Thursday, April 10, 2008

Because I'm Not Sure Why You Wouldn't...

Many of you know that I am passionate about feeding my family as much organic, hormone and antibiotic free food as possible. Now this doesn't mean that we are perfect or "saints" about it. I do what I can to control the food that we eat at home but we aren't psychotic. There are days when we do go to Mc Donalds (no fries though!) and we've been known to eat a Twix or two (okay I've got a whole pack in the fridge right now). And before we had kids I don't think we ate anything that was organic... if we did it was certainly incidental.

Once Kid was born and I went to the store to pick out her first foods I just naturally went for the organic version of things. It was available and we could afford it and I couldn't not buy it. I wanted to give Kid the purest best food available. So it started with baby food. And then as Kid got older and her diet expanded so did our organic purchases... until now when we are probably up to about 85-90% organic with about 99% of our produce being organic.

I realize that buying organic produce is often more expensive... but honestly... not always (at least here in Ann Arbor). There is a reason I shop at 3-4 stores and it does take work to do that (and obviously not every one has the time or drive to do that) but I can say with certainty that I've switched us over from 0% organic to 90% organic without raising our costs per person. The way that we have done that is by cutting out most of the pre-packaged foods that we used to eat. I buy very few "snacks" and mostly whole foods and ingredients.

Hands down my biggest expense is produce. But I don't buy things that are crazy expensive I stick to organic fresh fruits and vegetables that are reasonably priced. I buy most fruits in-season only so often (and yes I'm serious) I can get organic berries at the exact same price in the same store as regular (same with kiwis, avocados, etc) and often stumble upon sales on these fruits when they get a shipment and want to move it out before it goes bad. So in the winter we really stick with bananas, kiwi, avocados, apples & oranges. Fresh vegetables I get in the winter are lettuces, onions, potatoes, winter squash, & broccoli. The rest of the fruit and vegetables I cook with I buy frozen from Whole Foods. They have their own brand of organic frozen produce that is much cheaper than the name brand organic foods you find at a regular store... and comparable with name brand conventional frozen foods as well.

When I do buy packaged foods I typically stick with either Whole Foods or Trader Joe's store brands. Both of these stores carry an organic version of almost anything at very reasonable prices. If I want name brand organic products I do find that they are often cheaper at a regular store and that Whole Foods raises those prices to offset their own store brand prices. The only thing that I cannot find a cheap source for is organic packaged bread... which is why I've been making more of my own lately.

As for meat, fish, and dairy I have decided to focus on antibiotic and hormone free meats and dairy as opposed to organic. When I was a social worker I worked with families in very impoverished neighborhoods in NYC. One thing I witnessed again and again, among young girls that I worked with, was early onset puberty. And it scared the shit out of me. Many people feel that it is due to increased hormone consumption in young girls from diary and meat products. So when I had girls I knew that it was imperative for me to provide them with hormone free food sources.

I don't buy organic milk because we have great local dairies that are hormone and antibiotic free and I choose to support them. I buy chicken from a regional Amish distributer that is widely available in all our local stores. When I buy beef and pork (which I do only once or twice a month) I have now switched to buying "natural" meats that are hormone and antibiotic free (but not always grass fed), which are also available at our local store. I buy only sustainable fish... which was actually a fortunate coincidence since we really only eat wild salmon and farmed tilapia on a regular basis anyway.

I'm still learning about a lot of this stuff and adding new products as I find out more about how things are farmed and produced.

If you haven't made the switch and don't know where to start...
Dirty Dozen... the most contaminated and least contaminated.
Organic Produce...the Top 10 fruits and vegtables you should buy.
Sara Snow, I actually really like her show and have found it to be both informative and accessible.
Sustainable Seafood Guide... this is really important folks. Please read this list and keep it in mind next time you hit the store.


katieo said...

Mrs F, I find that organic is more expensive 95% of the time. I always check. And when it's not more expensive I buy it. But way more often than not, that's not the case. Sometimes only by a couple of cents (no biggie) other times a couple of dollars. I understand where it is a priority but for some people it really is about the cost.
(We don't have the "FullCircle" brand out here, btw)
Maybe buying organic might be cheaper in certain regions?

I'll buy local whenever possible and I'd be lying if it didn't concern me but for us right now it's simply not an option.

Mrs Furious said...

I have a different video I'm trying to get up that I talk more about prices in.

Yes produce prices are vastly different in different regions. For us produce is expensive period. Organic or conventional. Is organic more? usually but not always and it does take effort (and 3 stores) to get the cheapest organic produce.

BUT having access to a Whole Foods is key here. While fresh produce is expensive their store brand of organic frozen fruits/vegetables is significantly cheaper than "Cascadia Farms" or the other name brand versions.

You are much closer to CA so I'm sure your regular produce is significantly cheaper than for us. We also live in a fairly expensive area in general and our grocery prices reflect that across the board. I think the organic/conventional price range is probably smaller here.

Mrs Furious said...

hmmm not sure if this video is better... I might go back to my old one...


I'm curious about people's specific food prices.
For example at my regular store a box of regular muffin mix is 2.99 and the box of organic muffin mix is 2.99.
I spend 1.99 for a pound bag of frozen organic peas
1.69 for 1 lb bag of organic pasta
2.99 box of organic cereal vs 4.39 for same size box of "name brand" cereal
I just got 2 organic kiwis for 99 cents... same price as regular.
3 pound bag of organic apples 3.99
pint of organic grape tomatoes 2.99
2 lbs of broccoli for 2.99
1 qt organic tomato soup 2.29
1 qt organic chicken broth 1.99

Robin said...

I will be back to watch the video and check the links, but I have a question (and it seems sort of relevant to this post.)

Do you use reusable grocery bags? What kind do you use? I've decided to get some, and am looking at the Baggu and the Envirosax. I like that they both fold small. If I can keep them with me, I am more likely to use them. Any input?

Mrs Furious said...

Yes I do. I use a set of four bags made by Acme that look exactly like handled paper bags. I love them they are super sturdy and lifetime guaranteed. I like that they are like a paper bag in that they can stand up and be filled in the same way.
My friend borrowed mine and then got 4 for herself along with an Envirosax (not very sturdy seeming) and some of these. They both fold up into a tiny pouch but the second one is much, much sturdier seeming. She uses the Envirosax as an incidental bag for kiddo odds & ends.

I got mine HERE. The down side is that they are not super compact. Although they do fold down flat. I just have them all folded into one bag in my car. I'm thinking of getting THESE to replace my plastic shopping bags like Target bags after checking out my friend's.

Mrs Furious said...

Plus I do know for a fact that the Acme workhorse compact bag (2nd type I linked too) does fit on a shopping bag frame just like a plastic bag for easy loading.
You know I'm going to get them in red in honor of Target ;)

Mrs Furious said...

The Envirosax is cheaper HERE

Robin said...

Wow! Thanks for the info. I think I am going to go with the Baggu. It looks very similar to the acme workhorse and is made of the same material, but they come in lots of pretty colors. I'm all about the environment, but I want to be pretty too. :)

Still haven't watched the video. Gotta put the kids down for bed first. Yes, my kids go to bed before 7...don't hate me.

Mrs Furious said...

I don't know the baggu. Let me go search....

Robin said...


I would do a link but it always takes me forever to figure out how.

Deb said...

I love this, too, and I really look forward to the farmers' markets. My struggle is consuming everything before it goes bad. Do you find yourself throwing things out, or does your weekly meal planning eliminate the problem? Are either of your kids picky eaters or do they both love fruit and veggies?

Mrs Furious said...

My menu plan has made a HUGE difference in how much produce I throw out. Before we wasted a ton... now almost nothing. I know a lot of people save money with their plan.. I don't... but I do save food.

Both kids are big vegetable eaters (broc & asparagus, tomatoes, avocados, green beans...) over fruit. They both love berries and grapes but we can't get those now... but they also like oranges & kiwi & banana which I can always get. Sometimes I wish I could give a little more variety in the winter but I'm a real stickler about those out of season summer berries, grapes, etc... terrible amount of pesticides and I just can't buy them.

Anonymous said...

FYI on the reusable bags...Target has their own for sale now in the stores! :)

I knew you'd like that Mrs F! ;)

from MI too

Robin said...

Staci- Haha, my husband and I were just talking about that! I wanted bags without a name on it so I can use them wherever. I would feel weird about using Target bags at my grocery store.

Mrs. F - I ordered the baggus. I'll let you know how I like them.

Re: organic. We buy probably 60% organic and are working on improving that. All our packaged stuff is organice, and some produce. It's quite a bit more expensive than non-organic produce here.

Mrs Furious said...

yeah let me know.
I feel weird taking my "grocery bag" style bags to Target... I totally get it. I'm caught between wanting a universally appropriate bag and wanting store specific bags (which is just a mental issue)

Ah... Target loves me ;)
Thanks for the tip!

Mrs Furious said...

re:produce... I think that in Ann Arbor there is such a market for organics in general that our "regular" stores have to drop the produce prices to try and draw the Whole Foods costumer. You know what I mean? Then I milk the system for all it is worth and hit them all anyway. Every store jacks the price on one type of thing to make up for a lowered price on another. It did take me about 4 years to figure it all out but I've got them cornered now! ;)

Anonymous said...

I understand the need for cute generic shopping bags.
Which color(s) did you get?
PS~Gotta love early bedtimes. My boys BEG to go to bed by 8pm. They're 10 & 8! :)

Do you use the small produce bags I'm seeing on some of the sites posted? I didn't even THINK of those little bags we put our banana's and other fruit in! I'm looking to get those too.

Off to shop! Enjoy your night!


Tam-e said...

A subject I love! Oh Mrs. F kuddos to you for keeping up with the organic! I was doing so well there for awhile buying all organic and somehow I let things slip through the cracks! And yes it had to do with $$! Although I do still buy some things that are organic and I have a local meat store where they don't even let anything through the doors if it has hormones or antibiotics. I also can get my fresh farm eggs there as well. I don't remember where I heard this or maybe I read it somewhere but they said that when you go to the store you should only shop the exterior isles. If you think about it that is where they have everything that you really need. Your dairy, meats, and fruits and vegetables. I don't really buy a lot of snacks. I will buy some crackers for the carbaholic child that I have, who, since birth has been determined to be a vegetarian! She loves bread and crackers!
I too like to make a lot of things from scratch. I find it to be not only healthier but it also tastes better. I can also be thankful that my kids love to eat healthy! That right there is a blessing!

Tam-e said...

I watched the video after I already had posted. Have you ever considered a heathier oil? I use coconut oil for all my baking and frying. It it really good. Even if something calls for shortening, I use the coconut oil. You should try it and it is healthier for you than the vegetable oil. Just FYI. And just one more thing, now that I know how strongly you feel about eating organic, I would like to know your thoughts on MSG and the fact that they can disguise it even by just simply putting spices as the ingredients. I know that it has other names too. Are you concerned about that? Just wondering.

Mrs Furious said...

I actually just stopped bagging up my produce and just put it on the conveyer belt loose. I've had no issues with that. I just unload all my like produce together so they can easily weigh it at once.

Ooh I've been meaning to ask you how the P90X is going? I did a lot of research and asked my little bro (who is a more serious weight lifter and GNC manager) about it. I'm very intrigued/scared by it!
By the way I did get the Mom Plan-it and since using it I have had a much easier time sticking to my list and have virtually eliminated impulse buys! Thanks for the tip.
Yeah I've got one carb lover and one crazy meat lover. I've got to look into finding a separate butcher... I think it was save me some $ to be able to stock up when certain cuts were on sale.

Mrs Furious said...

I don't fry anything but I do just typically use Canola oil or Olive oil. I do know that coconut is really good for brain development though... and actually use a coconut lotion on the girls because your skin still absorbs it. I'll try it. Does it have a high smoking point? It must not if you can fry with it.

MSG?... I found this brief article:
HERE. It looks like it can't be listed as "natural flavor" anymore and must be broken down and listed as its separate names.
I just scoped out the pantry. None of the organic products have any in them. The two things that do are a can of cream o' mushroom soup (no surprise there... and I've been trying to get this out of our pantry), my stir fry sauce, and a Near East curry flavored rice mix.

In general I just try to provide the cleanest most nutritious food to my kids that I can. The more I know the more I change our diet.

lucinda said...

About bags. I bought (99 cents@) the Whole Foods bags. They fold flat but not small. I take them in to all stores, CVS, Home Depot, everywhere. Sometimes have to turn them inside out and rinse them but I love not bringing home any more bags, plastic or paper. And it seriously cuts down on the clutter in my kitchen.

Robin said...

Staci - I got fuchsia, lime, peacock, cobalt, mint, and red. That's one of the things that sold me on those as opposed to the Acme ones...the pretty colors. :) I'm going to look like a walking rainbow.

I still use the little plastic produce bags. I will see how the reusable grocery bags go, and then maybe order some reusable produce bags.

Mrs Furious said...

I have a couple questions...

Do you all filter your water?
I don't and I often wonder whether people do because they like to feel it is more like bottled water or because they are actively trying to remove something in their water. I like the taste of our city water as is. I wasn't drinking bottled water to begin with.
And does the filter also take out the fluoride?

Hey Mom,
you see that I put in the links for fruits and vegetables right? The two lists are different and the second one is worth reading as they get into a little more depth. Winter squash... who knew?

Mrs Furious said...

re: the reusable produce bags. I got some as a bonus with my bag order. They are like muslin draw string bags. I don't use them because A) you can't see through them so the clerk would have to open them all up. and B) they actually weigh something empty and I don't want to pay even an extra ounce when I'm already paying so much as is!
I don't know if there are other kinds out there or not. Really (Not that you have to do it my way) I just put all my produce up last that way it doesn't get squashed when they bag it and it is fine. I still bag lettuce and broccoli so they don't fall apart all over the cart!

Mrs Furious said...

Oh and one more question:

Do you have an extra freezer?

Robin said...

Re: water. I cannot stand tap water. I hardly drank water growing up because I hated the taste. I finally learned to drink bottled water as an adult. I have tried filtered water, and don't like the taste of it either. (I am super picky about it.)

We drink bottled water and have it delivered. We have a water cooler and have four five gallon jugs delivered every month. I know it isn't as eco friendly as using filtered water, but we aren't using tons of little bottles, and the water company reuses the large bottles. It actually costs less than buying that amount of water in little bottles, and they bring it to my house, so I don't have to haul heavy water home from the store. We pay $30 a month for it.

Marie said...

We are still working on going the all-organic route. It is a definite goal, but taking it little by little. Dh and I were just talking about this the other day. He was commenting on some guy at work that only eats whole foods. I jokingly said we should do that and he said go for it-seriously! So my totally resistant, thinks its a crock-o-poo husband is on board! Yay! Organics tend to be about 1/3 more expensive than non-organic here (in general). And I already bake/cook mainly from scratch, so its really a matter of using up what we have (can't just throw out good food..we've been eating it, so really, one more can or box?) and only buying organic replacements.

As for the meat, it is RIDICUOUSLY more expensive for hormone free/organic/etc here. I really need to find a butcher rather than the grocery store. I cannot afford the $10+/lb for any meats!! I would love to buy a 1/2 cow butchered, but we would need to buy a freezer first. A long-term goal!

Water-I DID use a filter-thing when we had well water because it tasted so weird..very mineral-like. Now we have city water and I just drink it straight.

I really, really want to go all-organic and hormone free, but budget is a major factor. So by switching little by little I can afford to do it without "feeling the burn". Oh, and we do use the bags for the grocery store, but never thought about it for Target, etc..Good idea!

michelline said...

One thing I witnessed again and again, among young girls that I worked with, was early onset puberty. And it scared the shit out of me. Many people feel that it is due to increased hormone consumption in young girls from diary and meat products

I'm sure that's part of it, but I'm equally sure genetics plays a huge role in it. My grandmother was 9. My mother was 9. I was 10. Tori was 10. My MIL was 9. I'm expecting Libby to start in the next year or so (she just turned 9 and is already quite developed).

I have really enjoyed this post and the other nutritional ones. I've learned so much from your posts and the comments. Keep 'em coming!

michelline said...

oh! And we have a Whole Foods coming to Jacksonville. Of course, it'll be 40 miles away from me, so I'm not likely to go often, but still. It's a start. :)

Mrs Furious said...

I will say that whether or not I like tap water completely depends on that city's water. Ann Arbor is the first place where the water tastes like "restaurant" water to me. And yet nearly everyone I know still uses bottles/filtered.

I was up LATE researching meat and trying to see if it was cheaper from a distributer. I went to Natural Acres because that is where Jon & Kate went on a re-run I was just watching to get their 1/2 cow and when they said how much I was shocked it was so cheap. The site is here and they just happen to have a hamburger special of 2.99 lb and they overnight it frozen. They are in PA and I can't remember if you are too.

I pay $5/lb for natural ground sirloin. I pay $5/lb for chicken breasts. $9/lb for a pork tenderloin. And the steak cut prices are obviously more.
I have stopped getting steak once we switched and figure we can order it when we go out. They don't have many steak cuts available in the "natural" meat at our store which can be frustrating too. If I feel like making flank steak I do have to buy regular meat. I am going to check with the meat guy at the farmer's market this Saturday and see what his prices are.

Cara said...

I love that you can show that it is not always more expensive to eat healthier. A lot of my friends are convinced that because I shop at whole foods and trader joes the majority of the time that my grocery bills are horrendous, but they are really cheaper than theirs. hahah.

Tam-e said...

Have you ever heard of Dr. Mercola? I get his news letters and he always has a lot of great articles in there. You might enjoy them. Very informative!
I have to admit I was doing so well with the P90X and then the kids went away for spring break and I took a break too! Uh oh! I need to get back in the swing of it!
And as for water...I have been distilling my water for a couple of years now. I love it and have a very hard time drinking anything but that. The problem I find with the filtered water is that there are still traces of flouride and possibly other things in it that we don't need. Same with the bottled water. Most of the time unless you get the good stuff, it is just filtered tap water. I got a distiller that makes 1 gallon at a time. It only cost me $120. It has paid for it's self more than once. I have been adding some drops in it to bring up the acidic level so that it is where it needs to be.
I don't fry much foods either but if I would happen to like an egg or something I like to use the coconut oil. At first my one daughter could taste it in anything and she didn't like it but now has grown accustom to it.
I absolutely love my meat shop! I wouldn't go anywhere else. The prices aren't that much higher and even if they are, I pay for it. They taste so much better too!
Thanks for all your insight!

Mrs Furious said...

I don't know about Mr F's family but I was 14! ( I also didn't drink any milk) God I hope the girls take after me.

I'm excited for you about the Whole Foods. It is a fun place to go and I love just the confidence that they are selling good quality food.

Robin said...

Another thing about the bottled water we get. Someone mentioned that a lot of bottled water is just filtered tap water, and that is certainly true. The water we get is spring water from a local company. Each bottle actually tells you which spring it is from (all local.) I like the way it tastes better than other bottled waters, and it isn't any more expensive than others.

I think the reason I never developed a taste for water growing up is because we had a well, and the water was gross.

Julie said...

I try to buy organic when i can. It is true that it is much easier to do with a Whole Foods, though. The organic produce at my local grocery stores is so much more expensive.

We don't eat much meat so I usually only buy organic. My husband is the only one who will eat ground beef so often I don't buy him the organic!! Hey, it's going into tacos so I figure whatever! Oh, I don't buy organic deli meats, though. Boars Head.

Most of the kids' snacks are not organic either...goldfish, smartfood, Trader Joe's cookies. The cereal is hit or miss, too. I did not even realize I was buying organic cereal...I just checked and it is!

I do have filtered water through my fridge, but i can drink the water in my town. It is excellent and very clean.

I try to do the best I can with what is available...and then stock up when I go to Whole Foods.

My youngest child LOVES ramen noodles and he is hard to get to to eat so if anyone knows an organic option, let me know. I just put about half of the sodium-packed seasoning in it. The new "healthier" ramen noodles that are out do not taste like the regular ones. And yes, can you believe I am talking about that shit you ate in college that costs like 15 cents per package!!

michelline said...

On well water and bottled water - We have an artesian well and the water is really good. Clear and cold. No smelly sulphur, thank goodness. On the bottled water, I really will only drink Zephyr Hills. Awesome stuff and there is no aftertaste. The important thing for mothers of babies and small children to remember is there is no flouride in bottled water (unless it specifically says so). City water is generally treated to include flouride.

Robin said...

Michelline - good point about the fluoride. My kids drink tap water even though I drink bottled. :)

Heather said...

Yesh there's a lot of comments.

Great post. We try to buy organic as much as possible, especially since finding out I am pregnant.

We buy strawberries from the farmer's market, which is no pesticides but not officially certified organic. We recently bought grass-fed beef and it was 1. insanely yummy. 2. insanely expensive. Damn.

I think I'm going to Whole Foods for lunch today; it's a lovely place and I like their sandwiches.

Oh and one more thing, why don't you grate the carrots with the food processor? So much time saved.

Mr Furious said...

Reusable bags: These are great—unfortunately it usually goes more like this...

Cashier: "Paper or Plastic?"

Me: "What? [realizes cloth bags are in the car] Oh, crap. Paper..."


It should be noted that we try to re-use all of these bags. All our paper recycling goes in the brown bags when I put it on the curb, and all "intact" plastic bags do doggie-duty when I walk Canine. Those plastic produce bags are like gold around here...

Mr Furious said...

why don't you grate the carrots with the food processor? So much time saved.

"Shhhhh!" The dishwasher (me) hates the food processor...

Mrs Furious said...

Because the taking out of the cabinet.. assembling... taking apart... cleaning... reassembling... storing of said processor takes much longer than it takes to grate 2 carrots by hand.
I've got almost every single small appliance and in the end I just kind of enjoy doing everything by hand. I mix by hand.. knead by hand...grate by hand... make pie crust with two knives. Unless I'm doing a BIG project like zucchini for bread or a big cake I don't tend to bust those things out.
Plus it makes me a old school badass ;)

Mrs Furious said...

Don't worry Mr F I've got your back.

Mrs Furious said...

Yes I have heard of him. I think he has some stuff about raw milk... right? I'll go check him out again.
I'm going to try the coconut oil! My D.O. had recommended we include coconut in the girls' diet at least once a week and I'd fallen out of that.

my pleasure ;)
I don't know why people call Whole Foods "whole paycheck" I spend less there (even when do all my shopping... I used to only shop there) then I do when I do all my shopping at the regular store.

Julie said...

what's a d.o.?

for that matter, what is a dh? I am so behind in the lingo!!

Mrs Furious said...

a DH or dh is "dear husband" same with ds "son" dd "daughter". The "dear" or "darling" aspect makes me gag so I never use that short hand! ;)

D.O. is a doctor of osteopathy.

Deb said...

Okay, this might be just what I needed to get my butt in gear with a weekly food plan. I hate wasting food, and I feel like I am tossing a lot of produce every week.

Thanks for the info!

Now if I could get my kid to eat something vaguely resembling fruit in anything but a smoothie.

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