High quality on a low budget

I’ve written before about ways to eat healthy on a low budget, growing your own veggies, sharing meals with a fellow healthy eater, shopping with a buddy to maximise the two for one offers that otherwise go bad before you can use them, frozen fruits and veg, batch cooking and so on.

For this new low carb diet I’m following from tomorrow I read so much (mainly from One Small Change At A Time Blog and links provided) about the nutritional value of grass fed livestock and how it is best to eat meat reared traditionally for maximum food chain delivered nutritional benefits. In short working on the idealistic premise that animal eats lush healthy natural untainted fodder in a field, the nutrients become an intrinsic part of the animal and when we consume the meat we absorb those nutrients in turn and our bodies become nourished by them. Makes sense when you think about it to not just think of meat as protein but as a conduit through which we can ingest other valuable nutrients.

But meat doesn’t come cheap in the UK not sure about everywhere else in the world. We are a little island with sixty or more million people living on it. Most of whom are financially able to buy meat on a daily basis and so many do. We don’t make enough to meet broad consumer demand and so lots of it is imported. Some of what is imported is, for the purposes of this discussion, ‘factory farmed’ as is some of what is home produced, but some is traditionally field reared and it is possible to track down some grass fed, former open field dwelling, free running meat and meat products.

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Image from http://www.supergreenme.com

Tracking it down is easier with the internet, a Google search will bring up a ton of farms who butcher and sell direct to consumer or to wholesale. They do this by vacuum packing, flash freezing and home delivering. You don’t have to hike into the countryside to do your shopping although if like me you are lucky enough to be within a stone’s throw of some lush agricultural land and farms aplenty, then it’s not such a bad idea to go and have a nosey around these places yourself.

Some online butchers offer excellent bulk buying value packs too which can offer you a variety of cuts at more affordable prices but these affordable prices are nothing like the affordable prices the supermarkets will offer you for non organic produce so don’t be too taken aback when you see the price of your pork chops double or triple.

Keeping costs down can also be achieved by buying some nice cuts of meat but also mixing with lower cost cuts and being inventive with the cooking. Ox tail for instance is delicious and cheap if you know what to do with it. Lots of these farms produce sausages and burgers and meat for stewing and casseroling which can also be impaled on skewers and grilled. So don’t only think of the more expensive cuts. If you’re following this low carb eating plan then you can eat sausages and burgers just not with half a ton of bread wrapped around them.

Again buddying up to take advantage of bulk buying offers is an option to reduce costs but get good quality produce.

Mixing this high quality meat in with cheaper mass produced and imported stuff is another way to get some good stuff into your diet which is better than none. If you can’t afford to swap everything for organic, try swapping one or two things.

That all said however this is the real world remember so do check authenticity of claims as much as you are able to. There are no doubt unscrupulous traders out there packaging imported mass produced chickens in fancy wrappers with a glossy

Image from http://imgarcade.com
Image from http://imgarcade.com

website complete with pictures of the happy chooks running around a field who are making a lot of money under false pretences so do your research, visit a seller if you can, examine their claims, contact them by phone and ask questions, research industry standards and the stamps of approval they claim to have. Some online sellers boast 100% traceability of the products they sell so don’t be afraid to ask for this evidence.

The way I looked at this is that there are a lot of items which are currently on my shopping list which are going to vanish…mostly the copious amounts of fruit and ready made juices and smoothies and cereal that we eat. The higher cost of the better quality meats will absorb this saving and we shouldn’t notice too much of a fluctuation in spending on food.

I watched a programme that’s been running on UK BBC TV lately called Eat Well For Less and one family were spending sixteen thousand pounds a year on food for four people. That was without considering dining out. I thought that was ludicrous but when you tot it up we do spend a huge amount of what we earn on food. If we’re going to do that it may as well be good stuff.

I’m also still mindful of the ‘alleged’ links between some meats and some cancers, specifically red meat and bowel cancer (read here it’s not as scary as it’s often made out to be) and even though I’m seeing another side of the argument now I do

Image from this fab article about sustainability and my favourite little fishy Mackerel
Image from this fab article about sustainability and my favourite little fishy Mackerel, http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/red-meat.aspx

intend to make the meat I consume more heavily in favour of white meat and there is no doubt that a healthy free range organic chicken or turkey is going to cost less than a side of equal quality beef, pork or lamb. I’m also planning in lots of fishy protein and am at the moment having two meat free days per week where protein will come from eggs and dairy and those days will be very vegetable rich. So I’m not going to be straying right away from my current habits and the cost of good quality meat and fish will not be prohibitive. I’m also super lucky in that I live by the sea so I can access great quality fresh fish from merchants really close by which saves me a lot of hassle and I get to ask lots of questions about where and how it’s caught, how it’s been stored and so on.

It goes without saying that I’ll also be sticking with free range eggs, organic milk and dairy products which I have found only run a few pence more expensive than the other kinds and which I use already. I have ordered a batch of whole raw milk

Image from: http://www.tripulous.com/2013/03/lincolnshire-wolds-a-ramblers-paradise/
Image from: http://www.tripulous.com/2013/03/lincolnshire-wolds-a-ramblers-paradise/

from a local farm which I get to pick up at a local farmer’s market each week so no doubt I’ll also buy a few cheesy and meaty treats at the same time. Oh, before I forget, that’s another top tip for saving money, farmers markets and visiting continental food markets where you can often cut a deal with a bit of haggling and if you linger around at the end of the day there are always fab bargains to be had as they try to clear the day’s stock. We have a lot of continental food markets in my area and they provide a fantastic opportunity to pick up some bargain delicious French and Italian cheeses and delicious Bavarian cold cuts as well as umpteen varieties of wurst. I’m quite looking forward to this new approach, I can taste it already.

As for money saving on the veggies, I grow my own kale, spinach and lettuce and believe me that home grown organic flavour is something else and these three crops are so easy to grow it is unreal. I don’t harvest as such I just pull off what I need that day that way the plant keeps on giving and stays fresh. Of course there comes a time when you have to pull it but if you start eating those baby leaves when they are ready and at their best a plant can last a long time. I plant in weekly rotations of five so I always have fresh stock coming up and lots to go at for a

Image from: http://www.vegetarian-world.com/the-best-home-grown-vegetables/
Image from: http://www.vegetarian-world.com/the-best-home-grown-vegetables/

week. Once you get into a routine it’s so easy to do. I don’t usually have any waste and if I do get a stockpile I give it to someone. This winter of course I’ve grown under cover and there has been success with that so I’ve managed just about to get year round supplies. I also experiment with planting different varieties and my next thing is to grow myself some lovely deep green Savoy cabbage.

You really don’t need tons of space to grow enough for one or two people or a small family, you can do it in containers even if you don’t have a big garden or a garden at all, a couple of planters on a balcony would suffice. Trial and error the planting so you have a plant or two ready to eat with the next ready in a couple of days and the next a couple of days later and just keep going. Even if you only manage to grow enough to eat for half of the month and spend the other half waiting it is still better than nothing, it’s better for you and it costs less. OK laying out for organic soils and pesticides and such can cost depending on the size of the project but that is like a capital investment, you will yield much from that in time.

So lots of ways to cut costs of eating high quality produce and make sure that what you eat is doing your body good. If you have space of course you could have chickens and get fab fresh eggs and if you have more space you could rear your own meat but I’m not sure I could have that too close a relationship with my food. Also look into dairy cow sharing and having fresh whole raw cow milk as part of your diet and help support dairy farming in your area.

It’s not possible for everyone to get back to the roots of how we used to eat but a few steps in that direction may be more within our reach than we thought.

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