As a parent, I know that hubris is a surefire path to destruction. Brag about your first baby sleeping through the night at six weeks? Your second won't sleep a full eight hours at six years. Extoll your own discipline techniques and your kid will turn over a Quickee Mart before he finishes middle school. I know better. But I recently asked my oldest son, 15, why he and his brothers seemed to like healthy food. "Because you make it taste good, Mom." Music to my ears, but not necessarily money in the bank.
I'm not the greatest cook in the world, or even my neighborhood, but I do try to keep things healthy, economical and tasty. I'm thrifty when it comes to waste, but I do spend on quality ingredients. A free range organic chicken has several lives in our home: roasted chicken, followed by chicken Tetrazzini and chicken salad, chicken soup and — at last — chicken stock, made with the carcass and vegetable scraps.
Though it's gotten looser, we were on a pretty tight budget when the boys were younger. Imagine my chagrin when my 20-pound, not-quite-two-year-old ate two pounds of organic, local asparagus while I was outside hanging cloth diapers on the clothes line. I was torn between happiness that my baby loved a vegetable many kids shun for years and irritation that I couldn't afford to replace it for dinner. Also? Try eating a tenth of your body weight in asparagus and see how it makes your urine smell. Then imagine someone having to change your diapers for two days after you ate it. But I digress.
My children love a lot of expensive food. When they reach for a handful of blackberries, I see the $4 price tag in my mind, because I know they'll finish off the bowl. But how can I deny them a snack full of antioxidants that might even help prevent Alzheimer's? I can't. I'd rather make room in the budget for healthy food and skip a few restaurant meals.
We save by buying local, direct from the farmer, when we can. I also don't serve a lot of meat, often using it as a complement to the meal rather than the main dish. Buying food in season is healthier and less expensive. But, in the end, I'll spend to get wholesome food that tastes great, because that's the best way to make the kids eat it.
How do you reconcile your ideals with your food budget? Do you ever see healthy food as a splurge or does it feel like a necessity?
(Images: Anne Postic)