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 sick.to.death. 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".