Organic on a budget II: The Wallet Strikes Back

My last post was well-received and sparked plenty of conversation, so a sequel is in order. Hey, sequels (and even prequels) are "in," right? I still need to go see "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1." Speaking of hunger, let's cut to the chase and add to the list of ways to eat like a king on a pauper's salary. 1. The real "Breakfast of Champions" does not come in a box. Cereal is more expensive than meat, pound per pound! The design of cereal boxes---tall and skinny---makes them appear bigger at first glance, giving the customer the impression that they are getting more food than they actually are. In addition, the boxes are covered with claims of "fortified,""healthy," or "natural."

sugar cerealFor real natural and healthy foods, choose eggs or oatmeal instead. You will save money and get more bang for your buck. Real food is more economical and MUCH more nourishing! Eggs are a wonder food---no fortifying necessary! They are a great source of protein, omega-3s, and all B vitamins. (B vitamins are mood-boosters and B12, in particular, is known for improving memory!) To make oatmeal, you can buy organic rolled oats in bulk at most Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or MOMs. If your kids are addicted to super sweet breakfast foods (my son was always a big pop-tart fan), add honey, cream, or fruit to the oatmeal to help ease their transition to real food. (Oh and, by the way, it's best to soak your oats overnight for optimal digestion and benefit. It's not hard. Check out this link for how to's.)

2. There's no place like home. People often complain that organic or real food is too expensive but they overlook the fact that eating out is costing them an arm and a leg. Skip the fast food or pizza delivery now and then. Even cutting your daily latte ($3 over the course of one photomonth = $90) will save you enough to pay for several yummy home-cooked meals. Preparing food at home takes more time, but you'll more than make up for that with better tasting dishes and quality-control---you will know exactly what is going into your food. More importantly, you are passing on a way of living to your children. They will learn to appreciate home-cooking (the process and the end result) at your side. They are less likely to do it if they don't see you doing it. ("More is caught than taught," as they say.) NY Times columnist and author Mark Bittman was discussing this very subject on last Wednesday's broadcast of the Kojo Nnamdi show. Take a listen! He emphasized the benefits of reacquainting ourselves with the lost art of cooking.


3. Simplify. "Isn't there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?" Charlie Brown's cry in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is a call to swap the commercial trappings of Christmas for the heart of the holiday. It's a reminder to eschew the hoopla and focus on the Christ Child. None of us needs one more thing for our home or closet. Too often our possessions possess us, rather than the other way around. We've got more than enough "stuff," really; what we truly need is to pare down, to simplify, to de-clutter. In that vein, let's look for ways to nourish our spirits this Christmas. Let's splurge on alternative gifts that make a more lasting impact---food for the homeless in our metro area, clean water for Kenyans, or encouragement for inner city youth. In the same way, food for our families is a long-term investment with a powerful impact on our well-being and health. Toys will be played with and cast aside. Clothes will become dingy and go out of style. Cloyingly sweet treats will cause stomach-aches and headaches. When possible, make the choice to forgo the material, the processed and the pricey. You and your family will find joy in the real deal.Funny-Chickens-3

4. Buy the whole bird, not just parts.  I have to admit, I'm intimidated by the act of preparing a whole chicken. Ha, ha! I'm chicken about cooking a chicken. Guess my goose is cooked. Seriously, I think it's because my family never modeled how to do this. (See number 2, the lost art of cooking.) I take comfort in the fact that I'm not the only one who is nervous about attempting something new. (I'm not the only one, right? Anyone? Bueller?) I am working toward this, though. It is clearly more economical to prepare one chicken and use its meat for 3-4 meals, than it is to prepare chicken breasts that suffice for only one meal.

5. Resources. Let's learn from those who have prepared a whole chicken, soaked oats, and who are experts at cutting a food budget or making healthy food choices. Here are a few of my favorite blogs and sites that consistently post delicious, nutritious recipes and practical tips that help me serve my family the most nourishing food possible: The Nourished Kitchen, Food Renegade, and 100 days of real food. I also recommend the Weston Price Foundation, a group founded on the principle of eating whole, real foods for optimal health. All of these sites have good things to offer. This fall, I made for the first time a delectable kuri squash soup and a sweet gluten-free coconut lemon cake---something I may never have attempted had it not been for online support.

I consider some of these steps my own personal prequel, "Cooking Real Food: Back to Basics, Part 1." Join in the "project" by contributing your own ideas and resources below!