I need some help.
Most healthy eating experts tell us that it is the least expensive option. Certainly if you compare making meals versus eating out for every meal. Cooking at home is cheaper. But is it the cheapest option? I’m not so sure.
I have a weekly grocery and household budget and considering I have 2 little girls who really don’t eat enough to count and I’m no longer buying diapers, it should be plenty of money. It works out to 20% of our monthly income. That’s a lot of money.
But I can’t make it work. I overspend.
That’s not entirely true. In the winter months when all my grocery shopping is done at 1 store, I manage. In the summer with the farmer’s market, I am all over the place. Sometimes I’m buying bulk quantities and freezing and canning, that reduces spending in the winter months. But mostly I’m buying a lot of produce. And we eat it and we have a garden full that we eat too.
Do we eat more fresh produce in the summer months than in the winter months? Maybe so and maybe we are suppose to.
My biggest increase in grocery spending recently is with meat and fish. I’ve starting buying meat and fish at Whole Foods. The notoriously over priced Whole Foods. I’ve searched 3 cities for cheaper alternatives but no one else has the same quality or selection that Whole Foods does. All the meat is locally sourced, hormone and antibiotic free and had a happy life with vegetarian feed. The fish is well marked and you can make sustainable choices. BUT, this is costing us a lot more money. I’m trying to compensate by eating less meat.
My conclusion is that if you are going for really healthy grown, 100 mile, organic, didn’t harm a fly or a blade of grass food. I think it costs more.
Obviously a more organized and fiscally responsible homemaker would have a chart and graph and coupons. Once Ken priced out the cost of our homemade chicken fingers compared to a box of President’s Choice chicken fingers and the homemade came out the slightly more costly. That’s the only real calculation we’ve done in this house.
So here’s my idea- What if everyone compares the cost of something they made homemade to the premade version. Is anyone keen for that? It could be homework. Am I allowed to give homework?
It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing. Could be burgers, pasta sauce, pizza, salad dressing. Something you make in your regular meal plan. Then compare it to what it would cost to buy it premade.
What do you think? Could we do it in a week? Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with what you made, how much it cost and what it would of cost in the store. Next Friday I will post all the results and we’ll know for certain. This will be the very first international totally biased study of the cost of healthy eating. You don’t want to miss out. We might be published. Somewhere other than the interweb.
hmmm, but what will I make?
Last week on my exploratory trip to the grocery store I spent a little time in the cereal aisle. I’ve not danced with the breakfast cereal in some time. We broke up with it. And by we I mean me, the rest of my family is still a bit sore about it.
I had my trusty notebook, here’s what the cereals told me while I was there.
100% natural – whole grains
With real strawberries
Probiotics with yoghurt and real peaches
Made with whole grains
Source of 7 vitamins and minerals
5 grains and source of fiber
A lot of sweet talk and none was whispered in my ears. Cereal was belting this out at the top of their lungs, hollering to fill everyone’s dance card. That hurt a little.
But I was wise to their show. I knew where to look.
Not one of the boxes of cereal making a big fuss about how great they were and how my family would be super duper happy and healthy by taking them home passed my ingredient test. Not one.
Behind their superhero exterior, breakfast cereal is some of the most processed, refined and sweetened stuff on the grocery store shelves. They don’t bring that up when they are jostling for a spot in your cart.
They make all these promises but are they really in it for a long term commitment? How many bowls of their fancy contents does it take to fill up an active tummy and keep it going until lunch? Truthfully, who eats cereal for breakfast and isn’t still hungry within the hour?
If you look very closely in the cereal aisle, usually on the bottom shelf, you will see some very quiet foods. That’s where true breakfast love can be found. They are brave and stalwartly and can take some criticism. Check out their ingredient list, it’s usually a list of one. Their nutritional analysis is impeccable, you will not find a fault. Rolled oats are their leader. Where your find oats you will find his worthy friends.
What are you eating for breakfast that isn’t telling you lies and filling your tummy?
Extra special thanks to Lianne and Lucy for playing along in my Make Your Own challenge. And of course to Peace, Love and Muesli’s Iron Chef Ian, who made a few things all by his own in the spirit of a healthy eating challenge.
First up is Lianne. I know Lianne from nature school, same class as Ian and I and my husband Ken. The days of potluck lectures. Good times. Lianne made pesto.
Lianne’s Homemade Pesto
2 cups of fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup pine nuts
pulse in blender or hand blender, super easy, but it has a very strong flavour and you only need a little to season a dish.
Pesto can be used to flavour pasta, toss with a tomato salad or used in place of tomato sauce on a pizza. It also freezes really well.
The lovely Lucy from Lucille in the Sky experimented with some homemade granola.
raw almond slices
raw chopped walnuts
All in a bowl and mix. There are no measurements just use your judgement. Add or substract any ingredients you like.
Bake at 350 until golden. It needs a few stirs. Add the raisins or other dried fruit after baking.
And lastly…me. I played too.
My mother treated me to a mandolin for my birthday and I was desperate to break out the deep fryer. For the Make Your Own challenge I made homemade potato chips. Crisps not french fries. Also sliced and deep fried some beets.
Photos by Shelley Smith
The beets were pretty simple, though it took me a few times to get it right. Slice and fry at 375. Wait until the oil is hot enough or they will be soggy instead of crisp. Fry until they are looking a little blackened and overdone. So very delicious. Caramelized and crisp and stick in your teeth sweet. I thought they tasted like cotton candy but my 6 yo looked at me and told me “No, you’ve never tasted cotton candy before.” Important to note that she said this will shoveling beet chips into her mouth. I used this recipe for beet chips and lime salt as inspiration.
And then the potatoes. I used big old potatoes for this and I got fancy with the ridge cutter. Deep frying potatoes is a labour of love but so very worth it. After cutting, the potatoes need to be soaked in ice water for at least an hour. (French fries are made the same way) Once soaked, dry them with tea towels. Paper towels are a bad idea, they cause a sticky paper mess.
Then get ready to fry. Heat oil to 350. Fry potatoes in batches for 5 minutes. Take them out and lay on tea towels. Repeat until all are done. This first fry will cook the inside of the potato. Substandard french fries are only cooked once and it is a waste of good potato in my opinion.
Then start again. Another batch into the fryer. Fry until golden and brown and crispy and delicious. Toss them out and add a little salt. Repeat until they are all delicious.
And try not to eat them all at once.