Special Report: Trip to Argentina

We made it back home safe and sound! And while it was of course nice to return to the comforts of home and reunite with our children, we very much enjoyed our time away. Argentina was such a fun place to explore especially since, as some say, the country has “its head in the tropics and its feet in the artics.” It is currently late spring there, and in the northern region we were greeted with some very warm weather and plenty of palm trees. When traveling to the south we experienced much cooler weather (along with lots of wind) and even a little bit of unseasonably late snow. The southern tip of the country is just across the water from Antarctica after all! And to complement the beautiful landscape we discovered that the people of Argentina are an absolute joy. Granted their driving skills are another story, but their personalities are among the friendliest and most helpful that we’ve ever encountered while traveling!

And traveling we did. Between visiting a colony of over a half a million penguins (in the desert), experiencing a tango show, exploring the gorgeous vineyards of the Mendoza wine region, taking part in a very unique and fun cooking class, horseback riding along a glacial lake, ice trekking on the Perito Moreno glacier, and doing lots of good ol’ people watching…it was quite the adventure! I had been craving some adventure in a far away place, and I have to say that I am feeling more than satisfied after our trip. I also felt very satisfied after having the chance to experience some tasty authentic Argentinean cuisine. The food highlight of the trip was easily the Patagonian lamb (pictured), cooked the traditional way on an open fire. Lamb is an extremely popular dish in Patagonia (southern Argentina) not to mention that it is locally raised! We tried to just stick to the familiar parts of the lamb though…they aren’t scared to serve up some sweetbreads (organs), chitterlings (intestines), black sausage (blood), and even lamb tongue. No, thank you!

We also thoroughly enjoyed sampling our fair share of empanadas, which is another signature dish of the country. During our cooking class we loved learning the proper technique for making empanadas as well as another authentic dish that dates back centuries called “pollo al disco” (which loosely translates into chicken made in a “disk shaped” pot). Eating on our trip was a joy when we were lucky enough to have desirable options such as these. On the other hand, eating “real food” when stuck on an airplane or in an airport, or when unable to find a suitable open restaurant became quite the challenge. Our savior (which I hate to admit was only a last minute purchase before leaving the states) was Lara Bars! When in doubt about a disgusting looking chicken dish presented to you on an airplane…do not eat it and instead dig right into some Lara Bars! At times, I seriously don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t end up bringing about a dozen or so along.

Another good solution, which at times was a little harder to come by, was whole fruit. Anytime we saw a store that sold groceries we bought a few bananas or apples just to keep on hand. One Sunday afternoon we were passing through a small town and after an hour of searching we could not find a single, decent restaurant that was open for lunch. We were hungry so we finally stopped at a dreaded gas station. It is hard enough to find something edible in an American gas station where you understand the language, recognize the products, and can actually read the ingredient labels. I could not find a single thing that I was okay with eating until just before leaving I spotted a big basket of oranges. Yay, oranges!

We had noticed that those Argentinians are really into their fresh-squeezed orange juice and even street vendors would sell it on corners in Buenos Aires. The only problem…we don’t speak Spanish, the gas station staff didn’t speak any English, and they also didn’t understand that we wanted whole oranges instead of the much more common fresh squeezed orange juice. I guess we were the first people to try to buy oranges from them because even with our pesos in hand they wouldn’t sell them to us at first! So after some painful, yet quality time with our little translator book our hungry selves somehow convinced them to charge us for orange juice, but give us the oranges whole. What a fiasco. But, after all of that and so much time wasted looking for a restaurant we were thrilled to finally chow down on some Lara Bars and oranges for lunch.

So now that we are home it is back to business, and today is officially day 50 of our “100 Days of Real Food on a Budget.” When we returned home yesterday we were of course very happy to reunite with our girls, but there were also some other things that we missed dearly…our beloved granola cereal, homemade hummus, bread from Great Harvest, good local milk, and whole-wheat tortillas! Let’s just hope we can afford to keep all of these things in the house this week while still sticking to our budget. Our fridge was almost completely empty when we got home on Sunday and I needed to serve my parents (a.k.a. the babysitters) a few meals before they head back tomorrow. So I did have to buy a few things yesterday before the budget started again. I didn’t get much though and instead plan to work on fully replenishing our house with food again tomorrow. And based on the sad state of affairs in my fridge and pantry I won’t be surprised if I use all $125 in one day…I am going to do my best to not spend every last penny though!

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18 thoughts on “Special Report: Trip to Argentina”

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  1. My husband is from Argentina, and although he’s been back a few times since we’ve been married I’ve only been once. I have to admit — I am hesitant to go back because of the crime and now with our baby, too…did you feel safe?

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      We actually felt much safer than I expected! We were of course very careful (and did not have our kids with us), but I thought being in Buenos Aires was similar to how I would feel in NYC. We walked around at night, took cabs, etc. all with no issues at all. I think it has gotten better in recent years, but it is still of course South America so it is not exactly how you would feel at home. We thought the people or Argentina were wonderful though!!

  2. First of all, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and getting some wonderful recipes! Thank you.

    Our family of 3 spends a good amount of money each month on “real” food, and other things like a high quality water filter used for drinking/cooking, and hygiene/beauty products that do not contain awful chemicals which soak into the skin. We are not poor, but definitely not wealthy, and have made choices (no cell phone, no cable TV, no car payments -2 used, older vehicles-, and an apartment vs. a large mortgage)that allow us to spend more $ on food, et.

    We follow the Weston A. Price nutrition/eating guidelines, so I spend a good chunk of money each month on local, raw milk from grass-fed cows; local, pastured eggs; fermented, high butter fat cod-liver oil; organic produce; etc, etc, etc.

    The majority of our friends/family thinks we’re crazy, but with the rate of disease rapidly increasing in America I think THEY’RE crazy not to make the connection. I don’t want my child having to deal with obesity, cancer, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc, because I was a lazy, ignorant, undisciplined, selfish parent who did not take the time and money for good nutrition.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I couldn’t agree with you more!!! It is all about prioritizing. I am sure that a lot of people who say they “can’t” afford to eat like this (not that it really has to be any more expensive) have all of the things you mentioned like cable, car payments, i-phones, etc. And don’t worry…lots of people think we are pretty crazy too! :)

  3. sherry, and that was back in the 80s.. I’m not using my experience of having to live on a budget on anything then living in there here and now. If we all went back in time, you would find a varying degree of replies again, I am sure. and $50 back 2+ decades ago likely went a lot further then it could today… and NO WHERE did i in my reply bring up vitamin deficiencies, death, etc… so you are really taking my post and going the “whole hog” here, aren’t you?

  4. Kris, I also have to disagree how living on a budget works. In the 80’s when my husband was in the military, I had $50 to spend on food for four people, two of them very small children for TWO WEEKS! that is 3.57 a day according to my calculator. And I did it. No one died of scurvy, no one had a major vitamin deficiency, the children got what they needed and we ate. Never did I spend any extra money to stock up on sales or staples, because we had no extra money, ever, not once, amen.

  5. Welcome back! I missed reading your posts while you were away. I agree w/Rana above about how it seems like most other countries have fresh/real food while in the States it’s expensive and difficult at times to get real (high quality) food. Why do you think this is? We had some friends move to Brazil a few years ago and after a couple of months several health problems they were experiencing in the States (skin, digestion, etc) cleared up completely. They start every day w/a freshly picked mango from their neighbor’s tree. Ahhhh! Makes me want to move!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Thank you! That is amazing to know about your friends’ health problems clearing up after moving to Brazil. If that isn’t proof…I don’t know what is! Rather than wondering why us Americans are the way we are I think we should just all work together to change it!

  6. Sounds like a great trip! I would put this post on the corn tortilla discussion, but I don’t know where that thread is anymore. Anyway, I asked Trader Joe’s if their corn tortillas are made with whole ground corn and they said YES!!!!

  7. Good for you having an adult adventure!! I love traveling and I am impressed that you were able to get away without the kids!

    Now here is a question–what did your folks serve the kids while you were away! HA! Some rules are meant to be broken (sometimes)!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Very good question Christa! I tried to have a mindset of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it came to what my kids were eating. Based on what I know (if I had to guess) I think they probably stuck to whole foods about 60% or so of the time. I was so thankful to have someone care for our children for 11 days I just couldn’t complain too much though!

  8. What a fun adventure you had! I am now putting Argentina on my must visit list. The Patagonian Lamb looks just delicious and I love that most other countries have old fashioned ways of slow-cooking their food (yay slow-food movement!) And that a lot or all of their food is local so they don’t even have to think about or feel guilty about their food’s carbon footprint. As much as I love living in the US life just seems so darn complicated sometimes when you visit or hear about other countries…

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      I couldn’t agree more. While on our trip it often seemed like it was the norm for them to use local produce and grass-fed meats. And we wonder why some other countries (in places like Europe) have small refrigerators that they fill by going to the “market” every day…I think they might be on to something!

      1. Okay, granted it’s 2 1/2 years later, but I have to comment on this… the idea of getting food every day for the next 24 hours is a disaster waiting to happen! What do you do when there’s a bad storm (like 2′ of snow) and the market is closed for the day? what do you do if, instead of buying 1/4 beef or more, you buy by the kilo or cut (paying more) and then a disease like mad cow hits and they slaughter 50% of the stock in the area?

        I’ve read/heard that the average family has only 2-3 days of food on hand. I can believe it, but it’s so scary! sudden employment or other crisis that leaves you unable to get to the store (or buy anything) and you are very quickly in a world of hurt. and applying for assistance takes a minimum of one week.

        I have also seen first hand what happens to a business when a sudden late snowstorm shuts down the freeway and delays their “just in time” resupply. The day that happened to us and we were stranded in small town Wyoming by the same storm, the restaurant was out of more things than they still had, and that was after only a few hours.

        Sorry for the rant.. but having a minimum of two weeks of REAL food and the skills to prepare it should be a bare minimum goal for everyone.

  9. I’m going to be straight up honest, even people on a budget (like myself) get to spend more on occasion to re-stock and replenish. I spend about $150 for our family of 5 most weeks. This includes ordering out or stuff to make a special meal about once a week, my husbands hot lunches at work 4 days a week, and our family includes a upcoming teenager, might as well be 3 extra people some days! But about once every 2-3 months I’ll spend $200 or even more to restock on the staples, hit sales, etc. And we don’t take money from our budget items we already have in a freezer, like you have done for your meats, which I have found unrealistic in your experiment here.

    Mostly, I want applaud you for working within a budget, when you do have the liberty of having a bit more free reign budget wise. I think more people with means should have some restraint, living in excess (no matter how good something is for us) has been a problem plaguing this society for years now. But, I do think you have some unrealistic ideas on how those of us who have to live within the means of a budget, do it.

    1. I have to disagree with you that she has unrealistic ideas of how people live on a budget. While there are many people like you, myself included, that might spend a little more once a month or so to do a big stock up, there are just as many people if not more who actually only have X amount of money a week to buy groceries and can only spend that. A big stock up once a month over that amount may mean not having funds to pay a bill or to save for a major expense. Obviously she can afford to stock up, but I think the point of her budget project is to show that even on a tight budget (and exact, no free reign) you can still eat local, whole foods. You are right that people who have freezer stashes do not take that equivalent amount of money out of their weekly budget, but the money has to be taken out for the point of the project. Treating it like she just bought it helps to show that it is possible to work that lovely slab of local, grass fed beef into your budget.

      I will admit that I do not agree with everything on this blog, but I think that the choices she makes work best for the project (we do have to remember that this is a special project with a purpose, just like when they were hard core about the real-food rules) and showing that just about anyone can eat healthy on a budget.

      I hope you do not take all this the wrong way, this is just my honest opinion.

    2. 100 Days of Real Food

      I always appreciate the opposing argument although this project only allows me to spend $125/week on groceries and $20/week on eating out…and that is it! I certainly wish I had extra money to help me stock up on occasion, but I am sure others would think that was unfair as well. I do plan to loosen the reigns once our 100 days are up though!