier than otherwise.