Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to stay under budget and use the best resources to set your table

Hey everyone! I'm excited to be posting for Table Tuesdays yet again! I've really been enjoying this journey with Sarah and I think about it all week! We have gotten a few comments via e-mail and directly in conversation. I know that I love carrying on conversations with other people any time. We'd like to encourage you to leave comments here with your questions and ideas. Perhaps other readers will gain something from those too!

Last week I started talking about eating locally, and finding the right foods for your table. But I wasn't very specific, was I? Sure we'd all love to have the right foods on our table, but we don't always know where to find them. On the other hand, sometimes we're left thinking that the only place to find healthy food is at the most expensive place in town. So, without further ado, please take a seat at my table!

I like being rewarded by eating well, but not if it's going to break the bank. All those health-food places like Whole Foods are spendy!

Whole Foods can be a great place, but it is also a place that sees the world of healthy eating as a profitable market, which isn't always great for us consumers. Sure, there are things I get there that I can't get anywhere else, but not everything on their shelves is actually beneficial to you. My future sister-in-law calls the place Whole Paycheck with good reason.

Please believe me when I say that I have a strict food budget for my household, and I still manage to eat wholesome, healthy foods.

A healthy lifestyle on a budget can be done! Here are a few tips on making your way into the community of healthy eaters without going broke:

The Golden Rule of Affordable Fooding: Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach!

A. When you find a new fruit or veggie to experiment with, you don't have to try a really elaborate recipe the first time you use it. Sometimes something as simple and flavorful as garlic and olive oil is all you need! The longer an ingredients list on a recipe, the spendier your new fruit or veggie will seem. There are hundreds of recipes for everything; don't convince yourself there's only one way to eat something!

B. Don't feel pressured to go into those huge organic supermarkets. If you do, just go in for the one or two items you can't get anywhere else in town, but do the rest of your shopping elsewhere. Do some research, find a local farmer's market. Depending on where you live, your local farmer's market may be seasonal or year-round. It's really nice to get onto a first-name basis with the people who grow the things you eat.

C. Add some variety to your shopping if you can. You might be able to find the best grains at one place, the best fruits at another, and the best veggies at a local farm. I lived in a tiny town on an Indian reservation (before moving to Hawaii) where the nearest supermarket was 190 miles away, and I still found a few shopping options by doing some research!

D. Don't worry about making everyone in your family a member of the "clean plate club"...leftovers are always yummy, in my opinion, and can sometimes even be creatively turned into something else for lunch the next day.

E. Three letters: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I plan to go into greater detail about what a CSA is in the future. I have to stop myself short right now because I will otherwise write an entry of novel length about CSAs. I love them. For information about what they are, and where to find one in your area, I beg you to check out this website! Most CSAs operate by their own rules and prices, so do some reading!

That brings us to the weekly mission for Sarah!

Start doing some research! Simply bust out the phone book, use the internet, and see how many farmer's markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), and local agricultural communities are within driving distance from where you live. Remember, driving distance is somewhat relative, as it depends on how far you are willing to drive a few times a month for healthy fixins' for your table. If you find one you like, let us know how far you were (hypothetically) willing to drive for it! Report your findings on the blog.

P.S. Remember, for various reasons, some people choose to split the cost of a CSA membership with friends or another household. Sometimes it's just too much food for one family, so take that into consideration while you do your research!

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