Monday, November 29, 2010

~ 6 Ideas for Eating Wholesome Foods Without Breaking the Bank ~

This post was originally written for CodeName:Mama

1. Consider vegetarian recipes: Check out some vegetarian cookbooks from the library and find a few recipes to try. The reason I suggest this is because vegetarian recipes are designed for the main ingredients to be veggies, grains, and beans – not meat. You can add meat to a vegetarian dish but often cannot simply take the meat out of a standard recipe without feeling like there is something missing from the dish. Some of my favorites are The One Dish Vegetarian, For the Love of Food, and Laurel’s Kitchen. I often make a vegetarian dish and only have to add 1/3 to 1/2 of the meat that a traditional meat-filled dish would require. I bought a pound of free range ground beef at the co-op for $5.26 last week. I made two dishes with that one pound: wildrice patties and a veggie beef stroganoff. There was enough stroganoff for leftovers, but the wildrice burgers were gone in a flash(my hubby did get the extra one for his dinner at work). That means I spent $2.63 per meal for meat to feed six people. Both meals would have been just fine without meat. If I buy the meat directly from the farmer, I would get a cheaper price and he would give 10% to the co-op.

 2. Go local: I would think that in this day and age every major city would have a farmers market. These are wonderful places to get fresh veggies and fruits at great prices. Ask the farmers what if any chemicals they use on their food. Buy in season. When the greens beans look great, buy enough to blanch and put in the freezer and do the same with any other in season produce. Ask about meat specials for grass-fed beef and whole free range chickens, many times if you don’t want a whole or even half a cow you can be paired up with someone who would also like a smaller quantity of meat. If you don’t have access to a large farmers market, get online or ask around for farmers who sell wholesale. You might have to drive a couple of hours, but isn’t safe grass fed beef or free range chicken worth the investment of time and miles? If you have a family that loves milk, the price of switching to organic milk can feel like having a major heart attack. Organic milk here is $5.99/gallon, but we buy raw milk right from the farmer for $2/gallon. Raw milk is much better for you and perfectly safe when it comes from small farms who are active in the milking process. Pasteurization kills not only the germs in milk (which are present in quantities much higher at large scale farms) but also all the other living, nutrient-rich vitamins, minerals and enzymes in the milk. Raw goat milk can be very beneficial for people who can not tolerate the large proteins of cows milk. Farmers who have free range chickens for sale will most likely also have free range eggs. Be warned: it is really hard to go back to store bought eggs when you have had the real deal.

 3. Grow some of your own: It is really simple to grow a lettuce bowl on your patio; you can even bring them in when the weather gets cold. Set them in a sunny window. You may have to turn on a light for them in the gray days of winter, but you will have fresh lettuce all year long. Hydroponics is another great way to grow veggies indoors. Research which plants will grow well in containers or check out square foot gardening. Both methods can be done in smaller spaces and require less work than a traditional garden.

 4. Co-ops and buying clubs: Co-ops can seem intimidating, but most co-ops have someone that will give you a tour and show you the ropes. People tend to get overwhelmed when they get to the bulk bins, but those will be your biggest money saver. Bringing your own containers cuts down on the cost of the product and reduces packaging waste. Be careful with buying clubs, sometimes the urge to help someone else buy a full case can dig a little deeper into your pocket than you expect. Stock up on bulk bin items slowly. Get small quantities at first to make sure you like the flavor and texture and then go back and get a larger amount to stock your pantry.

 5. Skip the boxed food: Prepackaged food will always cost more and have less nutritional value because it is preserved so that it can sit on the shelf. This is were it can also get tricky, because preparing your own food can be time-consuming (but it doesn’t have to be). I can make a batch of macaroni and cheese in the same time it takes most people to make a box of mac and cheese. I have had lots of practice, but my main weapon against time is double and triple batches. If I am going to take the time and make the mess, I might as well make a double or triple batch and put some in the freezer for a future meal. When it comes to dried beans, a crock pot or pressure cooker is going to be your best friend. There is nothing better than homemade bread but is time consuming. Get an extra bread maker by asking friends/family if they have an unwanted one, looking at garage sales, or perusing craigslist or freecycle. A bread maker is a great no-fuss way to get bread full of nutrients and void of all kinds of junk.

 6. Take baby steps: Don’t try to change your entire diet at once. Some of the higher priced organic items we do without. If we can find sustainably harvested fruit we buy that instead of organic. Farmers must pay for organic certification, and there are quite a few farmers that produce organically but cannot afford to pay for the organic label. We are not always able to buy organic cheese, it’s expensive. We don’t buy organic nuts, they are really expensive. We do not buy juice, even 100% juice is a container of sugar. When you eat raw fruit, you are balancing out the sugar with fiber, live enzymes, and intact vitamins and minerals, not the synthetic vitamin C added back in after processing. In our family, we do the best we can with what we have. We do not pay for TV or have expensive cell phones, we drive cars that are paid for, and we do not have credit card debt. It has not always been that way – it was a long hard road, but we did it. We are choosing to live simpler. We are happier. And, we eat really, really good food.

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