I am finally home. For good. On Monday, we arrived home after 6 days in New York, and I’m so happy to say that it was our last plane ride for a long time. Actually, I’m not sure when our next will be, but we don’t have any plans, which is really great. I’m so tired of being away from home. I feel like I can finally relax as I wait for Forrest to come. I realized the other day…realistically, he could come in 6-10 weeks! Jack was born 9 days early, and although that’s not a definite indication that Forrest will arrive early too, it helps me to know that I need to be prepared for that possibility. I’m so excited to meet him. 🙂
Now that I’ve written a post titled “Foodish” and have thus far mentioned nothing about food, I figure I may as well get to it!
As my readers know, I’ve been seriously battling with food, meals, and budgeting as of late. A few weeks ago, I talked about my new meal plan and how I’d configured a master shopping list. Technically, it was working. Except…I felt…suffocated. If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m a little fickle and sometimes I make perfectly good plans that I suddenly decide to drop out of nowhere! That’s me. I try not to be that way with issues of importance, but considering I’ve only been a wife for almost 3 years, and a mother for 20 months, I feel like I should have the freedom to still be working through the food issue. 🙂
Of course, food is of extreme importance. Our sustenance, our health, and a large part of our fellowship are all centered around food and how we choose to eat. I guess I am reluctant to settle with something I don’t feel 100% comfortable with, especially when it is such a large part of our life.
More than anything, I struggle with the idea of quality. Although we do not have oodles of money at this point, I don’t believe that we should sacrifice quality for quantity. I’m not saying that I need to have all the ingredients for elaborate gourmet recipes every day, but I am saying that I’d rather eat healthfully than have huge amounts of food in my house all the time.
There are those that do not put much stock in the natural, organic movement because it appears to be just another fad. Personally, I have researched this subject so thoroughly that I cannot convince myself to ignore the findings. Reasons for eating organic produce, grains, and meat (especially grass-finished beef and free-range chicken and eggs) are very compelling, to say the least. And no, I’m not talking about eating organic food from large food corporations. Just because chocolate syrup is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy! I’m talking about eating whole, fresh organic foods, primarily from local farmers. No processed foods with any additives. No preservatives. No refined anything. That’s what I’m talking about.
The problem with the food industry is manifold. Scientists have taken over and, to borrow a phrase from Michael Pollan, they believe that a foods are simply the sum of their nutrient parts (“So, if we take the antioxidants from this blueberry and infuse them into this energy drink, it will be healthy, and the antioxidants will behave the way they do within that blueberry!” NOT!). Eating has become more about health than about the entire experience – nourishing our bodies, enjoying the tastes, and fellowship with others. Our Western society is so overly concerned with health, and yet we are so unhealthy as a whole. Our country suffers so severely with things like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc, and a lot of it has to do with one simple thing: what we eat. Isn’t it amazing that we know this, and yet fail to make any change?
I am not reprimanding anyone who simply cannot afford to eat all organic food. It has nothing to do with status, in case you were wondering. Simply put, it’s a lifestyle change and doesn’t, ultimately, depend solely on money. What about changing the kinds of things that we buy? If we cut out all of the processed, packaged, refined foods, and replaced them with whole, fresh, healthy foods, would we really be spending that much more?
Let me tell you what I feel led to do. I’ve come to realize that I drop the most cash on convenience foods – bread, canned veggies, pre-cut produce, packaged snack foods, and individually-sized containers of things like yogurt (I think I mentioned this in that earlier post about my meal plan idea). To remedy this, I realized that the smartest thing I can do is make everything from scratch as often as possible. I’m now making my own bread (including cinnamon raisin bread) with all bulk ingredients, as well as using dried beans in place of canned beans, cutting up my own produce, eliminating packaged snack foods from my diet (I made some yummy hummus from scratch the other day – the perfect dip for fresh carrots, broccoli, celery, and any other veggies!), and buying large containers of plain yogurt, which I can “dress up” myself (sliced strawberries with a drizzle of agave nectar!). This all makes a huge difference in my budget.
In addition to the above mentioned ideas, I’ve decided to buy only local produce. Of course, there may be situations in which I have no choice but to buy something from the chain grocery down the street, but as often as possible, I plan to purchase my produce from the farmer’s market or a CSA (which we have plans to join in a couple of weeks!! YAY!). Buying locally is especially great because not only does it help to stimulate the local economy and support smaller, local farms, but it also provides us with more immunities to the local allergies (no kidding!).
As far as meat is concerned, we’re just going to have to cut back. I have looked into the way conventional meat is raised, and the health content in comparison to organic, grass-finished/free-range meat, and we just don’t feel comfortable eating conventional meat any longer. Our well-being is far too important, and eating less meat is not such a tragedy. I’ve found great, inexpensive free-range eggs at the farmer’s market and I’ve also been looking into a grass-finished beef CSA that seems pretty reasonable.
This means we will not be buying packaged cereal, granola bars, protein bars, fruit leathers, soda, juice from concentrate, crackers, pre-made frozen meals, macaroni and cheese, canned soups, cookies, and muffins, to name a few. We’ll be altering recipes to hopefully eliminate consumption of white refined flour and sugar, and within the next few months, I hope to buy my own wheat grinder.
Breakfasts will typically include a few of the following: farm fresh eggs, fresh fruit, steel cut oats (with milk, honey, and cinnamon), occasional bacon, homemade bread or muffins, plain yogurt with fruit and honey/agave nectar, and homemade waffles or pancakes with real maple syrup.
Lunches will typically consist of a few of the following: salads comprised of whatever fresh veggies we have on hand along with homemade dressing (a simple vinaigrette includes olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper), fresh veggies with homemade hummus, sandwiches on homemade bread, and often, leftovers from previous dinners.
Dinners will typically consist of things like: homemade marinara with pasta and veggies, soups, chicken breasts, sauteed kale, grilled/roasted asparagus or brussel sprouts, sauteed green beans, three-grain rice, lentils, and pot roast, among other things.
For example, last night we had a delicious pot roast, roasted asparagus, and a few slices of homemade whole wheat bread. Needless to say, nobody was complaining about a lack of “good food!”
It may seem extreme – sometimes, it does feel that way – but as Ryan and I have researched and talked this through, we keep coming back to the same thing. Our health and our children’s health is all far too important. We cannot pretend that we aren’t aware of the dangers of unhealthy eating. We can’t ignore the fact that our country is so painfully ignorant of portion-control, and we can’t turn our heads to the process of engineering genetically modified, nutrient-stripped produce and meats.
We are responsible for taking care of our bodies. We’re responsible for taking care of the world God gave us to inhabit, too. For us, this alteration of our diet is simply the first of many steps toward that calling.
As always, I’d love to hear from you about your quest toward healthy eating on a budget!