Having our cake, and paying for it, too

Prior to getting pregnant and having Eli, I was kind of a crappy eater. I mean, I was a healthy weight and my BMI was in the “normal” range, but you’d probably have cringed at my diet for a few reasons. First, I could live on carbs alone, and be completely happy about it. But also, I am a big fan of preservatives. I even wrote a post several years ago where I bashed organic foods as a scam.

I always internally rolled my eyes at the “crunchy” moms who only fed their kids organic, hormone-free stuff. It just seemed so over the top and unnecessary. And even though I found/find the “well, we survived when I was growing up doing x, y, or z that is now unsafe” argument infuriating when it comes to just about every other part of parenting, I gave the same excuse for food. I was healthy on a diet of preservatives, why did I need to freak out about feeding my son the same stuff?

When I got pregnant, I felt a small shift in my thinking. I still ate Easy Mac by the heaping bowl full, I still overate carbohydrates, but I began to linger longer at the organic section in our grocery store. I scrubbed fruits and veggies before eating instead of casually rinsing. I started to choose meat from the organic market and read labels slightly more carefully.

After Eli was born, we were in survival mode for a while, eating whatever was in the house or delivered to us, regardless of its health benefits, but when we started him on solid foods at 5 months, I began to feel uncomfortable with our eating. The first thing we did to try to combat our discomfort with the situation is joint a CSA and get a basket of fruits and veggies every other week. Eli’s first several foods came from those baskets and it made me feel a little better to be able to give him non-genetically modified, non-pesticided foods, locally grown food.

As he started to be more interested in real table foods, it got more challenging. We’re very fortunate in that we live walking distance from an organic market, but the distance isn’t the issue now- it’s the cost. Last week I bought a few lunch items for Eli, as well as ingredients for 2 dinners (that would feed us for 4 nights) and it cost over 80 dollars. And look, my child’s health is important, but that is unsustainable.

We also decided to quit the CSA basket this week, not because we don’t like it, but because we’re not making good use of everything and having to throw away too much produce. I found a small local produce stand that will likely be more reasonably priced than the market that I’m going to try out, but either way, it’s been frustrating to balance my desire to feed my child healthy, whole foods and not spend my entire paycheck on it.

And it makes me feel more frustrated because we’re fortunate, we can afford to spend extra for organic, but that’s not the case for everyone. I hate that other families may want to feed their child the same way I want to feed Elijah, but are unable to do it because the cost is prohibitive. I’m frustrated that we’ve reached a point in society where we’re comfortable with feeding animals antibiotics prophylactically, even when we know it causes antibiotic resistant bacteria to proliferate. I’m frustrated that we’re comfortable spraying pesticides on foods, even when we know that some of these chemicals in large quantities can be very dangerous.

I’m frustrated that it’s so complicated to feed my child safe, healthy foods.

I have no solution, not even really any good ideas, just worries and frustrations. I want to be able to feed my child well without breaking the bank. And I just can’t understand why that’s an unrealistic desire. I can’t understand how we hope to manage all the health crises facing our country if we can’t even find a way to make healthy food affordable. I’m frustrated and I think I’m not alone.

10 Responses to “Having our cake, and paying for it, too”

  • EH:

    My husband and i were eating dinner last night and talking abou the cost of food. Our pack of 6 free range chicken thighs, which will last us 2 meals, cost almost $8. Our organic carrots and green beens, $3. So for $11 we have food for 2 nights. We could go get 2 fast food “meals” and spend more than that on one night’s dinner.

    Alternatively, a pack of 20 chicken McNuggets cost, what? $3? You can feed a family of 4 off that. Even worse is that a majority if the people who eat crap like that either don’t care about the lack of nutrition in processed food like that, or have no way of finding out about it. My husbands coworker was on a field trip with his son and one of the students in the class had a to go bag from McDonalds for lunch. He told the dad that his parents don’t have time to make him lunch, so he usually just gets a BigMac on the way to school. How can a parent not have time to make a PB&J, but have time to stop at the drive through??? How can they not care what they’re teaching their kid regarding eating right??


  • I hear you! I know that you know I’ve been on an crusade for “organic and healthy and locally grown” whenever possible in our house and we haven’t always seen eye to on eye on (but that is cool). The cost really can be prohibitive. I’ve found that we eat less meat overall (not a bad thing) and more vegetarian options as a way to reduce cost, and I do a vast majority of my shopping at Trader Joe’s. I know not everyone has a TJs or likes shopping there, but at least in Chicago their prices on organic produce really make a difference in my bottom line. I also like their general overall policy of only selling “clean” food- you won’t find many preservatives or fillers in their food. (Sadly they still contain calories. WOMP WOMP.) I also like the organic selection at Costco, so when I know we can make it through a huge box of fruit or veggies from them, I go for it.


  • akl:

    oh, I love how I can come hear and read about your parenting journey and not feel so alone. I have had the same experience with my 10 month old — I’m so uncomfortable giving her weird chemicals and preservatives, but eat them myself. and don’t get me started on meat. the idea of her gnawing on a piece of chicken grosses me out beyond belief. With the weather getting better in NY, we will have more opportunities to get local food at a reasonable price- in the winter, it’s available, but extraordinarily expensive.

    Someone recently told me that they don’t strive to be a purist, just to make progress. I’m taking that attitude with Viv’s eating — do my best to give her the best food, but not beat myself up if she gets some crap.


    akl Reply:

    @akl, UGH HERE, not hear.


  • Erin:

    While I’m not a mom, I think your frustrations are very valid. My undergrad is in dietetics and we talked a lot about organics, GMOs, preservatives, etc. Surprisingly, very few of my professors were in favor of organic foods. In general, the nutrient content of organic produce is no different than that of regular produce, though I know that doesn’t mean various pesticides are completely safe. I don’t know a ton about GMOs, but I do believe they are regulated (USDA?). In some ways, genetic modification is a good thing. For example, genetically modifying produce to be more resistant to insects decreases the the need for pesticides. Some preservatives are natural antioxidants such as vitamin A, C, or E, but the scientific name appears on the label which aren’t as recognizable as simply ‘vitamin A/C/E etc’. It might be easier to focus on a balanced diet with an emphasis on lean protein, whole grains, and variety of fruits and veggies (obviously, to whatever extent is developmentally appropriate for Eli). Then just selectively buy organic for the foods that you are most concerned about.

    I don’t mean to overstep, as I know I’m not a mom, and someday I may very well have the same concerns as you if/when I have a child. I tend to feel strongly about a “middle of the road” type of approach to nutrition (in the absence of specific medical conditions/allergies). However, that doesn’t mean there is no risk associated with pesticides, preservatives, etc. I think it’s so important for everyone to question and research these issues and find the best approach for them/their family. Your love for your family is so evident through your blog that I have no doubt that you will figure out what works best for all of you.


  • I found myself buying organic produce for the first time when giving solid foods to my kids, choosing organic blueberries from Wegman’s. I can’t buy all organic, it’s just too expensive. What I’m striving for more is a healthier shift in the types of foods I prepare. I go through extra effort for my kids that we didn’t for just ourselves. While I might just open a box of Kraft mac & cheese for Mr. Apron and me, I take the time to make their mac & cheese from scratch, using yogurt and real cheese. And sometimes I get jealous of what we serve them (if I’ve made them something different)! I’m trying to make fewer prepared foods, to ingest less sodium (baby kidneys!), to be more mindful of what I purchase at the market. I think it’s working, little by little. I learned how to roast beets, to make a healthy pasta alfredo from scratch, to prepare some truly healthy things in the slow cooker. It’s an ongoing process for me, for the kids. I’ll buy organic if it’s not much of a price difference. And for how infrequently I purchase meat for Mr. Apron, I try to make sure it’s free range or Kosher or of a higher quality than just Purdue. But I can’t make myself crazy about everything. I consume junk in moderation, and I think that’s a level I’m comfortable with.


  • I’m right there with you. Right now we feed Mary a lot of organic/ unprocessed food, but we haven’t changed what we feed ourselves much. Not a great situation, but we can’t afford to go organic for the whole family, so better that Mary gets the good stuff, I guess.


  • kimybeee:

    here in good ole wv we have many ways to combat the issues you are facing. my family raises beef, hog, sheep & goats for meat. we try to buy a 1/2 beef every so often. we know where it comes from and what it has been fed. our kids participate in a project that allows them to raise and butcher and completely process their own hog every fall. with two hogs in the freezer every fall for the last 4 or 5 years we have grown so sick of pork. I am like the meat fairy – I share with family friends and neighbors. our 17 year old son has his own egg business and provides eggs to the local school system and various restaurants around our whole state. we also have several resources for locally grown produce. our local grocery store is family owned and they buy home grown produce from local farmers during the growing season. once you have eaten home grown meat and eggs – the store stuff just grosses you out.

    let me also explain a common myth to you. JUST BECAUSE IT SAYS ORGANIC OR NATURAL ON THE LABELING THAT IS A LOAD OF CRAP!!!!!. that is a huge marketing ploy to get people to pay more for the same stuff you can find other places at a fraction of the cost. the majority of producers in our area would never bother getting certified organic even though their products would qualify for that label. it just isn’t worth the extra time and money and paperwork to bother. some pesticides are a necessity as well and as long as you are rinsing your produce in cold water you are gonna be just fine.

    I am 40 years old and I have known all this to be fact my whole life. from having family in the business we have restaurants that we won’t eat at because we know the quality of the meat they serve. you just can’t put a taco in your mouth that is grade d, but still edible quality meat. if you take the time and look around – especially this time of year with produce starting on you can find healthy alternatives that are affordable without breaking the bank and as a bonus you will be supporting local farmers. and don’t forget that a lot of produce can be frozen and you can use it later for cooking instead of throwing it away. hope this helps!!!


  • Hi Katie,

    I know I’ve mentioned this in an email but I thought I’d share a great product with you and your readers. I hope you don’t mind.
    Here in NJ it is hard to get a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. And, of course, expensive for a family of four. We too were throwing away produce gone bad and I was getting very frustrated. We still try to eat organic when we can, but we have also had great success by adding Juice Plus+ capsules and chewable to our healthy eating regimen. It is much more affordable and easier than juicing and since my boys aren’t fans of too many raw veggies, this is a great complement to what we do eat. I wish I’d known about these products when my boys were babies. I would have added with the powder from the capsules to their baby food.

    If you aren’t familiar with Juice Plus+ (though it is pretty big in CA), here is some information:

    My website http://www.kpiccolasharesjuiceplus.com also has tabs with great information and a 10 minute video that explains the all natural products (capsules, chewables and Complete Protein Powder) very well.

    Juice Plus+® is more than extra vitamins and minerals. It is actually a whole food based supplement. The fruit capsules are made from apples, oranges, pineapples, cranberries, peaches, cherries, papayas. The vegetable capsules are made from carrots, parsley, beets, kale, broccoli, cabbage, oat bran, rice bran, spinach, and tomatoes.

    The fresh fruits and vegetables are juiced, then dehydrated to a powder form. It’s carefully tested to ensure no pesticides or other contaminants are present in the product. It is never exposed to high temperatures that would destroy the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables. Most of the vitamins, minerals, active plant enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber are preserved in the final capsules. When re-hydrated with water, the nutrients are absorbed into our bodies as if we had eaten the fruits and vegetables whole.

    There’s no complete substitute for eating the real thing. But how many people actually eat such a wide variety of raw fruits, vegetables and grains every single day? Juice Plus+® is a convenient way to ensure you and your family get all the benefits over time from adding more nutrition from fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.

    Juice Plus+® is not a vitamin supplement which contain, at best, only a small number of pre-selected antioxidants. It is a whole food based supplement containing nutrition from the thousands of antioxidants and other nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Some children may need vitamin supplementation, but every child needs Juice Plus+®.

    The published studies indicate that Juice Plus+® delivers key antioxidants that are absorbed by the body, reduces oxidative stress, promotes cardiovascular wellness in several ways, helps support a healthy immune system, and helps protect DNA. The simple truth is that Juice Plus+® is the best way to get your entire family to reap more of the healthful benefits of a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables.

    Happy almost 1st birthday to Eli. My babies are now 5 and 7. Talk about time flying!


  • I should also mention that the products are gluten free, non-GMO and contain no high fructose corn syrup and this from the company:
    The quantity and type of organic produce used to make Juice Plus+® varies from batch to batch depending upon several factors, our biggest hurdle is the supply; there is just not a consistent supply (in the quantities we need) of well-ripened organic fruits and vegetables. We buy only from the well-established suppliers we have known for many years. The finished fruit and vegetable powders are tested regularly for the presence of pesticides and herbicides. Based on current standards, you can be assured of a product that is free of any detectable contaminants. I also already referred to this, the product is now certified by NSF, part of this certification is verifying the product is safe and contains no detectable chemical residues.


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I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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