Saturday, July 9, 2011

Our Family's Quest to Eat Local, Healthy, and Cheap

Food has always been a love of mine. Growing up, I enjoyed helping my parents cook and then during my teenage years I started exploring my own cooking abilities. I started making many dinners for our family, baking cheesecakes from scratch and sending them into my dad's work, and baking fresh bread, sans bread machine (and STILL don't have one, thank you very much. The world's best therapy is kneading bread by hand).

Despite that love, food has also been my enemy. Like many people, food is my comfort and support when things are bad-- or my celebration when things are good. Even though I pretty much stopped eating fast food in middle school in an effort to lose weight, I'm definitely like a good number of Americans who take pounds off then pack them back on. Over my adult years, I have developed some healthier habits, such as regular exercise, drinking mostly water throughout the day, and eating more fruit. Generally, I do not stuff myself when I'm stressed out, although I will more than likely reach for a brownie rather than a banana if I've had a bad day.

Beyond just trying to eat healthier, I'm fascinated with foods in different cultures and especially interested in the demise of food in our society. Things like genetically modified food, government regulations, and where the produce and meat that fill our plates really come from, and why we put up with such crap, are topics that I devour. I can't wait to read Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook. After I read Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, I talked about it during my entire annual week long vacation with my mom. I've watched Food, Inc. at least twice and just requested it from our public library again.

You would think with all this knowledge in hand, I would eat nothing but locally and organically grown foods. It's true that I always aspire to after reading a new book or watching another documentary. However, much like recycling (no, I don't recycle, I'm going straight to hell), it sounds like a great idea but I never follow through. It seems so time consuming and expensive, and being the perfectionist that I am, if I can't do it 100%, I'm unlikely to do it at all.

This summer has brought on a lot of new inspiration for me. As Amelia has been starting on solid foods, I've been very particular about what she eats. Which has made me wonder... why aren't I the same about what I put in my body? And further more, how much longer can I get away with eating a cookie in front of her while insisting that she eat her homemade pureed plums? From the way she stares me down while I eat a popsicle, I can tell you that the answer is not much longer.

Add to this unemployment, which has resulted in us not having much money for groceries or entertainment, and you have the perfect storm to do a complete overhaul on how we eat. Here's my new battle plan:
  • A further reduction on my eating of junk. Amelia can eat yogurt (gag!), cottage cheese, fruits, and veggies, so unless I sneak a cookie in the kitchen, that's what I've mostly reduced my snacks to.
  • No more running to the store for whatever sounds good for the evening. I'm planning our meals ahead of time using mostly ingredients that we already have on hand and adding the few that we need to the shopping list. Last week this cut our food cost almost 50%!
  • Shopping at local farmer's markets. We have two close by, which provides a fun time out for Amelia and I, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. I buy whatever looks good and build many of my weeknight menus based on those ingredients.
  • We also have two butchers that sell locally raised meat, so we will be filling our freezer with what I purchase from those shops. I especially like Tank's in Elmore, OH. Their meat is comparably priced to any local grocer's and tastes WAY better.

Here is what I bought at this week's farmer's market:

And here is what I had for dinner the night I bought these veggies. The baklava was from a baker across the street and some of the veggies on the salad I had bought the week before at a different market.

Stay tuned for updates on how our new eating plan is working out :)

1 comment:

JAC1961 said...

Wow, great looking meal! Sorry we passed along our Midwestern reliance on food to you. Hope that you always stick with your healthier habits and pass them on to Emmy.