Most of my wildly unrealistic parental aspirations start as some random link on Facebook. A click here, a click there and all of a sudden, I’m down a rabbit hole reading about delayed vaccinations or unschooling or cloth diapering; browsing articles about what I should or shouldn’t be doing as a parent to create an early reader or a cello prodigy or a little tiny vegan.
Earlier this year, a friend posted to Facebook a link to a website that promotes the elimination of processed foods from one’s daily diet. I spent hours reading that website, studying the resources they offer and quoting horrible statistics to my husband about their assessment of Subway (his go-to sandwich stop). I arose from my too-long-on-the-internet stupor determined to make Big Changes! I was going to dump the pantry, clear the refrigerator, switch to all organic everything and maybe, possibly, look into buying half a cow. But only if it were grass-fed and I was offered reassurance that it had been happy – really, truly happy – when alive.
So, that’s what we did. We ate up all of the Cheetos (Henry’s favorite), finished the last of the fruit snacks (Charlie’s favorite) and cut back on Sweet Frog Saturday Nights (Millie’s favorite). Bob and I started purchasing all organic produce and scouring shelves for local items, like honey and jam. We stirred natural peanut butter until our arms went numb and choked down all-natural bread that was so dry, it made the children weep. I joined the masses of people at Whole Foods peering at labels, frowning over GMOs and pondering just how bad I could possibly smell if I switched to that all-natural Tom’s deodorant.
After a month, I felt confident our Big Changes were going to stick. I also felt tired. Making all of your meals from items you have to, essentially, process yourself, takes an awful lot of time. But, we had done it! The kids had survived (even though Fig Newmans taste TOTALLY different than Fig Newtons) and Bob and I were feeling pretty smug.
I knew the items we were purchasing were expensive (humanely harvested shrimp doesn’t grow on trees, you know), but I definitely didn’t have a true grasp on what we were spending. Then, I sat down to pay the bills. Our budget line item for groceries had nearly doubled in the previous few weeks. Our hippie food tally was beginning to make our mortgage look minor by comparison.
I was honestly pretty surprised that feeding our family of five the healthiest foods available to us cost so much money. And, money wasn’t the real issue. Being a family of five was. There are just so many of us to feed and with kids that can run through a pound of strawberries, an entire box of crackers and half a loaf of bread in one day, the quantity was what was going to bankrupt us. (I can only imagine what it will be like in a few years when the boys are devouring their weight in cereal at one sitting.)
So, I am sorry to report that we kind of abandoned ship on the whole effort. I slowly started buying the giant milk carton-size of Goldfish crackers again. The fruit snacks made another appearance. The oranges and blueberries were no longer necessarily organic and probably came from some spot on the other side of the globe. The coffee was, alas, not fair trade.
In situations where I’ve failed to meet a goal, I like to try and find someone else to blame. Naturally, this is all my parents fault because when I was a kid, they actually GREW a lot of the food they fed us. My parents loved to garden and they fed our family with produce grown right in our own backyard. Fresh beans, tomatoes, corn, raspberries, squash, melons – the list is almost endless. Plus, my mom canned a lot of her produce, Little House on the Prairie-style, for use throughout the winter. (I am absolutely exhausted just thinking about this process.) My mom is also an excellent baker so she even made our breads from scratch. How can I compete with that when we have a Chik-fil-A with TWO drive-thru’s right down the street? Thanks for setting impossible standards, mom and dad.
But, the truth is, the foods we purchased before our all-organic/no-processed effort were not that bad compared to a lot of the most horrific offerings found in today’s supermarket. Sure, we enjoyed the occasional party-size bag of Cheetos and slathered our birthday cupcakes in canned frosting but you know what, I don’t want to live in a world that doesn’t have Cheetos. Because, they’re delicious. And, cheesy.
Just when I had resigned myself to our old way of feeding the family, accepted the fact that I will never harvest my own crops like my parents and acquiesced on the role high fructose corn syrup has in our lives, a friend on Facebook posted a link to this video, which is a super clever advertisement for Chipotle Mexican Grill:
Then, I got the sads all over again – especially at the cow eyes. I can’t handle those pitiful (completely animated) cow eyes!
I have come to the conclusion that finding a middle ground is the only way to proceed. Otherwise, I’m just going to continue to start and stop our efforts to eat more responsibly based on what fresh guilt-laden link shows up in my Facebook feed. Everything in moderation, as that adage goes.
My new goal is to buy organic when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen,” fruits and vegetables containing the most pesticide residue. I am also going to try and go all organic with our dairy products. We were already buying chicken of good repute and I plan to carry that over to any other meats we may purchase for particular recipes. I’m placing a lower priority on the snack category. We just burn through so many chips, pretzels, trail mix and granola bars, especially with school back in session.
I’m feeling optimistic with my new hybrid plan. I’m also secretly hoping that people will just go back to posting pictures of their cats on Facebook. Is that too much to ask?