I’ve decided to start a blog as a place to compile all of my finding and thoughts about what is lurking in our food. I would love for you to join me on this journey!
Here is a little bit about me and why I’m doing this.
I am 28 years old and have been married to my best friend for 4 years. I am a stay-at-home-mom to our 2 beautiful children (ages 3 and 2). Besides taking care of the kids and household responsibilities my favorite hobbies are scrapbooking, making hair bows, and COUPONING. I have been an avid couponer since October 2008 and throughout the past 4-5 years I have been mostly concerned with price. I have spent hours upon hours meticulously making lists, printing coupons, searching for coupons, cutting coupons, organizing coupons, comparing prices, checking prices per ounce, and always savings more money than I spent. I decided 4 years ago that since my husband is the one working outside the home (and making all the money) it was MY job to stretch that money and make it go as far as it could. It has felt empowering to bring home bags of groceries for just pennies. When I first started couponing I went a little crazy. I remember Bloom having triple doubles (anyone remember those days?) and I laugh when I remember the look on my husband’s face when he opened the fridge to find over 10 bottles of coffee creamer. Before I started couponing I always shopped at Wal-Mart and Aldi. I never looked for coupons or sales. We just bought the cheapest food we could find. Then I discovered couponing and quickly found that with combining sales and coupons (and competitor coupons and ecoupons) Wal-Mart and Aldi were rip offs! Why pay around $1 for a cake mix when I could get it for BETTER than free at Publix?
After about 4 years of couponing I started to experience coupon burn-out (anyone know what I’m talking about?). I started to dread looking at the lists, taking 2 hours to get ready to go to the store, and then having to painstakingly watch the cashier scan my coupons to make SURE he/she did not miss a single coupon. I recently told the cashier “I’m trusting you that you scanned all 26 of my coupons.” (which I found out later he only scanned 24 so I had to go back and get $3.50 from customer service–the amount of the coupons he missed).
I struggle very much with OCD. I always have. So when it came to couponing I required myself to be perfect. If I bought something and found it cheaper somewhere else I would return it right away and go buy it where it was cheaper (kicking myself the whole time for not making sure I got the best deal to begin with). If I bought something and a coupon showed up for that item a day or two later I would march back to the store to get my money back for that coupon. I knew when checking out almost exactly what my total would be every time.
Because my mind was so consumed with finding the perfect deal, stocking up on free stuff, and being the best couponer I could be, I rarely read labels. I didn’t have time to read the labels. The price was what was important. I bought margarine because when you make $1 on it why in the world would you spend $3 for real butter? Have you ever had your total at the register be less than zero and actually have the cashier hand YOU money back? I have. It’s exhilarating. It’s intoxicating. And it almost became an obsession.
A few months ago I started noticing that people in my life (friends, family, Facebook friends, etc.) were starting to talk about and post things about processed foods and chemicals and preservatives in our foods. My mom began a new lifestyle change of healthier eating. So then I got curious and started doing some research. My mouth hit the floor. There were things in the food I was buying that I had never even heard of. I knew the basics about avoiding MSG, Sodium Nitrates/Nitrites, and Aspartame, but what was BHT? BHA? Disodium EDTA? Sodium Benzoate? It was all Greek to me. So I started reading. I started reading labels on all our food and starting googling each ingredient I found. I was shocked and embarrassed for bringing home such junk and being so proud of myself for getting it for pennies. Knowledge is power. And I try not to feel too guilty for buying those things because I was just ignorant of what was in them. But now that I know, I have no excuse. We can’t make positive changes if we don’t KNOW about the things we need to change.
Over the past few months I have stopped buying certain things and opted for healthier options. Just not options with less fats or carbs. I mean healthier in the fact that they don’t have dangerous chemicals. We still have a tight budget so we are definitely taking baby steps to get rid of processed and unsafe foods. I don’t want to get overwhelmed. And I don’t want you getting overwhelmed either. We are making small changes. No more buying frozen pizza; only making pizza at home. No more buying canned mushrooms; only buying fresh and washing them very well. I have been using fewer coupons because most coupons are for items that we just can’t buy anymore (now knowing what is in them). I’ve been doing some shopping at Trader Joe’s and I plan to look and compare prices between Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, The Fresh Market, and Whole Foods (since I have couponer in my blood now I will always have to compare prices. But now I’ll be comparing prices for better things!). So we are taking little steps in the right direction. We can’t afford to go “all organic” overnight. But we can make changes that will eventually get us there. I still want to do the best I can to stretch the money my husband makes. So if that means eating less meat, I’m ok with that. If it means eating out less, I’m ok with that. I think it’s possible to avoid harmful chemicals and not break the bank. 🙂
I didn’t mean for this post to get this long and I apologize. But what I plan to do here is to look at ingredients found in our food one by one. I’ll post helpful links to articles I’ve found and let you know what I’ve discovered about those ingredients/chemicals/preservatives. If I can help even just one person to make more informed choices about what we’re putting into our bodies than I’ll be happy. 🙂 I am in no way an expert and so I’m learning along the way. Google has become a dear friend. Will you come along and learn with me?