Diet Dilemma: When the Processed Foods Are Free

As many of you know, my husband and I recently moved to a “new” community. (In actuality my husband to a job at one of the churches I attended as a child; you can read more about that here.)

image by Feasting At Home

Being the kind of folks they are, the church threw a pantry party for us to get us started. They had mentioned my gluten allergy in the church bulletin announcement, so most of what we received was gluten free!

The dilemma: Very little of the food could be classified as “real food”…

My question: What to do?! What to do?!

We are all at different places when it comes to the food we choose to eat. For those of us on a real food journey, we have become concerned with the quality of our food and what we’re actually putting in our bodies. Considering this, many non-perishable goods can be a nightmare!

Image by lotsawords

So what’s a girl to do? The way I see it, I have 3 choices:

1: Stick up my nose. (Refuse to eat it and find it a new home: food bank, garbage can etc.)

2: Open Wide. (Just eat it)

3: Open my Heart. (Serve everything I can to my family and share as much as possible.)

I personally feel that (trying to stay Biblically minded) being ungrateful enough to reject the food would dishonor the One who provided it more than putting some processed foods into my body. I separated out the gluten-free stuff and narrowed the pile down to mostly canned goods and a few boxed side dishes. The fact is most of the people who step inside my home couldn’t care less what kind of food they get as long as it tastes good.

Do I want to set a higher standard (even for unknowing guests?) YES! Is that an excuse for wastefulness or ungratefulness? Absolutely not.

In the end, I am so blessed to be a par of this community. Their generosity touches my heart! I am thankful for all of the effort they put into welcoming us, even remembering my special dietary needs.

 Where are you at in your real-food journey? Is it even a consideration for you? Or are you at a place where you are tempted to let your high standards trump your duty to love people?

Pros & Cons: A Food Co-op

Some women just love to shop. They love to shop for clothes, housewares and even groceries! I am not one of those women. I’ll admit that I love the occasional antique shopping trip. (I loooove old things!) But I’ve always labelled the mall as an energy-vampire and I dread walking into most super-markets.

Image by destination360

Meal planning, organized lists and experimenting with new recipes have all made my bimonthly grocery trips slightly more enjoyable. But still…there are so many other things I could be doing! Then I discovered this magical thing called (drum roll please)…a food co-op.

My friend Darcy always has this fruit bowl with unique varieties in it. She was also serving interesting greens in her salads and had such a colorful table of foods when I’ve been over for dinner. Finally one day a group of Bible study attendees were trying to figure out exactly what one of her fruits or veggies was and somebody asked, “Where did you get this?” She responded with two words that have changed my life: “It was in my Bountiful Basket.”

Huh? I thought she had gotten a fruit basket gift from someone, so after a few weeks of more cool fruit I asked her what a Bountiful Basket was. She explained that it was a food co-op.

A food co-op is generally a member owned but definitely member-funded grocery “store”. In the case of Bountiful Baskets however, there’s no actual store-front. You pay for a basket of fruits and vegetables. All of the money you pay goes straight to buying the produce. Because of this there is a (very small) processing fee as well. You reserve a basket at a particular pick up place and time.

The Pros and Cons: 

-Unfortunately, you generally don’t know what will be in your basket until you get it. This makes meal planning difficult (or fun if your a glass half-full type :) and unpredictable.

+On the plus side, you can add on whole grain bread, granola or extra veggies.

+You can upgrade to an organic basket. (I love this feature. This way I don’t have to stand in line with my fingers crossed that I don’t end up with a bin full of dirty dozen produce.)

-Odd distribution places and pick-up times. At least in my county, I can’t really line up a regular grocery trip with my basket pick up. the pick up times are early in the morning (I would have to take my basket home to keep it fresh since I live in a rural community) and at places like a hardware store at the (complete opposite) edge of town or the masonic temple.

+I save my self time, energy and lots of money at the grocery store!!!

-You usually have to bring your own basket, but this doesn’t seem like a big deal to me!

Overall, I  think it’s awesome! Check out or search for other food co-ops serving your area.

Do you have other local initiatives to save people time and money in your community?

Furninshing Your Home…Without Breaking the Bank!

Have you walked through a big chain furniture store lately? Everything is way over priced and cheaply made. We had a solid wood bedroom set from one of those stores and pieces of the bed frame would fall off now and then. I felt like my mattress was just going to hit the floor one day!

Joking aside, it can be quite costly to furnish and decorate your home. Here is a quick guide to finding items that you like AND you can afford!

Know Your Budget: Going into debt to redecorate doesn’t make a home easier to live in; it does quite the opposite! If you don’t even have some cash to get started with, start setting aside a little each month. Even $20 a paycheck for a few months is enough to get a living room full of furniture if you shop right!

Photo by chictip

Make a Wish List: Shopping for anything can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Make a list of things you like to find and any details. for example. Maybe you need a couch to fit in a small space.  Write down any size requirements or restraints along with color/material preferences. This way, if you walk into a store search the Internet, you will save yourself from considering something that wouldn’t work for your home anyway.

Shop wise: Don’t over pay for something that won’t last! Here are some practical options for where and how to buy

  • Second hand stores: they just don’t make furniture like they used to (at least not for reasonable prices).  In order to find a good deal on something (not hideous) at most second -hand stores, you’ll need to shop frequently. Know your local stores well. Some stores only bring inlarge items on a certain day of the week or have sales on specific things on a certain day. 

*For example Salvation Army and Goodwill have colored tags that go on sale according to the day or one color per week.  If you’re willing to wait you could get a nice sized discount on something you’ve had your eye on.

  • Craigslist/Freecycle: No matter what kind of furniture you’re looking at, you should know your limits and be ok with them. If you’re not comfortable with a free pressboard bookshelf or 20 year old mattress, don’t feel guilty. When using websites, be especially particular. Watch out for scams and don’t be afraid to go look at something before you make a decision.
  • Auctions/Sales: Spend one summer consistently searching garage sales and you can probably check almost everything off your list. Strategically plan the garage sales you want to hit to maximize your efficiency and be sure to carry cash. Auctions (especially if you live near a rural area) can contain a wealth of goodies! When nobody wants the family farm, a literal treasure trove is up for grabs to the highest bidder. This is perfect if you’re looking for small antiques to decorate with or classic, (usually large) solid furniture items.

photo from thestate

  • And finally, Sales at Large Furniture Stores: Every season (spring and fall especially), stores will want to replace a large part of their inventory. This is a good time to pick through and attempt to find some quality stuff for less. Make sure you’re buying something that you think will last sufficiently long and is worth what you’re paying for it. Also check the damaged furniture to see if anything is discretely dented or easily fixable.

When shopping for used furniture, it helps if you’re willing to decorate a room around an “interesting” or unique piece. When I got fed up with fake, cheap couches I had very little money to spend on something new to replace my futon. I knew that if I was going to find something, it was going to have to be something no one else wanted. I had in mind something bright (like orange-which I don’t even like) and floral.What I found was better than I imagined! The St Vincent de Paul was asking $95 for a yellow/green 1974 Ethen Allen couch; I offered them $75. Because it was a good quality couch to begin with, it was still super comfy and in relatively good shape. It definitely required some shifting of accessories and colours in my living room (which was previously red)! So don’t be afraid to try something different if you think you canmake it work!

What have been some of your greatest challenges in affordably making your home comfortable? Do you have a super-find story like my awesome green couch?