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Review: Real Food on a Real Budget

 

Feeding our families costs money—lots of it—no matter what we eat.  Serving only excellent, nutritious, quality food can cost even more, but it needn’t.  Stephanie Langford has written an inspiring and practical guide, Real Food On a Real Budget:  How to Eat Healthy for Less, that contains over 200 pages of organized, encouraging, balanced ideas for both newbies and veterans.

            “Can moms like us actually succeed in bringing … quality and nourishment to little tummies and worn-out kitchen tables in tight times and with average (or even meagre) funds?

 The answer is yes.  Truly this is possible and within grasp.  It may take some hard work and the rolling up of sleeves.  We may be required to stretch ourselves and learn new (and not-so-new) skills. …

Real food on a real budget is not an unachievable ideal. This book will examine all of the tools I use in my arsenal and explore their full potential.” 

Description

Stephanie speaks to women whose goal is to serve their families and steward the health, finances, and time that God has given them.

First of all, she thoughtfully answers the fundamental question, “What are real foods?”  Rather than taking a stand on any one of the popular ‘health nut’ approaches, she distils a list of common-sense characteristics that most of these approaches share.  This common-ground approach characterizes her entire book.  No one will be left feeling guilty, and everyone will be able to find ideas to implement.

In chapter 1 she begins at the beginning, with “Budgets”.  She discusses how they can help us, why they are important, and how she implements hers in practical detail.   

“Examining Your Options” discusses where you can find real food and shows how Stephanie decides between different options available.  For example, you might consider whether a food is organic or genetically modified as you compare the prices.

Ok, so now you know where you’ll get your food.  But what are you going to get?  That’s where “Meal Planning” comes in.  Meal planning, according to Stephanie, is a small investment that pays huge dividends.  She explains and discusses several different meal planning systems, including the bulk cooking method.  She transparently shares how different methods worked for her at different times of her life and offers many practical tips as well as encouragement.

“Homemade is Best” because it is more nutritious, less expensive, and tastes better.  But Stephanie’s goal not to induce guilt.  In fact, she encourages women to do what works best for them and their families.  After all, it is not a contest.  Even so, cooking from scratch does take time, and the appendix is all about finding the time you need.

The next chapter discusses “Buying In Bulk” … and storing it all.  Stephanie gives examples of the savings bulk purchases involve.  She lists possible places to buy them, discusses bargaining, and shows ways to start buying in bulk even if you are on a strict budget.  

“Can Coupons Work for You?”  Well, as a natural food person, I’ve always thought not, but Stephanie makes several good points in this chapter and includes a list of coupon sources.   There’s also a list of ideas to help you determine if couponing would work for you, financially as well as philosophically.

One of the main goals of many who eat natural foods is to “Eat Local, Eat Seasonal” and that is easier—and cheaper—with a bit of thought and planning.

“Grow it Yourself” describes why this review is a little later than I planned.  (Smile.) Starting with a black thumb, Stephanie describes her first 3 years of gardening, including a list of what she was able to grow in her small urban plot.  Although a novice, she lists many worthwhile tips to maximize yield and minimize work and expense. Throughout, she eloquently shares her newfound love of vegetable gardening.

After you’ve grown it, you need to get busy “Preserving the Season’s Bounty”.  Gentle encouragement, a helpful chart, and a discussion of supplies, help both the novice and the veteran face the upcoming preserving season with a confident smile.

“Get Creative,” because the key to living frugally is to approach each challenge in a fresh creative way.  Stephanie discusses some specific dilemmas as examples, and provides many options to finding healthy food for less. But remember, what works for one person may not work for another.

I love the chapter on “Nutrient-Dense Foods”.  Obviously, it’s about getting “the most nutrition in without compromising the budget.”  Although there are many expensive super-foods out there, other equally nutritious and delicious alternatives have always been available at a sensible price.   Stephanie lists many of them and describes some of the trade-offs her family makes.

Lest we think we have to make a complete overhaul of all our eating, shopping, and financial practices, Stephanie points out that “It’s the Little Things that Count.”  As we practice good stewardship, we gradually learn not to take our blessings for granted.  This chapter lists many women’s tips for saving money in the kitchen.

In her Conclusion she points out that, although it requires a lot of effort at times, eating real foods on a real budget is completely worth it.

The Resources section has many helpful links, books, and companies, and the Appendix shares tips for saving the time you need for this lifestyle.

Helpful links are scattered throughout.  Stephanie’s blog Keeper of the Home has many readers, and their words are sprinkled throughout the book in little nuggets entitled “Wisdom from Women”.  Each chapter ends with a convenient blank page with the heading  “Things to Put into Practice from this Chapter”. 

My Opinions

This is a book I absolutely loved. In fact, it’s a book I wanted to write myself about a decade ago.  Since then our lives changed, with several big moves, two more babies, and ever-increasing fatigue, although I kept trying to feed my family real foods without spending much money.  After the fatigue had become disabling, I was diagnosed with celiac disease. That meant a completely new diet.  At 15, my capable and caring oldest daughter learned all about gluten-free cooking and was in charge of my food, because I was too ill to do any of this myself.  

Now that I am almost well, I want to go back to the thoughtful food planning, purchasing, and cooking I used to do, taking into account our family’s new gluten-free lifestyle.  This seemed like an overwhelming goal.  However, now that I have Real Foods on a Real Budget, it seems possible. 

One of my summer projects is to work through the book, step by step.  In fact, I think I’ll write a series of posts about my Real Foods, Real Budget adventures.

This Christian whole-foods book is a welcome addition to the many new-age volumes on the topic.  The common-sense, affirming, encouraging tone of the book is refreshing compared to many books, both financial and health-food related, with wild claims and judgmental attitudes.  I especially appreciate that this book is full of words and information instead of pictures that use up so much toner to print.

Is this book for you?

If you are interested in real foods, but have no experience eating that way, yes.  If you run out of money before you run out of month, yes.  If you’re burning out in the quest to provide quality food for a realistic price, yes. 

Even veteran frugal whole-foods cooks will learn something from this book.  Although some of them will not need it for themselves, they could use it as a gift to encourage young moms to follow this path.

I know that the price of Real Foods on a Real Budget may seem a bit steep, but I can assure you that anyone who follows Stephanie’s advice will save the cost of the book many times over in the first year.  In fact, the book comes with a guarantee to that effect.  

To see what Stephanie is like, check out her two blogs, Keeper of the Home and Saving Naturally.   (Right now she’s having a lot of guest posts since she’s moving, so you may have to go back in time to read her own writing.)

Purchase

You can purchase Real Foods on a Real Budget:  How to Eat Healthy for Less at Keeper of the Home.  The e-book version costs $18.97 US and a paperback costs $25.97 US. 

Disclosure

I received an e-book version of Real Foods on a Real Budget from Stephanie Langford in order to give you my honest opinions of it.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday Works for Me Wednesday, and Booking It.

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10 Comments

  1. […] admin wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Review: Real Food on a Real Budget. Jul 8th, 2010. by Annie Kate. No comments yet. Feeding our families costs money—lots of it—no matter what we eat. Serving only excellent, nutritious, quality food can cost even more, but it needn’t. … […]

  2. […] admin wrote an interesting post today Here’s a quick excerpt Review: Real Food on a Real Budget. Jul 8th, 2010. by Annie Kate. No comments yet. Feeding our families costs money?lots of it?no matter what we eat. Serving only excellent, nutritious, quality food can cost even more, but it needn’t. … […]

  3. […] eating real foods on a real budget is completely worth it. … … See original here: Review: Real Food on a Real Budget – Tea Time with Annie Kate ← Clean Eating: The Sweet Life Back to School Snacks […]

  4. […] eating real foods on a real budget is completely worth it. … … See original here: Review: Real Food on a Real Budget ? Tea Time with Annie Kate ← Clean Eating: The Sweet Life Back to School Snacks […]

  5. Heather says:

    This sounds very promising. I am going over to check out her blog and the book. You know, I am having a hard time with food/planning for the family this year. We switched over to organic hoping I would feel better, but with that, all my previous couponing plans went out the window. Right now, I am not able to plant a garden or even figure out many new plans…ie, purchase a grinder, etc. So, baby steps are in order, because eating organic IS more costly…It is good to see books like this so i do not waste time:))

    PS: I am so glad you are feeling better (go slow!) and your family has been so lovely with helping with the house and cooking!

    1. Annie Kate says:

      This would be just the book for you, Heather. I hope you soon feel a lot better.

      Annie Kate

  6. Stacy's Page says:

    Sounds like a really helpful book.

    I hope you find a good physiologist (did I spell that correctly?). It’s never fun to look for a new doctor.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You know, I’ve been too busy living to start the physiotherapist hunt. Oh well, one thing at a time.

      Annie Kate

  7. Tina says:

    This seems to be just what I am looking for. Great review.

  8. Suzie says:

    Thanks for sharing this book! I have been reading a lot of books on eating healthier and eating whole foods, and this sounds like one to add to my list.

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