Tuesday, August 28, 2007

some follow-up thoughts

Well, I wish more people had wandered by to read and comment on my last post. Maybe they still will - summer is still going for many and folks aren't on their computers as much, I suppose. Are you reading this and lurking? Come on, tell me how you feel about your food! I'm not fishing for comments so I can feel cool and popular, I'm just really, really interested in how people view their eating.

Thanks to you girls who did comment. It took me 2 hours to try and write an articulate post, and even now I can think of a million more things I'd like to say. Anne - first of all, where is your blog? I want to see those chickens in action! Thank you for weighing in from overseas. Pam - you are sweet to compliment me. Also, my sis is allergic to wheat so we're familiar with that pain. Good for you for exposing your kids to all the alternatives! And Karen - here's how I make crock pot applesauce:

I use just about any kind of sweet eating apple, and I make a ton to freeze. If you are not using organic, really clean them well. I spray mine with fruit wash and give them a light scrub with a brush. You can peel them if you want, but it's faster not to, and your applesauce will have a prettier color if you include the skins.

Core and section the apples.

Throw them in the crock pot.

Set the pot to low and cover. Check on the apples every once in awhile and stir them down. Once they turn to mush, you're done. Run them through a food mill to get the skins out and make the applesauce smooth (just scoop ladles-full into the mill and put a big bowl underneath). Then taste it and add sugar or cinnamon to taste. Depending on your apples you might not need to add anything at all.

This applesauce tastes most amazing when warm. It freezes extremely well, and works nicely for baby food because it's so smooth.

Now, you can get the same result much, much faster if you just cook the apples down on the stovetop, but a) you have to babysit them so they don't burn, and b) you don't get the awesome smell from apples cooking down for hours on the counter.


One more thought about organic food, and I will turn this blog back to crafts.

Karen commented about the price of organics. Yes, I agree the prices seem outrageous. Mostly that is because we are used to our food being so cheap. I think we tend to view our grocery budget in a vacuum, too. We are used to spending however much we spend per week and that's it. I know if I go much over $80 or so that I'm buying something weird, or I'm refilling my freezer with meats. But then again, remember we are only 3 people and one is only a toddler, so my budget is pretty low. Some of you with 3, 4, 5 kids must spend a fortune, and I can definitely see why you wouldn't want to spend the money on organic milk when you go through several gallons a week.

But consider where we all throw money away. Do you go to Starbucks? Aha! I know you do! We all do it once in awhile, and some people go often. I rarely go, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to. I am just constrained by my budget and the fact that I don't have a location nearby. A few weeks ago Hubs and I decided to take a ride after dinner, just to get out of the house. He asked where I wanted to go and I said, hey, let's get some Starbucks. We never, ever go out, so sometimes allow ourselves these small indulgences.

Anyway, we drove all the way there, and Hubs went in for the coffees while I stayed in the car with Daughter. He came out with two drinks, but he was shaking his head and muttering something as he walked. When he got in the car he said, "I can't believe this. $7.29 for two cups of coffee."

Dudes! We willingly spent over SEVEN DOLLARS on two lattes (a tall and a grande). Of course, that is a rare thing for us, but still! SEVEN DOLLARS! For that money I could have bought a gallon of organic milk and a dozen organic eggs which would have nourished all 3 of us for at least a week.

Do you buy bottled water? I won't even get into the economics of that. I'll just say there are precious few places in America where you can't get excellent tap water, but people still buy it by the gallon. I have 2 gallons of store-brand spring water in my pantry for emergencies, in case we lose water for any reason (it happened last year when a water main broke down the street), but I don't buy it for regular drinking.

Does that make sense? Do you see the point I'm trying to make? I mean, I am not trying to be an evangelist, and I have never actually bought these organic items of which I speak. Right now my fridge contains a gallon of regular 2% milk and a dozen regular supermarket eggs. I'm just saying I can see where it makes sense to buy them. I can see how it would not be that hard to put a few better things in the budget. I would have to be willing to swallow a grocery bill of maybe $100 instead of $80, and give up some other things that are not necessary in my life. I don't actually need more fabrics or yarns. I don't have to buy cute clothes just because I see them on sale. My family has what we need to be warm and dry and yes, even stylish.

We are a total consumer culture, as you all know. As a nation, we're spenders, not savers. The question is, what do we want to spend our money on? I'm not even talking about saving the earth. Like I said, we're not really 'green' and I'm not a super-duper environmentalist. I'm just talking about our most precious thing - our bodies and the bodies of our children. Isn't what we put in them more important than what we put on them, or the places we go or the things we do which we willingly spend money on? I think about that every time I get gas for my car. $3 per gallon for something I will immediately burn up and will not actually benefit me in any tangible way! $3 per gallon so I can get around, but not $4 or $5 per gallon for the milk my Daughter and I need to, you know, build our bones. Many people will spend $30, $40, $50 or more on things like jeans and sneakers, but are aghast at the idea of $5 for a bag of apples instead of $3.

It's weird, isn't it? I mean, I could eliminate cookies, coke, and that pizza we order ever now and then and use that money to get better fresh ingredients for my family. I can make my own cookies (easy, usually do anyway but it's been too darn hot to bake this summer), and my husband would have to get over himself and drink something besides cola. I don't know, it just seems like it might be a good thing to do.

Well, that's enough of that. Just know if you come over to my house my toilet will be clean 'cause it's been chemicalled to death, but you probably won't find anything too funky or junky in my fridge or cupboards. We're going to do better for ourselves around here!

Back to my regularly scheduled craftiness soon. Thanks for bearing with me through my Animal, Vegetable, Miracle obsession.


Pam said...

I think it does all come down to buying the best you can afford for your family. I watch for sales and cut coupons - both of which I'd rather not have to spend the time on but if you can get the organic for the same price as the other when you use a coupon then you might as well do it.

I will be trying your recipe for applesauce this weekend - can't wait! If I don't have a food mill can I just peel them and then put them into the crockpot? Same end result?

Shari said...

I thought I would delurk to let you know that I have enjoyed these two posts. My family is kinda like yours in that we try to do better but are not fanatical about it. We too choose where we spend our money. We used to buy coffee out every day but now make our own at home. The money saved from that habit lets me indulge my craft habit without feeling too guilty. We like to travel and we have friends who always comment that they can't afford to travel. My answer always is, yes you can. Wether it is travel, eating better etc it is all about how you choose to spend your dollars.

kate said...

Pam - yes, peel your apples first and you will be fine.

Ruth said...

For me, it's always a juggling act between convenience and the ideal. For example: I buy bottled water because I like to keep it in the car, available for the kids after practice, at the playground, etc. On the other hand, I hoard the empties and refill them from the tap until they get too gross to use. I used to use a thermos, but the kids were forever forgetting them, and they're EXPENSIVE.

I do try to be aware when I'm shopping. We don't have much junk food in the house, but I allow some, because I don't want it to become the forbidden fruit. I keep a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table, and the kids empty it every other day or so. We are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's in town, so I do a lot of my grocery shopping there ... they have pretty good prices on organic food.

As for the rest, we do pretty well. We recycle, and the kids wear hand-me-downs. We try to repair and make do instead of tossing things out the instant they break. We walk places. I know we could do better, but we're doing fairly well, and keep trying to improve.

Interesting posts, Kate. Thanks for raising these questions.

Anne said...

Hi Kate! More interesting stuff - and the applesauce recipe sounds great - we've got masses of apples on our trees at the moment - they won't be that great for eating, but they should be find for making sauce.

You can find me at www.pettigrew.org.uk/anne - please do come over and visit...

Oh, and like Pam's husband - I'm another Coeliac (British spelling, bear with me lol) - which I think is partly why I'm so interested in what I eat, as I have to be careful anyway, and it's easiest to cook most things from scratch.

HangerMom said...

Kate - I enjoyed the posts, thanks for writing them! I may have to check out the book. My mother-in-law is crazy into the organics and whole foods, so likely she has it on her shelf and I can borrow it there.

Our grocery bill is astronomical since my sis's kids came to live with us, but we're very lucky to still be able to afford fresh fruits and veggies every week. At four gallons of milk and a least a dozen and a half eggs a week, though, I've never considered buying anything but the cheapest ones on the shelf (unless I'm making eggnog or similar, when I'll always do "cleaner" eggs). I wish the story were different, but I don't see the easy places to cut back for us... Although I do think we're unusual as an American family in that respect. No bottled water, very little Starbucks (at least since I stopped working... I miss it terribly), virtually no new clothes from anywhere fancier than Target. The organics simply aren't affordable for us. Though I do it when I can.

We do garden, and that makes a huge difference! Definitely plant zucchini. I don't know your climate well, but it's the easiest plant in the world in my experience, and it'll take over a garden. With just two plants last year, we had to hand extras out to friends and neighbors despite eating it almost nightly, sometimes as the entree. Since we moved this summer, we've had less of a garden and I miss it terribly. It saved us tons of money in the past. Broccoli is my other favorite garden plant. The girls' favorite are the cherry tomatoes which they love to pick and eat the way I would strawberries.

I've done a lot of preparing and freezing fruit (I shredded then froze zucchini for zucchini bread all winter long; we'd buy two bushels of Colorado peaches when we lived there and freeze them as they got perfectly ripe so I could bake pies and crisps throughout the cold months, and I've always frozen extra apples sliced and seasoned for pies) however I've never thought much about the in-season items. I want to read more about that. Apples are so readily available I usually just buy them when I need them, but then I suppose I'm definitely not buying local most of the year. I'm going to check into that and give it more thought. And I don't know much about freezing berries and things myself, but it would certainly be worth it.

Anyway, this is overlong, but I wanted you to know I read and enjoyed the posts, and it's made me think! Well, and the earlier post made me crave Oreos, but like you said - moderation is the key. Thanks.