Monday, August 13, 2012

Food has become precious

19yo working on new firewood storage base
Something has happened to me and my children over the past few months.  We have learned how very precious food is to us.

Because of circumstances beyond my control my food budget has been reduced to about $400 a month. USAA recently reported that the average monthly food costs for a family of four (two adults and two children) is over $1000 a month.  I live in one of the more expensive places for food.

We have learned to appreciate food.  Corresponding to a small food budget I have become aware of GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in the US food supply.  They are everywhere and would require at least three separate posts to explain.  Suffice it to say that since my 16yo and I have been ill for a long time now with no medical help from the medical community in sight, I am looking to lifestyle, diet, environment for answers.  I am trying to avoid GMO ingredients.

Homemade whole wheat flatbread
This leaves us with plain food.  Nothing that comes from a box.  Okay, we can maybe eat pasta but we aren't really even eating much of that.  What do we eat?

  • Organic dairy products such as yogurt and milk
  • Organic grains such as oatmeal and flour which we cook from scratch into hot cereal and breads
  • Fresh local fruits and vegetables, some grown in my own garden
  • Fresh meat cooked into meals from scratch or preserved
  • Plenty of good fats (lard, olive oil, butter)
  • Homemade salad dressings and marinades
  • Scratch desserts
Our pantry and refrigerator look virtually empty.  My kids balked and complained at first.  My 16yo, who is already very skinny lost 16 pounds (he has since gained this back).  My 19yo has slimmed down quite a bit.  My 12yo and I are losing weight.  If we are hungry we grab a fresh peach or slice up a home-grown cucumber and eat that.  The boys make single bowls of organic oatmeal at least once a day for breakfast or a snack.  We eat a lot of eggs and cheese and yogurt.  We eat a lot of vegetarian meals.  We have organic popcorn for snacks. 

My first garden in years has been fairly successful but has not provided a lot of food for the size of this family.  My kids love veggies so there are never enough.  The main problem with my garden spaces was a lack of sun.  They got between 6-8 hours a day when they needed at least 12-14.  We were going to take down some trees around the perimeter of the yard but the chainsaw broke with no funds to replace it.  We made do.

If I am still here next year those trees are coming down.  It is a necessity.  The secondary reason for the trees is that we have a wood boiler in this house.  It is connected to and right beside the oil boiler and heats the house and our water using wood.  I wanted those trees for firewood to heat the house and save money on heating oil which has become outrageous at $3.49-3.79 a gallon. 

So here I am with a single zucchini that took me 2 months to grow and I need to feed four people.  That zucchini is mighty precious.  I feel like bronzing it, to be honest.  I know how much work that single zucchini was for me and my kids.  My 19yo dug that front yard garden for me this year.  He knows how precious that zucchini is to all of us. 

What do you do with a single zucchini?  You start by slicing an onion and green pepper you bought at the farmer's market from a local independent farmer.  Throw those in the big cast iron skillet with a spoonful of lard and start them sauteeing.  Then I slice that most amazing, precious zucchini along with a yellow squash I bought from that same local independent farmer at the farmer's market and throw those in the pan.  I sprinkle the whole mess with a little salt and cook until the squash is just barely tender.  I serve my most precious zucchini and other veggies over organic brown rice (that took 50 minutes to cook).  I watch as my kids moan in delight at the flavors that they never knew until this summer.  Food has become precious to them. 

They are tasting real food without all of the additives, preservatives and sprayed on vitamins.  They help me pick out those fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market stand.  They carry those heavy treasures because there are no shopping baskets at the farmer's market.  You use your own muscle power to carry your food.  They help me bring the foods into the house and oftentimes help me prepare them.  They see me mix up a batch of bread or stand over the stove for an hour making fresh tortillas.  They see that pot of black beans on the stove all day long.  They smell it cooking and can't wait to taste it. 

They have helped with the garden and seen how much work it is to grow food.  When we get one cucumber at a time that cucumber has to be divided up and shared among four people.  You don't get a lot of food sometimes.  You certainly don't have food that you just grab out of a bag or box and stuff your face with mindlessly.  When they are lucky there is homemade jerky in the pantry or fridge for a quick protein snack.  But not always.

My children are not starving.  Actually, I think they are getting much more nutrition now that we have a lot less food.  Because what they eat is packed with natural nutrition, not added, sprayed on or "enriched".

We still get the occasional take-out Chinese (last time 19yo treated us) or pizza (22yo treated us on Saturday).  And we really enjoy those meals.  But even those foods are more precious to us. 

Even though this journey hasn't been fun, and our stomachs growl sometimes (mostly because we are too lazy to go make something that we know will take time), I think we are much better off now than before.  We certainly appreciate good food, real food, nutritious food.  Food is so very precious to us now.

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