I was vegetarian for almost a decade. And when I say veggie, I mean pretty hardcore. No occasional meat, no fish, never. (I did make exceptions for rennet in cheese and gelatin, but that’s it.) I was realllly into it. Trouble was, I felt lousy. I appreciate that lots of folks feel great on a well-balanced vegetarian diet, but I did not.
In 2009, I had the idea that I wanted to start eating paleo–including meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, but no grains, legumes or dairy. As much as I wanted to try to change, it was daunting. I still remember staring down a shrimp at a party, determined to give it a go, and being completely freaked out at the same time. I ate everything else on my plate, and it was left there, all alone. (At which point, Nat asked if I needed some help. Courteous fellow–always willing to eat my leftovers!) I finally ate it, and I am happy to report that I did not die.
Next I started eating a bit of fish every day. It seemed like a good starter protein, and there were lots of sexy prepared versions at Trader Joes. After a month of that, it was time for the big test. Steak! Nat and I went out to a nice restaurant, and I ordered the smallest steak they had, medium rare. The food came out looking amazing, but I just wasn’t ready to take the beefy plunge. After coming back for the second time, and seeing that I still hadn’t started eating the steak, the waitress asked with concern if everything was OK. It was showtime. I tried a small bite….and I did not die again! (I ate the whole darn thing, actually, and felt great afterward–better than I had felt in a long time.)
It took me about 6 months in all to go from a completely veggie mindset to one that would allow me to eat meat. I admit, it was really hard at times, to let go of long-held beliefs that weren’t serving me anymore. But, in the end, I’m so glad I took the leap of faith and tried something new.
It’s with that story in mind that I’m working on a few more transitions. A big one is food again. This time, I’m examining the rather expensive way we eat, and trying to change my ideas of what constitutes a proper diet, with the goal of spending less money on food.
One of the big ways that I assuaged my guilty feelings about eating meat in the beginning was to primarily eat grass fed. We were in a CSA, and our farmers raised several cows each year, to scrupulous standards–grass fed AND finished. We also got meat from a family owner butcher shop that raised their own animals. It was all top quality, but also top dollar. And we spent a lot of money on it, particularly during the time we were going to the gym. (Note: if you want to save money on food, do not embark on a strength program. You will need to eat like a linebacker!)
I always felt like it was money well spent, because it was such good quality. But, as I examine our finances, I don’t feel comfortable spending those kinds of amounts on food anymore. When I look at finances for living in the RV full-time, I honestly would rather be able to take 3-4 months off work every year, rather than work year-round to keep eating the way we did. And this is where I need to make some mental changes to be successful.
We started shopping at a new grocery in our hood that is essentially a cheaper Whole Foods. The best part is that they have fantastic specials every week, on both veggies and meat. Some of their meat is grassfed, and when that’s on sale, I get it. But, mostly, I’ve been getting whatever is on sale, which always seems to be better quality than what’s at a regular grocery. If we eat this way, I spend $1-$2 per pound, rather than the $5-$7 per pound that we used to spend. That makes for huge savings!
I’m also looking at everything I buy with a critical eye. I admit, I went through a real bacon binge after not being able to have it for so long. (True fact: ask almost any vegetarian what they crave the most, and they will say BACON!) I also admit that I was, until recently, eating it almost every day. And that, friends, adds up. What if I have bacon several times per week? I would still get to enjoy it, and that would save plenty of money. I’m doing this same thought experiment with all groceries. This week, I looked at the specials at the new grocery, and planned a meal strategy around just the sale items. We got a week’s worth of food for $57, and that included some toiletries, ice cream, meat, and tons of veggies.
It’s so easy to cruise along without examining what we do what we do, but I’m already seeing financial rewards to being mindful.