Friday, February 26, 2010

More reactions plus cost worries.

Last post, I mentioned the negative/defensive reactions to organic living. I forgot to mention all of the positive reactions I receive, though. I found numerous supporters, especially (and surprisingly) at work. People have offered to help me with various things, from making the baby food (I already mentioned Teresa) to canning portions of the CSA share. I had a shop employee bring in his book about canning today, not to mention all of the tips that people have been verbally sharing with me. I am so grateful for all of the offered help and I now have so many resources to consult.

Even last night during a church dinner the use of antibiotics in livestock became the topic of discussion. After talking about how antibiotics are used with cows and other sources of meat, someone at the table made the comment that it really seems reasonable to go organic. She was met with the usual complaints about how it isn’t cost effective and that there aren’t many resources in our town. That’s when I got to talk about what my family was doing to successfully make the switch. I gave them the information about the CSA and told them how much it cost. Everyone at the table thought the price is reasonable (although someone did mention it would be tough to come up with all of the money at once). One person asked about the variety of foods in the CSA and if there is anything strange. I told them that I really didn’t know, since it was all new to me, but I plan to use the Cookus Interruptus website and how I hope that it is going to help me cook and prepare any produce that isn’t familiar to me. I also told them about how I want to make my own baby food and also can as much as possible. The common reaction is that I am taking on a lot of work. And I know that may be true, but I hope that by taking steps it really isn’t overwhelming.

One thing that is becoming overwhelming is the cost to do all of this. I am not much of a garage sale or auction shopper and really don’t have any tips on how to save money with that. I am a coupon cutter and a warehouse store shopper, so I guess that helps some. I feel like every time I think of something that will benefit us (making baby food, canning, etc.) there is a list of tools or appliances that I need. First it was the Magic Bullet and cube trays. Now it is a pressure canner and mason jars. Plus, today someone recommended a juicer to can certain things. As the list grows, I get stressed and overwhelmed thinking about everything I need, but can’t afford.

Today I started talking to a friend that does his own canning. He suggested I borrow for a while. I will probably need my own mason jars, but it doesn’t hurt to ask around in my circle of friends and family to see if anyone has any sitting around. I have a relative that has a pressure canner that I am sure she would let me borrow for a weekend. I also have a friend with a pretty nice juicer which I am going to ask to borrow for a weekend. I know my dad has a dehydrator that I don’t think he has used in over 10 years that I am sure I can borrow. I have another friend with a bread machine that they use about monthly, so hopefully I can borrow that one weekend. Which reminds me, does anyone recommend a particular brand/model bread machine? I have never really thought of borrowing to save money, but I think that I have to reach out to make this work. And the best part is that most of these people live within a 5 mile radius around me and I usually visit them weekly anyway. Meanwhile, as I am borrowing, I will try to save money to buy my own and also ask for these items for my birthday or Christmas. I really felt a lot better after realizing that all I have to do is ask for a little help and this project became much more do-able again.

And if anyone out there is feeling benevolent, I do have a Wish List on Amazon.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Deliveries. Cookus Interruptus. Reactions.

Unfortunately, I had a set back. My soon-to-be little eater caught a terrible cold last Friday and is still fighting it. With all of the problems that he is having, I didn’t feel comfortable introducing something foreign into his system. He seems to be getting a little better every day, so hopefully we can experiment with some organic cereal this weekend.

The only food making news, I did receive my Magic Bullet last Friday and the cube trays on Monday. My little man turns six months on March 3rd, so I can feed him homemade cereal after that. I plan to experiment with some vegetables the weekend after. Hopefully I will remember to take pictures so that I can add them to the post.

I did find a website, Cookus Interruptus, that I adore. Her recipes are quick, easy, good for the entire family, and organic. I really like that I can find recipes that will help use the vegetables from our CSA. I also like that there are a lot of recipes for foods that I have heard of, including some comfort foods and baked goods.

I have mixed feelings about the videos. I know that they are trying to give a real life feel, but sometimes I find it annoying. Based on the comments, though, most people think that it is hilarious. Either way, I can definitely stand it and I love the short length of the videos. Also, if it bothers you too much, the recipe is written, too, so you can bypass the video. The recipes are simple enough and sound flavorful. The downside is that she uses some specialty ingredients and spices that I am probably going to have to travel out of town to find.

I read some of her blog entries and find them useful. She answers a lot of my questions. She is also a fan of Jamie Oliver, who I have liked every since I watched his show, Jamie’s School Lunch Project. I think it originally aired in 2006. Anyway, I really enjoy his research and ideas and completely support his desire to turn school lunches into a healthy meal. Kate sent me a link (which was also featured in the Cookus Interruptus blog) to a recent TED talk featuring Jamie and his fight against chocolate milk. It is about 20 minutes in length.

On a completely different topic, I just want to comment that I am kind of surprised at peoples’ reactions when I told them I am doing this. A couple of close friends advised me that organic food is just a governmental scam with a hippie mindset designed to provoke a higher bill at the grocery store. Others claimed that their food growing up didn’t contain nearly as many preservatives and additives as today’s selection, so they were conditioned to not consider this in their food choices. And no matter what facts I would bring to the table, no one would even think about incorporating more organic food in their diets.

I found it odd how passionate people are to protect their overly processed food. Or maybe they were just defending their lifestyle choices. I almost felt that they thought that I was attacking their values when I was really just excited about my own decision. Anyway, I just thought that the negative reactions were interesting.

My husband and I are pretty cynical people and I will admit that I am surprised at how quickly he jumped on board. I think for both of us, though, there is so much evidence to support this. Even if it is just to eat healthier by including more fresh produce in meals or sit together as a family during dinner, it is improving our lives.
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My life with food

I have always been conscious of food. Not that I have always been the healthiest eater, or am now, but I have maintained an interest in food information, origins, and packaging.

I think that my first experience was in elementary school when we were shown a video of a fish packaging company. The video laid out (in detail) the step by step process from when the fish were caught through their journey to our grocery stores. My family didn’t eat a lot of fish and my mom was not much of a cook, but for some reason she decided to pour her heart into a fish dinner for her family that night. And not an unidentifiable fish (like fish sticks), but an unbreaded, very obvious filet. I still remember my older sister (who was also in elementary school) and me prodding it with our forks and refusing to eat it. I am sure that I had refused food previous to this, but this was the first occasion that it was due to knowing too much about the origin. Looking back, that fish dinner was probably pretty good and something that I would love to eat in present day.

Quite a few years passed before my next encounter with food during high school. I thought that I had found my calling and I was desperate to be a veterinarian (despite being horrible in all science-related subjects and horrified by blood and guts). Realizing my love for animals made me an instant advocate for animal rights. Around my sophomore year, I proclaimed myself a vegetarian. I was faithful, although I don’t think that my father approved for a while. Knowing my beliefs, he would still include a slab of meat on my dinner plate. I did have some guilt, realizing that he came home every night to make his family a good meal, but every time I looked at that meat I only saw a carcass. Not really knowing much about nutrition, eventually I became ill due to my lack of protein and iron and my physician suggested I eat fish. That’s how my love for fish (after about 10 years) was born. And Dad finally consented and would prepare fish for me pretty much every night.

That lasted until my junior year of college when my roommate was cooking a steak and it smelled really good. I do still have some trouble with chicken (especially wings). The meat is too similar to flesh and the wings are a visible shell of what was.

Fortunately, during college I was a dance minor and had numerous classes about nutrition. I did eventually gain the tools to have a proper diet. Unfortunately, it happened at a time in my life where bars and fast food were a constant occurrence. My health was not something that I thought about often (or at all). After college and a few years in the workforce, books and movies like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me were released. I devoured this information. I was fascinated and equally disgusted about what corporations were feeding the public. Around this time I watched a commercial featuring Beatrice Arthur (Golden Girl) discussing animal cruelty associated with KFC. I haven’t eaten there since. The same was true after reading these books. The fast food that I loved and consumed regularly was now something that I couldn’t imagine putting into my body. I succeeded in a total boycott for a few years, but, out of convenience, have eaten fast food in the past couple of years. I still try to avoid it, if possible, and still firmly believe that it should not be a significant part of anyone’s diet.

After joining the workforce and not dancing, my weight increased and I began eating a lot of pre-portioned frozen meals. They were so easy to bring to work and most of them tasted pretty good. After my son was born, it became very important to my husband and me to eat family dinners every night. Although my son is too young to participate now, we want to lay the groundwork for when he is able. My research about food began again as I found myself planning our dinners weeks in advance (to save time and money). This is when I started coming across the information about what is in the food at the grocery store. I had a vague idea, but never really looked into it extensively until now. My findings of animal treatment, pesticides, and other additives amazed and horrified me (yet again). I started looking at our kitchen shelves and our freezer differently and those frozen meals became less appealing.

That’s when I decided that I didn’t want this in my son’s body and I am happy that I can control it. I always viewed organic as an expensive alternative for rich people or hippies trying to make a statement. My opinion drastically changed. Now I am finding any way to purchase organic. I cut coupons, joined a CSA, and make special trips to health food stores. Anything that I can do to provide the purest, healthiest, and tastiest option for my family. Through my life, information regarding food has usually sickened me and led to a change in my (and my family’s) diet. This is no exception. I know some people don’t care about preservatives and what the cow ate before it was a steak, I just happen to be one of the people that do.
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


My son started showing interest in food this past weekend! He is about 5 ½ months, so his age is right on, he just always loved his bottle and never seemed to care before. When we were visiting Bapa and Nana last weekend, they sat him on the table and he was reaching for any food that was near. He would also stare at anyone that was eating. So, now I really need to speed up this process and get everything ready. I am not prepared to make his food yet, and really thought that I had more time, but luckily cereal is the first food (it is even suggested to use store bought before 6 months and homemade after 6 months).

The CSA contacted me this past weekend. Good news – they still have shares available, so they sent me a contract. Plus, they have a pick up location on Saturday in my town. And, another bonus, I found out that they also supply some (organic) beef and that is included the share. Our deliveries begin in April and I intend to post pictures. If we plan ahead and freeze everything correctly, I doubt that we will have to buy additional produce for the year.

Teresa lent me a book, Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. She was also nice enough to attach a couple of notes and some advice. I have already been glancing through it and can’t wait to curl up and read (especially with all of this snow!), and hopefully I will have time this weekend. I want to use this for most of my recipes (particularly in the beginning).

Teresa’s advice:
I would look up fruit/vegetable/meat in the index and then read about when I could give it to my kids. I often just looked at the shelves of baby food too to get ideas of different pairings for foods (like strawberry banana or things like that). I would usually steam the food or microwave with a little water or bake (winter squash) and try not to overcook it too much so I didn’t lose many nutrients. Then, once cooled I would puree in blender or Magic Bullet (works best) with the liquid from cooking if needed and would use more water if I didn’t have enough liquid. Then I would freeze it in 16 cube trays (perfect size portions) and then once frozen, store in freezer bags. One more thing – I would buy (out of season) bags of frozen berries, like mixed berries and cook a little in microwave and add a little apple juice or even sugar to sweeten a little. Good luck!

I now have a partner for this journey, which I am really excited about. Yay, Sarah! I can’t wait to share stories and tips!
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Research, Recommendations, and Resources


To begin, I looked up some baby food recipes on the internet. This entire concept is completely unfamiliar to me and I do not have any close friends in the area that have ever done this. I really wanted to see if it was even practicable for our family, or if it was something that was incredibly time consuming or expensive that we could not accommodate. I was happy to find that making baby food is not only a cost saver, but the recipes seem simple and can be accomplished in just a couple hours during the weekend and also can be made in bulk.


Next I wanted to talk to someone who had actually made baby food before. Luckily, a co-worker’s wife, Teresa, is a SAHM who is (well, was, her kids are older now) a firm believer in making her own baby food. I asked her for any recipes and/or tips that she may have to make the process easier. Her first suggestion was that I purchase a Magic Bullet. Although the Magic Bullet is a $55 appliance, she swore that I would recover the cost quickly with the homemade baby food and it would not only make the process easier, but it also is the best appliance for the job. She also said that she still uses it to make her kids homemade smoothies. Her other suggestion was to purchase ice cube trays. Once the food is made, it is divided into the trays and frozen. After the food freezes, it is removed from the trays and stored in a labeled Ziploc bag. In a regular ice cube tray each cube size is approximately one ounce, so premeasured food can be frozen and stored with minimal space consumed in the freezer.

Sticking to my eco-friendly ideas, I think that I will purchase this type of tray. But, since the food will need to travel to the baby-sitter, I am going to purchase at least one set of these, too. Although it isn’t stated on the Amazon website, these containers are BPA and phthalate free. Plus, I have read that some foods (like apricot and prunes) do not freeze solid, so these will keep the portions separate for those types of food. Maybe I should purchase two sets of these...


I realize that there are many benefits (in food quality and cost) in supporting local farmers. Also, I would rather not fund the overly priced, imported, organic section at the grocery store. With those ideas, I am pursuing alternative options for finding ingredients.

Both my sister, Jamie, and my friend, Kate, have participated in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I was interested in joining a CSA years ago when Jamie started, but was unable to find one in my area. Fortunately, I recently found this site that supplied me with the names of three CSAs in my community. With the information on this website, I compared prices and also the length of time that each provides shares. I found one that was not only less expensive than the others, but also offers shares for 42 weeks out of the year. And they allow a half share (which I think is more than enough for my family). I contacted this CSA for more details, but haven’t heard back yet. I really hope that this CSA works out; it is a great way to acquire seasonal produce while supporting local agriculture.

I also plan to visit the Farmer’s Market weekly once it starts again in the spring/summer and possibly some local orchards and farms to pick (if we have time as a family), or at least purchase fruits, as needed. I mentioned in the last post that there are a few health food stores in the area and I need to visit those in the near future to see what they provide. If necessary, I also have Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods about an hour away.

My last (and most important) resource is the group of people willing to help me with this transition. I know that you may think that I am being dramatic, because, seriously I am just purchasing organic produce and sticking it in a blender monthly. But for us, in a land of frozen pizza and Lean Cuisines, this is going to be a huge lifestyle change. I love that I have people in my life that understand how important this is and have offered to help. Thank you all (and you know who you are).
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Newly Organic

I am a working mom, who not only logs in full-time hours during the week, but also commutes. So, trust me, I am looking for easy, convenient, but still cost effective solutions. I am planning (and hoping) to make most of my son’s baby food, but do realize that there may be a need to supplement with premade store bought food. Luckily, I am a planner and a scheduler, which I think will be assets that will allow me to accomplish a healthier lifestyle.

As time goes on, I also plan to shift my husband’s and my groceries to organic, so as my son gets older, we are able to enjoy meals as a family. Although we live in somewhat of a farming area, I am surprised at how few options there are. There is a Farmer’s Market, but it is not year round and will only be viable in the summer and fall months. Our city only has one major grocery store with a limited (overly priced) organic and health food section and it took me a couple years to find a local CSA. Luckily, I believe we have a couple health food stores, so I will be visiting those to see what is available. 

Through this blog, I am hoping to provide some tips and recommendations to others who are considering this option for their families. But, I am also hoping that people will read this and provide me with information to help make a cost effective and smooth transition. I also hope to prove that anyone can do this, even with little resources available. 

A wonderful friend of mine (who continues to inspire me) also writes a mommy blog. Unfortunately, she no longer lives in the area, but I still rely on her for guidance and support. She recently wrote an informative blog entry that has helped me begin this journey: Choosing healthier food for your family. She is the real writer, so give her blog a shot!
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