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Food and money

This makes absolutely no sense. I’m strictly budgeting my money by buying everything with cash. I’m cooking more, so I’m buying the groceries for the household now. We have fresh produce, most of it organic. Somehow, we are saving a lot of money and eating a lot better at the same time. It doesn’t make any sense but I’m grateful.

I’ve always been told that it was cheaper to buy prepackaged and conventional, but healthier to eat fresh and organic. I decided to start small and build up. It started with a box of organic oatmeal. Then I got some organic apples. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Every little bit counts in health. But then I started buying organic as much as possible. I didn’t see that much difference in price. Somehow I was able to justify it even while living on a strict budget. Perhaps I eat less food. Perhaps I’m just more mindful about what I eat. I don’t know, but it seems to be balancing out. Better food and saving money – win/win.

I think part of it is that we aren’t eating out nearly as often. We have fresh food that needs to be eaten. If we don’t eat it, it goes to waste. If you are saving money, wasting food is tops on the list of dumb things to do. Somehow I’ve realized that it is just as fast to cook our own food at home rather than go out and wait for food at a restaurant. And I’ve realized that when I cook, I know what went into the food. I know the amount of butter and salt. I know if the vegetables are organic. I know that all the ingredients are the best they can be.

I’m not cooking gourmet meals, but they are tasty. I’m not following recipes really. I’m following general guidelines. I think all the time I spent watching cooking shows has helped me to understand the general idea of cooking.

I’m coming to realize that I’m grateful that I didn’t learn how to cook from my Mom. I remember one year writing in my diary that all I wanted for my birthday was food that wasn’t brown. Everything was cooked to within an inch of its life. Everything was mushy and dull. Nothing was colorful and crisp. She was from England, and her Mom had cooked all the meals to suit a man who had ulcers. Everything was thick gravies and no fresh vegetables. She even had a special rectangular steamer pot for the frozen vegetables that came in a block. The only time she cooked from scratch was when guests came over, and that wasn’t very often.

Now, I know that some of this was because of the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. She had to make do with what she had. I also know that some of it comes from the time period. I remember reading a recipe from that era that said for green beans almandine, you should boil the green beans for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. By that time they’d be limp and grey and all the goodness would have been cooked right out of them. That was normal for our house. That was normal for a lot of people.

I remember when Mom got sick with cancer and I started cooking. I went to the grocery store and got fresh, colorful veggies for a stir fry. I remember her looking at what I was cooking in amazement. I cooked it all for just a few minutes. She looked at it and asked “Don’t you want to cook that a little longer?” I told her that no, that we could eat the vegetables raw. We were just cooking them for fun. She was unbelieving, but tried anyway. After that meal she was sold on the idea and bought me an electric wok to use to make her more.

I remember seeing a documentary about a family that said they could only afford to eat from the McDonald’s value meal. They spent so much money on diabetes and cholesterol and blood pressure medicine that they couldn’t afford to eat real food. This, sadly, is the norm for America. If we eat better, we don’t get sick. Prevention rather than cure, you know. Food has to be seen as the ultimate medicine.

It is easy to cook and eat right, and it is cheap. I didn’t believe it, but I’m doing it. If I can do it, anybody can. They just have to get started. Little steps at first. Part of it is knowing that you can. Part of it is knowing that the desire to do it is the seed. Nurture that seed and you are on your way.

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