Can you prioritize the changes. Like what should I concentrate on first? What is most important? I have found a source for raw milk, which I am absolutely loving!!! And we bought a pasture-fed cow, so our deep freeze is FULL of good quality beef. What should I concentrate on next?
As I mentioned before, finding healthy replacements for commercial meat and dairy, in my estimation, is the best positive change to make. Not only is there a greater concentration of toxins in animal products, the commercial farm production of these foods yields a totally different fat content. (Read here about Grass Fed Meats.) It may take time to find a financially feasible source of meat and dairy, but it is definitely worth the search effort.However, in speaking about what to do next, I have to mention that importance of cutting out all fake, fabricated and faddish foods. (How's that for alliteration?!?) Usually, cutting out the processed foods is a benefit to the budget. Instead of adding additional costs, like in buying higher-quality meat, avoiding canned and boxed foods usually means you will make your own for less.
For example, I don't buy rice mixes because of the preservatives and MSG. Instead, I make my own rice side dishes from brown rice I buy in bulk. Instead of spending dollars, I spend pennies. The same holds true for canned beans versus dried beans, boxed cereal versus oatmeal, boxed granola bars versus some homemade treat, fruit snacks versus whole fruit, even bagged pita chips versus homemade pita chips. In all of these examples, I'm avoiding unwanted non-food ingredients AND saving money at the same time.
For a list of what foods to avoid, here is a list of 21 things to avoid by the Weston A Price Foundation. Start at the top and make your way down. Take it one step at a time, making each change a habit. Don't do it all at once... especially if you know you have a tendency toward feeling overwhelmed and burning out. Each step will make a difference. Baby steps... but move forward, right?
To answer the original question, I would say the next best step is to work on finding a real-food alternative for everything fake in your diet. So, if many of your recipes use a creamed soup as a base, learn to make it with whole foods instead. If there is a big temptation at breakfast to grab something quick and sweet, plan four or five simple whole foods breakfasts to have lined up instead. If you children look for something snacky every afternoon, focus on finding several healthy, wholesome snacks on hand.
Next, make a big deal of fresh vegetables (and fruit). As much as possible, fill out every meal with mega portions of these foods. If you children want seconds on the more expensive main course with meat, tell them it automatically comes with a second portion of vegetables or salad too. They will eat less seconds and eat more vegetables. At least, that's how it works in our house.
Another strategy for making things affordable is to capitalize on "Frugal Meal Extenders." While we moms might want to limit our carbohydrate intake, most of our children do very well with a portion of potatoes, rice or corn muffins with their meals. These things are significantly cheaper than main course fare, so take advantage of them! We even have beans or bean salads as side dishes simply because they are healthy and cheap.
I hope these thoughts keep you moving forward!
Part Four coming next...