EATING SUSTAINABLY ON A BUDGET
This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. It is easy for someone who has the money to buy those high priced "organic" foods to tell you that you can eat healthy and stay away from packaged and mass produced food-like stuff, but I am not writing to you in that frame of mind. Although at this time in my life I am comfortable (not rich, not by far), I have not always been so. I was a very young (and I mean YOUNG) mother with two small kids on my own. I have lived on commodities(before food stamps), food stamps, and on a salary of $90.00 a week. I have gone hungry, and have seen the look on my young sons faces when they saw all the wonderful food eaten by others, knowing they could'nt have that. I know that it is not easy to feed your family when you make minimum wage, sometimes have 2 or three jobs, and are tired as all get out. No, I know it is a bone-weary feeling. I have been there. That is why I am writing this blog, so maybe just maybe, I can help you achieve a certain amount of control of what you eat. That type of control is power. But the thing is, you have to want do it. It is not easy, it is not fast, and it will be extra work. If you are ready for that here are a few tips. These are tips that I have learned from life experience and reading what others have written on the subject.
This is not an easy one. I know that when the world is wearing you down, all you want to do is come home and watch some tv or indulge in destructive ways to escape. Believe me, I have gone that path myself, and still do sometimes when I am having a pity party with myself. Here comes the part where you have to want to do this. Sit down and take a good look at how you spend your time. Are there things you can cut out? Make a list and while you are at it make a list of pros and cons of eating sustainably. Here you will find out if this is something you want to do. But if you want your family to be healthy it may trump any cons on your list. Look at how much tv you are watching which seems to be the biggy that traps us all and robs us of precious time. Would listening to the radio help you relax while freeing up you hands to create wonderful meals? Do you spend hours on the computer, playing games and chatting? Once you start cooking you may discover that it relaxes you especially if its not just the crank out a boxed dinner.
Now that you have prioritized, you have a little free time to sit down and plan out the week or the month's menu. Plan meals around legumes, rice, veggies and fruits. Use meat as a flavor enhancer. A word of warning here. For years I was a vegetarian. My poor younger son, craving meat, discovered that other folks ate steak for dinner, and somehow he got lots of invitations to eat dinner at their house. And don't even ask him about lentils...I had a million ways to use lentils. So unless you have always been a vegetarian and that is all your family has ever known...add a little meat. One of the things I learned to do was buy a couple of chickens cut them into pieces for 3-4 meals including using the back and neck parts to make soup. Buying whole chicken is so much cheaper than buying the parts...it just takes a few minutes to cut them up. If you eat beef...buy a small cut of good quality beef and cut it into small pieces to add to a dish. There are many very satisfying dishes made from legumes and rice..sometimes adding cheese or eggs. Read cook books and look on line. Keep copies of the recipes your family likes in a binder so that eventually all you will have to do is look thru your binder.
BUY IN BULK
We buy all our spices, legumes, rice, and flours in bulk. Get on the Internet and see if there is a place in your area where you can buy in bulk. It will save you a lot of money. Is there a farmer in your area that has a u-pick farm? Take the whole family and have a healthy family day picking your food. It's good for the kids to learn where their food comes from, and give you time to share with them. Come home and shuck the corn together or peel the apples and make applesauce together. If your kids have a part in the food they eat, they are more likely to eat it. Which is a bonus. Check out the farmer's market. A lot of the vendors will sell bulk bags of produce toward the end of the day. Some farmers will let you invest in their chickens, beef, pork, or goats...for a little of your time and a money investment..you will be guaranteed milk, eggs and meat. Join a community supported agriculture group...local food will be delivered to your door for less than you would pay at the store.
GROW YOUR OWN
If you have a little space, plant a garden. Read books on gardening. Be sure to only plant what you will eat, you're just wasting space if you plant something your family will not eat. Learn to can and preserve so you can eat all that goodness in the winter too. If you don't want to learn to can (try it! I get the greatest feeling looking at all the food I have put by) learn the proper way to freeze produce. If you don't have a yard, grow veggies in containers....just about anything will work as long as it is not toxic and drains. Trust me...you will never go back to store bought produce once you taste fresh. What do you eat the most...maybe you could start just with that from scratch. Grow herbs in pots..those little bunches of herbs in the store are highway robbery.
COOK FROM SCRATCH
Instead of buying packaged, mass produced food which has little nutritional value, make meals from scratch. Take a day to cook up meals that you can freeze and just spend a few minutes on a busy evening to pop it into the oven. Cook up beans and freeze so they will be ready to use in quick dishes. Cut up veggies for quick use...just store in containers in the fridge. Grate cheese and store in the fridge. I make my own cheese, condiments, and bread. Takes more time but I know what I am eating and its very satisfying. Now that I make my own bread..the bread at the supermarket tastes like air. Bread should be hardy..it is the staff of life!
EAT LOCALLY AND IN SEASON
Foods in season are much cheaper and are much healthier for you than foods that have traveled a lot of miles to your table. Look on the Internet for local farmers and ranchers. Eating locally is a win win deal for everyone. I for one want to support those hard working farmer's who strive to bring us healthy food free of pesticides and other stuff that do not belong in our bodies. Take a look at www.foodnews.org for produce shopping guide to see what foods you should buy organic and other that you can get away with non-organic.
Finally use up what you have. Make a list..mental or written and try to plan your meals around that. Don't waste veggie peels and things like the end of onions ..freeze them and when you have enough throw them in a pot with other ingredients and make soup or stocks with them.
Not easy..nope its not. It takes time to eat healthy on a budget. I hope you will give it a try tho...I have a feeling you will enjoy it once you do.
Until next time..stay well.