Saint Benedict Center's main site is An online Journal edited by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Richmond, New Hampshire.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Economy of Feeding a Family

By Christine Bryan
I don’t have a business degree and I don’t listen to the news, but there is no need of an expert’s commentary for me to be aware something has happened to the value of the dollar. Every trip to the grocery store or gas station convinces me that my buying power is reduced.
Now what woman wants to be confronted with that? And I find it especially threatening when it affects my system for feeding my family (or worse, makes my advice to others seem completely impractical). The economics of domestic nutrition involve more than just the dollar total at the bottom of the receipt. It is also necessary to balance “good” food with “affordable” food, and weigh the costs of cutting corners on quality.
The question of what is acceptable can vary in every household. It would be ideal if food of the very best quality were available to parents of childbearing age, because the developing bodies of the next generation deserve the opportunity to achieve their genetic potential (that’s a family joke, by the way, not a statement from a eugenics manual). But since young families tend to have the slimmest wallets, they easily fall prey to the prevalent dietary heresy: Cheap Food Will Suffice. In an effort to combat that pitfall, I present several suggestions and supply a source list to provide direction regarding the blending of traditional dietary wisdom and modern scientific research.
Only buy good fats, which are food for every cell, especially the brain, and for satisfaction and peace of mind (as well as the ability to pray). I propose that those with limited resources should regard this as their single most important budget decision. Remember, when the necessities of mankind are listed, food comes first. So it surely follows that the essentials of life are butter, cod liver oil, clothing, and shelter.
Eliminate refined and processed food as much as possible. This means: make your own, maybe even grow your own. “Don’t buy anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” to quote Michael Pollan in Food Rules. Avoid the center aisles of the grocery store. Buy in bulk. Because real food preparation involves more time, cook larger quantities and learn to love leftovers. Shifting to real food will significantly reduce the amount of sugars, artificial food additives, altered proteins, improperly prepared grains and beans, genetically modified foods, and other scary evils waiting to compromise the immune systems of those you love. Provided that the family eats at home, anxiety about consumption of harmful products will be considerably lessened once the cupboards are cleaned out. And it’s really how we eat eighty to ninety percent of the time that matters.
Consider searching out free food from sources you like. Grocery stores have “spoils,” food that has to be rotated out of stock, and most stores are glad to donate it to a non-profit organization. Offer to be the link, and make deliveries, doing so in exchange for some of the food. Check out a “food pantry” in your area. They may need someone to take away all the unclaimed items. Visit a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer and ask if they offer free produce in exchange for any services, such as weeding or deliveries. Pursue options with a baker of artisan breads or a dairy farmer.
Study the issues. Check out the sources and start with one topic of interest, absorb what makes sense to you, and implement what you can. Perhaps researching one subject will be of great benefit for your family. For example, learning how harmful high fructose corn syrup is, especially to growing bodies, may provide the motivation to make changes in inherited habits.
I would like to end with a story about our ninety-two-year-old chaplain, Father Michael Jarecki, regarding a small change with major results. Several months ago, Father was bed-ridden with an infection, and those visiting him were struck with his frailty, as he was poised on the very brink of eternity. In the course of his treatment, a naturopath was consulted, who recommended a course of digestive enzymes and probiotics. Suddenly, seemingly miraculously, Father could tolerate foods he’d had to avoid for years. After several short weeks of sharing the brothers’ meals, his vitality surged. Now he is even talking walks outdoors. He is supposed to be with a companion, but he has this uncanny ability sometimes to sneak down a flight of stairs and take off on his own. Even his voice became stronger and his power of concentration vastly improved.
At the end of life, or any point along the way, food is the strongest, most powerful therapy available. It need not be an extravagance to improve the quality of the food we consume. In striving to achieve a proper balance, let us ever rely on our heavenly mother to guide us in our role in the Divine Economy.
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  • Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, is the single most valuable nutritional reference book, although rarely read cover-to-cover. It is written by the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization dedicated to research and support for traditional diets, small family farms, and effective legislation: See also the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation at
  •, the website of Tom Cowan, MD, helpful for the basics of healthy eating and food preparation, alternative medical answers, and the innovative Community Supported Healthcare.
  • The Environmental Working Group,, supplies a listing of the foods with the highest pesticide residues (the dirty dozen) and those with the lowest (the clean fifteen), helping families decide when to purchase organically grown produce.
  •, for food sources in your area, especially Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where patrons buy a share of a farm’s harvest.
  •, a site exposing the genetic engineering of our foods.
  • The Church and Farming, by Father Denis Fahey, who expressed in 1952 his serious concern that the loss of traditional methods of farming and food preparation would be costly in multiple ways.

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