Monday, April 7, 2014

A Foodie's Dilemma - Eating Healthy on a Budget

 The Foodie’s Dilemma
          I still have a hard time believing folks who claim that it’s more expensive to eat healthy than eat crap-food. You can’t convince me. My observation and well documented reports point the other direction. It is more expensive to purchase and consume processed food and eat from fast-food restaurants, ESPECIALLY when you add up the invisible, long-term health costs that come with poor eating habits. Of course often ignored is the “fat-burning” side of the equation, “Living an Active lifestyle” or that you can still gain weight and have health issues by eating too much of the wrong kinds of organic/natural foods.  Most Americans are delusional about how unhealthy they actually eat. In a poll, 59% of obese and overweight people thought they were careful (even strict) about their food intake and food choices. 
      Europeans tend to spend more of their income on quality food than Americans. We tend spend more on material things. I am not surprised. Americans love our big screen TVs, big cars, dish and cable channels...and big food I guess. 
     I do the bulk of my shopping one day a month at a Natural Food store 30 miles from my town.  The rest of my shopping is from our local Farmers market.  When I run out of certain things, I do go the  conventional grocery store.  Occasionally I purchase walnuts, chocolate chips and good cheese (when they have it) at a local Aldi store.  Yes, you can find healthy choices there if you look, shop wisely, and rush through the junk food isle. 
As a research project for a class, I set out to dispel many food myths about healthy "clean" food.  
The most common myths I hear are:
  • healthy foods cost more
  • a calorie is a calorie
  • it's cheaper to eat fast food
  • If it's organic, it must be better
  • advertising is to blame
I love this quote: 
"Blaming unhealthy habits on cost is incorrect. People who eat lots of unhealthy food aren't doing so because they lack cheap options.  Instead it's because they LIKE junk food." ~ Mark Bittman, The New York Times
  My personal observation of people, prove Mark to be correct. 

Above: March 2013 Weekly shopping for 4 people at a NATURAL FOOD STORE $115.   There is no way I could have purchased as much quality ingredients or free-ranged meat and eggs, veggies at a conventional grocery store. This is nearly our entire months’ worth of food.  Probably helps that we are not gluttonous eaters. 
Consider Unhealthy Food...
  • A processed food diet is a MAJOR factor in Obesity!
  • These foods contain cheap non-nutritive fillers, chemicals and artificial ingredients
  • Many of those additives are banned in modern European countries
  • They contain refined, often hidden sugars, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and other by-products
  •  Contains many GMO (genetically modified organism) ingredients. 
  • Non-nutritive high-Carbohydrate foods and snacks contribute greatly to diabetes and obesity. 
A trip to the Farmer Market: From the Menominee (MI) Farmers Market in 2013, shopping for nearly the entire  week + consisted of: 1# of VERY fresh, locally roasted Organic Coffee, 2# Organic WW Flour, 1# Organic Oat Flour, 1 Pt. REAL maple syrup, Spelt/Kamut Bread, Bag of Swiss Chard, Bag of Kale, 2 pts of tender young Broccoli, 2 Kohlrabies’, Pecan Brittle, 2 dozen Free Range Eggs, 3# Free Range locally raised Ground Beef ,Total:  $49.50

About Healthy 'Clean' Food
  • Shop at Farmers Markets
    • NO middle man
    • Keep $ local
    • reduced transportation costs
    • freshness
    • knowing who grew it
  • Shop at local, small Natural Food stores 
    • Eating seasonally and locally is less expensive
    • less packaging = less costs
    • buy bulk from co-ops and Natural food stores
  • Choose Organic when you are at a conventional store, your $$ is your vote!
  • Research shows that healthy foods can be cheaper and less expensive than highly processed foods ~ USDA 2012
  • Fresh home-cooked meals taste better!!
 Becoming more health conscience began when I was around ten years old. An Uncle would drop off his Mother Earth News and Prevention magazines (when it was a legitimate read) for my step-father and I to read. I began learning to use native herbs about the same time from my stepfather who was an old style farmer.  This has never been a trend or image I was trying to project. It is my lifestyle.  Perhaps that explains why I struggle with the idea that people know what they should not consume, but continue to make poor choices. 

      I have done my own personal experiments shopping locally at a large supermarket and at a small town Natural Food store.  Sadly of all the folks on food assistance (nationally 1 out of 8 people – probably more locally), only about three families in my town utilize their food assistance card  at the farmers market (that I am aware of).  That same card works equally well at both the natural food stores in the area. It also works interstate. Admittedly my family has been on and off Food Assistance twice. I did not change the way I fed my family, #1 because we did not have health care and I know prevention is less expensive than a band-aid cure. #2 it is not more expensive to eat organic/local/sustainable/farmers market.
  •  Make wise choices. A family can still over spend on too many “natural” chips, dips. Sweet snacks and too much dried fruit as it can on conventional junk food (minus bad ingredients).  
  • Make wise choices.  Cook your own food, don’t fall for processed, pressed soy burgers, etc. 
  • Eat Real Food. Use real butter and decent Olive Oil. 
  • Don’t follow trends; there is no magic food, herb, vitamin or enema that can take the place of exercise and eating REAL food. 

For month 2/2014, $140.24 includes Smart Chicken, bacon, eggs,
 butter and quite a few bulk items.

Mangu-Ward, Katherine. "Five Food Myths about Healthy Eating." The Washington Post 17 October 2011

Russell, Natalie. "Health-food Myths." April/May 2007. Whole Living. Internet. October 2013.

I have put together some cost effective, delicious recipes here.  As always there are plenty of leftovers for lunches or freezing.  Look over the information sources above. You can also analyze passing grocery carts and their drivers - just a thought?
And just for the record: I do not own a big screen TV, do not subscribe to dish or cable, drive a 15 year old vehicle and would rather eat good healthy food, lead a active life and reap optimum health...and why not age gracefully?

  1. Quick & Easy Mac and Cheese (Way better than any box-mix) with variations
  2.  Chicken Paprikash, suitable for company!

May good eating bring you the good health you and your family deserve!

Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese
Yes, made in my largest cast-iron skillet. So easy, so versatile, so delicious!Serves 6 - 8
  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows, shells, ziti, penne rigate, rotini, cavatappi, pipette etc...)
  • 3 Tbs. butter
  • 2-4 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 Tbs. organic WW flour
  • 3 cups whole milk (I like to substitute heavy cream for 1/2 - 1 cup of the milk)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated Cheese (Cheddar, Gruyere, Gouda, Fontina, Monterrey jack, Havarti, fresh Asiago)
  • 1 1/2 cup other cheese (Parmigiana-Reggiano, Percorino, Feta, Mascarpone)
  • ADD INS (use about 3 cups):  peas, steamed or roasted cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts or carrots. Use scallions, sauteed chard or Kale, hot or mild peppers, seafood, ham or prosciutto, bacon or pancetta. 
  • Herbs: thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, marjoram, black pepper, cayenne or Spanish paprika. 
  • 1/4 Cup break crumbs or Panko
  1. Bring a kettle of water to boil and cook the past as directed on the package, just until tender, I prefer a bit of tooth.  Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, position the oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat to broil.
  3. Melt the butter  in your largest 10 -12 inch oven-proof skillet. I like to use cast-iron.  Add garlic and cook for about 45 seconds till soft. Add the flour and stir a few more seconds, gradually add milk (and cream if using). Whisk frequently until thickened 5 -6 minutes.  Add the cheeses and whisk until smooth and completely melted, 1 - 2 mins. Remove from heat and add in any veggies, meats or other additions, and 1 tsp sea salt.
  4. Combine the bread crumbs (or panko) with herbs and a pinch of sea salt. Sprinkle this evenly over the pasta.  Place the skillet under the broiler and broil for about 2 mins or until top is golden brown. Allow to cool a bit before serving.
That's it!! Enjoy with a tossed salad, garlic bread and a semi-sweet table wine.

Chicken Paprikash (Parikas Csirke)

The delicious brick-red sauce from the Paprika and heavenly aroma will bewitch you! Rendition from a family memory and recipe research.  

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 large family package chicken cut-up, I use Smart Chicken or chicken from the Farmers Market, about 8 pieces 
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 3 Tbs Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut up into pieces
  • 1 yellow banana pepper or other semi-hot Italian pepper, cored, seeded cut into 1" pieces.
  • Sour Cream or thick Yogurt
  1. Melt coconut oil or heat olive oil in a large skillet ( I prefer cast-iron 10 - 12 inch).  Season chicken with sea salt and pepper.
  2. Working in batches, brown chicken pieces well for 8-10 minutes turning once.  
  3. Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.
  4. add onions to pan and cook until soft about 8 mins. Stir often. Add paprika, cook 2 minutes more.
  5. Return the browned chicken to the pan along with juices.  Add the stock, tomatoes and peppers. Bring to a boil.
  6. Partially cover the pan and reduce heat down to medium-low. Simmer for about 30 minutes until chicken is fully cooked.  
  7. Remove chicken to serving platter, pour sauce over and dollop with sour cream or yogurt. Sprinkle with additional paprika.
Serve with or over potatoes, rice, or egg noodles

Bon Appetite!

Next time: Maple Madness Month, maybe

No comments:

Post a Comment