“They’d Go Barefoot…”

When I was very, very ill, I was not able to do much -at all. I was in pain, I was exhausted, and I was confused. Some months I received welfare benefits; some months I received nothing at all. When my health improved somewhat, such that I could actually move around for more than an hour a day, I started to volunteer on organic farms. The Worldwide Workers on Organic Farms program connected me with farmers near and far. At one farm local to me, I pulled weeds and fed animals, napping in between stints. For my work, I received three excellent meals full of organic, farm-fresh food as well as a bed to sleep in. WWOOFing was a way I got by during some of my most difficult months (and one which I highly recommend to both struggling and vigorous individuals and families).

At that time, I felt little hope for my recovery, so I didn’t really think beyond each day. All these years later, however, I keep recalling one conversation on that particular farm. Like all the other WWOOF hosts I met over the years, the owner was sincere in his work, and passionate about organics. He, his wife, and their young children were able to use all the help they could get on their large, productive farm. Unlike many farmers, they were relatively well-off, such that they were even able to take extended vacations in Europe, but I remember the farmer saying quite vehemently that if ever their circumstances required that they choose between quality food and, say, shoes, his children would go barefoot. As a very, very poor person (who often did have to go barefoot), I was intrigued by this statement. I wondered why a person of relative wealth would even be pondering this. And I was curious as to why he viewed quality food as even more important than clothing.

Now I get it.

As a mom to a seven year old recovered from severe symptoms, I feel likewise. If I had to choose between shoes or food for my son, it would be food. If I had to choose between a car for me and food, it would be food.

I’ve known this for some time now, but when I started tracking my spending recently, I saw just how true this was! I spend more on food than I do on a home -because I choose to share a small, modest, rental suite with one other adult and two additional children so that I can afford awesome food! And I spend more on food than I do on all my other expenditures combined! It’s not that I necessarily spend a lot on food -it’s more that I prioritize food. I prioritize it in terms of money, time, and space.

Food first.

Shoes (and everything else) second.

12 Replies to ““They’d Go Barefoot…””

  1. Thanks for the encouragement. We are currently going through a financial class, and apparently, living on mac n cheese and rice is worth it to be able to save money, or get out of debt. We are debt free, but have no savings and when told that our food budget was way too high, I absolutely would not budge on lowering it. Two out of five of my children have learning disabilities, including autism, and we are benefiting tremendously from the GAPS diet. We refuse to live on beans of rice. What good is it to have a bunch of money in savings, be able to go to Europe or Hawaii, and not be able to enjoy it because you just don’t feel good. Anyway, nothing on this earth will be as good as what is to come in the presence of the Lord.
    Food first! Shoes and everything else second!

  2. I know that what you are saying is true and awesome Baden, but still not all of us can afford the good food, period. We considered moving to a smaller home earlier this year because we were spending so much on food we could barely make our mortgage repayments. I have six kids and it’s not like we have a huge house. I don’t think I could have coped with six kids in a smaller house and so I have stopped a lot of our healthier eating :(. We still do what we can but with a large family on one teacher’s wage, we find we just cannot afford to eat the way we would want. It’s a tragedy I have struggled to understand and accept but with my faith I am able to understand that life is never going to be perfect, regardless. Our true life lies beyond this one and that is something I have to hold on to.
    I truly am glad that you and others can live this way. It was always my ideal too but I have had to give it up as hard as that was to do. A bottle of FCLO in Australia is $67 so you can see where all our money was going.

  3. Yes! We lived in a a three bedroom apartment for years with seven kids (so nine of us) and spent the majority of money on decent food (so hard to find in that urban desert). Now we live on a boat with the youngest two, again partly to limit expenses. I am certain we spend more on food than “rent” (moorage fees), but now we live in a small rural town where clean local food is abundant. Most of our clothing and furnishings are thrifted–which is always an adventure we look forward to. We all have to make choices that work for our own situations, as difficult as that can be….

  4. If I would have never prioritized food, good food, I probably would have never left north america and all it entailed with it’s rampant poverty/poverty-mindset. And gone to a place where good food and more traditional food, is much more important.

    What the farmer said is not literal, it’s a metaphor. It can be applied literally in particular instances, however, what he is driving home, which I don’t think some people are getting, is that above all else, proper, correct diet for our bodies is essential. Nicole, unlike your point of view on moving into a smaller house, when you and your offspring are properly fed, you will find them less difficult to manage and you yourself less stressed. Other aspects of their and your life is better.

    There can be _no_ comprimise on the quality of food. None. It was only when I gave up pre-concieved notions, and focus on food as the top priority, and good water as much north american water is poisoned, to get away from ‘how big the house had to be’, ‘whether or not a car was needed, etc’. Then I had freedom -mental liberty, liberty of spirit- to get into a different life.

    Unfortunately, my last companion didn’t think food was so important. And she was imprinted on the public fool system, etc. And she didn’t listen so I kicked her out.

    Your willingness to sacrifice has to go beyond shoes. Remember the metaphor and quit getting stuck in literal interpretations; they leave you with half-solutions, which are no solutions at all.

  5. mwk – I wasn’t asking for opinions, I was simply saying that we literally can’t afford a lot of the healthy options anymore and what works for you will not work for everybody, I think a lot of people use the whole diet thing as a religion and become obsessed and inflexible. If I win a million bucks I know I’m gonna spend it on FCLO but in the meantime I’m not going to be orthrexic about it. All the best!

  6. Wow! Some great discussion here! I love hearing about how different people view and approach finances, especially when it comes to essential things like food, housing, and emotional well-being. All views, experiences, and approaches are valued here. Let’s be sure to express them kindly and respectfully, as so many of us who have come to GAPS have done so because of significant struggles.

    I love hearing additional ideas -such as boat living- that can make it work! And it’s so true that barefoot walking across the sweet earth of a forest floor can be life enhancing! Nicole: You rock! You bravely posted about the choices you have felt the need to make. Courage can take many different forms: posting to a GAPS-focused blog about limiting spending on GAPS, moving to another culture to make good food an option, and so on. Nicole, your post inspired me to maybe do a follow-up post about the things I, too, must limit or skip, such as juicing, and maybe one about the nuances that make the other choices -such as 5 people in 800 sq feet- work. Because sister, I totally hear you about how scary it can be to even think about sharing a small space with so many! Perhaps you’re an introvert like me, who needs some space to be a good mom. Yes, maybe I’ll talk about “the balancing act” in a future post. In the meantime, know that you -and your limited budget- are welcome here! πŸ™‚

    Thanks, everyone!

    All my best,

  7. Nicole,
    I saw your post the other day and felt for you. I don’t have six kids, but I’m not completely prepared to spend everything on GAPS quite yet, either. I don’t buy many organics and have little or no supplementation, but I do my best to eat otherwise unprocessed, gaps-legal food. With that, our grocery bill is about 400 a month for two adults and one breastfeeding infant (too many avocados). You can only do so much with the resources you have. I don’t know what all you have tried or are able to try to cut expenses, but one great thing for me turned out to be the farmer’s market. A lot of the produce is unofficially organic, and the in-season prices (here in the US) tend to be cheaper than the store. I also buy whole chickens and cut them myself, which is a sucky task, but is much cheaper unless parts are on sale. Since veggies, eggs, and meat are pretty much my whole diet, those savings add up for me. Hope that helps.

  8. Oh what a great post. I too was a hungry kid and watched my Mom go without to feed us. We always had one pair of shoes to make it through the year and when they were no longer any good we made them last, be it with cardboard inserts or plastic bread bags to keep out the wet and cold.
    I too would choose food, I live on a farm and understand how important it is for us to have choices of good food. I am no longer that hungry kid but those memories stay with you and no one should have to remember this. All children deserve food, shoes are very important but not necessary for life.
    I am pretty sure my health issues today are related to poor nutrition as that hungry kid and I know this is still going on in this rich nation. It makes me very sad. B

  9. I’m a member of the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, NY. It’s a members only co-op. Anyone can become a member and all members contribute 2.45 hours of labor to the co-op per month in the form of a regularly scheduled work shift. Every member performs this work shift, including the terribly wealthy, including celebrities (it’s Brooklyn!). In return, I’m able to buy wonderful organic produce, much of it fairly local, for the same price as conventional (and in some cases cheaper). Good pasture raised meats for much less than in a grocery store. Bulk items. High quality canned goods. Inspired by this, smaller co-ops are starting in other neighborhoods, some of them open only for a few hours a week as they acquire members, and with very limited stock, but they’re growing. I say this knowing that the very idea can seem overwhelming but if there are other people in your area who also want to eat well without bankrupting themselves maybe it’s something you can get together about and discuss and establish. I assume the Park Slope Food Coop gets many inquiries and that if you contact them they have an advice sheet and more information on how to go about starting something like it. This is the kind of thing which is a ton of work, obviously, but especially if some in your group are in between jobs and can give it more time I imagine it isn’t impossible.

  10. Let me add another perspective if I may.

    Right now I am on a pretty limited budget and, while starting to “practice implementing GAPS (and absolutely requiring at the minimum for supplements bile salts and digestive enzymes – which can be quite costly), I am also dealing with a serious back condition (two separate conditions actually) that make it so that if I want to work, I need to be on pretty strong medication.

    While the medication helps somewhat and is vital for me to be able to work (and not that cheap), it is also wreaking havoc with my digestive system, so it is actually making implementing GAPS even harder. It is also not a perfect solution and definitely not one I want to be permanent!

    So, once I am working more and bringing in more money, for ME, it would be more beneficial to maybe implement GAPS a little imperfectly (non-organics etc., less or no probiotics) and use the extra money to start seeing practitioners that can help me get to the bottom of the chronic back pain and therefore get off the medication that is costly and causing side-effects.

    I have known people who have put psychotherapy above organic food and supplements because at the time, that was what they needed most for healing.

    I believe super, high-quality food is a hugely important part of the healing puzzle and it makes sense to spend what you can to have the highest quality you can, but sometimes other things truly and rightly take precedence, at least for a period of time.

    The beauty of life is that we are all attaining to better it for ourselves – to gain different levels of healing in different areas, and the beauty of individuality is that we are each on a slightly different journey and get to make the choices (in all areas of our lives – finances included) that will serve our personal greatest good.

    • Hear hear, Melissa! Great comment.

      I don’t know if you have my book (GAPS Guide 2nd Edition) yet. In there I offer a whole chapter on budgeting for GAPS, which aligns very well with your post (prioritizing spending, other healing options, etc). Also, it’s quite possible that healing your gut and psychology syndrome will heal your chronic back pain. Many of us have found this to be the case (I literally couldn’t stand on my own feet for several days at a time at points before GAPS).

      Best of success to you in your healing journey, Melissa! Lovely to have you with us!


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