DH suggested we write a post about how when we look at the ingredients lists of the processed foods in our pantry, we can pronounce every word.
That wasn’t always true. When we were just starting out, we bought an awful lot of sale Lipton packets of unpronounceable things. DH lived on Doritos and Twizzlers.
Of course, we were also pretty poor so Doritos and Twizzlers became an occasional treat and we spent a lot of time cooking from completely unprocessed (non-organic) veggies and fruits, purchased at a big open air market in the city we lived in. We tended to go near the end of the day to scoop up deals on wilting produce that we would process right away. That was very time consuming.
One of the things I had to do when we started trying to have a baby was completely switch my diet around. I was diagnosed with Insulin Resistance and if I wanted to ever ovulate, I needed to completely cut out refined grains. I started with high fructose corn syrup, then weaned my way down. When I cut the HFCS, there was an awful lot of other crap that got cut with it, since processed food with unpronounceable ingredients tends to list HFCS as one of the more pronounceable ones (this was more true before HFCS became a bad word). We started eating healthier and weight just kind of melted off while we felt generally healthier. Because we couldn’t afford fancy organic substitutes for Campbell’s tomato soup and so on, we started making those from scratch or went without.
Now we’re more affluent. Even including our fancy cheese consumption, our grocery bill, while several orders of magnitude bigger than our unintentionally nigh-vegetarian graduate school days, is still about the same as or smaller than what families of three on various mothers forums. Even though we buy on-sale Kashi dinners and the occasional box of Doctor Krackers… not to mention the fancy organic tortilla chips (which have THREE ingredients: corn, oil, and salt). The difference? Even though the processed stuff we buy is high quality, we buy a lot less of it than other families with similarly high bills. We buy a lot of organic basic ingredients, and don’t spend the money on pre-prepared foods or heavily packaged snacks.
1. Buy high quality stuff that fills you up without making you feel gross. If you can recognize the ingredients on the label without an advanced chemistry degree, that’s a good sign.
2. Prepare large batches of food and freeze leftovers for later meals. One meal may cost about the same whether you prepare it or buy it from Stouffer’s. The big savings comes from using that $5.99 on ingredients that make multiple dinners rather than one not-so-good-for-you package that is gone that night or too gross to eat the next day. (And don’t just freeze stuff and forget about it– occasionally defrost it to eat!)
3. Don’t let food go to waste. Prepare food that stores well or that you’re willing to eat multiple meals in a row. You don’t need to buy as much stuff if you eat what you have rather than tossing it out each week.
4. If you don’t know how to cook, learn! Practice, take a class, get someone to show you tricks, read cookbooks– just try it out. It will get easier! My DH didn’t know how to make ANYTHING when I married him and he makes amazing stuff now. There were some pretty spectacular… learning experiences…while he was practicing, but now he knows what not to do and what to do. Don’t give up.
5. Sometimes simple dinners are the best. A slice of bread, a fried egg, and some salsa or avocado slices. Fresh tomato slices with basil, balsamic vinegar, and mozzarella. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Cheese and crackers with carrot sticks. Nachos with bean dip and salsa. Hummus and pita bread. Quesadillas. Chili. Spaghetti. Mixed greens with meat or beans.
Have your eating and cooking habits changed over the years?