Food, REAL Food

I get several newsletters (as I’m sure you all do) and usually they contain interesting articles and information I can use. In  the past 2 days I have received two different newsletters that contain food articles. I’m not going to name the newsletters because after doing a little research, they aren’t saying anything really new.

Well, I’m about to say something that is new.  Buy FOOD, real FOOD.

The first article brags that the writer can help you SLASH your food bill. The tips include clipping coupons, and checking community bulletin boards for local festivals, openings, etc., that offer free food.

OK, clipping coupons is OK if you’re getting coupons for (1) food you normally buy, and (2) it’s REAL FOOD, not prepackaged instant processed crap.

Showing up at community festivals just for the free food, which is usually made-from-boxes crap or high fat, high salt recipes because everyone always loves those, is not a good idea nutritionally or morally. Go to the festival in your community because you want to be part of the community.

If you buy lots of prepackaged, processed items saving money on your grocery bill is not that difficult. Stop buying them. I say terrible things about these products because they are terrible products. You save money by not buying them anymore.

WAIT! Before you start typing about how much time these items save you, hear me out. The only prepackaged items I buy are things I can’t make from scratch like: flour, pasta noodles, some bread, grits, some cereals, soymilk, 100% juice (in the winter), soda water and rice. I’m not talking about the occasional treat like a candy bar or popcorn. I’m talking about the stuff I buy regularly.

What I buy is actual food. The snappy current term is “whole food.” I think that’s misleading and I don’t use it. I buy FOOD because crap in boxes is not, for the most part, food. Just because you can eat it doesn’t make it food. Just because it tastes good doesn’t make it food. Ask any small child with crayons in her mouth, happily chewing away.

Eating healthy is so much more expensive! people tell me, clutching their boxes of .25 macaroni, and it takes so much more time to cook from scratch!

 Really? I don’t make much money, but I am fortunate enough to live near people with vegetable gardens and I shamelessly hold out my hands for whatever they can’t fit into their freezers. I trade chores or pay them-I don’t beg. Most of the time they are happy to give their hard-earned harvests to someone who really appreciates it. Look around, ask around, check the community boards for co-op farmers. There are lots of them, and you’re supporting local farmers-not huge corporations that are only interested in making a buck by producing boxes with cheap fillers, chemicals and other crap. These are some good online resources to check out.:

And check out the farmer’s markets. They can give you all the info you need.

I am also vegan, which I know will raise eyebrows and snorts but hear me out, again. Because I don’t buy meat I save even more money. Meat IS expensive. My reason for not buying and eating meat is simple: I won’t support an industry of cruelty. Check out  PETA before you toss my ideas out the window

It takes so long to cook from scratch, you say? Depends on what you’re cooking. Many people will have to get a cookbook -you can find them at the library for free-because they haven’t cooked in a while. But the basics aren’t that difficult or time-consuming. Think about the last time you stopped at your favorite fast food place (ugh) and be honest about how long it took to get there in traffic, how long you stood in line. And think about this: If you have a family, what more loving thing can you do for them than feed them a healthy, nutritious meal? They are your family. Get them involved!

Back to the main issue: food. Say you still want bacon in the morning and steak at night. There are farmers who do it the old way, letting the cows and chickens actually roam naturally and they slaughter as humanely as possible. They cost more, but you can eat without as much guilt. Eat smaller portions. Really. You can make portions that are 25% smaller and save that much on your meat bill. Trimming in lots of places can save a lot your food bill. And think about this-  you’re helping local farmers, your own community, not large corporations whose CEO’s make million dollar bonuses.

You need very little meat to get your daily requirement for protein (about 3 ounces a day, a portion can fit in the palm of your hand) so eating LESS meat saves you money. You will fill your plate with potatoes and veggies instead of a huge portion of meat. I didn’t say this wasn’t going to require any adjustment! Also, you’re going to be taking in less fat so you’ll probably find yourself a little lighter, without going on an official “diet”, (which I’ll address in another article.)

Now that I have given you some suggestions about simply buying real food instead of boxed crap, let’s address the actual cost. I live alone, so I know I don’t have to spend as much as a family of four. But the concept behind how I manage my food budget is the same for everyone.

First, because I’m buying real food, every penny counts. If you’re buying junk that doesn’t contribute to your nutritional needs, the money is wasted. If you are unsure about nutrition, get a book from the library. It’s not that complicated, although a lot of processed food companies want you to think that. Basically, you need to make sure you have a varied diet to ensure you get what you need.

The second newsletter article I mentioned tells you about this great APP that you can use to tell you what is in a food product by scanning the bar code into your phone….for goodness’ sake, just READ the ingredients list! The rest of my article is about food that doesn’t come in a box, unless it’s something I can’t make myself, and I list those things. Those items have a very, very short ingredients list. I love technology, too, but when it comes to food, the closer to the real thing, the better. You don’t need an APP for that.

There also lots of articles and websites about nutrition, including this government site:

Another good one is:

You can teach yourself what you should be eating. One of the best things I ever heard (from a nutritionist) was “The closer you can get to its original state, the healthier it is (with the exception of meat, of course.) Raw veggies are best, if you cook them, steam them.” See? You’re already saving time!

Back to cost. I spent $40 last week on my groceries. That included several bags of dried beans, which will last several months. Fresh vegetables, soymilk, vegetable juice, bread and soda water. I use the soda water with something like apple juice to make myself a healthy soda. It’s good, tastes like punch and even kids like it. You don’t have to tell them how healthy and cheap it is. Just serve it.

I made my dinner-cut up raw veggies (which used a fraction of the fresh veggies) hummus, (which I make myself from beans,) tea and half a toasted pita.

I was completely satisfied and got all my nutritional requirements. I didn’t even start on most of what I bought, but let’s say I had to feed 4 people this meal. Before you start guffawing, I want to tell you about my nieces. They stayed with me some time back and we made up a large platter of veggies, hummus, pita bread and apple-soda. They loved it, told me it was a party platter! We chopped everything together, they had a great time arranging the platter to be especially pretty while we talked about the different veggies. They had no idea broccoli was full of calcium. They were also teenagers. They ate until they were stuffed and we had some left over. No problem, I said, that will go into the next hummus batch. They were so excited that we had to make hummus the next day.

In other words, it may not be as hard as you think to wean your kids off McDonald’s. Food can be a family project.

Anyway, let’s say I used half the veggies for one meal for 4.  I use the rest to make a HUGE pot of vegetable soup that I put into 2 and 4 size serving bags and put in the freezer. Yes, those veggies will make more than one pot, believe me. I also don’t use potatoes in the soup I’m going to freeze because potatoes don’t taste as good after they are frozen. When I go to make the next pot of soup I start by cutting up and cooking a potato or two, then I add the frozen soup to the pot after the potatoes are tender. potatoes aren’t something I have to  buy every week and a 10 pound bag is less than $5.

Recently, I was stuck in my little mountain home for several days without being able to get out and my freezer full of soup was especially delicious.

Back to cost. The veggies cost $25. The first meal of cut-up veggies uses half of them- $12.50. That’s not much for a family of four. OK, say you made only one large pot of soup with the rest. That will make up  eight 2-portion servings (I know this is true because I make up 2-portion servings all the time. I have it for lunch and dinner on the days I thaw it out) that’s the rest of the veggies-$12.50 for 2 meals.  That’s for all 4 people.You’re also serving bread with these meals, and a beverage so everyone is satisfied. Let’s add $2 for bread and beverage to each meal. That’s $14.50. So far, you’re spending less than going to a fast food restaurant. And it’s FOOD.

OK, I think you get the idea. Now, about all that time you have to spend making food for your family. Hhmm, that doesn’t actually sound so awful, does it? Food for the family? What better way to let them know how important they are? Also, remember my little side about my nieces and our veggie meal? They worked with me to make that meal. Stop making yourself crazy thinking you have to do everything by yourself. Let this be a family activity. Your children, and your husband, can be involved. Along with saving money, you’re helping your family become acquainted with values that will stand the test of time.

I had a friend who, after several years back out on his own, told me “What I miss the most are the times we all made dinner. We all worked in the kitchen, talking about school, work,  and we didn’t care about time. We weren’t trying to get it finished so we wouldn’t miss our shows or whatever. The kids set the table, poured the tea, my wife and I  stirred the pots, cut up vegetables (until the kids were old enough to be trusted with the knives!) and, oh, we just taught them by working with them. Now, they do the same things with their kids and feel sorry for newlyweds who don’t know how to feed themselves! It was such a good time, such a close time every day.”  How can you put a figure on that?

Now, about time. While the soup is cooking, you can do something else! Spring for a $5 kitchen timer if you’re worried about boil-overs or burning.  It’s a good investment. Time is another article altogether and as my friend said, “We were all in there together. Sure, we could have done it faster without the kids, but that wasn’t the point.”

My point is this: feed yourself real food. You’ll save money, you’ll be healthier, your children will be learning real life lessons…and you’ll get to feel really, really noble.

2 responses to “Food, REAL Food

  1. Katie, this article you have written should be published nationally!
    Kudos, here for a marvelous, EXCELLENT article.

    I applaud you for being a Vegan. It’s very rough to do so in this culture, as I found out. I’m still trying, but with diabetes there are so many mixed messages out there about carbs, protein, fat, insulin, etc…it’s quite disturbing.

    But any one who knows what is in these over processed boxes that are ‘cheap’ on the shelves, will know that what you ‘save’ on this junk is paid out on the other end: the health care that is necessary because of the diabetes, heart disease, nutritional issues, weakened bones and bodies, shortened lives.

    Now you can’t watch a TV program during the day without a diabetes commercial coming on pushing ‘new’ drugs (that frankly reduce Blood Sugar levels fractions of a percentage) and pushing insulin upon a nation that would rather flop on a couch than take a walk.

    We wonder why we are the fattest nation in the world? It’s because of our dietary habits, and our lack of exercise.

    People spring for lap band, gastric surgery because they have become lard asses and they are sick. However, if you get a real history of their eating habits, you see why they are lard asses. One woman told me she had a plate of cold bacon in her refrigerator all the time and this is what she snacked on! She had gastric bypass and lost weight, but I bet her life will never be balanced.

    Those of us who develop Type II diabetes have to take some fault and charge for our lives and what we did in the past. We are faced with a radical rupture now and IF we don’t do it,….we will suffer and die earlier deaths than we should.

    The rampant usage of High Fructose Corn Syrup in EVERYTHING!! (even plain yoghurt) the amount of chemicals and hormones in everything, and the high price of organic produce in stores makes a confusing and anxious shopping experience.

    And this issue that just about everything we eat turns to sugar in our systems and makes insulin pump out and exhausts the pancreas, well, we have to doctor ourselves and READ LABELS! We have to change our approach to food completely, as you were writing about.

    Fresh food goes a much longer way during the week IF we know how to use it completely. We throw away the stalks of broccoli, but chop that up, freeze them, and you have a great sauteing or soup base. Steel cut oatmeal is a bother to cook in the morning, but put it in a crockpot at night with lots of water and voila in the morning you have one of the best sources of breakfast anyone (including most diabetics) could have. These packets of overly sugared and flavored rolled oats are just junk food.

    Even with Low Carb diets people go crazy with the meat of every kind. It’s an issue that drives me crazy! Meat also equals fat and that in the blood stream ain’t that good. Some fat, sure, but we get way too much fat in our diets. And refined carbs.

    I applaud your article. This morning I reluctantly go to my sweet doctor to try to avoid him giving me more and more drugs, meds to ‘combat’ diabetes. This time he can holler all he wants about bs. I’m trying to control that by diet and exercise, and each body responds to a diet differently. It takes time, but I refuse to make the drug companies richer off my back.

    We have lost the knowledge of nutrition in this culture. We have bought into ‘convenience’ and a rotten diet for ourselves and our children. We need to step back and see what has happened to our citizens, and our health.

    Lady Nyo (Jane)

  2. Thank you, Jane. I am looking for a place to submit this. I’m plannig to do an actual blow-by-blow soon. You know, list the items I buy and exactly how I prepare the food each evening…I know people won’t believe that making food with REAL FOOD is cheaper as well as healthier. And I still say that you can’t compare the cost of actual food to somehting in a box that consists of sugar, salt, and chemicals.

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