To Eat, or Not to Eat…

Tofu Stir Fry
Tofu ain’t that bad!

Randy and I watched a documentary last spring about the quality (or lack there of) of our food in America. We vowed to change our ways as much as we could. Just the other day, another news story broke about the dangerous levels of arsenic being found in rice! It is pretty astonishing to see what is happening to the food we eat, and that our federal regulations have become so lax. But  it is also inspiring to see how many are working to change that. There are better options out there, but choosing them can be tricky.

Now that I am not working (because I know how hard it is when you are!), I have a lot more time to plan our meals and cook things we never made at home before. The other night we had Tofu Stir Fry with Rice–it was a new one for me, and delicious. We eat more fish and less meat, and the meat that we do eat is better for us. I am choosing organic, fresh foods over processed as much as possible. We even made our own oat and fruit bars the other day for Maggie, and with a few modifications, I think I can make some for Randy and me as well. Knowing what I pay for pre-packaged granola bars (organic or not), I felt like quite the champion that day!

All this goodness can add up financially. I often look at the price between organic/fresh and the alternative and think about the money we could be saving–especially now that we are a single-income family. But, this was our commitment as we realized how little we are focusing on the importance of what we were eating. Food is the basis for this life, providing us with the health, nutrients and energy we need to live, so why would I give my body and those I love anything less then the best?

So how do we make this work? It is a bit of a struggle, but so far, these four things are helping me through it:

1) Planning. I think this is the hardest part. I plan my meals one to two weeks at a time so I can shop efficiently for ingredients to utilize for multiple meals. This also allows for new recipes and meal ideas to be done without stress! It is a bit overwhelming at first, but it is getting easier and more enjoyable as we go on. I am not known for my love of cooking, so this aspect is almost comical to me.

2) Selective Spending. Better food is expensive, so we cut back on our many pairs of shoes and our electronic hobbies first to make our health a priority. We don’t have cable, we shop consignment shops and sales, and eat out only once a week. Since I pay twice as much to eat organic meat, we eat about half the amount of meat we used to—which that alone is a healthier move! Pre-cut carrot sticks—no more. I save almost $1.50 if I buy them and cut them myself,  literally takes 6 minutes. I buy in bulk and freeze things such as fruit, meat, fish and bread and then of course there are the homemade oat and fruit bars 🙂 Yes, it is more work and requires a bit more planning, but it pays off!

3) Reading. I learned quickly that I have to read. I could certainly spend a fortune if I bought everything organic. Walk into a Whole Foods store, and boy can one spend a fortune! There are so many great books and about a million websites to guide us. I have learned that things such as avocados, asparagus and onions are OK to buy regular, where items such as spinach, grapes and carrots are a must to buy organic–yeah, that also means wine is a good organic buy as well, although I have not yet crossed that line.

It also gets tricky with labels as there are all kinds of different marketing spins to this organic trend. We have to keep up-t0-speed on things, as not all mainstream items are bad, and not everything that appears to be “natural” is good!

4) Commitment, and Realization. Committing to better food choices has not been that hard, we just had to adjust our priorities. And I have to remember that it is unrealistic to think we will ever get it all right. We still eat things that are not good for us, because that is a reality to the life we live, and honestly, giving up on Ben and Jerry’s is just too hard.  I just try to take little steps as I can. My next step is to stop buying pre-packaged seasonings (ranch dips, taco seasoning etc) and make my own. Money saver, as well a much healthier option!

As we continue to make better choices, and perhaps sacrifice in other areas along the way, we push US Administration to tighten up regulations on food companies. If we demand better food, eventually, things will shift that way. We are already seeing things change.

It is a process for me. I am learning every day, and have a long way to go to make it easier. But, every time I pick up that organic gallon of milk that is twice as much as the regular milk sitting beside it, I remind myself that maybe one day, Maggie won’t have to make the choice.

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