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Gather ’round. Let’s chat. If you’ve spent any time here on Six Dollar Family, you should have seen me mention how sick I have been over the years. The truth is that I have spent the better part of the past fifteen years sick. It started in 2007 at age twenty-five and was – at least in part – triggered by the stress of a custody fight with my daughters biological father. I quite literally woke up one day in so much pain that I was unable to sleep for three days. By the time I turned thirty-five, I had days where I could not get out of bed due to that same extreme chronic pain and stiffness.
Beware. Major rambling ahead. Please do not detour.
In the time since then, I not only developed diabetes, but high blood pressure and began having severe issues with PCOS as well. I gained a large amount of weight; over 150 lbs from the start of when I got sick to when I was at my highest weight. Then, just a few months ago, an infected wisdom tooth caused my lymph nodes to stop become infected on their own. As a result, they stopped draining properly which resulted in a stay in the cardio ward and emergency surgery to drain them when they swelled enough to almost close my airway off.
Why I “Stopped” Trying to Save Money on Groceries
I would love to tell you that I figured things out quickly and put a stop to the health issues, but the truth is that I didn’t. I have spent fifteen years back and forth on what was really wrong. My symptoms ran the gamut of different illnesses and to be honest, I was just plain confused as to why I was actually sick and how to fix it. Even the medical doctors I had seen were just as confused. I stumbled across answers that relieved some of my symptoms but it was never enough to fully reverse or get rid of them permanently.
How Learning to Eat Healthy Food Made Me Healthy
A good example of those stumbled upon answers was nutrition based. I figured out that I could drink two Boost Nutritional Shakes everyday to relieve the pain and stiffness I felt. The side effect of that was I gained a significant amount of weight. In fact, I ballooned to over 300 lbs which as you know, just created even more health issues. By the time 2019 rolled around, I was just plain sick and tired of being sick, tired and fat.
We removed as many commercially made products in our home as we could. We started with this list of 30 things to stop buying and make then moved onto other products. We were doing what we thought was best for my body and yes, it did help but as I’ve already said; it never fully healed me.
How Eating Healthy Affects Your Body
As much as I believe in holistic remedies, I also believe that modern medicine has it’s place. Before my health improved, I was put on both the diabetes medicine Metformin and Lisinopril for the high blood pressure. Take my word for it that my readings were high enough to justify both medications. I am thirty-six years old. I would rather not die this young from something that is treatable and preventable.
Diabetes and high blood pressure were direct causes of the death of both of my parents. I don’t want to die like my parents.
In early 2019, I decided I was done and finally took myself to the doctor again. It had been ten years since I had really seen a doctor for the problems that I was still having. It was then that my doctor made two requests. The first was that I read a book called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (buy it new or on Kindle HERE or buy it used HERE).
The second thing she recommended was that I learn how to go gluten free. In short, she thought all of my illnesses could be related to not only how I was eating, but also due – at least in part – to the gluten in my diet. In other words, she felt that by learning how to eat healthy, I could at least help – if not reverse – the health issues I have dealt with for so long.
I do not have Celiac disease. I thought she was nuts.
How Eating Cheap Costs You More
I know; right about now you’re asking what my health issues and saving money on groceries has to do with the price of tea in China. Hang in with me. I’m getting there.
I took my doctors advice. I read the book and to say I was shocked at the connections between gluten and health issues such as diabetes would be putting it mildly. We all know we should eat healthy food, but I don’t necessarily think we really understand just how eating healthy affects your body. I also don’t think very many of us suspect just how much damage something that is in so much of our food can do to our bodies.
If I were honest with you – and myself – I would admit that my own diet up to this point was not the greatest. My goal had been to save money and not to eat healthy food. Having us all eat healthy food was always secondary. I viewed it as better for my girls and Steve to have food – even if it wasn’t the healthiest – than to go hungry.
My family ate a lot of pasta and other high carb foods. We ate canned vegetables and fruit because it was cheaper than fresh. I bought milk at whichever store had it cheapest. Grains and flours dominated our diets because – as we all know – foods that contain them are cheap and filling.
The Benefits of Eating Healthy on Being Healthy
But whether we want to admit it or not, eating healthy is a part of being healthy. And being unhealthy is incredibly expensive. The cost of doctors visits, higher health insurance, medications and worse can all destroy a family financially. If you’re already living paycheck to paycheck, those costs can be the financial straw that breaks the camels back for your budget so to speak.
While learning to eat healthy food won’t cure every disease known to man, it can help us be healthier in general. Most of us all have a tendency to overlook that little fact though and we feed our families what our budgets – with medical costs and all – can afford.
The Effects of Eating Healthy on Your Body
Let’s be real with ourselves for a minute; we can all pretend that we’re feeding our families well but if we’re still eating cheap, processed, grain filled foods with very little fresh or color in our diets, we’re not. For my family, going gluten free was the start of what you may call a “food revolution.” In just a few weeks, my entire family – not just me – but all four of us felt immensely better. Even Steve, who spends weeks at a time over the road as a truck driver is feeling better.
And it all came down to the changes in our diet.
How Eating Healthy Food Changed My Life
Now, instead of our diet being filled with cheap foods that are designed to fill you up rather than feed your body what it needs, we eat fresh vegetables and fresh fruits. Instead of buying processed gluten free foods, I made the decision to simply cook gluten free instead of paying for the label. Yes, I do still have some GF groceries such as the 1 to 1 gluten free flour I have on hand or the Gluten Free Mint Chocolate Chip cookies I keep as a treat for myself. We have pretty well stopped eating out with the exception of a twice a month gluten free pizza order from a local pizza place. I use the gluten free flour sparingly since it gluten free or not, it is still full of carbs.
From going gluten free, it was only natural to make the leap to buying organic groceries as much as possible. From there it made sense to move to farm fresh where we could. These days, our milk, eggs, cheese and honey come straight from the farm. Yes, that means we are drinking raw milk from a state certified farm. I drive 36 miles round trip once a week to pick up milk and eggs from the farm. It also means I am paying $6.00 per gallon for milk and $3.00 per dozen for eggs. The GF flour I have is $2.87 per pound and I paid $4.98 yesterday for a pound of fresh organic asparagus. I keep gluten free bread in the freezer for when I really get to craving it. I pay $3.99 for a 9 oz loaf.
How to eat healthy food on a budget
I don’t want this post to sound like I’m just willy nilly with my grocery budget. I’m not. I still try to save money on groceries where I can. Maybe it would be better to word it as “I’ve stopped buying cheap food.”
I’ve found that using Amazon’s Prime Pantry can help with things like that GF flour and those cookies. (If you’re new to Prime Pantry, you can get a 30-day free trial HERE). I buy things such as spices and seasonings and other organic foods that I can get cheaper online than locally over at Thrive Market (Get a 30 day free trial and coupon code to Thrive Market HERE). Both have better prices than I can get locally for the products I buy from them.
I shop the clearance section for fresh cuts of meat, but given that I have upped the requirements for the meat I will feed my family, I am still spending more than I was before. In fact, I am currently saving money for a larger chest freezer so I can spend $5.87 a pound on grass fed beef in the form of 1/2 cow from a local farmer. As soon as I can find a good price on it and a farmer willing to sell it, I will be buying 1/2 a hog as well. I will spend that money happily.
My own garden is doing well this year, but it is too small to feed us for the entire year. This only means that I will be investing more money over the next few weeks to plant staggered plantings to glean as much fresh from my own home as I can. Thankfully we live in Texas and have a long growing season. What I can’t grow here though I will not hesitate to pay for at a farmers market and yes, I will pay more than in the store for organic or farm fresh. I paid $6.00 for a small basket of peaches at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.
Why I Stopped Worrying About Saving Money on Food
Even though the cost of my grocery bill has jumped, I’m spending that money happily. Here’s why; the cost of my illness and the cost of my family not being as healthy as they could be far outweighs the cost of having them eat healthy food.
Before, my girls were so lethargic and I don’t mean simply tired. I mean that bone tired, exhausted kind of fatigue. At fourteen years old, my girls should not be so exhausted after a day of school that they come in and go straight to bed. One daughter had already developed PCOS issues and at fourteen, that is a tough pill to swallow. My husband suffered from severe sleep issues which as an OTR truck driver can be devastating. In addition, he was gaining weight and was having severe digestive issues. My other daughter kept perpetual dark circles under her eyes and had trouble building muscle. At fourteen also, that can hit the self-esteem pretty hard.
How Eating Gluten Free Changed My Life
Then there is me; the one who started it all and ran with it. I wish you could have seen me then versus now. Do I still have pain and stiffness? Yes; for around 20 minutes in the morning after I first wake up. Why? Because I am sleeping much deeper and am not moving around much in my sleep. My body stiffens when I spend hours in the same spot.
My blood sugar and my blood pressure are reading normal these days. Yes, I am still on the Metformin, but in just a few weeks I have been able to cut the dose in half. My doctor told me I could play with things a bit and since my goal is to get off of the medications, I did. Give it a few more weeks and I will be entirely off that medication too.
My kidneys function the way they should now instead of being low functioning and my doctor worried about them. My mind is clear and the mind fog and confusion I used to experience are gone. The cloud of depression I have dealt with since my teenage years has lifted. I am a much calmer and happier person. The hormone issues caused by PCOS are also beginning to lift including the dark hyper pigmentation on my cheeks from a hormonal imbalance.
In truth, I look, act and feel like an entirely different person. We were sick. We were all sick and what I have discovered is that it all related back to our diet.
The point of this post
Sometimes we have to make decisions in our life and in our budget that we might never be able to see ourselves making. Before we made the changes we did, I could have never seen myself paying $6.00 for a gallon of milk or $5.87 a pound for beef. I would have always opted for the cheap food. I never would have connected just how sick that cheap food was making us.
Sometimes, it’s better to not save the dime than it is to deal with the consequences of that dime. When you’re looking at your budget and your spending, keep those consequences in mind. Quality of life should always trump saving a few dollars and it seems to me that so many of us have simply gotten off that path.