In the coming weeks I will be doing a series on sustainable families with different focuses for each post. Today’s focus is on food! Please keep in mind I am not expert, I do not have a husband or children but in thinking of practicalities, I just began compiling a list of things I’ve tried or what seems to make the most common sense. If my ideas seem far fetched, unrealistic, or overly ridiculous, let me know. I welcome the feedback, critiques and responses. If you have more ideas, feel free to leave your comments too!
1. Grow your own food.
You don’t have to have a farm with tons of land to provide simple home grown alternatives to store bought items. I once grew basil, spearmint and lavender right on the window sill of my tiny apartment indoors. The basil lasted year round. The other two had their good days and bad days. But think about it. I grew basil. The seeds cost me about fifty cents. That is much cheaper than buying five dollar basil each time I wanted to add it to a few meals. If you can do that with basil indoors on a windowsill, imagine the other possibilities. This year I’ve expanded my garden since I have a lot of space on my fire escape. Photos will come soon!
2. Watch your portion control.
I’ve seen families and been at family meals where the sheer amount of food put on the plate could probably feed two to three people instead of one. Simply put, by habit a lot of us eat too much anyway. We eat until we are full and stuffed and I’m not sure that that is the healthy way to go about it. You might say, “But I eat a lot because I’m that hungry.” Before you eat a meal, drink a full glass of water! Often times, we are actually thirsty and not hungry.
3. Buy your food in bulk
It’s really self explanatory. The upfront cost might seem more expensive but if you look at the big picture, it makes more sense.
4. Participate in a CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture)
Again, the upfront cost might seem like a lot but it really panes out throughout the season. This program is actually better for families than for individuals. The sheer amount of local organically grown food you receive each week is absolutely ridiculous! A lot of CSA’s are opening up their memberships to their waitlist. Some offer prices for low income families. Or consider splitting the cost with another family. Trust me, you receive a lot of food.
5. Share meals with other families.
This promotes community. It helps you waste less food. It also releases a bit of the financial burden and assist with time restrictions. When I lived in Chicago and struggled with how to cook for one, my friends and I would just rotate cooking meals for each other. Our cost actually went down. The waste went down. And we each learned new recipes.
6. Shop at your local farmer’s market
I would often see cheaper prices at the farmer’s market than at the local grocery store. The foods were in season, they were local and they just seemed to taste better.
7. Eat locally and in season.
I know everyone says that. But it definitely decreases your carbon footprint. It teaches you to learn and try foods you wouldn’t normally try. It aides in a healthier diet.
8. Pay now or pay later
A. Yes. Sometimes organic food or natural food cost more. But if you were to take into account how much food you actually throw away on a day to day basis, you’d realize how that money could have just gone to less food…since so much is ending up in trash and it could have been organic food. I always here people say they can’t afford organic food. Sure, some of it is a LOT more expensive but some of it is just a little bit more expensive. If you consider the money you or your children throw away each meal, organic food isn’t that costly.
B. Sure its cheaper to eat McDonalds, eat unhealthy snacks, or cook Salisbury Steak. (yuck!) But while its cheaper now, the health cost down the road are much higher than if you had chosen to eat healthy early on. There are so many health issues people suffer from because of their poor diets and they can barely pay their medical fees and prescriptions. Goodness. Some of that could have been avoided, if they’d gone the cheaper route and purchased better food.
9. Eat less meat
Meat is more expensive. I’m not saying become a vegetarian, vegan or raw foodist. What I am asking is if you really need meat at every meal? Can you go an entire day without eating meat? There are so many other recipes and ideas for food that beef, turkey, chicken and pork.
10. Recalculate your budget
Again, I acknowledge eating better is more expensive. I think its stupid but its common knowledge. So perhaps evaluating your family budget and putting more towards a healthier lifestyle is actually a possibility. I hear people say they can’t afford to eat organically, but the things they do afford themselves seems antithetical to their whole budget woes! I knew that I wanted to eat much better than I was doing before so I changed my various budget allotments to allow for that. Is that possible for you?
11. Drink more water
I read in a couple places that while we think we are hungry, sometimes our body is just thirsty and that fifteen minutes before a meal, we should drink a glass of water and sometimes we will find we are actually not hungry. I haven’t tested the theory. But I tried another theory. So…organic food cost more. But I really want my organic juice. But I really don’t want to drink it all in one day. So I play tricks on myself, before I drink the juice, I have to drink a glass of water. Drink more water.
12. Healthy snacks cost more, but you will find that you eat less of them.
I believe all the processed foods we eat; the sugar, the salt, the crap…its addictive. So we consume it at an alarming rate. That’s their idea. Drink one soda. Drink another soda. Drink six sodas. Can you down water like you can a soda? Can you eat broccoli like you can a snickers bar? Or course not. They are designed to keep us coming back. BUT….if you buy almonds, grapes, and apples…you will find you can’t eat a container of almonds like you’d eat a bag of potato chips. I don’t know if this makes sense. It still goes back to the prices balancing out because you aren’t buying as much as often and you are consuming less in the first place.
13. Get creative with the food you make and keep your kids engaged.
Yes, kids are picky and they grow through stages where they won’t eat a certain color or texture or whatnot. But ultimately you control what goes into your home. Since you are going to be eating locally and in season, you are going to come across new things with “strange” names that taste differently. If you aren’t willing to take a risk and try things with an open mind, your kids won’t either. When my sister came into town I asked her what did she want me to purchase at the grocery store for breakfast. She said, “poptarts.” I simply said, “no. think of something else.” She said that she liked raisin bran and bananas. And that is what she had for breakfast. My mother makes a spinach smoothie, which when paired with all the other fruits, you can’t taste the spinach. And if the fruit has a rich color, you can’t even tell that its green. But what if instead of saying, “Here is a spinach smoothies,” to your three year old, you said, “Here is a Oscar the Grouch smoothie.” because Oscar is green. I don’t know. I’m just saying, sometimes you have to make things fun and new and different for kids to get on board. Even I first shuddered at the thought of spinach in a smoothie but when I tasted it, it was divine.
14. Don’t forget the basics.
EcoMama mentioned in “Sustainable Families, An Introduction” that there is nothing cheaper than beans and brown rice. You don’t need to serve a seven course meal for every single breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes the basics can be just as filling. Incorporate beans, grains, nuts and many other basics into your meals.
RESOURCES for FOOD: Below you will find every day people who follow wholistic eating lifestyles. I like them. The list isn’t complete and will continue to grow over time. Take a look at their blogrolls too, to see who inspires them.