November Update

graphSlow and Steady

The chart is trending up for a second consecutive month.  The markets were a mixed bag with domestic equities up a bit while bonds and international funds fell.  We continue to plow in large contributions pushing our asset values up a respectable 1.36% for the month.  Overall our assets as a multiple of our spending went up from 16.4 to 16.9 times.  This ratio was further bolstered by a $73 drop in our rolling 12 month average monthly spending as we had a low spending month.  While spending overall was low for the month, in one category we spent much more than usual.

Eating Only Organic Elephants?

Each month as part of our monthly update, I share a thing or two that we have learned, have started to do differently or things we are thinking about with our finances to be consistent with our theme that this is an ongoing process.  We are eating the financial elephant one bite at a time.

We started this blog as a way to help others. We were helped immensely by reading other blogs and so we want to pay it forward. However, this month we’re going to turn the tables a bit and ask you the readers if you can help us out a bit.

This month, the dominant factor in our budget (and our life) was our spending on groceries while altering how we eat.  Mrs. EE has been dealing with a variety of odd medical symptoms and so she decided to try a totally different diet rather than jumping into conventional medical treatments.

This increased our monthly grocery bill substantially.  We spent over 2.5X what we do on an average month.  This diet had an even more dramatic effect on the way we spent our time, dramatically increasing time spent on shopping, prepping and cooking.  It also made it difficult to get out and be active.

This is where we need help.  I’ve asked Mrs. EE to share some details of what we’ve done and why we chose to try this.  We want to make permanent improvements in our diet as a family, but need suggestions for more books, websites, resources or other personal tips from others that have done what we are trying to do.

With that, I’ll let Mrs. EE take it away…

We blew the grocery budget

Not that we really budget groceries, but we always spend approximately the same amount each week. Well, this month nearly tripled that usual amount, adding nearly $1,000 to our monthly expenses.  It was my new diet.  You may think diet = less food, so should = less money spent. Not the case!

As a background, I have been having some health issues.  I’ve seen many doctors, gotten many, many tests, and heard how we can treat symptoms with medications.  It looks like I have an autoimmune disease, but which one has not been definitively diagnosed.  In the meantime, I don’t want meds to treat symptoms.  We started looking for different solutions.

We came across a book called “The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases by Ann Myers, M.D. This is an interesting read that helps explain the relationship between what you put into (and on) your body and the autoimmune spectrum of diseases.  If you have odd symptoms, have been diagnosed or think you may have an autoimmune disease, I recommend this book.  Dr. Myers researched and then wrote the book after having an experience similar to what I am going through.

The 30-Day Challenge is on!

I never ate any particular diet. I exercise and eat well (or at least thought I did!).   I never had a need to watch what I eat as far as weight goes. I am a carb munching, sweets loving, snack on anything kind of person. Well, I had to give up all of that, plus caffeine.  Yep – no more coffee every morning!

Nothing in this diet comes out of a box or bag. It is basically all fresh fruits and vegetables and meat. No dairy, eggs, nuts or grains.  Nothing processed either.  Hence the challenge – this is the complete opposite of my lifestyle.

I have climbed high altitude mountains, suffered with major migraines on occasion, and had natural med free childbirth.  I can handle a diet…right?!

Let me just say this was very tough, especially when the rest of the family goes on more or less as normal.  Little EE’s candy jar from Trick or Treat resides on the counter. It stares at me daily, and I swear I think it calls out to me!

I did have a minor breakdown after 2 weeks when Mr. and Little EE were eating my homemade chocolate chip pancakes while Mr. EE was sipping on fresh brewed coffee. I had squash and chicken on my plate with a side of gut healing broth. I got over the brief meltdown and went on. I wasn’t quitting after making it to the half-way point of this 30-day program.

There are also supplements with this 30-day program. I HATE taking meds, supplements, vitamins, etc. I just don’t do it unless necessary. Well, not only do I have to take some with this plan, but I have to take a lot! I actually had to make a spreadsheet to track them daily – no joke! That certainly put a hit on the monthly expenses as well (~$400-$500). That part was one month though – I can do it for a month.

So What Happened to the Grocery Bill?

This program calls for all organic produce and meat. Let me tell you that it is not cheap to eat this way!

Dr. Myers lays out a very specific plan in her book. She gives you a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu along with recipes.

The recipes are great. We felt like we were eating gourmet restaurant style meals. But, there are so many ingredients, some of which I never even heard of! I pretty much got to know the produce guy at the grocery store because he had to help me with my list the first two weeks.

Organic is expensive! Eating wild caught seafood, pasture raised, grass-fed beef and pasture raised chickens is expensive!  I was in shock when my grocery bill was $330 dollars for a week of food (usually ~$100 each week). I thought maybe it will be better next time now that I have some of the odd spices, etc. Nope – $300 the next week, and close to that the third week. It is what it is – if you want to eat organic, you have to be willing to pay.

Is It Worth the Expense?

So, my first question is – is it worth it? Does eating organic make that much of a difference? We have to determine if we are going to continue eating like this after this 30-day program. My thoughts are yes and no.

I am not going to be this strict, at least not with not eating any grains, eggs, dairy, and an occasional sweet.  I know I need to find a way to get some more carbohydrates in my diet. But, I am going to continue to eat as much organic as I can, both produce and meat.  I will also try to limit gluten in my diet.

After reading the book and understanding the effects of the chemicals on the produce, genetically modified foods (that just doesn’t even sound good when you say that out loud), and the crap pumped into the animals, I think for the sake of all of our health, it is worth it.

Little EE is only 3, so this is the perfect time to do this. Get her started in the right direction early, giving her healthy foods, ones with no chemical impact, ones with no hormones and antibiotics. This will hopefully help reduce her chances of an autoimmune health issue later in her life. As for Mr. EE and I, we want to be healthy so that we can play with Little EE and do our adventures once we retire early.

It can also be seen as an investment. Once retired, we pay our own health care, so the better care we take of our bodies, the less likely we will need doctors, hospitals and medications.

What About the Time?

So, expense-wise, yes it is worth it to me.  Now, time-wise is a different story.

Not only did I triple the grocery bill, but I doubled the shopping time. With so many ingredients, and being on a constant hunt for these odd ones, it is so time consuming.

And now dinner is a project every night. It is stressful, which defeats some of the purpose of this 30-day program. These meals take a long time to prepare, taking away from the little time each weekday that we have with Little EE.

Right now, while we are working, this diet isn’t sustainable. I don’t want to lose time with the family and be in the kitchen cooking all evening and weekend. This strict diet also makes it nearly impossible to travel as required for my work and makes it difficult to get out and be active for even a day.  I actually enjoy the cooking, and once retired, I would love to do this each day. Not right now though.

That again leads to the conclusion that I will not continue the diet to this strict regimen after the 30 days are up. We will incorporate some of the easier recipes, and some harder ones for the weekends when we have time. But it certainly will not be a breakfast, lunch, dinner each day. I will try to avoid the ‘toxic’ foods as well, but if one slips in here and there, so be it.

Any Help Out There?

Do any of you eat this way…all organic, fresh, no processed foods, no gluten, no grains? If so, I would love to hear any ideas and/or recipes that are less time-consuming and maybe less ingredients.

I am looking for ideas that will also suite Little EE (she’s a picky eater!). Have any of you had much success with kids with this kind of diet?

I need ideas for active people on this kind of diet. What do I take to put in my pockets or pack for when we are out on the slopes, on a long hike or climbing for the day?

Also, if you eat this way, has it helped your health at all? Do you feel more energized, healthy, and mentally sharp?

Being honest, I don’t.  I feel less energized, which is hard for me to deal with. Hopefully I am just still adjusting to this new way of eating. I know I have to find some more calorie dense foods that I can tolerate to support my active lifestyle.  Any ideas here?

My body is used to 30+ years of the other lifestyle, and I am only 4 weeks into this one. We are committed to making this a lifestyle change for our family, but realize it is not easy.  We’ll keep researching and experimenting, but any help you could offer to speed up the process would be appreciated!

Has anyone else had success treating autoimmunity with diet and have any tips?  Do you have any particularly helpful resources for further reading, recipes, etc?  If so, please share in the comments or send us a private e-mail.  THANK YOU!

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26 comments on November Update

  1. I applaud you for trying to change your lifestyle rather than take medicine! I love to hear when people try to attack the root of the problem rather than just take medicine to mask the symptoms.

    Anyways, I don’t have any experience with gluten free. But, I do try to eat healthy – and I find it is easiest when I standardize and meal-prep on Sundays. I find that if I don’t have to think and or plan for every meal I can stick to it easier. So for instance – I try to eat a salad everyday. So, I cook up chicken on Sundays, divide it into daily portions. I toss some oranges into the same Tupperware and some other veggies. Then I just buy a couple bags of chopped coleslaw cabbage and grab several chicken servings and bring them all to work. No thinking. I don’t know about the diet you are on, but maybe once you find a few favorite meals you can standardize and that may simplify your cooking and planning.

    We blew our grocery budget too – but not for good reasons…. sigh.

    1. Agreed wholeheartedly on simplification. We think that she makes the diet so elaborate because she wants it to be enjoyable to eat this food, and it is! It is awesome! However, the recipes are too complicated. Our challenge will be to figure out what ingredients we can cut out without losing too much calorie intake or not getting all of the necessary nutrients.

      Thanks for the tips and support!

  2. My husband has both migraines and inflammation issues that are caused by certain foods; it took a while to figure out what was going on but once we did we adjusted our dietary intake just like you are doing. We now eat organic fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised meat/poultry, some dairy, and some grains. Yes, it is expensive, but it’s helped a great deal and he now rarely has issues caused by foods (stress is the main culprit now which is managed by yoga and meditation).

    Initially I found shopping and prepping VERY time consuming, but as I got used to the basic ingredients I evolved to the point where I can just make it up as we go along. Having a bulk-cooking day helps for meals during the week if you use recipes that will keep in the fridge or freezer. Also, meat and vegetables don’t have to be cooked in a complicated manner; learn to love grilling and steaming.

    With regards being active or satisfying the sweet tooth, we eat organic almonds, organic mango, good quality and simple beef jerky.

    One last thing, it’s very important to have the whole family eating the same meals. It’s surprising how much easier the transition is if everyone is eating in a similar fashion. Keep “goodies” around for the others, but prepare the same meals for everyone.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Agree that this is worth the cost and also excellent point about managing stress. One of our biggest disappointments with the diet is the increased stress of it b/c everything is so complicated. For example, her salsa with fresh mangos, avacado, red onion, cilantro, olive oil and a few other things I’m forgetting is awesome. However, it takes 20 minutes just for this side instead of 20 seconds to grab a jar and open it.
      I appreciate the other tips for simplicity. We’re both on board eating dinners together, getting little EE to eat anything at this point is the big challenge.

  3. Diet can definitely impact health. Mr. T was having a bunch of medical problems, so we went very basic with our foods… though we are heavy on grains and light on meat. It has made a world of difference in our health. So I can’t help you with your specific diet, but we crack our own oatmeal, bake our own bread, grind our own wheat, and eat lots of fruits of vegetables. We don’t eat all organic… but we eat a lot of organic. We generally try to stay away from the dirty dozen, but don’t worry as much about the rest.

    1. I like the idea of what you’re doing with doing as much as possible from scratch, but the issue we really have is how time consuming that is. When not working, I think we will love this style of cooking and eating as the food is awesome, but we find it a big challenge with our current lifestyle.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Hi guys — I hope I can help with this one! I have celiac, and autoimmune disease, and have to eat strictly gluten-free or a whole slew of nasty things happen. I made the switch about three and a half years ago, after getting diagnosed and would offer some suggestions:
    1. After you finish the program, add the foods back one at a time, so you can get a sense of which bother you. Other than creating inflammation generally, it’s unlikely your body is reacting to everything, and it’s more likely that you have a dairy intolerance or a gluten intolerance or a something else intolerance. There’s no reason to stick with something so restrictive long-term, especially if you aren’t even sure if it helps. That said…
    2. Gluten is an extremely sticky protein, and it can take months to leave your system — I didn’t get the full benefit of the diet until about six months in. But I’d advise not to make yourself crazy by going gluten-light. If you have a problem with gluten, then avoid it entirely, but buying more expensive GF products makes zero sense if you have some gluten sometimes, since it is so persistent in the body.
    3. It all DOES get easier. I remember the early days post-diagnosis, when I wandered the store helplessly trying to find one thing I used to eat that I could still eat. It was depressing. But gradually I got the hang of it, and now cooking and eating is no more time-consuming than it once was, though what I eat is fairly different. Same goes with restaurants — it was depressing and frustrating at first, but now I’m used to articulating my needs.
    4. On the organic front, the chemicals in most produce and meats are pretty crazy, and we make a practice of avoiding all of them. But, if you don’t want to shell out for all organic, we’re big fans of following the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 from EWG. They help prioritize which things are worth paying more for.
    5. Snacks — dried fruit (unsweetened and unsulphured), bars I make like granola bars but with quinoa (not a grain) instead of oats, a banana and a jar of peanut butter, the Mr. will carry organic jerky (though that’s expensive too).

    Okay, that’s a bit of a novel I’ve just written, but reach out via email if you want to chat more! Good luck figuring out what your trigger foods are — I hope you get to feeling better soon!

    1. THANK YOU!

      We relate to everything you say and will definitely hit you up with many questions. I’ve seen people make their own granola bars and mix but as of now limiting even quinoa and nuts or nut products, etc which makes this so challenging. We definitely want to work some of that back into the diet as we figure out what is and isn’t tolerated.

  5. We went wheat free 18 months ago. We also do a lot of juicing and eat organic fruits and vegetables and wild caught fish. My partner used to be allergic to bees and fire ants and now has no reaction to either sting. She also has had exercise induced asthma since childhood and after removing wheat from our diet has not used an inhaler for a year. It took a couple of months to clear the toxins from our systems, but now we feel great.

    Cooking initially took longer, but once you get used to the new way of cooking you get a lot faster and more creative. Keeping it simple by finding a few favorites and eating them weekly is key as well as cooking the same for all in the household. All 3 year olds are picky until they train their taste buds. Now is the perfect time to start correct eating habits.

    A couple of worthwhile sources:
    Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis
    The documentary “Corn King”
    Drew Canole’s website and new organic juice powder “Organifi” are awesome!

    1. Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body diet is really good as well….. just making the change to sticking only to organic which he does not mention.

      I also am a firm believer in never using a microwave. It changes the molecular structure of the food and destroys the nutritional content.

    2. Thank you for the time to comment and share. It is both discouraging to hear from you and others that it can take months to start feeling better, but also encouraging that there is still light at the end of this tunnel. We’ll definitely check out the resources.

  6. This reminded me of another blog I follow that blows me away with their grocery budget spending being low, and still doing an organic, macrobiotic diet. I included the link to her blog, because she has multiple articles on how to grocery budget $400/month and eat organic and macro, and other posts about how they prep and that sort of thing. Check it out, it could be helpful.
    Beyond that suggestion I have none for eating watching out for certain things. Sorry… Mrs. SSC had the better suggestions above. 🙂

    1. We’ll definitely check it out. We’re interested but not too worried about the frugality aspect. We’re extremely interested in the ideas about prepping, cooking, shopping with more simplification. Thanks for the resource!

      1. We are organic, grass-fed, etc…all the way. My vote is for using a slow cooker, if you have one. We prep the slow cooker Sunday (e.g. stew), plug it in Monday and we have dinner covered for the rest of the week–it makes life much, much easier. For lunch, we also prep the week’s worth on Sundays. It might be boring, but it makes it easy to stay healthy and saves a lot of time. Good luck with your health!

        1. Thanks for the suggestions! We need all the help we can get as we are just figuring everything out and want to make this a sustainable change.

  7. Have you guys ever thought of going vegetarian? Reading your post you mentioned that grass-fed beef is expensive, so is wild caught salmon. So why not go meatless? That will definitely save you some money. Meat subsitutes like tempeh are not as expensive, I used to buy a block of tempeh for $1.25 at Trader’s Joes. A block and that lasted me a couple of days. It cooks well with any veggies you put in it and it has tons of protein. Maybe vegetarianism is something to look into, maybe research what others have experienced going veggie and autoimmune diseases? Hope you find a solution. BTW what program do you use to chart your graph of the x times amount of your expenses? I would like to use that. Thanks.

    1. I appreciate and welcome all suggestions, but we are not really interested at going vegetarian at this point. First off, we really like eating fish and to a lesser extent poultry and other meat. Second, we’re actually not too worried about costs. I guess we did put that first, but kind of felt obligated as we are first and foremost a personal finance blog. As noted in the top of the post our overall spending for the month was still pretty low. Part of that is that we didn’t eat any restaurant meals which we are happy to continue to limit/minimize.

      The other challenge with this initial phase of the diet is that nuts/legumes are restricted as are eggs and so getting protein and calories is a challenge. Even fruit intake is limited in this phase. I am at about my ideal weight and Mrs. EE is underweight and so we’re in a kind of rare position of looking for ways to maintain/increase calorie consumption and learn to not push as hard physically rather than cut calories and exercise more as is the norm.

      As for the tracking program, I’m not sure. We track all spending and investment accounts in 2 separate Excel spreadsheets and then Mrs. EE works her magic to put together the graph. I’ll check with her and get back to you on that.


  8. Also check out Kris Kresser’s The Paleo Cure; he had his own issues with AI, Marks’s Daily Apple and I second reading Dr Terry Wahl. What my wife and I found with going primal is to prep as much as possible on the weekend so that you’re not prepping everyday and make big batches for leftovers/new combos later in the week. We also believe that the additional food cost now will offset health costs down the road. Be it doctors or the lost time not being physically fit to enjoy retirement. Good luck and Grok on

    1. Thanks for the ideas Jeff. We have been committed to following this specific diet plan for the first 30 days which is a lot of the reason for the overwhelm we’ve been feeling. As we start to incorporate the parts that work and get into our groove we’re sure it will get much easier. All of the encouragement has certainly helped us to see that. Thanks!

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