Sunday, August 18, 2013

Edible Decor

Ever since I started buying a Bountiful Basket, drinking Green Smoothies, and just buying more produce in general, one thing that I've enjoyed beyond the obvious benefits of such a life style is the fact that; because my kitchen  theme has always been fruit, with fun, graphic decor in bright colors. This makes is not only logical but very enjoyable and ascetically pleasing to have fresh fruit in the kitchen because I can use it as decor. Plus, having the fruit out in plain site makes it easier to remember to eat it before it goes bad. That is, if you can bring yourself to ruin the lovely display. Lol!
Of course my husband has no problem with the latter issue so it turns out to be a good system for eating our fresh fruit regularly. 

I have a fruit bowl, but often it fills up so quickly that it becomes necessary to use other places for displaying fruit. 

My favorite is the ledge under the window in the kitchen. Here are just a few of the arrangements that have resided there until they were eaten.
Pears . . .
 Golden Delicious Apples

Asian Pears and Apples

Maybe this will inspire some of you to find fun ways to display fruit in your own kitchen, and thereby encourage your family to eat it more often.

Friday, August 9, 2013

What My Diet is Like Right Now

My sister started a FB group recently where like minded Mom's with similar values can share articles and ideas without having to get flamed and bombarded with arguments like they would if they posted the same things on their regular page. It's been a lot of fun to share some of my favorite new ideas and findings with these few women who are all in the same boat, trying to figure out what's best for their families and how to make ends meet without sacrificing their health or values.
Tonight, one of the group members asked about if any of the rest of us feel lost when it comes to grocery shopping; trying to figure out how to afford, good clean healthy fair without it costing an arm an a leg, and even knowing what to make with the food you do get.
I totally understand this feeling!
It's one thing to know what NOT to buy and what NOT to eat. Becoming aware of dangerous additives and ingredients is really eye opening, and it can feel empowering to finally take the plunge and throw out all the junk that's been lurking in the back of your pantry (you know those instant mashed potatoes that have more ingredients than your aunt Edna's secret recipe for frog eye salad?)  Yes, it is a great feeling to say to yourself, "No. I deserve better and my family deserves better and it's not wasteful to throw out garbage."

It's after the cleaning out and rethinking is all done that you might find yourself walking through a grocery store and have no idea what to actually put in your cart. Or, even if you have managed to fill it will all kinds of things you know are great healthy foods, you might find yourself looking at a fridge full of great healthy food but have no idea what to do with it.

I'm sure we've all gone through this, are going through it, or hopefully will go through it because it's all part of the process of the paradigm shift that must occur if we're ever going to leave behind the SAD way that we used to eat.

So, of course, all of the above are the thoughts that went through my mind when I read this question posted to our group's wall. 

So, I started to write a response, and then, as is typical for me, it started to turn into a really long comment and then I had to admit that it was becoming a blog post. So here it is.

I have been figuring things out slowly for the past 2-3 years so I totally know the feeling of getting overwhelmed.
Meat is always tricky too because you want it to be safe but need to be able to afford other food too, and have room for it all. We've been thinking about buying bulk from this site:, 

but we'd have to be able to split it with a few families to be able to afford the best deal AND have the room to freeze it. So yeah, still figuring out the meat. 

As of right now Costco has been my link to sanity.
For a while there we just weren't eating very much meat and my hubby was having a hard time with that. So recently I've been buying their organic ground beef ($16.99 for 4 lbs divided into three pieces). I't doesn't say it's grass fed, but it does say hormone free so I figure it's better than some things. Then I also buy a flat of organic black beans and organic tomato paste and use these ingredients to make a big batch of chili which usually lasts us about a week as an easy lunch for my hubby to take to work, or for me to eat. Oh, I often buy their organic chicken stock to add to the chili too. 

Getting veggies from Bountiful Baskets is a great way to get lots of produce in your diet for very little money, plus it gives you a reason to try new things you might not have thought of buying. I think using this resource was a great step in helping me to transition away from the way we used to eat into thinking more about veggies, and actually using them. It was a big learning curve, but so worth it!
Honestly though, we haven't been relying on BB as much because I've been concerned about the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen thing and it seems like most of the produce you get in the BB is on the dirty dozen list. You can get an organic basket for $10 more but I'm not sure it's worth it for how much food you get because the organic basket is always smaller than the conventional one and then it costs that much more, plus, they might include things in the organic basket that are clean enough that buying organic wasn't necessary for that particular item.

Still, if you already aren't eating a lot of produce it's a really great way to get into doing that. And they say eating conventional produce is always better than no produce at all.
Pinterest is a great resource for recipes, as is the Green Smoothie Girl Blog and the Bountiful Basket's Blog.  Actually, there are a TON of great blogs out there for clean eating, most of which I found through Pinterest. You just have to take baby steps and try things to figure out what works best for you and your family.

Right now, I usually buy most of my produce at Costco, like the things on the clean 15 list, such as oranges, grapefruit, Avocado, broccoli, kiwis, asparagus, artichokes. Things with high nutrient content that I can get in bulk and my family will actually eat.
I also will buy organic spinach there for green smoothies and recently I've discovered their organic baby kale which is much easier to eat than the kind we use to get through Bountiful Baskets. It makes a great salad green.
Anyway, whatever I want from the dirty dozen list that isn't available at Costco organically,  I will supplement those veggies and fruits with produce from Whole Foods. I used to use Smith's Marketplace because they do have some organic produce, but often I find that organic apples at Whole Foods are slightly cheaper than at Smiths. As are their grapes, occasionally, and their bananas. It depends though, so watching sales can still be good.

I also have been buying Coconut sugar at Whole Foods to use instead of other sweeteners. Oh, and their nitrate free bacon because my nutritionist told me when I got pregnant that I MUST eat bacon but that it HAD to be nitrate free. I told him I would love that but had no idea where to get nitrate free bacon and he said Whole Foods is where he gets it. His family buys it from behind the meat counter. I've actually just been buying of of the prepackaged  brands because it's cheaper ($3.99 a pack) and with my small family 3-4 packs will last us a least a couple of weeks.  We gave up lunch meat over a year ago and if we have sandwhiches they are now Peanut Butter and honey(Adam's PB has only one ingredient, Peanuts. We get a big jar from Costco), or grilled cheese, or Canned Wild Caught Salmon (our new tuna; we eat it with a mixture of cream cheese based dressing or simply some mashed avocado, depending on what we have, since mayonnaise is full of soy and other things) We also use Dave's killer bread for sandwiches, though someday I dream of sprouting my own grains . . . 

Oh, and we get organic eggs and butter from Costco.  Someday we hope to have a source for local eggs, perhaps from neighbors with chickens or maybe we'll even get chickens ourselves someday. A lot of our friends who live in a house with a yard have done so. One friend even raises rabbits for food.  So, I guess my point is . . . It's a process. I'm sure I will always be wanting to improve this or that aspect of our lives and health, but you just change/try one thing at a time and as it feels right.

Just to be up front and honest, our grocery budget can be anything from $95-$200 a week, depending on the week, and what things we're low on. Oh, and that feeds two adults and two small kids. Cutting back on certain things has certainly helped of course. We don't buy any convenience foods. No cold cereal, not even the healthy kind. My daughter has trouble with milk so we gave that up almost five years ago and haven't missed it. Breakfast consists of either oatmeal (bought in bulk at Costco again) or pancakes made from scratch, compliments of my hubby, half a grapefruit, or bacon and eggs. Things like that.

As for all the meat you bought, if your chicken has bones, I would advise making some Stock from that and freezing it.

In fact, if it's a lot of meat, you could precook the chicken in in crock pot, then shred and freeze extra meat to use for future recipes, like tacos/burritos, soup, etc.
Then of course, as I just said, boil the carcass for your stock.
I've done this before and I got a ton of really yummy stock out of it. In fact, it was surprising because I used a cornish game hen the first time and they are small, but I actually added more water a couple times after the first batch of stock, let it simmer another night and got more out of the bones and veggies. Not as rich and dark the subsequent times of course, but still really good stock. I just figured I'd keep going until I'd gotten as much goodness as I could out of it. You'll want to make sure you have enough freezer containers if you're going to do it that way.
I learned the hard way that glass doesn't freeze well, so if you're using mason jars or anything put those ones in the fridge for use first, or at least don't fill them too full. Anyway, this is a great way to get the most for your money when you buy expensive poultry I think, because it's got to be way cheaper than buying the organic stock at Costco, and you can add whatever awesome veggies you want to it.  In fact, the first night you could just cook all the veggies and meat in the crockpot and you eat that for dinner and then it's just the scraps that are left over that need to be boiled for the stock.

Anyway, this has been a very long post. Hopefully some of the ideas here were helpful and made sense. Feel free to ask any follow up questions!