When it comes to food, I think the French and Italians have it right. Each meal is an occasion. It’s an opportunity to sit down with family and friends as each bite is gratefully savored. They take the time to shop, prepare and enjoy their food. It’s more than mere survival, it’s a lifestyle choice, it’s art and it’s joy.
If the closest relationship you have with your food is picking a number at a drive-thru or peeling back a corner of plastic film before microwaving, I consider you a food virgin! I’m here to seduce you into the wonderful world of real food. You can call me Chris La Bon Appetit!
For the Food Beginner
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Green beans aren’t supposed to taste like metal. No, really….they aren’t! Oranges don’t have to be soft ball size, perfectly round with a deep orangey color either. Apples with a bruise don’t become magically inedible and bell peppers can be purple! I’m not a chef, nutritionist, doctor or foodie, but I am a gal with an opinion about food…… and a blog so stay with me while I talk about what I believe to be real food.
Growing up in both rural and urban areas of Oklahoma, I spent a lot of time around food. We planted it, grew it, harvested it, stored it, cooked it, or it featured high on most of our family occasions. Real food was brought to; reunions, weddings, funerals, birthdays, for new mothers, great gossip opportunities, and sick family members. You would think that as food is the 2nd highest expense after Housing that people would invest more time understanding food. What it is and how you can trim the fat in your real food budget.
1 – Become A Veggie Whisperer
Have you ever considered growing some of your own food? Every year I plant lettuce, carrots, bell peppers, onions, strawberries, green onions and so many herbs I could open my own shop. I don’t have the time or the inclination to grow or raise all my own food, and honestly, that wouldn’t be realistic. But I can support my fellow Oklahomans by purchasing from Farmers Markets and small businesses like Waves of Grain, a local bakery that also supports local farmers. And a friend of mine recently started a Food Swap, it’s like a free Farmer’s Market where we exchange our excess homegrown produce with each other.
2 – Take Your Kitchen For A Test Drive
Cook or learn to cook. In my opinion, if you do nothing else, do this. In my job as an Education Director for a Conservation District, I’ve heard numerous times how it’s more expensive to buy fresh, organic or anything at a Farmer’s Market than to continue doing what they’re doing. Due to my manners and restraint, I don’t say what I’m thinking……”Well, Bless Your Heart”, which is Southern for showing empathy while judging mental capabilities. Hey, we Southerners are nothing if not great multi-taskers!
It’s not more expensive if you change your attitude about food. Heating frozen pizzas, burritos and Lasagnas isn’t cooking. And believe it or not, making your own is often cheaper, definitely healthier and way more Instagram worthy! Stop buying fast food, convenience foods and learn to cook.
Prepare your own food and open up a whole new world of freshly steamed, roasted and braised side veggies. Compare buying a Pineapple in season for .99, cutting it up and freezing what you don’t use immediately to an 8 oz of pre-cut fresh pineapple for $3.99. I win! Slowly build up your herb & spices until you can make your own mixes, seasonings, and sauces. It isn’t just cheaper, it tastes better. You control the salt and there’s nothing in it but the herbs and spices you put in there.
3 – Hug The Wall
If you don’t have access to a Farmers Market…..I’m really sorry, you’re missing out! But you can still save money at the grocery store by shopping mainly along the wall. This is where they hide the produce, meat, and dairy. Sneaky devils.
Make a menu plan for the Week, write a list and stick to it! Wear blinkers if you have to. Look up the Dirty Dozen and buy those fruits and vegetables organic.
Now I’m the daughter of a Rancher, and my Daddy would have TONS to say if I suddenly became a vegetarian. He doesn’t have to worry, it won’t ever happen, but I will open myself up for numerous lectures by stating publically that I prefer chicken and fish and buy them in bulk when they’re on sale. Buy in larger cuts that you can cut down yourself at home, one medium size roast can make enough stew meat to last a year. Are you up for a challenge? Could you go one day without eating meat? Just going totally meatless one day a week can trim some of that real food budget fat
4 – Size Does Matter
Now, this is where I might loose you. But let’s get real….size does matter. My husband is English and my sister-in-law who has lived in Australia for over 20 years comes to visit us often. I have to tell you, they were both shocked the first time an American meal was placed before them. They consider our normal plate size to be Ginormous! American portions especially our meat portions are HUGE they tell me. So if you really want to cut down your food budget, consider cutting down your meat portion as well as the size of your dinner plate.
5 – Eat like it’s 1940
This was my Grandparent’s era, they grew up with Ration Tickets, as well as growing their own, and eating only what was available locally. They preserved food, got creative with left-overs and bountiful harvests (300 recipes for squash anyone?). Food scraps were used to make vegetable and meat broths and nothing went to waste. When did we as a nation become so fussy and lazy about our food?
6. Make Food About Family Again
How did we let it get to where it is today? Well, we become busier outside the home. Food became more about convenience, something to get out of the way so we could continue with our schedule. My last piece of advice is this….slow down. Take the time to enjoy your food and turn meals into an occasion again. Reconnect with your family, use dinner as a way to nose into your children’s lives. And while they make kick and scream now, they will thank you for it later…..much later.
Keeping It Real
If I want a peach, I don’t want to have to open a can and see 2 unpronounceable ingredients including artificial flavoring before I see the word, peach. Nothing will ever compare to the flavor of fresh grown, picked within 48 hours produce. These days, when I want a peach, I go outside and pick one from my tree, or reach into the freezer. That’s what I call real convenient food and I’m all about keeping it real!
What’s your Food Attitude?