Monday, February 20, 2012

You Are What You Eat

I firmly believe that what I feed myself and the wee ones has bearing on both our long term health and on our current moods and functioning. I know that when I feed Mister Man junk food or too much sugar or not enough protein - or just let him go too long without eating - he doesn't do well. We all get crabby, our brains don't work as well as they normally do, and our focus is gone. For him, especially, that's critical.

Add in all the things we hear all the time about pesticides and how animals are raised and the like, and it's enough to give me (more) grey hair. I started awhile ago buying organic fruits and veggies from the "dirty dozen" for our house. And I've definitely cut down on the meat we buy, although I still haven't gone fully organic on that. Chicken pretty much is, but oh the beef is so expensive.

Milk was my other area of concern, especially with all the added hormones. I can see puberty coming earlier and earlier to children around me, and I want to ensure that the wee ones have that pushed back as long as possible, especially for Mister Man - I want to ensure he's developed as much maturity as possible before those hormones wreak havoc on him.

Every time I looked at the price of organic milk, however, I flinched. I was buying a gallon of milk for $1.17 most of the time. A half gallon of organic milk was far more than that. I kept pushing it off, shuddering at the price differential. One day, I took a closer look at what I was buying for Little Miss. Because of her dairy allergy, she drinks rice milk (we don't do soy milk for a variety of reasons), and she gets organic rice milk because it's what's available. And I buy it because I have to. A gallon's worth of rice milk costs far more than the $1.17 I was paying for regular milk at the time and I wasn't flinching there. In fact, each 32 ounce container is only a quarter gallon. And it cost me $1.32 per container.

Suddenly the light went on. I'm not flinching at the price because in my mind, I have to do it for Little Miss's health. I have to do it for her. And really, it's the same for Mister Man. I do have to do it for him. And for us. I haven't bought conventional milk since that day.

I'm still struggling with many of the other purchases. I love that so many products are now readily available in organic versions, especially my frozen corn - thank you Costco. I buy organic for a lot of reasons, and GMOs are a big reason for me. (Yeah yeah, I would do better just moving to Europe, I know.) I'm pretty comfortable with most of what I'm doing right now, although I'm sure that will change over the years.

The one thing I really want to switch but haven't remains meat. What I really want to do is to find a local farmer and buy my half cow or pig from him. You would think that living near Chicago, it would be easy to find somewhere to do this, but I've found that it's surprisingly difficult. I still haven't found a good source that's a reasonable drive from me. It just isn't out there - or at least not well-publicized.

But I'm still searching. I have a friend who does cows from Indiana, and I'm hoping to go with her the next time she buys. When I go to a restaurant that talks in their menus about their locally sourced meats, I ask them if the farm sells to individuals or only commercially. Finally, I started reading the From Left to Write book for this month, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. There are some really uncomfortable bits of information about food, but at the same time, it's really empowering - and motivating - for me.

And I found the coolest website. Eat Wild is a site devoted to sharing information on pasture based farms across the US. When I searched Illinois, I was shocked by how many farms there were relatively near me. I hadn't been able to find these on my own, but it's truly inspiring. Most of those that provide the quarter cow (probably all we need) don't "harvest" until July, which was a bit of a downer. The options are out there, however, and I'm feeling good. I'm debating a drive out to Jo Daviess County in a couple weeks to spend the day with my family there and pick up some frozen beef from a farm while I'm at it.

It still isn't cheap. But I know where my meat is coming from this way. And it's less than the $13 per pound for organic ground beef I fainted over the last time I was at Trader Joe's. In fact, many were $4 per pound for the organic ground beef. As little as we're using red meat now, I can handle that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go investigate CSAs. I haven't belonged to one since Mister Man was a baby, but I'm feeling inspired. A little freaked out and overwhelmed, but I'm oddly ok with that. I know I can't do everything, and I don't expect that of myself. On that note, not everyone has the same opinions and beliefs about their food, and that's ok, too. Where do you fall on the organic train?

In the interest of full disclosure, this post was inspired by the February From Left To Write book club selection "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. I received a copy of this book for review purposes, but unlike other book clubs, we write a post inspired by the book rather than a review of the book. All opinions are my own, as always, and I received no compensation.


Brenda Bartella Peterson February 20, 2012 at 2:19 PM  

Kudos to you, Michelle, for doing the research and feeding your family healthy food! I regret that our nation has reached a point at which we have to work harder and spend more to feed our family healthy food.

Hyacynth February 20, 2012 at 2:25 PM  

Farmer Nick's LLC out of Hebron, I think? He's got lots of good quality meat raised the right way. We got a cow this past fall = such a good decision.

x February 20, 2012 at 3:36 PM  

Try Lasater - That's who we use. Yes, we do a local pickup because they are local to us, but, they do also ship and it might be much cheaper than your $13 a pound. It works out for us around $5 a pound for a mixed batch of roasts, steaks and ground beef. It's definitely a more beefy flavor but I feel less guilty eating more red meat because it's grass fed.

x February 20, 2012 at 3:38 PM  

Oh - Farmer Nick's is Nick Janovski yes? My hubby went to high school with him. Want me to ask what the deal is? Small world huh?

Tami February 20, 2012 at 3:49 PM  

I get my meat from a local farmer who delivers. You have to buy in bulk though. But the meat is awesome and healthy too!

Unknown February 20, 2012 at 4:31 PM  

Have you tried Market Maker? I know folks use it in Indiana and it looks like IL has one too:

I think it is great you are reaching out to find a farmer. We used to source beef and pork, but now I purchase at the store b/c we liked some cuts a lot more than others, so for us it is more economical at the store to get exactly what we want.

As for puberty, I read in the Times a while back that at least for girls that studies are attributing it to the 100lb mark and the increase in childhood obesity... which goes back to diet.

Thien-Kim aka Kim February 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM  

I dream of the funds and freezer space to buy a quarter of a cow or pig. I'm so glad you were able to find some possibilities.

Sandra February 21, 2012 at 10:09 AM  

When my First Precious came along, I went organic on milk, cheese, yogurt, and many other fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, by the Second Precious, I stopped because of our very tight financial situation. However, like you said, if you *had* to buy organic rice milk for Little Miss for her health, what really is the difference? It IS for health reasons! You've inspired me to do this again for my Precious Ones. (I've recently decided to never buy microwave popcorn anymore due to the health hazards, and we are now popping whole kernels for better price and health. That's a good start, right?)

Lisa Hanneman February 21, 2012 at 8:19 PM  

You and I are on the same page. I have bought organic milk since my first was born and realized it wasn't a choice, so I don't even glance at the price of the conventional. I've just got a better understanding of where to get it the least expensive...
Thanks for sharing this site! We're all organic meats and mostly organic produce, so I'm always looking for resources to make it easier and cheaper. The more local, the better. Let me know what you find!

Pat February 25, 2012 at 11:34 AM  

You are a very good, conscientious mom and wife. My husband only let(s) me buy food that is the cheapest, so no organic for us. I have at least convinced him that brown rice is better for you than white rice. And now I'm hearing that almost all brown rice has a trace of naturally-occurring arsenic (from the soil) in its outer coating. Yikes! But I still won't buy white rice.

I'm always glad to hear there are health-conscious parents out there. There is such a big childhood obesity problem in our country...wish more parents would be health-conscious!

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