By Diana , Contributing Writer
Are you working to ditch processed foods and put more real food on the table? This month we’re running a series called Real Food Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Eating Better . Our goal is to answer the questions  you might have and make the transition a whole lot easier!
I am so excited to be a part of the Real Food Made Simple series  on Keeper of the Home. I’ve been on a real food journey for over six years now and my hope is to share with you some of the knowledge I’ve gained along the way.
By now you’ve learned a bit about what real food means , first steps towards eating real foods , and you have learned some great tips on how to cut your kitchen time in half . You’ve also learned how to read food labels  and tackle the great grain debate .
Now it’s time to think about your food sources.
Two of the biggest challenges for many people trying to switch their food sources is:
- knowing exactly why it’s important to source real food, and
- the costs as compared to their industrial and conventional counterparts.
The Importance of Sourcing Real Food
Many people do not understand the significance in nourishing our bodies with real foods. By eating organic or local, to some, you may seem bourgeois.
For me, the importance of sourcing real food is for the health and well being of my children.
There are studies upon studies of the detrimental effects that industrially-raised and conventional foods can create. From a weakened immune system, behavioral problems , to early onset puberty  – my children are much too important to care what others may deem elite.
I would rather be feeding my children real foods without preservatives, chemicals, and hormones knowing well that their little bodies and immune systems will be strong and nourished.
*This is just the tip of the iceberg on the importance of sourcing real food for health.
Many people first attempting to make a change to real foods are under the assumption that buying organic and pasture raised/grass-fed foods is too expensive. They assume that they can’t afford it.
In my Real Food, Food Budget series  I share how I buy real food for my family with $100 – $120 a week.
The key is to:
- meal plan,
- shop at a variety of stores to find the best deals,
- make use of the dirty dozen/clean 15 list,
- buy produce in season,
- bulk buy,
- cook homemade meals at home. NO PROCESSED FOOD… it’s EXPENSIVE!
To read the full article on menu planning and saving money on real food, click here . To read the full article on saving money by buying in bulk, bartering, working, and making the right connections, click here .
Stephanie’s note: I absolutely agree with Diana, and employ the same types of strategies. I’ve written a full-length book on this topic- Real Food on a Real Budget: How to Eat Healthy for Less . You can also read a post that I wrote on What I Would Feed my Family on a Monthly Budget of $250 . It really is possible to eat real food on a tight budget!
Switching Your Food Sources – Top Foods to Buy Local, Organic, or Pasture/Grass-Fed
It would be incredibly expensive to replace your entire pantry. Instead, start with the top foods that contain the most chemicals, preservatives, and hormones.
1. Full Fat Dairy
Toxins from hormones and pesticides are stored in animal fat. If you’re buying conventionally-raised milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter, you can be sure that they contain these toxins.
- Best: Raw Milk 
- Next Best: Local, Non-Homogenized VAT Pasteurized Milk. Heated to 185F reserving some of its vitamins and enzymes.
- Next Next Best: Organic Milk – AVOID ultra high temperature pasteurized organic milk. It’s been heated to a point that all of its nutritional value, including vitamins and enzymes have been killed in the pasteurization process. To compensate, synthetic vitamins are added back into the milk once pasteurized. *Ultra High Temperature Milk can actually be stored on a shelf at room temperature for 6 months!
- Best: Grass-Fed – KerryGold Brand or homemade butter from full fat grass-fed cream. 
- Next Best: Organic Butter
Cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products:
- Best: Raw, grass-fed
- Next Best: Organic
It’s amazing to think that 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States is for farm animals .
Local, pasture-raised meat  can be costly. We are so used to paying CHEAP prices for meat, that we don’t understand why local has to cost more. Please remember that family farmers pour sweat and blood into raising animals as God intended for our nourishment. The meat contains nutrients that far surpass anything you’ll find in a grocery store packed in cellophane.
*Living in Iowa, I haven’t even touched on the environmental issues and health problems from the thousands of factory farms.
Make it a resolution to buy local meat this year. If you’re getting a tax return, invest it in your family’s health. I personally get grass-fed meat from Ebersole Cattle Company  and pasture-raised heritage breed pork from Stamps Family Farm . Both family farmers ship to the entire United States and also have payment plans.
To find a local source, visit localharvest.org .
Eggs are particularly important to buy either locally or from a source that you know is pasturing their birds. Chickens eating grains as their main diet will have fat-soluble pesticides in its feed transferred to the egg yolks. Be aware that many “cage-free” varieties actually only give their chickens a small allotment of space to range–usually without any access to pasture.
- Best: Local and pastured or from your own backyard .
- Next Best: Cage free from a source that you know is pasturing their chickens.
- Next Next Best: Organic, since their feed will be pesticide free.
For more information on sourcing eggs, please read my post at Simple Bites called “The Beauty of Farm Fresh Eggs and How To Source Them. ”
4. Fruits and Vegetables.
For fruits and vegetables I always stick to the dirty dozen and clean 15 list.
Are You Overwhelmed?
I know this can be a lot of information to take in. In order to help more people eat real food on a budget, I’ve started a meal plan called, Spain in Iowa’s Organic Menu Plan on a Budget.
The menu plan list will help you prepare nourishing, nutrient-dense meals for your family.
The menu will consist of weekly real food meals with a shopping list that will keep your weekly budget at or around $120 a week. My plans will keep your family eating important nutrient-dense foods at a manageable price. For more information, please sign up for weekly updates or visit us on Facebook .
Other posts in the series:
7 Foods to Avoid