Many of you have probably already drawn the impression that I’m a little bit of a health nut (and also a smoker which I am aware makes me the ultimate oxymoron…) What bothers me terribly is that oftentimes the healthier choice for our families is usually a lot more expensive and, sometimes, simply not at all affordable. There is so much fear mongering in our media that we’ve become totally numb to headlines, “Coconut oil can save you from cancer!” “Man dies on the clean eating diet!” “New superfood, eat a pound every day to become immortal!” “Toxins in sun screen causing skin cancer!” “Wear sun screen or get skin cancer!” And it goes on and on and on. It is totally the boy that called wolf and the general consensus now is: “Everything is bad for us so I’m not going to bother changing how I’m eating or what I’m buying!” Which is totally understandable but also just awful.
On Facebook I have about 300 “friends” and they all have either stopped following me or have decided to put up with my shares about GMOs, the horrors of factory farming, the dangers of vaccines, the dangers of round up etc. etc. etc. Every now and again I’ll post something that hits a nerve and never more so then when I posted excitedly about how I had eliminated cows milk from our household. People were offended! Seriously offended! I wasn’t telling them THEY had to give up milk but my goodness you would have thought I was! The responses were as follows, “Giving up bacon too then?” “Milk is a good source of calcium!” “Why on earth would you do that?” And there were some much harsher comments that I won’t bother you with. It really surprised me and I look back at it now and laugh. For one thing: Milk is NOT a good source of anything for humans and I’m lactose intolerant and Joe doesn’t drink milk so it just didn’t need to be in our house, the moment I dumped it down the drain because it went bad I vowed to never buy it again. On another note I also know for a fact that milk is perfectly designed to take a 60 pound calf and turn it into a 900 pound steer and my goals in life do not include becoming a 900 pound steer.
So, I’m a hypocrite because we still eat cheese and butter however, once I eliminated milk from my cooking I also found a million and one ways where I did NOT need to add butter or cheese either. Try it, you’ll be amazed because most of the time you will never notice that you didn’t add butter to a dinner. (NOTE: I am not much of a baker so I’m sorry to say I have absolutely no help in how to make the perfect pie crust without butter but I am sure that it has been done and would only require a google search to find out about it.) Here’s a big one: I made mashed potatoes the other day with NO milk and they were the BEST mashed potatoes I have ever made. Of course they still included butter… baby steps.
What does all this rambling translate to? I eliminated milk from my cooking and I believe we’re healthier for it and its saving us money. I’ve also cut back on cheese and butter and, of course, that translated to the exact same thing. We are saving money. Dairy products are expensive!
I also make all of our cleaning products. You can read my post about how it saves us around $1,000 a year and it only costs me about 10 minutes of my time a month in making them. Oh my gosh I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read and heard people talk about household products, “There’s no proof they’re bad for you, why bother?!” “They have technology you hippies don’t have to make better and safer cleaning products then you ever could!” Well, you can save money but when it comes to my family’s health why would I take the chance? From air fresheners to countless different cleaning products and laundry soaps: they are FULL of chemicals. Chemicals that people have to wear hazmat suits to handle before they’re mixed, bottled and sold and then we bring them home, put them on our clothes and on our skin and in our air. And they’re expensive!
Personally, if we can afford it, I just don’t take chances on our health. Everything I have mentioned so far has SAVED us money so I don’t really see any real argument against cutting back on dairy or making our own household products. (I just made my first ever batch of perfume too and, I can’t believe it, but it actually smells like perfume!)
Now that I have mentioned those choices that also save us money the elephant in the room smacks me with his trunk and forces me to sometimes choose whether to save money or put my family’s health first. It should be black and white: of course I’m going to choose our health first! But it is RARELY that black and white and anyone who is living on a tight income right now knows exactly what I’m talking about. You practically have to be rich to be able to go to the grocery store and afford to buy anything organic.
Which is why I’m coming at this from a different direction entirely. What if instead we didn’t buy it at all? What if, instead, we grew it or made it ourselves or just learned to go without? One of my biggest frugal suggestions when it came to grocery shopping and saving money (check out my post about that here) was to STOP buying it because you ran out but first, instead, to try to eliminate the habit and see how you do without it. We really don’t need near as much as we think we do, we don’t need our homes smelling like fake flowers that are actually just chemicals, we don’t need snacks that are nothing but empty calories when we have leftovers in the fridge and supper cooking on the stove, we don’t need a single thing that has EVER gone to waste in our refrigerators, we don’t need that chicken Alfredo boxed dinner when we can make our own for a fraction of the cost. Its time to get honest with ourselves and what we actually NEED. And this is truly going to be different for every single household.
So I took the challenge and let us run out! Our refrigerator and pantry became impressively spare and I tackled using everything we already had on hand. So, how’d it go?
Well, it turns out Joe and I are kinda weird.
Two items on our “need” list are green olives and pepperoni, they will always be in our refrigerator and that’s just that. I don’t buy anything fresh now unless I’m planning to use it in a meal within the next two days. (Yes, I meal plan.) Most of the time our refrigerator looks like we’re a couple of college kids: Juice, a little cheese, lots of condiments, olives, pepperoni, beer and boxed wine (I’m a classy broad lol). The only vegetables I keep around are onions and potatoes and they are organic. Giving up on snacks (mostly) as well as milk and cutting back on all of our dairy products means that we can afford to buy those things organic now while still saving money.
I also took the challenge in another way: not only did I let us run out but I worked very hard to change my thinking. I love salami (stop it, I know that sounds dirty) but I really do, I’m a salami fanatic, I love summer sausage, cotto salami, hard salami etc. etc. Literally anything in a casing with who-knows-what random animal bi-product ingredients – I love it by itself, on a cracker, warmed up, with cheese and absolutely any time of the day. But I don’t need it! And its expensive! Once I learned to go without something really changed in me because now when I get it I make it LAST and it is a TREAT to me.
We get so used to having luxuries that we forget that they are, in fact, luxuries! My great grandma must have rolled over in her grave seeing how much butter I used to use so casually and so flippantly in almost every meal I made. What a waste! What an excess of calories we didn’t need that we couldn’t even tell had been added!
My challenge has given us what I believe to be a much healthier lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of how we were living before. The savings I’ve found by creating a healthier environment has given us the opportunity to afford the organic staples I never thought I could afford otherwise.
Now that I’ve mentioned between choosing our “health” and an option we can actually afford I have to bring up our railroad ties garden that I posted about a while back. After a lot of research (and comparing the costs to cedar etc.) we decided to forgo the warnings and just go ahead and use railroad ties. What pushed us over the deciding edge was, in fact, that the railroad ties we were buying had been sitting outside for YEARS and had more then likely already leached out any amount of toxic substance that they had to offer. SO, I went ahead with the railroad ties as we simply could not afford to do otherwise. I literally had no choice but to choose the option that we could afford instead of being cautious about our health. It did not sit well with me but it did remind me that there may always be times in our lives when I simply have no choice 🙁
On the brighter side though with all of my research and by covering the ties with mulch I am VERY confident that they pose absolutely no danger to us! And that’s really all we can do sometimes which is, of course, the best that we can.