About one year ago, I made a serious effort to switch from white flour, pasta and rice to whole grains in an attempt to eat healthy. At first, this was very discouraging. In many instances, the whole grain foods were significantly more expensive than their white counterparts. I waited for a good sale and bought a few boxes of whole wheat blend pasta. Still I resisted because I remembered whole grain pasta from my youth; it was coarse and did not have a pleasant flavor. However, one day I wanted to make spaghetti and all I had was the whole grain blend. My children are pretty good at trying new things if forewarned. I let them know what I was fixing and started in. Then I had a second disappointment. A box of white spaghetti had one pound of pasta in it; the whole wheat blend only contained 12 ounces. I took enough pasta from a second box to make one pound and prepared it. When we were done eating, I had a big surprise. Normally, we finish one pound of pasta. We had only eaten two-thirds of what I prepared, less than the contents of one box. Over time, we found that the blended pasta had a satisfactory texture and taste, and I would alternate white pasta and whole wheat blend. Consistently we were satisfied with a smaller quantity of the blended pasta.
Later, when our life was particularly rushed, we purchased a pan of prepared white mostaccioli with meat sauce from the grocery store. It should have been enough for eight people, but my teenage children found that they needed extra servings to feel satisfied. We continued investigating whole grain products. We found that the more expensive whole grain crackers were more filling. Nuts and dried fruit were far more satisfying than chips and dip. I tried reducing the amount of meat in my recipes and adding different types of beans to make up the difference. We even experimented with buffalo burger instead of hamburger. In each case, a smaller, healthier serving was far more satisfying than the processed or feedlot counterpart.
Still, the question of cost was in my mind. We were attempting to eat healthy, more satisfying food, but the food itself was more expensive. Ideally the price of the food would be the same or less expensive. The results were mixed. A satisfying portion of nuts and dried fruit is a lot more expensive than the chips it was replacing. Pasta worked out to be a great deal because we were not only eating less pasta, but we were also eating less sauce and meat. Brown rice is far more filling than white, but I have to mix the two to get my family to eat brown rice. High fiber whole grain bread is still more expensive, but we eat less sandwich meat with it than we do with white bread or common whole wheat bread. No matter what, we can eat a large bowl of fresh vegetables with a meal.
Overall, our grocery budget is down slightly. Not as much as I'd like to see, but I am willing to accept this result because I am seeing an increase in nutrition and weight loss in my family since we started to eat healthy. I am seeing less snacking, and smaller snacks when we have them. I have been disappointed with some of the relative costs, so I stock up when I see a good sale. However, I must say that the benefits have been tremendous. One time my daughter bought herself a can of potato chips as a treat. After she ate them, they came back up; evidently when our bodies eat healthy food consistently, they know to reject the processed stuff. None of us is very keen on commercial snack foods anymore, not even the children, and we all crave healthier foods. Increasing the fiber in our diet has not been a smooth path and this change has not been easy, but I think we'll stick with it.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@stretcher.com.
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