Today's post is from an interview that I recently did with my father-in-law – a true minimalist, who lives quite modestly in the northern Wisconsin woods. He has no running water, no modern toilet, lives in a 600 square foot house and eats well by growing some of his owns foods. I asked him a few questions about his lifestyle and what he does to eat well on a small budget.
You've been living “minimally” for a while now – what got you started?
Living healthy is not something that a great majority of people do these days. There are young people that don't know where milk or bread comes from. If it's not on the grocery store shelf, they're lost. Back in the fifties when I was eight years old my mother shopped at the co-op in Minneapolis. She bought soy powder to make milk with. She gave up on the idea of starting us kids out eating healthy when we insisted on processed foods, meat, and foods loaded with sugar. But the seed for healthy eating she planted then sprouted along with my concern for my own children's health.
What's food for one person may be poison to another. It can be a slow learning curve to know what works in your body. What foods make you feel good and what foods tire you out. I learned by listening to what other people where doing. I was attracted to people that ate like I wanted to eat. Naturally, I made friends of like mind. We always attract to us that which we need in order that we serve our purpose. When I discovered something that benefited my health in any way at first the cost was not a concern. I was only concerned about experiencing its benefits. You will naturally find cheaper yet quality sources for something when you want to add it permanently to your life. Every new thing you find that enhances your health and well-being makes a shift for a healthier happier life. I think of it as adding another tool to my toolbox. When I'm feeling down I reach in and grab the appropriate tool for the moment. I've gathered quite a few tools along the way.
So to answer your question living minimally is a learning process and you learn by trial and error. By making healthy choices and doing and being a positive person with your glass half full. My journey to living healthy accelerated when I found meditation. Meditation saved my life. I had nowhere to go but up. I was on a budget as people are on disabilities are so finding the right healing remedies that I could afford was a priority. I was drawn to people with similar interests in healing. I met my girlfriend that way and she is a master Herbalist and polarity therapist which is a type of energy healer. At first, herbs where literally weeds to me but now I have respect for everything that is drawn into my aura. You need only look around you to see what you need at the moment. For example Dandelion is known to help detox the liver. It's no wonder there are so many Dandelions everywhere yet people spray toxic chemicals to kill this symbolic remedy we need. Again we draw to us that physical symbol that we need to understand our journey and purpose. That physical symbol can be a rock, a plant, a human or any physical sensation or experience. A healing herb is just a weed to someone who doesn't understand it's reflected healing purpose. My first instinct when discovering dandelions healing properties was to go out and buy the capsules at the store. Then I found that if I harvested them from my yard in the country where there are no chemicals sprayed on it, would be at little or no cost. This is an example of the process of learning to live healthy with less money.
How do you eat well, and not break the bank?
I started by cooking at home more often and eating out less. That way I had more money to buy the quality foods that I liked. I also had more control over the food and what went into it. Higher quality food means more vitamins and minerals and that means I'm less apt to be hungry after eating. When I eat out I don't know what I'm putting into my body.
I found out that eating less costs less and eating less means you live longer. Eating more food than your body can adequately digest creates toxins and saps vitality. Also, your body sends signals that can be interpreted as hunger when it's actually thirsty. Dehydration results and then you have more toxins not being flushed out.
Eating more food than your body can adequately digest creates toxins and saps vitality.
I also realized that empty food costs money. Don't consume empty calories you don't need. Eating chips or sneaking sweets into your diet will sabotage your attempts at feeling good and deplete your vital energy.
What is the biggest challenge you have in eating well?
My biggest challenge to eating well is finding quality food at reasonable prices. Quality food grown locally is the best way to guarantee you're getting the best bang for the buck. That usually means shopping at your neighborhood co-op. I can trust people there to stock food that they themselves would eat. I also feel good about being a member because like minds attract and you are shopping with people that support the same lifestyle. It's uplifting and encouraging and I feel a measure of accountability to a cause.
Outside of the co-op people are becoming more aware every day of chemicals that are in processed foods so this is affecting a healthy shift in the mainstream food supply in large chain stores. When I shop at a large chain store I feel like I'm gambling because I don't know where the food is coming from, who's touched it and what's on it or in it. If you're not sure it's safe to eat then it is wise to buy organic or at least choose food that is labeled natural. [Editor's note: We want to do a post soon on the different between “organic” and “natural” foods]
Another place that has good quality food for good prices is the farmer's market. They usually have organic or at least natural but it's a good idea to ask the farmer because not all farmers follow organic procedures and sometimes people just buy food and come to the market to resell for profit with little interest in quality. Generally farmers markets have rules against outsiders selling food that's not locally grown. It's good to ask questions if you are in doubt about either the vender or the product.
How do you eat well – and not spend a lot?
Very interesting post! I really like his philosophy on using trial and error to find out what your body needs. So often we hear things like, “People need to eat more pomegranates, or less corn syrup, or more ketchup,” and just blindly follow studies that are released or the latest trendy food. However, building a really healthy, long-term solution to healthy eating has nothing to do with fads or trend diets, but trial and error and listening to your body. I like the way he talks about it!
I wonder what his monthly expenses may be and what is the lowest amount of money a person can live on in this country?
@Lisa – good question! I know he doesn’t have a lot to work with being on a limited budget
@Deborah – yeah – good thoughts.. everyone is different, even when it comes to foods
Your father in-law sounds like a wise man. I really liked this line: What’s food for one person may be poison to another. That’s something I’ve really started to accept lately. Some people may be fine eating less healthy, but for others those choices can have big affects on their health. As I shift to healthier eating I’m first trying to eliminate processed foods and all the excess processed sugar. Once I get better at that kind of stuff the next step will be shifting to organic foods. My liver and other organs are going to be pretty happy I’m finally smartening up. Considering I’m doing a liver detox right now, I’m going to have to look into the whole dandelion thing.
@Ryan – I’ve found sleep is really important in all this “feeling healthy” process too.
@MM – I’m anxious to read any posts you write about your detox adventures :)
I probably eat more than I need a little too often. Lately I’ve been trying to get an adequate amount of sleep without going overboard. Next on my list is only eating what I need to feel full.