Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I'm kind of a snob.

I am.

I believe in eating from scratch. I believe in buying local. Organic when necessary (and it's not always).

I've mentioned before that this has been a long, evolving road for me. A journey that began just about 7 years ago.

We don't always eat healthy. Our meals are not always the perfect picture of nutrition. When I make bread, it's white flour bread. We have homemade pizza nights often. It's not unusual to have chips in our pantry.

I try to follow a 90/10 rule at home. If you eat well 90% of the time, I won't worry about the other 10%. Especially when I have a semi-resistant husband and two children who have all sorts of outside influences on their diets and 'wants'. You drink water and milk at home, and I won't start twitching when you grab a soda at Nana's house. It's a treat. You eat vegetables with lunch and dinner and I won't hyperventilate over your cereal in the morning (which is mostly limited to bran and oat cereals anyway, but they're still nutritional jokes).

I've been re-evaluating my own diet. Too many processed carbs. Too much sugar.

I'll be the first to admit that at home, scratch cooking isn't always healthy. But I will always maintain that it's way, way better than what you'll buy in the store, processed.

Anyway. I get annoyed, borderline angry  even, when I read articles or hear people say that healthy eating cost too much. That buying fresh foods is not affordable or realistic. I have to laugh at some of the meal plans people put together when they are doing foodstamp experiments and trying to eat healthy. Part of what bothers me - is then that notion gets passed down and around and it's just taken as fact that it's just not possible for people on small budgets. That healthy eating is for the rich.

Look. I know it takes practice. It's taken me 7 years to get where I am, and I'm still learning. I know it takes dedication. But I am of people saying it can't be done. Yes, it can.

We survive, every month, on a below poverty level - foodstamp level type budget. Our budget varies between about 250-400 a month for a family of 4 (with a 6'4 husband and 2 growing young boys). And following my 90/10 rule, I'd say 90% of what we buy is local and/or organic and non-processed.

Now, I understand that I'm pretty lucky. We have several great grocery stores. Before we moved they were within 10 minutes of each other and my home, now it's about a 20-30 minute one way drive (and yes, I'm fortunate to have a car to drive there). I also realize I am very lucky to have a fantastic year round farmers market, with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, local/organic/grass-fed meats and dairy. I realize how fortunate I am, and that in some areas buying healthy is more expensive and harder to obtain.

But I still believe it can be done. And I'll tell you all about it until you want to hit me. I can get preachy. But it's because I'm so damn passionate about it. I don't mean to preach, I mean to be helpful and encouraging. No one, ever should have to settle for sub-standard food. No matter what their income level is.

Now, if you're just not interested in changing - you just don't care about these things - then that's fine. What pisses  me off, is when people laugh at the notion of  living this kind of lifestyle (as unreasonable). Or insist it can't be done. Or when they say they can't. Because they can.

And here's where I become a snob:

"I don't have time". Make time. That's an excuse and a poor one at that. I work 10-12 hour days. I'm not even home for dinner 4 nights a week. Yet almost every single night, I have a home-cooked meal on the table for my family. Get a slow-cooker. Make ahead. Use your freezer properly. If you have time to use the computer, watch tv, take your kids to 5 different sports/classes - you have time to cook from scratch. You just don't want to. Because you aren't willing to give up something else to make the time for it.

"It's too expensive" If you're buying organic junk food, maybe. How much is a bag of potato chips? 2.50? How much is a bag of potatoes? I can get them on sale (non-organic) for 1.99 for 5 lbs. Organic might cost 4.99 for 5 lbs. I wonder how many chips you can make from 5 lbs of potatoes? Probably a lot more than what you buy off the shelf.  Shannon Hayes (who I'll be posting on later this week) addresses the expense argument in her new book "The Farmer and the Grill". I may pay slightly more for the meat I buy at the farmers market, but I know that my food dollars are being used wisely. They are supporting local economy. They are refusing to buy from factory farms and big corporations, they say "I don't support these practices". The meats I buy are healthier. They are naturally leaner and contain more vitamins than conventional meat. Yeah, I think they are worth the extra cost. My family is worth the extra couple of dollars. If you find it to be too much - adjust your diet. Eat less meat. Simple.

So, yeah. I'm a snob. I can't stand the excuses people make to defend their unwillingness to invest in their health and their families health and well-being.

If you don't have a good grocery store near by, start petitioning for one. Get your neighborhood involved, make it known you want and need a store in your area.  Don't have a local farmers market? Are you sure? Check out Local Harvest to see what's available in your area. Even check Craigslist. Still no luck? Start a community garden. Or if you have even the tiniest backyard or balcony, start your own garden.

Start small. You don't need to overhaul your diet and your habits overnight. Start by buying off the dirty dozen. Start by buying one product local/organic. I started with ground beef only, since it was so cheap. Now 95% of the meat I buy is from a local farmer. What about local/organic eggs? An extra dollar a week.

Not used to cooking from scratch? Again, start small. Make meatballs. Make extra and put some in your freezer. You don't need to start off making cheese your first week cooking from scratch (or hell - ever!).

Don't have time? Look into Once-a-Month cooking, or big batch cooking. I've never had a lot of luck with this, but it works for a lot of people. You spend one day making and freezing your meals for a month (or week, or 2 weeks). Or, when you do cook - just make extra and throw it in your freezer for the nights the kids have sports and your home late from work. You don't have to rely on take-out, just your own freezer or fridge.

There are so many ways, so many resources, so much information out there. I simply can't stand hearing "I can't", "I don't have time", "It's too expensive". What I'm really hearing is: "I won't".

“Those who say it can't be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.”

                                                                                                  ~James Arthur Baldwin


This Little Family said...

I would *like* this if I Could. lol :)

Sheella said...

ugh! This is one of my biggest pet peeves. I have to take a a 45 minutes Subway ride to the nearest Farmers market. We have are lucky enough to have a TJs nearby but its still a 35 minute bus ride in the opposite direction. And it took us a long time to start doing the bus ride thing because it did sound a bit overwhelming to hop on bus with four million other people and 10 bags of groceries, but it has been the best decision we have ever made. I really wish would have done it sooner.

gardenofsimple said...

Now that's dedication! Do you go every week or do you stretch your items over a couple of weeks?

Do you have any space for a container garden to help out?

kiki said...

Did I feel guilty reading this while I ate a plain bagle with cream-cheese at my desk? Yes. Yes, I did.

Find an agent. Write a book. I'm completely serious. Make it part "how to" and part cook-book. The working Mom's local Food Cook Book on a Budget. Something like that.

Then get your own show.

gardenofsimple said...

haha kiki! I think I've (officially) decided to go back to school (once Kevin is working) to get a nutrition degree. I read about nutrition and food for fun. What I would LOVE to do is eventually work with the salvation army (or a similar place) to teach young single moms (or anyone I guess!) how to budget, how to prepare simple nourishing foods etc . . . I don't know if anywhere offers anything like that, or if their budget would allow for it (probably not) but hell, I'd volunteer to do it.

I know I get on a high horse about this stuff. I find it hard to balance my increasingly opinionated views with a compassionate tone. Not because I'm NOT compassionate - I am. I fully realize how blessed I am to have access to fresh food - and to have the tools and the means and the ability to LEARN how to use it/cook it/shop for it. But I have just lost all patience with excuses.

And I don't judge people who don't (cook this way). I really don't (ok, maybe. If your idea of healthy is Arbys 3 times a day, but you got the salad for dinner or something) but, I really do understand that it takes time and effort and dedication. I know. I've been there!

kiki said...

That would be a great thing to do - major in nutrition and volunteer and/or work with people on how to eat healthy on a budget.

But I'm telling you - I won't make it out to up-state NY for your course at the Salvation Army - but I'd buy your book or watch your show on the drop of a dime!!!

I really admire you and your dedication to healthy/natural/low-impact eating and living. Very, very much. From the bottom of my heart. You inspire me.

I guess it's jut the entrepreneur in me, but I feel like you've done all the research and foot-work here for information millions of people would love to have but are never going to go out and get on their own and I think you should help them out with that and capitalize on it at the same time.

Or does this go against the very core of your lifestyle? It's okay to judge me if it does ;) I still admire you.

gardenofsimple said...

Kiki, I wish I could! I read all these books on the subject and the whole time I'm nodding in agreement. Books that people think are amazing (and are amazing)leave me feeling unsatisfied - like, ok - I already knew all that! :)

gardenofsimple said...

Oh, and thank you so much for the compliments!

Valkyrie said...

I love you, Crystal. We are so on the same page here. I have the same attitude and feelings. It is so important to me to cook for my family. Nothing here comes out of a box except the occasional macaroni and cheese night--the 10%.

I kind of do judge people who eat from boxes and cans. But I have a bad attitude. I consider myself a very lazy person, so if even *I*, a lazy person, can manage to work 40+ hours a week, commute for over ten hours a week, go to school, AND still manage to cook for my family every night--I think anyone should be able to do the same.

And it's total horseshit that cooking healthy is too expensive. No it's not. I think only people who never actually hit the produce department at the grocery store think that.

Valkyrie said...

Oh, and I just hate that I can't take you to Berkeley Bowl. You would think you had died and gone to heaven. It is wall to wall organic produce. They have fruits and vegetables there you've never even *heard* of. And they have an olive bar and fresh baked bread. It is heaven.

Sheella said...

I do go every week. We have two shopping days per week.

and we ended up being huge snobs too. If we can make it work, despite not having a car, and a really small budget. Anyone can.