Author Topic: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite  (Read 22261 times)

WageSlave

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grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« on: February 27, 2012, 01:15:48 PM »
With regards to frugality and the grocery bill: are any Mustachians out there buying all- or mostly-organic?  The first punch: organic foods are slightly to significantly more expensive (than their non-organic counterparts).  This adds up!

The second punch: my wife and I recently read Gary Taubes's two books, Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, and are now trying to reduce our carbohydrate intake.  If you're not familiar with Taubes's work, it can be over-simplified as "replace carbs with fats".  The net result is that you generally eat more meat.  A lot more meat (and eggs).

Meat is expensive to begin with, and if you buy organic, grass-fed meats, they are really expensive.  Same goes for eggs.

And for the knockout punch: I've always naturally had a healthy appetite.  Having taken up strength training and increased my muscle mass over the last few years has only increased it.

MMM said his 2011 grocery spending was about $5k for the whole year.  That averages out to a little over $400/month.  I'm ashamed to admit this, but our monthly grocery bills average well over $650/month.  That's for a family of three (which includes a one-year old who doesn't eat that much)... And, two of my weekday meals are company-paid.  Jewel and Whole Foods (in Chicago) make up almost all of our monthly grocery bills.

I'll add that my wife always makes a list and sticks to it.  We only buy the "staples", i.e. raw ingredients, and my wife cooks everything (in other words, no pre-processed foods).  Maybe we're missing something, but we haven't found much in the way of coupons for organic foods.

Thanks for any hints or suggestions!

Bakari

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2012, 01:32:36 PM »
We get these specific foods only in organic: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods

Other foods we tend to be more lax about - I sometimes buy organic, but usually not.  I buy most of my food from FoodMaxx, where its cheap, but certain things from the local health food store because  can't find them elsewhere.  Also, in general I suspect being local has a bigger impact than being organic, and that usually doesn't have any price premium.

Girlfriend is trying to lose weight, and I'm trying to gain muscle, so we both are trying to up our protein intake - but we are both vegetarian.  We started buying several dozen (cage-free - from FoodMaxx!!) eggs at a time, plus milk and soymilk, big bags of TVP from the bulk bin at the healthfood store, and and big giant tubs of concentrated protein geared toward bodybuilders.

In the past few months she has gone from 130 to 127, lost about 1-2% bodyfat, and two days ago she bench pressed 90lbs (which is almost double her bench of a year ago).  She makes every single person she comes across feel her bicep.  It is hilarious and cute.  As for me, I'm up to 190 on the bench, I am a few lbs away from clean and jerk at my own bodyweight, and I have to add 50lbs in a backpack just to make pull-ups challenging.
Our crossfit instructor used to tease us about being vegetarian, and say we would never get strong.  I'll grant that it is possible we could be improving even faster, but I am really happy with our progress.

Point being, I do think that adding more protein helped improve our health and fitness, but the idea that "protein" means "meat" is just not valid at all.  The body uses plant proteins exactly the same as animal proteins: they get broken down into amino acids and rebuilt from scratch.  The only difference is plant proteins are more environmentally friendly, and a whole lot cheaper.

According to Mint, I spent an average of $150/month on food in the past 6 months (though this doesn't include burritos bought at taco trucks in cash, usually at least once a week) - we alternate who pays for shopping, so for the two of us its about twice that much.
I'm guessing that a lot of the difference is the meat.  But then a lot of it is also where you shop.  Maybe see if the regular market has an organic section?  Or try farmer's markets.  Everyone I know refers to the place you shop as "whole paycheck".  Most natural food stores, at least around here, charge a lot less (and aren't run by anti-union anti-universal-healthcare libertarians)
« Last Edit: February 27, 2012, 08:10:37 PM by Bakari »

adam

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2012, 01:52:17 PM »
We also eat low carb and try to get organic and/or local whenever we can.  I have come to the conclusion that the best way to save on this sort of meat is to order in bulk straight from the farm, but that will necessitate a chest freezer most likely, which we don't have, so we haven't done it.

I have priced out whole/half carcass beef in the past and it doesn't come out so bad, we just don't have a place to put it.

Guitarist

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2012, 02:04:29 PM »
I agree with Adam about buying from the farm. A quarter or half beef will usually be a good investment overall.
Also consider the local farmer's market. I can't guarantee it will be "organic" but I am sure it beats Wally World or some other chain supermarket and the price should be right.

madgeylou

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2012, 02:07:05 PM »
matt, my man and i are in the same boat. i definitely have insulin sensitivity in my family (we ate non-stop crap growing up, my dad and grandma had diabetes, and we are all built with big bellies and long thin limbs) so i really try to keep my carbs to a minimum. at the same time it's important to me that any animal products we consume are organic. so we end up spending about $500/month on food for the two of us, which is actually down from about $600 a few months ago.

a few things that help:

* we have been buying organic meats at costco -- they are a little cheaper than whole foods. when i do go to WF, i tend to stock up on meats that are on sale. like, we can sometimes get organic pork shoulder roasts there or sausages for like $4 a pound.

* we've been trying to round out our meals with more veg and a bit of beans (though they are carby). we can make a big batch of chili with 1 lb of ground beef and eat it for several meals. when i do eat beans, i try to eat them earlier in the day so that the carbs have a chance to be burned off before i go to bed.

* i try to snack on cheaper foods, and save the meats for a proper meal. like, i can easily eat 5 or 6 strips of bacon as a snack, or i can eat some celery and carrot sticks with peanut butter. the latter snack is far cheaper and almost as satisfying (though nothing is as satisfying as bacon!!)

* lastly, i notice that when my carbs go waaay down -- like, fewer than 20 grams a day -- my appetite goes way down as well. i don't stay in this mode all the time cause it's hard to sustain, but even a few weeks at this level reduces the amount i'm eating and spending on food drastically. it also happens to be the best way for my body to shed extra weight.

adam we are also looking into a chest freezer and buying in bulk straight from the farm. that will probably happen this fall.

adam

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2012, 02:59:08 PM »
We are planning on looking for a freezer when we move back to my house this summer where we can put it in the garage.  A coworker of mine actually raises some cattle on the side and she will sell me one.  I might be wrong on these numbers but I think she said $500-$600 processed for a half, so about $1,000-$1,200 for a whole.  But that is a shitload of meat, if you get a few neighbors to go in with you it makes it a lot more manageable.

Uh, and for those do it yourselfers.... she told me I don't have to have it fully processed, she will just give me the carcass and I can cut it how I want, but I have no clue where to even begin with that.

Sunflower

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2012, 05:42:44 PM »
I'm in the same boat - very low carb diet due to medical reasons and no extra storage space because I live with two other people. Currently my grocery bills (with extensive meal planning and a once-a-week trip to the grocery store) are hovering around $80/week for one person.

I do try to choose cheaper cuts of meat or buy things that are on sale, but the list of foods that I can eat is so limited that the only variation I get is from changing between chicken/pork/beef/fish/etc. Some days I just can't eat anymore chicken or ground beef.

I avoid whole foods and do most of my shopping at Trader Joes and Sprouts. My current strategy is to get everything from one store rather than driving to the second place but I haven't really priced out whether it would be cheaper to add one location if it meant saving a few dollars on food.

I guess I'm just accepting that this is my life right now and trying to be thankful that I can afford such an outrageous food budget because of how frugal I am in other areas of life.

michael

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2012, 06:49:35 PM »
I do 6-month CSA (community supported agriculture) plans for meat and veggies from local, wholesome, organic farms. The meat CSA delivers 15lbs of assorted meats per month, plus another 5lbs of sausage varieties each month. The veggie box comes twice a month with enough veggies for my brother and I for each two week period (and then some, usually).

The meat CSA comes to roughly $90/month plus about $35/month for the sausages, or about $6.25/pound. The CSA offers larger packages and different cuts and variety as well, but this is enough for my brother and I for a month (though we also append a few pounds of fish each month). $6.25/pound is way less expensive than the local Trader Joe's and New Leaf markets, though, and everything is local and delicious.

I found both CSA farms from this site, which can help you find a CSA farm near you: http://www.localharvest.org

I'm in the SF bay area, where there are lots of nearby CSAs, but I dont know if the same applies to your locale. Food for thought, though!

Sunflower

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2012, 07:47:12 PM »
The meat CSA delivers 15lbs of assorted meats per month

This sounds amazing! Sadly, after a few minutes on google it looks like meat CSA's might be unique to the Bay Area at the moment. If I'm wrong though and anyone knows of one that services the greater Los Angeles area, please let me know!

Parizade

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2012, 08:19:09 PM »
I've never shopped at a Trader Joe's but I've heard their prices for organic foods are very reasonable. I'm lucky enough to have an assortment of grocery stores that sell organic foods at affordable prices near my home, as well as farmer's markets all summer long, so I don't need to go looking for alternatives.

onehappypanda

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2012, 08:33:58 PM »
My ideal type of eating would be organic psuedo-primal: very little to few grains and legumes, plenty of high quality meat, eggs, and dairy, organic veggies, and organic fruit. I've eaten that way in the past and it was the diet that made me feel best.

That said, it just isn't in the budget, even sticking to raw ingredients. So I prioritize: I buy free range local animal products as much as possible, and for veggies I try to buy greens organic (b/c of the pesticides), and try to get thin-skinned veggies organic if I can afford it, but everything else depends on prices. I just can't afford to spend $5 on bananas every week, you know? At the regular grocer, I try to hunt for frozen fruits and veggies on sale. I try not to make grains and legumes a staple, but I use them to "stretch" meals so they last longer. I do the same thing with starchy veggies, like sweet potatoes.

I highly recommend looking at marksdailyapple.com for info on "primal on a budget". They have some guidelines on how to find good meat, veggies, and fruit for respectable prices, plus where to prioritize. There are some crazies in the primal eating world, but a lot of the tips on there are pretty solid for the type of diet it sounds like you're after.

Other random tips:
Buy bulk nonperishables on Amazon or elsewhere online. Things like jerky, coconut oil, almond flour, etc. are often cheaper on the interwebs.

Alternatively, look for bulks bins nearby for cheap nuts and seeds, protein powder, etc. Some places even sell bulk olive oil or fresh ground nut butters.

Look for the "budget cuts" of meat. Bone-in skin-on chicken thighs are a lot cheaper than chicken breasts, for example. Most low-carb diets encourage higher fat, and many budget cuts are higher fat. Win-win.

Avoid cute packages.

Kinda obvious, but shop around. There's a co-op near me that sells natural foods for 1/2 of what Whole Foods does. And the local grocer often has the same (organic) food on sale for even cheaper. You can usually find sales fliers online.

While you're shopping around, head to the local farmers' market and quiz some of the farmers on their practices. There are a lot of what I call "psuedo-organic" farms, which practice a lot of organic growing but don't have the resources to get officially USDA organic certified. They're organic-ish without the organic price.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2012, 08:39:37 PM by onehappypanda »

milkman

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2012, 12:32:07 AM »
Before jumping on the low carb bandwagon you guys should check out anthonycolpo.com

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2012, 09:37:35 AM »
I eat a lot of organic.  I think some things are worth paying more for (for example I will never compromise my green values for cost).  However, I do grow my own veg as well, which can be cheaper than buying organic (in my experience it's rarely cheaper than buying cheap veg though!).

michael

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2012, 11:45:41 AM »
The meat CSA delivers 15lbs of assorted meats per month

This sounds amazing! Sadly, after a few minutes on google it looks like meat CSA's might be unique to the Bay Area at the moment. If I'm wrong though and anyone knows of one that services the greater Los Angeles area, please let me know!

That site I linked to, LocalHarvest.org, has a number of listings for the LA area. Most of them look like fruit and veggie CSAs, but further down the list I came across a few meat CSAs. I didn't see as much variety as the ones up here, but this one, J&J grassfed, might be good: http://www.localharvest.org/j-j-grassfed-beef-M26230

The website was down so I couldnt get you any details, though the site lists some pricing options for beef. There were some chicken and goat listings as well, but they seemed a little too expensive.

You might try contacting some of the veg CSAs or going to the farmer's markets and seeing if anyone can help find a livestock farm for you to reach out to. Most of these folks live in the same communities and keep close ties to one another!

Mike Key

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 02:08:30 PM »
My wife and I are both Paleo eaters, we've been lax but we're going back to 100% Paleo.

One of the ways we've found to cut down on food costs is local butcher shops, a meat slicer and buying much large portions of meat. The mark-up you are paying at Cosco and your local grocery store for meat that is pre-sliced meats is ridiculous.

Growing your own food can also be an option to offset the cost of produce. This of course depends on a few variables, like where you live and climate.

We've managed to grow tons of produce though in the past. And I am hopping to start again before it's too hot in Florida to do so.

Mrs MM

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2012, 02:21:30 PM »
We get these specific foods only in organic: http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods

Great list - thanks Bakari!!

We buy organic for our son.  He eats a lot of fruit, so all fruit we purchase for him is organic (apples, bananas, pears, etc.)  He also loves berries, but we only buy them when they are a somewhat normal price, as organic berries/grapes can be very expensive. 

Our rule of thumb is, we'll buy the organic version of the fruit or veggie if it is 1.5 times the price of the non-organic version or less.  If it is more, we buy non-organic, or we skip it.  Since I don't want to buy non-organic strawberries, I'll skip that unless the price is right. 

We also don't buy much meat.  We used to buy nearly no meat, but now that I eat gluten free (and somewhat paleo), I eat more meat.  We get organic chicken and then make something that lasts for several meals.  MMM just bought organic chicken at costco, so we froze it and it should last a while.  We eat a lot of vegetables and I sometimes make foods with coconut milk, which is very filling. 

I used to buy whatever I wanted at the grocery store and when I got home, the bill would be much higher than MMMs.  Now I know what stuff should cost and if it costs more, I skip it.  We also have a core set of recipes and don't try new things all the time.  I know that if you cook a lot of new recipes, it ends up costing a lot since you might need a lot of ingredients that you normally don't have around...

MMM

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2012, 10:09:37 PM »
Ahh, I see my wife has beaten me to this very interesting conversation!

I just wanted to chime in that I TOTALLY AGREE with Bakari on the protein issue. As another weightlifter, I do enjoy getting a good amount of protein - about 180 grams per day during times of high activity.

But to think of organic meat as a primary protein source is a very expensive way to eat. I think of meat as a fancy treat for when you're in the mood to be a chef, and my eggs, beans+rice, cheese, milk, and protein powder ($40 for six pounds at Costco) as my protein source. And much like Bakari, I'm in the best shape of my life!

Even with grass-fed meats, I think there are big environmental benefits to eating less of the stuff. Even without the cost issue, that would be enough to make me prioritize other foods and minimize meat.

sol

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2012, 11:01:14 PM »
Even with grass-fed meats, I think there are big environmental benefits to eating less of the stuff. Even without the cost issue, that would be enough to make me prioritize other foods and minimize meat.

Thank you for throwing that out there.  Since there seems to be an anti-consumption and eco-friendly vibe to this site's philosophy of simplification, I find it somewhat shocking that so many people here are advocating high meat consumption.

It takes something like 15 pounds of grain and over 2000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.  If I were king of the world and only cared for maximizing the efficiency of my kingdom's economy, American meat consumption rates would have to go right out the window.  There's just no excuse for such wasteful consumption. 

Except, of course, that meat is delicious.  Well guess what, so is frapuccino and buying a new car every year, but you don't see anyone here advocating THOSE, do you? 

I try to reserve my meat consumption for special occasions, and supplement my protein intake with less environmentally destructive sources.  The cancer-reducing health benefits associated with cutting meat intake are purely gravy.

masont

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #18 on: February 29, 2012, 09:05:23 AM »
You need to make friends with beans and quinoa.  Both high protein plant foods and relatively cheap.  Repeat after me: Carbohydrates are not bad, but processed carbohydrates are very bad.  Know what get most of their calories from carbohydrates?  Vegetables & fruit. 

I really like the Paleo fad because it's gotten people to eat a lot less processed crap and improve their diet overall, but I can find no science that says you shouldn't eat legumes or unprocessed grains - if any of the smarter people around here can point me toward some, I'd love to learn - I'm not on the "legumes" side, I'm on the "what's right" side, and as my knowledge changes my side changes.  I avoid wheat and soy, but that's because it's basically impossible to get it unprocessed or GMO (and because eating wheat makes me feel like crap.)  Plus, there's some awesome cookbooks (everyday paleo) that the library has.

I would also advise you to read more than one book.  Especially if the book you read told you that carbs are bad - because that's, well, misleading at best

A couple interesting websites:

marksdailyapple.com
rawfoodsos.com

Good luck.

Mrs MM

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #19 on: February 29, 2012, 09:13:41 AM »
I really like the Paleo fad because it's gotten people to eat a lot less processed crap and improve their diet overall, but I can find no science that says you shouldn't eat legumes or unprocessed grains - if any of the smarter people around here can point me toward some, I'd love to learn - I'm not on the "legumes" side, I'm on the "what's right" side, and as my knowledge changes my side changes.  I avoid wheat and soy, but that's because it's basically impossible to get it unprocessed or GMO (and because eating wheat makes me feel like crap.)  Plus, there's some awesome cookbooks (everyday paleo) that the library has.

I completely agree!  Your body knows what it needs, if you let it talk to you.  I cut out a lot of things and then started adding stuff back in.  While I know that my body cannot tolerate wheat, it seems to do fine with rice and legumes, so I'm not cutting those out just because Paleo folks tell me to.  I also noticed that I'm somewhat sensitive to dairy, so I've cut that approximately in half, but not completely.  I also don't eat meat like crazy, like some paleo folks do.  That doesn't make sense to me.

When you're eating a lot of processed foods, sugar, and gluten, along with other things your body doesn't tolerate well, it's hard to know what makes you feel good.  So, cutting everything out Paleo style might be a good starting point and then add things back in and see how you react.  One clue for me was that I was addicted to the things that weren't good for my body (gluten and dairy) and rarely ate the things that were good for it (veggies).  Maybe start by tackling addictions first...

adam

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #20 on: February 29, 2012, 10:01:45 AM »
I focus on low carb / paleo because I'm diabetic.  Up until I got married diet and exercise was all I needed, but then they both sort of fell apart, so now I'm taking insulin.  I don't want to take insulin.  So I'm getting back on the paleo train as best I can.  Marksdailyapple is a ... well daily site for me.

Everyone is different, but this one worked for me in the past so that's what I'm going with.

madgeylou

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #21 on: February 29, 2012, 12:40:21 PM »
can we please avoid getting into a fight about what to eat / assuming what others don't know what they are talking about?

i understand that the paleo thing is a trend right now ... and of course it makes sense to question trends rather than blindly following them. but i think we can safely assume that most people on this thread have, in fact, heard of beans and quinoa, and have made an informed decision to feed themselves in a different way (i.e., low-carb and organic)

it's also worth noting that the environmental impacts of meat are largely about CAFO meat. raising pastured meats actually restores the landscape, and allows productive use of land which might not be good for much else. and it's not like conventional agriculture of grains and veggies is doing great stuff for the environment either ...
« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 12:43:00 PM by madgeylou »

masont

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #22 on: February 29, 2012, 01:20:28 PM »
I focus on low carb / paleo because I'm diabetic.  Up until I got married diet and exercise was all I needed, but then they both sort of fell apart, so now I'm taking insulin.  I don't want to take insulin.  So I'm getting back on the paleo train as best I can.  Marksdailyapple is a ... well daily site for me.

Everyone is different, but this one worked for me in the past so that's what I'm going with.
You're not going to get any fight from me - my Paleo friends eat better than just about anybody else I know.  I just thought I'd throw out a different perspective. 

Mike Key

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #23 on: February 29, 2012, 02:26:23 PM »
It takes something like 15 pounds of grain and over 2000 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.  If I were king of the world and only cared for maximizing the efficiency of my kingdom's economy, American meat consumption rates would have to go right out the window.  There's just no excuse for such wasteful consumption. 

As the commentator below pointed out, grass fed beef or cattle that graze and are not feed corn do far less environmental damage. It's when we start turning animals into massive factories that problems arise.

it's also worth noting that the environmental impacts of meat are largely about CAFO meat. raising pastured meats actually restores the landscape, and allows productive use of land which might not be good for much else. and it's not like conventional agriculture of grains and veggies is doing great stuff for the environment either ...


I completely agree!  Your body knows what it needs, if you let it talk to you.  I cut out a lot of things and then started adding stuff back in.  While I know that my body cannot tolerate wheat, it seems to do fine with rice and legumes, so I'm not cutting those out just because Paleo folks tell me to.  I also noticed that I'm somewhat sensitive to dairy, so I've cut that approximately in half, but not completely.  I also don't eat meat like crazy, like some paleo folks do.  That doesn't make sense to me.

When you're eating a lot of processed foods, sugar, and gluten, along with other things your body doesn't tolerate well, it's hard to know what makes you feel good.  So, cutting everything out Paleo style might be a good starting point and then add things back in and see how you react.  One clue for me was that I was addicted to the things that weren't good for my body (gluten and dairy) and rarely ate the things that were good for it (veggies).  Maybe start by tackling addictions first...

I went Paleo first because it looked like something I would enjoy. Especially with emphasis on meats, the huge community and recipes. The results on my health where resounding.

Diabetes and Insulin sensitivity run in my family. And I've learned thru some experimentation with foods, that sugars and wheat do a real number on my mental health. Wheats and processed sugars cause some pretty dramatic night and day mood swings, and loss of concentration and focus.

Depression also runs in my family and since I cut out the processed crap, I never feel depressed. Ask my wife, my attitude is always positive now.

You don't have to go paleo, but it's amazing what cleaning up your diet will do for you. Understanding what foods effect you, how they effect you and then eating right with exercise is life changing.

Oh, btw there is no such thing as a balanced diet. It's a fallacy cooked up by the FDA, scientist are always arguing and changing/updating what is good and whats not good for you.

Marks Daily Apple is a great site, and he made a good point that more and more geneticist are realizing that peoples stomachs, their food tolerances are based on geographic genetic diversity.

A great example of that is that asians consume more rice (which is a wheat) than Americans as a whole yet have lower rates of obesity.

The truth it, certain foods effect everyone differently.

So you need to actually spend some time learning.

I shall refer everyone to the wonderful article by Steve Kamb over at Nerdfitness: http://nerdfitness.com/blog/2011/01/27/do-you-know-what-youre-eating-do-you-care/

Basically Steve challenges folks to actually take an interest and to think about what they are shoveling into their mouths. Most of us assume if it's being sold it's safe.

onehappypanda

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #24 on: February 29, 2012, 03:26:25 PM »
can we please avoid getting into a fight about what to eat / assuming what others don't know what they are talking about?

i understand that the paleo thing is a trend right now ... and of course it makes sense to question trends rather than blindly following them. but i think we can safely assume that most people on this thread have, in fact, heard of beans and quinoa, and have made an informed decision to feed themselves in a different way (i.e., low-carb and organic)

it's also worth noting that the environmental impacts of meat are largely about CAFO meat. raising pastured meats actually restores the landscape, and allows productive use of land which might not be good for much else. and it's not like conventional agriculture of grains and veggies is doing great stuff for the environment either ...

I agree with this, particularly the first sentence.

My mentality with food can be summed up into two sentences: 1) There is no single diet that works for everyone, because everyone has a different body. 2) It's up to you to be openminded to cutting out or adding in different things, and observe how they work for your unique body, because no one else can tell you what's best for you to eat.

Nutrition science, as hard as it tries, cannot find a single diet that works for everyone at every stage of life. Some people thrive on low-carb high-fat Paleo diets. Some folks do best on a mostly raw plant food (hence high carb) diet. Lots of folks are in between. There's no sense in bickering about what diet is best- nutrition science has been doing that for decades and they haven't gotten anywhere.

Bakari

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #25 on: February 29, 2012, 03:46:39 PM »
"the environmental impacts of meat are largely about CAFO meat. raising pastured meats actually restores the landscape"

That is partially true.  I'm sure we can mostly agree that industrial agriculture is terrible in pretty much every way.

However, meat calories are also inherently more resource consuming than plant calories.  This is not because of anything humans do, but because of basic biology.

This is why, in any natural ecosystem, there is an order of magnitude more herbivores than carnivores, and at least another order of magnitude more plants than herbivores.  Each step up the food chain, roughly 90% of the calories that the plants at the bottom rung created are used up by the animal's metabolism, leaving only 10% that actually gets stored in a way that whoever eats that animal can use. 

What this means is, no matter how good an agricultural system is, you can get more total calories by raising plants for human consumption on a given acreage than you can raising meat.

The only exception is if it is a landscape which can not sustainably support the type of plants we can eat, but can sustainably support plants that other animals can eat.  But since our major grains are grasses, I'm not sure that there are many places this would apply.

Also, keep in mind that the reason for the industrial food system is companies are trying to maximize profit.  So, in terms of pollution, they are externalizing their costs, but in terms of input resources (particularly land) the system is designed to minimize it.
Feed lots take up a tiny fraction of the space of pasture.  With all the space humans already take up with cities, suburbs, and farms, think about how much more that would have to be expanded if every existing feedlot was replaced with one-acre-per-animal managed pasture.

Back before agriculture reached North America, there was approximately 300 times fewer humans living here, and the native Americans STILL managed to hunt the majority of large mammal species living here to extinction.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 04:41:54 PM by Bakari »

Mike Key

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #26 on: February 29, 2012, 04:27:15 PM »
You Sir and your Awesome Stash are a Hero, a Hero in my book!

Bakari

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #27 on: February 29, 2012, 04:47:48 PM »
Well golly, thank you!
I wish I still had it, but I have to shave completely every month for Coast Guard drills.  I managed to grow that out when we had a fluke 2 month break.

p.s. I am not advocating for everyone to become vegetarian.

Honestly, the only reason I am is because I was raised that way and its ingrained in me now.

Between my first post in this thread, and my last one, what I am trying to get at is that we can and should eat a lot less of it.
Its easier on the 'stach and easier on the planet.

Here is a more productive tip, since I've mainly been saying what not to do:
texturized vegetable protein (TVP) has the same amount of protein per calorie as meat does, but costs around 1/4 as much.  You can buy it in bulk at natural food stores.  If you mix it 50/50 with ground meat, it has minimal impact on the flavor or texture (or so I have read).
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 09:58:38 AM by Bakari »

masont

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #28 on: February 29, 2012, 09:48:04 PM »
can we please avoid getting into a fight about what to eat / assuming what others don't know what they are talking about?

I agree with this, particularly the first sentence.
I can't find what you guys consider to be argumentative, if it was my post understand it certainly wasn't my intent

flagship

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2012, 07:41:49 PM »
We try to buy beef that's organic simply to avoid the hormones they pump cows full of and may start buying organic range free chickens and organic pork  as our meat consumption continues to decrease.

Personally I find the dirty dozen list to be flawed, due to their focus on number of pesticides rather than type (some are much more toxic) and amount of each pesticide present. So I don't buy organic product at all and rather focus on purchasing local during season and avoiding produce from outside the US and Canada when possible.

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #30 on: July 06, 2012, 02:36:19 PM »
Hopefully nobody minds me bringing an old thread back to life.  I thought I'd add some random points since I started this thread many months ago:

When I first posted, I had only a rough idea of what our actual monthly grocery costs were, since my pre-2011 expense tracking wasn't as precise as it is now.  But for 2011, our average monthly grocery cost is $830/month.  That includes $1054 for joining a CSA, which we've only been getting food from for a few weeks now (lots left to go).  Subtracting out the CSA expense brings us down to "only" $654/month.  Note that is pure grocery expense---it doesn't include eating out, which we do probably once a week (that gets filed under "entertainment" expense).

Not a very Mustachian number, I know.  June was our cheapest month so far, at a hair over $500.  I attribute this to a couple things: (1) we had a full month of CSA deliveries, reducing the need to hit the grocery store(s); (2) we didn't have any guests staying with us last month.  My wife and I realized this latter item is a big factor, and could arguably be categorized under "entertainment" as well.  We have an 18-month-old; both sets of grandparents live 150 miles away but still want to see their granddaughter often, so it seems like we have weekend visitors staying with us at least once a month.  To keep costs down, with guests, we do most (if not all) meals in-house, but that's two more adults for which we need to supply several full meals.

As of April, we've eliminated Whole Foods entirely.  Food now comes from the CSA, Costco and Jewel in order of preference.

We're trying to relax our meat-heavy tastes.  On the one hand, I'd love to eat (almost) all meat all the time, but on the other, I realize it's crazy expensive and also impractical from a global food supply/environmental perspective.  The CSA has been helpful getting us to fill up on a lot more "good" carbs (such as leafy greens).

I think my appetite plays a big part in this.  I should keep a food diary, but here's what my supper looked like from last night:
  • 14 oz organic milk from costco
  • two grilled beer brats on buns w/grilled onions and green peppers from jewel
  • a big salad with chard, beets and peppers from the CSA + homemade dressing
  • a pile of grilled and seasoned potatoes from the CSA (basted in olive oil)
Plus a few random unfinished bites from my daughter's plate.  :)  My wife at a very similar meal, sans the milk, and probably a smaller potato portion.

A few nights ago, I grilled chicken kebabs (half chicken, half peppers) and lamb steaks.  Meat was from the CSA (not sure about the peppers).  I had a whole kebab skewer, a lamb steak, big pile of whole wheat "rice pasta" (pasta cut small in the shape of rice) with a healthy amount of butter in it, a massive pile of green beans sauteed in olive oil, and my big glass of milk.  Wife's meal was similar, sans the lamb steak and milk.

Having typed that all out, it looks like we eat very luxurious meals.  What do you think?  Do you think that is a lot of food for one meal?  The quantity is typical for me, and it's not like I walk away stuffed and barely able to move.  It feels like the right amount of food for me.

I saw someone else in another thread talking about the costs of feeding two adolescent boys.  My appetite impressed my friends in high school and college; I've always had a big appetite even by teenage boy standards.

Regarding TVA: according to Wikipedia, it's a soy-based product.  I was under the impression that soy protein is "incomplete" for human muscle-building purposes, something about not having all the required amino acids.  I don't have any proof of this, that's just "what I've heard", i.e. whey protein (which I believe is made from cow's milk) is better than soy protein.

It's been suggested many times on this site to get extra protein in the form of powders.  I do this, but I'm hesitant to do it too much, since most of them contain a lot of artificial sweetener.  I haven't tried unsweetened whey protein, but I've heard bad things... they don't have such a thing at our local Costco.

FWIW, this is the CSA we joined: Grass Is Greener Gardens.

TLV

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #31 on: July 06, 2012, 04:41:39 PM »
I was under the impression that soy protein is "incomplete" for human muscle-building purposes

Soy is the only vegetable protein that is complete. (link)

Even so, it's not difficult to get all the amino acids you need from vegetable sources by combining different types (eg beans + rice).

With a bit of practice, it's not hard to make meals that are either meat-free or use less meat (eg a soup with chunks of meat and vegetables, instead of a steak) that still taste delicious. Darkelenchus's blog Real Sustainable Habits has an ongoing "Meatless Monday" recipe series that could be a good starting place for ideas.

Also, check out the Paleo Diet thread - they have ideas on reducing meat costs.

Uncephalized

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #32 on: July 06, 2012, 05:04:19 PM »
Personally I stay away from soy because the science doesn't appear to be settled on whether the phytoestrogens it contains will affect my endocrine system or not. I like my testosterone set firmly in the "man" range.

But rice and beans are just as cheap and tastier, in my opinion.

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #33 on: July 06, 2012, 05:07:49 PM »
A couple of scatter-gun points:

Yeah, Matt, a kebab and a lamb steak at the same meal seems like a lot of meat to me! And kinda expensive cuts, too... do you think you'd get the same satisfaction from a mess o' something flavoured with a smaller amount of a big-tasting meat like pork shoulder/belly or lamb shank? You mentioned aiming for high-fat low-carb, and there are some awesome affordable fatty cuts out there.

Mrs. MM, I hear you on the fresh fruits. Are there good options for foraging for berries around you? The way Mr. MM talks about your town, it sounds like there's primal wilderness nearby.

"Complete protein" stuff... "protein" is just a cover term for a bunch of amino acids. You don't need them all in the same food, or even the same meal. You just need to get yourself some. Even potatoes or carrots will give you most of your essential amino acids. Mandated nutritional information on food gives a really incomplete picture in that respect. There's more complete each-amino-acid-each-food info at http://nutritiondata.self.com/ and presumably a bunch of other places (I have no idea what self.com is, but I'll use their numbers).

dancedancekj

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #34 on: July 06, 2012, 06:43:59 PM »
Try the intermittent fasting part of the Paleo lifestyle. I find that if I eat a decent paleo breakfast, I am satiated until 6:00 or 7:00 in the afternoon. Cutting out a meal definitely decreases food expenditures :)
I personally feel that I eat less when I'm eating strict Paleo. Carbohydrates for me, even in the form of fruit like grapes and bananas, make me ravenously hungry a few hours later. I would have to do the calculations, but I believe that I end up spending less buying Paleo foods than I did before. The health benefits I've experienced are worth the additional expense of eating this diet for myself.
« Last Edit: July 06, 2012, 06:47:09 PM by dancedancekj »

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #35 on: July 08, 2012, 06:35:37 AM »
How about your fat intake?  Low carb is generally combined w/ high fat ie grassfed butter, tallow and lard.  The fat helps you to feel more satiated and gives you more fat soluble vitamins.  I buy meats directly from the farmers by the 1/2  or with chickens the whole.  I pay about the same price as conventional and have much higher quality.  You can check out www.eatwild.com to see if there are any local farmers and if you can find some friends to go with you on purchasing some larger quanities.  It isn't always cheaper to buy direct so you have to shop around.  I'd much rather buy local than organic.  When I buy my meat I also get the fat and render it myself, you can directly buy fat as well from butchers or www.uswellnessmeats.com (which also sells meat but the last I checked where way out of my price range).  I've bought whole lamb before as well but it is a bit more than beef so hasn't been in the budget lately.  You might be able to find good milk for cheaper as well but prices vary widely.

Just a thought otherwise buy cheaper cuts, steaks should be a rare treat and lamb (although it is so yummy).  Chickens should be bought whole or dark meat pieces, breasts are a premium piece and much more expensive (not to mention not near as yummy).  Then smoother it all in butter or fry it in lard.  Eggs are generally cheaper and we do eat 1 or 2 meatless meals here a week although I do prefer to eat more, it isn't in the budget. 

Personally I wouldn't touch soy with a 10 ft pole but there are some other protein powders out there.


How about giving up 2x of eating out a month and eat at home, that would be another way to reduce expenses.

kudy

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #36 on: July 08, 2012, 02:37:03 PM »
Everyone seems to toss out the "beans and rice" suggestion; for me, this brings to mind the sides that come with an entree at a mexican restaurant and not much else.  I realize there are a million places online I can look up recipes, but what are some of the recipes you all cook regularly that maximize the use of rice and/or beans?  I would like to move away from pastas, and get a few more regular meals in my arsenal that average out to $1-2 per serving.

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #37 on: July 08, 2012, 03:07:03 PM »
Everyone seems to toss out the "beans and rice" suggestion; for me, this brings to mind the sides that come with an entree at a mexican restaurant and not much else.  I realize there are a million places online I can look up recipes, but what are some of the recipes you all cook regularly that maximize the use of rice and/or beans?  I would like to move away from pastas, and get a few more regular meals in my arsenal that average out to $1-2 per serving.
We like Mujadarah, a lentil/rice dish.  Important:  caramelize those onions. Recipe:  http://www.food.com/recipe/lentil-rice-dish-mujadarah-arabic-dish-202573

I love this recipe for Drunken Beans which I serve with tortillas:

http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/main_drunken_beans.html
 
We enjoy a saute of garlic, cranberry beans and kale (or chard).  You can serve this with a loaf of French bread or on pasta.

Not for this weather, but I like Coach Nicole's Cold Weather Stew http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=154227 which uses a Bob's Red Mill bean/grain mix.  Speaking of Bob's Red Mill, they produce some bean/grain mixes that make great soups (recipes on packages--add veg).  Their products do not have ingredients with names you can't pronounce--just beans, grains and the occasional dehydrated vegetable.

And don't forget New Orleans style red beans and rice.  Most recipes have some sausage but there are some vegetarian ones out there.

liquidbanana

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #38 on: July 08, 2012, 04:26:47 PM »
Buy a whole cow/pig at a time from a local farmer. Buy a mid-sized deep freeze for about $200 or less. It shouldn't cost more than $40/year to run.

Can you eat more fish? Wild caught salmon and tuna can be had for less than organic meat in many instances.

Find and befriend a hunter on the Internet and maybe they will kill a deer for you and let you pay for the processing (less than a $100 probably). lol No, really...that may work out. Venison is healthier than most meats.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2012, 04:32:25 PM by liquidbanana »

WageSlave

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #39 on: July 09, 2012, 09:21:21 AM »
Yeah, Matt, a kebab and a lamb steak at the same meal seems like a lot of meat to me! And kinda expensive cuts, too... do you think you'd get the same satisfaction from a mess o' something flavoured with a smaller amount of a big-tasting meat like pork shoulder/belly or lamb shank? You mentioned aiming for high-fat low-carb, and there are some awesome affordable fatty cuts out there.

I agree, that was probably a bad example.  My point was more the quantity of total food, rather than the specifics.  The lamb steaks came from our CSA; I can't remember the last time we bought any kind of steak directly.  I'd have to check with my wife to be sure, but I think the chicken for the kebabs came from a whole chicken that also came from the CSA.  And that was definitely a "premium" CSA week---that's the first "fancy" cut we've had, usually it's something more mundane like ground meat.

When we are buying meat directly, we try for the cheaper cuts.  We usually put a big roast of some kind in the crock pot, and eat off it for a whole week.  But there's always room for improvement.

We just started the research on buying bulk meat.  We don't have a separate freezer chest/deep freeze for this right now.  We're certainly not opposed to acquiring one, but we don't expect to be in our current residence too much longer.  The thought of having yet another large item to move is holding us back.  :)  But, once we do the math, maybe the savings will subside our fears.

Thanks again all for the suggestions.  I think there's a lot of room for improvement by simply reducing meat and increasing vegetables.  Vegetables are the one thing pretty much all diets agree are good.

mechanic baird

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #40 on: July 10, 2012, 01:51:28 PM »
Nobody care for seafood here? Fish is probably a lot healthier to take than beef.. And they are not expensive if you know where to find them.

Check out your local Asian supermarket. I live in Denver, so there is one called H Mart nearby. They have a fresh seafood counter selling the seafood old fashioned way. You tell the guy how you want to skin and clean the fish, head on or head off,  they do it based on your request.. Some fish I have never even heard of are selling for $1.5 lb.. And it sure is tasty!

Worsted Skeins

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #41 on: July 10, 2012, 04:45:31 PM »
Nobody care for seafood here? Fish is probably a lot healthier to take than beef.. And they are not expensive if you know where to find them.

Check out your local Asian supermarket. I live in Denver, so there is one called H Mart nearby. They have a fresh seafood counter selling the seafood old fashioned way. You tell the guy how you want to skin and clean the fish, head on or head off,  they do it based on your request.. Some fish I have never even heard of are selling for $1.5 lb.. And it sure is tasty!

Love seafood but it is not a bargain for me despite my coastal location.  One good tip though is to see if you can buy fish cheeks from your fishmonger.  They are tasty and usually a bargain when compared to standard filets.  (I have to fight the guys who work at the fish market for grouper cheeks!)

We have also found some interesting seafood prejudices.  People in coastal New England will feast on bluefish in the summer but further down the coast the blues are tossed as trash fish during the spring and fall migration.  Bluefish is oily and has to be eaten soon after being caught but we think it is delicious.  Make friends with your local fishermen!

dancedancekj

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #42 on: July 12, 2012, 08:20:44 AM »
I've been listening to Robb Wolf's podcasts recently, and he does offer some advice on shopping Paleo.

He particularly suggests buying oils and fats online in bulk.
http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/[/i]]http://www.tropicaltraditions.com/ for Virgin Coconut oil and Coconut flakes (Coconut oil that can be added to pretty much everything to increase satiation and fat content).
http://www.grasslandbeef.com/Detail.bok?no=711 U.S. Wellness Meats for a 5 gallon pail of Beef Tallow that will last you a long while.

These both will supply a good amount of short chain omega-3 fatty acids for a relatively small investment. The added fat should help to satiate you with whatever you put it on (meat, eggs, fish, veggies, fruit, cardboard) and fill you up relatively fast as well as balance out your omega-3 levels. My pail of coconut oil is going to last me for a pretty long time...

crunchy_mama

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #43 on: July 12, 2012, 08:42:56 AM »
The tallow linked is some I bought previously and it worked well and tasted good.  There are many companies that sale 5 gallons of coconut oil, Tropical Traditions often has sales, never ever buy full price from them.  It is especially a good idea to wait for free shipping as shipping can easily be $30 on something so heavy.  I've also ordered 5 gal pails from Wilderness Family Naturals and Moutain Rose Herbs, depending on who has the best price.  I've ordered 1 gal 4 packs from Nutiva as well.  Also, google coupon codes as well.  It is well worth the investment.

galaxie

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Re: grocery bill: organic + low-carb + big appetite
« Reply #44 on: July 13, 2012, 10:53:39 AM »
Somebody tossed out the idea of getting a big chest freezer.  I think we should revisit that.  Chest freezers are BRILLIANT.  I've got one in my basement right now, full of delicious pre-leftovers.

We're vegetarians too, and we eat about 50% Indian food because one of us is from an Indian family, which is probably the #1 vegetarian food culture.  I should say that my freezer is full of delicious Indian vegetarian food that my MIL made.  Nom nom nom.

I don't really try to get "enough" protein -- we're pretty sporty people and neither of us has trouble building muscle, so I figure we're doing fine.  I try to use whole grains and minimize my man's insatiable potato habit whenever possible. 

But that's off-topic.  My point is, GIANT FREEZERS FTW!