It was 2012 when Mr. Crumbs said something that would forever change how I viewed food:
“Honey, I feel like we don’t have any food in the house. We’re always eating out of boxes.”
Hmmm… I really wasn’t sure what to think about that. That was the food I was buying with coupons. And I used coupons because we had a strict grocery budget. Was I missing something?
Yes – the food! As I looked around the kitchen and opened all the cupboard doors, all I could see was box, after box, after box. It wasn’t food per se, but that’s what we were eating on a regular basis.
Boxes of cereal for breakfast. Boxes of crackers and granola bars for snacks. And boxes of cake mix for dessert. All bought because we were on a budget.
Trying to be an agreeable wife, I said I would start looking into our food and to try to buy more “real food” than boxes going forward.
Several documentaries later, (including Food Matters, Food, Inc., King Corn and Forks Over Knives) and I was convinced that our boxes need to go. Until that day, I never thought about how my eggs were raised never crossed my mind. Or the living conditions of the chicken I bought. Or how clean the stalls were of the cows who produced the milk I gave my kids.
I also didn’t relate my health to the food I put in my body. I see now that it’s a logical conclusion, but at the time, I didn’t see the link. The food I eat directly relates to the health of my body.
Mr. Crumbs’ gentle suggestion of eating more real food and less boxed food officially became my mission. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was looking for, but lots of things had to change. And the budget wasn’t one of them.
I began following some real food blogs and made small changes in our kitchen that didn’t impact our grocery budget. Then, I read the weekly circulars, read labels before buying anything and started to meal plan. Also, I carefully tracked my spending and told Mr. Crumbs when we were getting lower on funds so we could be on the same page.
Then gradually over time, by making one small manageable change at a time, we began eating only real food. It took us eight months to go from all boxes to no boxes – EIGHT MONTHS!
It’s also took us nearly an entire year to figure out what number worked best for our grocery budget. Now that we’re in the groove of real food, we’re feeding the four of us on just $330 each month.
You would think that it would be easy to just stop spending as much, turn a blind eye and never buy a box again, but it isn’t. Real food is truly a journey, and it’s full of lots and lots of baby steps. I know this first hand. You won’t succeed if you try to completely healthify your kitchen overnight. That’s not me being pessimistic – that’s just being realistic! There’s too much to learn, too much to replace and too much to make from scratch.
But here’s what I do know, what I’ve learned from experience: It is entirely possible to eat real food on a real budget.
You can do it too!