*I wrote up this little blog for another site. It's elementary for foodies like we have here on CK but I was thinking that the general public does not always think about these things.
Smile next time in the checkout line
This one is more like my food editor stuff, more amusing than funny, I think.
We all have main themes we gravitate toward in our lives. For some it's family, for some it's religion or the quest for World peace...One of the strongest themes of my life is food. And by that I don't just mean just what delicious thing I can forage for next. Well, that too...but I also mean what I can cook or bake for other people, how I can contribute to food banks and research the issue of hunger in the US, and I'm always stretching my culinary skills by taking cooking classes and creating new recipes and menus. Besides, I'm a Southern Jewish woman. I was basically bred to cook and eat.
This blog entry covers the basics of food shopping when you are on a budget. It's not the cheapest food plan you can find because I also emphasize fresh produce and variety. But I think I have some good tips for a balanced diet that won't break the bank.
The first and most important tip is to shy away from super processed and packaged convenience foods. Frozen dinners, Lunchables, and individually packaged snacks. Empty calorie snack foods. Fad foods like the new shapes and sizes like all the dipable crap as in Oreo sticks and mini this or that...Same thing but higher price per ounce. Even most fruit rollups are primarily sugar and food coloring. No one needs that. Forget about sugar free and fat free. The most obese people I know have both in their pantries all the time. They cost more and make you actually gain weight. And well, ingesting phenylketonurics or wood resin can't be good.
OK. So what CAN you eat, now that we just removed about 80% of the contents of your cart?
For value and nutrition, one of the best additions you can make to your diet is whole grains. And I don't mean Blueberry Kashi Waffles or Quaker's instant Strawberries and Crème oatmeal *Artificially Flavored. I mean brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat...Hearty things that could put out your eye if pelted toward you before cooking. Not wimpy buns and bread and stuff you have to add to the top of your cart so apples and cans won't squish it. Start eating one or two servings of whole grains a day and you will feel great. One of my favorite breakfasts is cooked brown rice with fresh or thawed frozen berries and almond milk, eaten like a cereal. Takes 30 seconds to assemble in a bowl and one minute to nuke in the morning. This sticks with me and gives great energy and no sugar lows. Instead of eating your boring old lettuce salad, add chopped veggies and beans to a whole grain and add a vinaigrette for a complete meal.
Soup, soup, and more soup. Why? Let's see...economical (can even be a way to use leftovers), often healthy, reheats well after freezing and easy to prepare. What can be easier than cutting stuff up and throwing it in a pot? Try to make soup three times a week and always have some around. I probably make Vegetable, Miso, Chili and of course, Chicken Soup most often. For recipes go here http://www.soupsong.com/ and a comprehensive soup cookbook is a great investment.
Go semi vegetarian or just cut way down on meat. I don't care how great that butcher department sale is, Scarlett, it can't compete with the price of beans or tofu or making a frittata. A wide assortment of nuts is available and they have become more competitively priced in relation to other groceries.
Get worldly. Ethnic markets can have some of the best options for fresh and affordable, not to mention delectable. Some of the items I stock up on in ethnic markets or grocery sections are spices, noodles, seaweed, tostadas, tortillas, sauces, canned vegetables and the list goes on. At a fraction of the usual price, usually about half, and often better tasting. The last time I visited the Buford Asian Market they were out of my favorite Pad Thai Sauce that happened to be sold for $2 a jar. I almost cried.
Veggies. Think versatile. Start exploring new ways to make veggies, especially those that are consistently cheap like greens and cabbage. I never liked collard greens. Had always had the traditional ones with ham that taste like an armpit and somehow conjure up visions of mullets, muscle tees and chitlins. Now I sauté them in chicken broth, olive oil, garlic, onion, and Siracha sauce. Yum. Thinly sliced cabbage in Pad Thai instead of bean sprouts is a good substitution. Cabbage is much less likely to spoil before you can use it. My Mother turned me on to frozen mushrooms and diced peppers. I still use fresh frequently but you can thaw frozen sliced mushrooms, diced onion and peppers in a skillet in the morning for a healthy quick omelet.
Rethink "convenience" foods. You can stuff hummus with carrot and celery sticks or smoked oysters on crackers in your face in even less time than it takes to reheat frozen appetizers. Try a new sandwich. One of my faves is Peanut butter, bacon, and lettuce with onion and mayo.
How will you store your abundance of new homemade and non-individually packaged fare? You can get pleated baggies for a penny each for your brown bagging and partially cut onions and tomatoes. Ziplock bags are sorta expensive but still a better option than buying frozen dinners. And I mean Ziplock when it comes to freezer bags. Others leak. I get them at Costco but you can also watch for sales. We all have a huge collection of assorted plastic containers of the new flimsy variety floating around our cabinets. I'm not a big fan of those. I prefer to buy the Kmart Martha Stewart glass storage containers that are freezer, fridge, and microwave safe. Never lost one, not even a top! The thought of nuking food in plastic you can indent with a fingernail just does not sound good. I've never had one of the tops ignite at the bottom of my dishwasher and create noxious gasses throughout my kitchen either. And I think they are pretty. Oh, here's a good one. Clean and reuse...it's not just for Grandma anymore. Jam and salsa jars can hold leftovers and spaghetti sauce jars are great for storing rice, pasta and grains.
Almost as important as what TO do, is what NOT TO do. Personally, I never use grocery coupons. I can't justify the time to clip sort and keep up with them. I could use that time to learn a new skill or watch a web video of cats on a treadmill. Most coupons are for newly introduced foods you may like or may not. They are often toward processed foods that are poor choices in the first place. The only coupons I think are practical are the ones for fast food like Arby's. Used one today. and actually got an extra dollar off because the man at the register thought I was cute. What a deal. I don't do the once or twice a month cooking thing because I'd get sick of eating the same similar frozen crap all the time and end up making a run to Whole Foods for something good. Would rather double recipes on occasion and freeze some. And I only buy bulk of healthy foods. I live alone. If it's here most likely I'm the one who is going to eat it. So it is best not to hoard crap foods because that's what I'll eat.
To find out more about how to Live and Eat like a Southern Jewish Princess visit: www.southernjewishprincess.com