I've been doing a lot of thinking, lately, about the kinds of food that I'm feeding my family. I think this was prompted somewhat by glancing through a pregnancy book and realizing that I am woefully remiss in getting the daily nutrient recommendations. And that is in a family that generally eats vegetables with every dinner and fruit and veggies for snacks!
The fact is that, unless you're being very thoughtful in your planning, it is all too easy to serve a "balanced" meal without actually including many truly nutrient rich foods. For example, I could serve a pasta or rice dish, perhaps with some chicken thrown in, and a salad on the side. But if I'm being lazy and/or cheap, I used a 10 cent box of Pasta-Roni - white flour and fattening sauce - and the salad is made of light green lettuce without many added colorful ingredients (gee, who has time for all that chopping!)
On the other hand, if I planned well and had the right foods in the house, I could serve the same meal with whole wheat pasta, a chunky marinara sauce with some lean ground beef, and a dark green leafy salad with tomatoes, green peppers, red cabbage, and avocado.
Same meal, but totally different in terms of nutritive value.
Now, time for chopping is certainly an issue. So is time to drive West to Trader Joes and South-East to Henry's Marketplace - both are about 20 minutes away from my house and at least 30-40 minutes away from each other. Plus, since those are more specialty stores, I'd still need to go to Sam's Club for cheap milk, eggs, bread, and cheese (not that any of those are cheap, anymore!) and probably Vons as well for staples like peanut butter and toothpaste.
On top of that, buying healthier food like whole wheat pasta and pita bread just costs more. Particularly if compared to that 10 cent box of Pasta-Roni.
Last year when Thomas was born, I switched from cherry-picking sales at five different stores to using the Grocery Game to help me make shopping at just one store (Vons) cheaper. It was lovely to only shop at one store, with an occasional trip to Sam's Club thrown in every few weeks. It made the transition to having two kids much smoother, and I was a much happier and less stressed out Mom. Besides, the Grocery Game was just fun. I mean, who doesn't like getting free groceries? It really was a game.
But now I'm questioning whether it is still a good choice. It is hard to argue with free peanut butter, and I've picked up at least four jars for nothing this past year. On the other hand, that was Skippy peanut butter, with a hefty helping of sugar along with the peanuts. I'd rather feed my kids Laura Scudders (just plain peanuts and salt) but a jar of that costs nearly $4.
Should I switch to a healthier diet, somehow try to make the time for the extra shopping and cooking, and hope to make up the cost difference by cooking more beans, rice and potatoes? How realistic is this?
What do you think, dear readers? How have you found a balance between healthy eating, and cost of the food, and the time it takes to both buy and prepare it?