Okay first of all, let's talk about how I had this big idea about how I was gonna post a week's worth of dinners and talk about my budgeting and grocery list and How We Live® and blah blah blah. I tried to remember to take pictures of dinner every night, but then I did a lousy job of keeping track of them. I worked late one night and had leftovers for dinner and forgot to bring my camera- the whole week was kind of a clusterfuck of obligation and I was BUSY! Baby-sitting for friends and family, extra shifts at work, meeting with photography clients, spring cleaning in the apartment- it's Sunday and I'm wrecked. In a good way, though- the kind of wrecked you feel after getting a lot of stuff done.
So I guess what I'm saying is, like everyone else- we are pretty disorganized. But, we try to make time for dinner together every night, because it kind of glues us all together. I'm pretty old fashioned when it comes to stuff like that, I really feel like every family, if they have the ability, should join each other for dinner, and cooking it is half the fun- even when you're stressed out and short on time. Whenever I throw together dinner after a crazy day, and my low blood sugar is making me snap at my family and I get frustrated and burn something, and then something else is undercooked when I got to put everything on plates, and I get super pissed but then it somehow all comes together in the end- it's just so satisfying to sit down and EAT IT.
Of course, all that said- I'm lucky enough to have a husband who cooks. We'd be totally screwed if it was all on me, because come 5:30 p.m., if I am not close to sitting down to a full meal, I turn into a loopy wreck who cannot function. That's just the time of day that my blood sugar plunges and I turn into a cranky, confused, useless lump. I do about half the cooking around here, probably. Maybe a little less.
Anyway, the whole reason for this post is to answer some of the questions I get asked on a regular basis about our dinners and our shopping budget and all that crap. I feel like every time I mention that eating healthy doesn't have to be expensive, someone on the internet finds it necessary to yell at me (isn't that what the internet is for, though?) that I'm being insensitive to whatever lifestyle or cause or the destitute or whatever. All I can do is speak from experience, though- and my experience says that when I was eating lots of junk food, I got fat, miserable, and I was spending way too much money. We forced ourselves to start writing out a meal list every week, set a grocery budget and we stick to it as closely as we can, and I made a few lifestyle changes to lose some weight. Now I feel better and we're on track paying our bills, and that's enough anecdotal, one-sided evidence for me, thanks.
I recently posted on a local community asking if anyone had a good hookup for pastured eggs besides the farmer's market or the few specialty stores that I know of who carry them. There's ONE booth at the farmer's market who has them for 5 bucks, and everywhere else they run about 7 dollars a dozen, which is way, way more than I'm willing to spend, even though I'm happy to throw down a few extra bucks to support local farmers. Someone got on my case about the "morally offensive" idea of Five Dollar Eggs and suggested that I was a huge jerk for being willing to pay that much. When people think about eating healthy, I think they need to consider a few things. Yes, some unhealthy foods ARE cheaper- because you can buy huge portions of them. But you don't need to eat a GIANT BOWL of sugary cereal if you have a reasonable portion of oatmeal with some butter, it's just as filling. You don't need to eat extra portions of your frozen pizza if you take the time (5 minutes?) to make a salad. The reason we can afford to buy 5 dollar eggs every once in awhile (and I do mean "every once in awhile," because they really aren't in our budget) is because of the things we DON'T buy. We don't buy paper towels, we don't buy pre-made, frozen dinners. We don't buy candy, we never buy soda and we don't really buy juice, either. We drink (OMG) water. Consider how much paper towels, soda, and juice cost for a moment. When I was a kid, we had ALL of these things in the house at all times- we always had a backup 12 pack of coke in the garage, waiting to be guzzled. I tried to look up the price of a 12 pack of coke, and then I realized that I have never bought my own 12 pack of coke in my entire life. I think it's like 4 or 5 bucks, right? I think paper towels are like 3 or 4 dollars for a package of 2 or 3. And a big container of juice is at least 3 dollars. So, added all together, just NOT buying those 3 things that a lot of families consider to be staple items means that I have almost 15 dollars to spend on other stuff. That's how I feel okay about paying 5 dollars for eggs every once in awhile.
Now, what we DO buy. Every week we sit down and write a list- first we pick out what we're going to eat each night for dinner. Last week it was hippie chow, pizza, chicken, vegetables, and polenta, pesto noodles (which we stretched over 2 nights), burritos, and then something else that I've already forgotten, haha. Our list this week says:
Sat- salad rolls
Sun- Kennedy School (We had a catered party to go to. Free dinner, woo hoo!)
Mon- Couscous + mezza
Tues- Alice at work- sandwiches?
Thurs- Polenta + veg
The way we make our list is pretty straightforward. We have a lot of standard dishes that we choose from, and we try to keep the stuff that uses the most fresh vegetables towards the beginning of the week, and then whenever we're going to have meat, we put it towards the end of the week so we can buy it fresh that night. That's why "burger?" has a question mark after it- if Friday rolls around and Jason hits the grocery and steaks are on sale, maybe he'll buy steak. Or maybe we'll be more in the mood for fish by then, who knows? Fridays are always kind of a scramble to get food in our bellies because that's when we go shopping. After we have our meals written down, we write down the ingredients we need for all our crap, and then we throw on whatever we're going to have for lunch- sandwich stuff, salad stuff, whatever.
Here is what we consider to be stuff we must ALWAYS BUY, every week, regardless of what is on the list:
roasting vegetables, like zucchini, squash, brussels, etc.
Grapes if they're on sale
Almonds (I buy a pound of almonds every other week or so, it takes me awhile to go through it, but I carry almonds in my purse with me everywhere I go. It's to keep my blood sugar level.)
can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
can of beans
at least a little bit of pasta
eggs (not 5 dollar eggs, haha)
And this is where I get thrown off when people say that you can't eat healthy when you're poor- usually the produce portion of our weekly grocery bill doesn't exceed 40 dollars. Vegetables are CHEAP, you just need to learn to cook them.
Anyway, I hope this wasn't just annoying information overload, like "OOOooOoOOh, good for YOU. You have your fancy stupid grocery list, WHO CARES?" I get questions about stuff like this a lot, and it seems like people are more interested in the more 'normal' stuff that I eat instead of waiting to see if I bust out something fancy. Over the next few days, I'll be posting recipes for staple items in our kitchen, like our spanish rice recipe, what we do on mezza night, stuff like that. Also I made pizza the other night and I made a little mini-calzone that blew my mind, so I'll probably post those too. And feel free to ask any questions you'd like. PEACE OUT.