Several of the things that I have had a LOT of trouble deciding on are:
- Eating in the dining hall: it's free, I don't have to cook or clean up, and we get to spend time with Robert and others here at camp. But, it's not always the healthiest (at least it's not always what we would eat at home). The quality and healthiness of it has improved within the past few years, but when there's a lot of kids here (up to 800), there's only so much you can feed that many people! Another issue is that it has always been hard to plan for because we don't know sometimes when they will have dinner there. We sometimes plan to cook meals at home and end up eating in the dining hall, or we'll plan to eat in the dining hall then they don't end up serving that night, which means we usually go to town to eat because most meals that we make at home require some planning ahead.
- Raw milk versus organic milk versus conventional milk: Raw milk is best, but it has been hard to find and it is expensive. Organic milk is really expensive too, and I just haven't found one that I like (the one that I can "afford" has a bad after taste). Conventional milk is one of the worst things to consume, BUT many brands now sell a hormone free type (Borden, Oak Farms, etc).
- Grass fed/pastured meat and poultry versus "natural" versus organic versus conventional (LOTS of options!): Grass fed/free range is VERY expensive, but so much better for you. Natural meats are hormone free and aren't usually as expensive as organic or pastured... but they aren't organic or pastured. Organic is usually really expensive and not even grass fed, but I can find it somewhat cheaper at Costco. Conventional is just bad, but cheap.
- Buying in bulk (large bags of things) versus buying as we need things: bulk can save money over time, but it takes a big chunk of money at once, which is hard to come by.
- Organic fruits and veggies versus conventional: Organic is better, conventional is cheaper (obvious dilemma there).
- Dining hall: We have decided to just plan to eat lunch there. This way, I can actually plan and budget for all breakfasts and dinners and I know that we will always eat those at home. And, I always know that lunch will be in the dining hall which will just be part of our daily routine. Lunch is always served... even when there aren't guests here. We will get to see Robert while he's working, and we will get to be out of the house and around others. Robert plans to just wait to eat dinner when he gets home, so I will probably try to give some healthy snacks in the afternoon and serve dinner later (when Robert has to serve in the dining hall that night). Summers may be a whole other story since it will almost be too stressful to take all three kids to the dining hall, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
- Milk: I've found a place in Georgetown that sells raw milk that isn't much more than the organic milk that I buy (50 cents more). This place is inspected by the health department every month, so I trust it completely. My thoughts are that this is one of those things that is worth buying, so my goal is to start buying enough for a month at a time and freeze it. I have been taught how to thaw it and have been told that it tastes the same after it's thawed. I will really have to work on rationing it so that we don't end up using it all before I can buy more, but that will be a good discipline. If for some reason I need more, I will just buy what I can buy. I will most likely just focus on hormone free. I can't let it be a stressful thing. I hope to buy a gallon or two to make things like yogurt, kefir, etc, but that's just my goal. We will see what happens :). Oh, and I can try to pour the cream off the top to make butter (like I did when I was able to buy non-homogenized milk). Butter I will just buy what I can (probably at Costco), cheese we will probably continue to buy the hormone free kind that we have been buying, and for now, I will just keep buying Stoneyfields farms yogurt.
- Meat/Poultry/Eggs: I have decided that for the most part, conventional is out except for Jennie'O ground turkey (it's at least hormone free). I will do my best to buy natural meats/poultry from Sprouts and sometimes organic from Costco if we can that month. As much as we would prefer buying grass fed/pastured, it's just so much more expensive. I will buy free range eggs from the store, but they aren't too expensive. The biggest thing is that we've decided to cut down our meat consumption. We will find more ways to eat beans, eggs, and use other sources of protein. We will use less meat even in the meat recipes. Robert will most likely shoot at least one deer (maybe even two), which would provide PLENTY of meat for our family (ground meat, stew meat, steaks, etc). I would still buy some chicken to have variety here and there, and maybe some breakfast meats here and there, but that would be all I would have to buy. So, we're PRAYING that he shoots one or two deer :).
- Buying in Bulk: I plan to buy a few large bags of things that we will use ALL the time when I get my stipend from school (wheat berries, sucanat, beans, rolled oats, rice) from Sun Harvest (because this is the cheapest way to buy in bulk that I have found), then the rest I will buy one thing in bulk per month. That way, when I run out, I will just have that one thing to buy and not everything at once. It really saves a lot over time to buy this way. It'll also be nice to know that if there is a month in which we really can't afford to buy much food, we will almost always have lots of food in the pantry. I also plan to buy things like diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste in bulk at Costco because they carry an organic brand that is much cheaper than buying individual cans at the store (about the same price as non-organic). I plan to buy trash bags, freezer bags, toilet paper, laundry detergent (maybe... if I don't go back to making my own), peanut butter, frozen veggies, olive oil, maple, juice, and coffee in bulk at Costco. After all of this, there's not much left to buy :). I will just shop at Sprouts for the rest. They have great sales every week, and Wednesdays are double ad day! So, I will hopefully be able to shop there on Wednesdays! HEB will be the the place that I go to if I just need a few things here and there. I really don't like HEB much...
- Fruits/Veggies: If I buy frozen, I will buy organic (Costco sells these in bulk); fresh I will just pick and choose depending on what we buy that month. I also plan to plant a garden again this year; we'll see how it goes. That will save a lot and is much better. I just don't know how it will go with three babies :).
I plan to put in place once a month freezer cooking, once a month freezer baking, crock pot meals, etc so that I am just focusing in on those things all at once to make the rest of the month easier.
I will begin sharing more and more recipes and my meal plans soon :).