Cooking; saving money and being healthier
In an effort to be happier more money and great health go a long way. There is a lot of information on the pros and cons of chemicals in our diets, used on our crops and administered to our animals. If you look on the internet you can find information to support both sides of the coin. This makes it difficult to make informed decisions on what could have big effects on our lives. This turns the issue into a personal one. A decision you need to make for you and your family.
For me and my family we choose as a family to stay away from processed foods and as many chemicals as we can. Yes this changes how we buy food, eat out and live our daily lives but in the end we save money and feel better. I know there is hype out there that it is too expensive to eat healthy. My main pro is since we have spent the extra money on better food and the time to cook we have had almost zero doctor bills and in our mid 40’s have zero health issues. I say almost zero on doctor bills because I did have a bout with arthritis that lead to 4 surgeries, which is outside the norm. We don’t typically get the flu or colds and if we do it is short lived and mild compared to everyone around us and no we do not get a flu shot.
For better food we eat with the season. Eating with the season keeps the cost down and the quality higher. If you can grow your own then you are better off because you then know exactly what you are getting and when but not everyone has that ability or time in today’s world. Famers Markets are great but can get pricey in larger city areas, because unfortunately as great as they are they are the current trend so therefore trend equals more expensive. For my family if we can’t grow it I look for alternatives that fit my budget. That means I might buy at Natural Grocers because the in season items are usually priced lower than other grocery stores and I know I am getting organic. I might hit a farmers market that is outside the big city; skip the large one that draws in so many people it is shoulder to shoulder. I check out all the local co-ops to see what they are offering. In short, I shop around for my produce, meat, and anything else. The key is to remember following the trend is not typically the most economical way to buy. Take the time to know what is in season in your area and where to get good prices on it. It does take time to get down a routine so don’t get frustrated, keep pushing forward for a better food future.
Portion size is important and something to remember is when you eat better quality food you naturally eat less and are fuller longer. Large portions are associated with getting more bang for your buck. Think about this though, are you really getting more bang for your buck if eating that larger portion is causing you to be heavier or have health issues? Taking daily pills, being out of breath, not being able to maneuver with ease is not the norm but in today’s society we make it okay by making excuses. If you are eating better quality food without all the fillers and chemicals then your body will receive more nutrition and need less help from pills to stay healthy. Portion size is important when you switch to a better quality food because it keeps the cost down and really is all your body needs.
I know by now you are probably thinking this is all good but who has time to cook?!? It is all about priorities. I decided a long time ago that it was more important to take time to cook than to be on social media or keeping up with the Jones’s. Yes, I work 45 plus hours a week in a high demand job, I get creative. On Sunday I usually make a large ‘staple’ type item such as rice and chicken, just a whole chicken cooked in the crock pot, a lot of pasta, etc. That sets me up for an entire week of meals made easy. With something like rice and chicken cooked on Sunday I can have rice, chicken and a veggy on Monday, then on Tuesday I can add a homemade alfredo type sauce (milk, parmesan cheese, another cheese all melted together = alferdo sauce) with some different spices like maybe turmeric and pepper. Wednesday rolls around and I can throw that mix in the oven covered with tomato paste and cheese with thyme and rosemary. Wednesday night I pour some broth into it all and make a hearty soup for Thursday and Friday cut up some more veggies and boil it down a bit and maybe add some Worchester sauce and we have ended the work week with a stir fry. Each night only needing up to 30 minutes to prepare and cook and you have homemade food all week. You can use this premise for almost any meat and staple type items. Also remember you have to know when the crock pot is going to be handy or just a waste of time. Sometimes, what sits in the crock pot for 4 to 8 hours you can cook on your stove on simmer for an hour.
Another way to have quick homemade meals is to make your own freezer meals. Spend a weekend or a day and make as many different meals as you can fit in to that day and then vacuum seal them in your portion sizes. In one day I have done stuffed cabbage, enchiladas, tortilla soup, broccoli chicken and cheese casserole all in bulk quantities and then sealed them with my Ziploc vacuum sealer in sizes for my family. When I don’t have time to cook I can take out a pouch, boil water in a pot on the stove, stick the pouch in and in a matter of minutes we have a home cooked meal – just open the pouch and put it on plates. I cook and freeze this way about 2 to 4 times a year. I spend a few days gathering all the recipes and ingredients and then clear my day and get to cooking. It is all about time management, when one thing is cooking you are cooling another and sealing another. It is easier if you have the help of another person or two. Make it a girl’s day and everyone brings a recipe and the ingredients and then at the end of the day you split everything that was made. That is how I ended up with the best stuffed cabbage recipe I have ever had!
In upcoming blogs I’ll get more in depth in each area along with recipes.