My Food Struggle

I’ve been thinking about food a lot lately. I mean, more than normal even for me, because, let’s be real, I probably think about food more than the average person. Mainly, because I keep reading articles about the things you shouldn’t eat – too many pesticides, too much fat, too much processed food, etc. It seems everyday, I’m learning about some new chemical and one more item is crossed off my list of things I can eat or cook with. This time it was canned tomatoes, which happen to be a staple for me. That was kinda the last straw for me. I felt paralyzed to eat well and make good food decisions for our family. I mean, I agree with the reasons you’re not supposed to eat canned tomatoes. Cans have BPA in their lining, tomatoes have high acidity which increases the amount of BPA absorbed from the can into the food. BPA is very bad and linked to anything from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. *Sigh*

I realize I could use jarred pasta sauces as a swap for some of my canned tomato uses, but really, is there a substitute for Muir Glen’s organic fire roasted tomatoes, short of growing and fire roasting some yourself? It makes me sad that food engineers (or whoever is responsible for cans in the food industry) cannot create canned goods without using excessive chemicals. I mean, I’m sure they can, but they don’t.

I read the other day on a friend’s blog that they try and eat SOLE foods whenever possible. S=sustainable, O=organic, L=local, E=ethical. I thought that was a great way to sum up the way I would like to eat. Turns out it is more difficult to eat this way than I would like. Difficult because it takes time and money to do this well, both of which I seem to have little of. Part of my solution to this was going to be a square foot garden in our backyard, since the nearby farmer’s market is closed for the season, but in the craziness that is life, it doesn’t look like it is going to be put in with enough time to get a spring garden going. Ethical is especially hard because there are so many secret lives of some ingredients, like sugar, coffee, palm oil, soybeans . . . How do you really know how your food is handled and how those food handlers are treated?

A lot of times, when I feel paralyzed by an idea or a concept, I just have to step back and look at it again in smaller pieces.

  • I am going to buy organic when I am buying the most contaminated foods, dairy, meat and food for baby. That means I am probably going to be buying less meat.
  • I will try and follow the Seafood Watch Program with seafood.
  • I will try to find alternatives to canned items when possible.
  • I am going to try and buy local whenever possible. Maybe in the future, sign up for a CSA box.
  • I am going to try not to buy foods that are grown far away. This means, no frozen shrimp from Thailand.
  • I am going to search organic vendor’s websites for coupons to try and reduce costs.
  • I am going to continue to try and choose food brands that support work ethics that I agree with. This may mean spending a little more money on coffee or chocolate and spending less money in other areas of our finances.
  • I am going to give myself grace when I fail in these areas.

What about you guys? Tell me about your food thoughts.

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21 Comments

  1. Posted February 19, 2010 at 8:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    This resonated so deeply with me. There were days when I didn’t eat anything because I felt like there were no real nutrients in anything I could buy at the store. When the doctor told me that what happened was a result of not enough folic acid I started searching for a solution and after being very frustrated for a while and watching Food Inc and reading then rereading labels I came to pretty much the same conclusion you did. We are signing up for orlando organics and they deliver a deluxe box of produce and fruit to your door for between 30-40 dollars a week. I hope to plan my recipes and meals around what I receive because it’s in season and local whenever possible. I also have been watching what food seems to never spoil in the fridge because if it has that many preservatives and chemicals then I really don’t want to eat it and will not buy it again.

  2. Jan Rhinehart
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Beth! I applaud you for being so conscious of your family’s health and well-being. You care and you are willing to put your money and your time and your energy where your mouth is. One thing I have learned in all these years is that it does not have to be “all or nothing”. Every step I take to eat better, exercise more, rely on God fully improves my health and the well-being of those for whom I am responsible. The more I do, the better things are likely to be, but every step is important and valuable. It’s good to take time to remind myself of this from time to time and I thank you for the opportunity to do just that today…it helps me have peace:)

  3. Misty
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 11:02 am | Permalink | Reply

    Have you considered joining a CSA for fresh local produce? Our farmers market is only open April-October, but we were able to find a CSA that delivers to our town that runs year-round. We’re able to do a four-week subscription, which means we can just stop when the market opens, and it’s comparable to prices at the farmers market.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There are a couple CSAs around here that I’d like to try, but they are so high commitment that I am reluctant. They are also a bit pricey and I worry that we wouldn’t make the best use of the vegetables. I do want to try it soon though, maybe once Jason’s new job settles in a bit!

      • Misty
        Posted February 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Well, we are only on our third week, but I really like it. We’ve been able to keep up with our fruits and veggies pretty well and have only thrown out so far (I think?) one apple that had a bad spot to begin with. I’ve also blanched and frozen about two quarts of cabbage (we got a head last week and another this week … we like cabbage, but there are only two of us!) and may end up freezing a quart of carrots after this week.

        • Posted February 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          You might want to give the “farmer’s box” through Greenling a try sometime. I totally identify with not wanting to be committed to a weekly CSA. I’m not sure that I could do it either… with my crazy schedule I’m afraid I’d waste too much good food. Jen started ordering the Greenling box and has told me she & Joe love it. You can order it when you want, however often you want. And it’s all local/all fresh, totally S.O.L.E. food. 🙂

        • Elizabeth
          Posted February 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

          I’ve done Greenling before and was happy with what we received from them. I’m open to using them again, but I’m holding off until Jason starts to make money. 🙂

  4. Krista Box
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow Beth… this totally hit my heart! I struggle so much with this and find myself giving up all the time. Like you, I struggle with having enough time and money to do this well/right. I feel like I have a hard enough time making our grocery budget work with non-healthy items let alone healthy and organic ones. I know this isn’t super helpful and that I do not have any advice for you. Sorry about that. Just wanted you to know that you are not alone! Maybe we can hold each other accountable to getting our gardens started for next season. Love you!

  5. Posted February 19, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    hi liz,
    i agree with your steps. in the defense of ‘organic growing’ and ‘gardening’ in general; to easily solve your tomatoe crisis; tomatoes are seriously the easiest freakin thing to grow ever. and chop them up and freeze them. year round fresh organic tomatoes at your doorstep.
    like your seafood link.
    i too feel crazy with all the uproarings as of late: no chocolate, no sugar, agave nectar is crap, salt is the enemy, blah blah. it is creating a nervous energy in the kitchen, isnt it.
    angelina

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

      There is a nervous energy inthe kitchen right now, isn’t there?

      I actually just found out that Jason was going to surprise me this week by putting in a square foot garden, so I will be giving the tomato growing a try this year! Didn’t know you could freeze them! One more reason to get a deep freeze for the garage!

  6. renee
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

    hi liz,
    we too have been having this same struggle. and the canned tomoatoes..you can do so much with them. you know i have found tomatoes crushed/diced) at heb tomatoes in a box (like broth) or in glass containers. they are of course more expensive but was happy to find them in my local heb here in houston.

    it really is such a struggle to eat healthy on a budget. that is where we are finding ourselves! so sad we have to find ourselves in this kind of struggle. my husband has done lots of research on the best things to grow here in the houston area (seeing we aren’t natives). we have been working on our gardens. some times it is trial and error but thankfully the only things that is wasted is mostly our time. i hope your square foot garden goes well! don’t give up!

    we have done CSA in the past and have wanted to do one again. we did one over the winter once and with 2 young kids we got soooo many greens. more than we could eat. it doesn’t make us not want to try it again, right now it is just the cost. it would be nice to find a small family who might want to share and see how it goes.

    the things i have been trying to do is buying organic/local all the things that we don’t peel to eat. apples, lettuce, celery, etc. things like bananas, oranges that we peel to eat i don’t buy the organic. you know we recently read that root veggies are the worst for sucking up all those nasty pesticides. so when buying those i buy organic. (i just starting planting potatoes today so i am hoping to get a good crop!)

    have you read michael pollan’s little book entitled ‘food rules’? it is a great little quick read. lots of helpful information and things to keep in the back of your mind.

    i often think, even though i LOVE good meat, it would just be easier to go vegetarian and that would cut out the struggle with buying good, safe, local meat (that costs so much)!

    oh…i could go on and on. thanks for the post…you are not alone! we just try to take all the steps we can toward eating better, healthier, safer…even though we can’t go all the way some is better than none! i guess…i hope…

    renee

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I need to get Pollan’s new book, ‘Food Rules’ – I have heard such good things!

      We are going to do another 1/2 cow this year from the same place we bought last year! It ends up being really affordable – almost the same price per pound as what you buy at HEB. If we get enough people to go in on it, it doesn’t end up costing too much!

      It is good to know I’m not alone in this struggle – thanks for sharing!

  7. Posted February 20, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’m sure CSAs are a little different in Texas than here in two months of summer Michigan, but we did a box a couple summers ago. In an effort to reduce cost, we did a volunteer CSA. Basically, for two hours a week and $200/year we would get a box of fresh locally grown food. I will say gardening each week helped me appreciate where my food came from, and forced me to find creative ways to use up all of the fresh food.

    Here are some of my food thoughts:

    1) I’d love to be a part of a raw milk share. It’s illegal to sell raw milk here in MI, but we can do a “cow share”, which allows to get raw milk.

    2) Continue buying quality meat. We started with the beef. Chicken is much more difficult though. Doing more meals that are less based on meat (soups, salads, etc).

    3)Try to find the time to do our own little garden. What a great skill to pass down to future generations.

    4) Not obsessing about it. God knows we do our best with the finances and time we’ve been given. I need to rest in Him.

    Good luck, Elizabeth! Share more of your journey as you learn and grow!

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I just got information on a raw milk co-op here in Texas! I’m going to sign up as soon as finances allow. Raw milk is SOOOO delicious, I can’t wait to get my hands on some!

      Why is quality chicken so much harder to find than beef? I’m hoping to get some free range chicken this time around after we buy our beef. The people we buy our grass fed/grass finished beef from are mainly know for raising chickens! I need a deep freeze!

      I am excited about learning more about gardening. Although I am scared too. I’m worried I won’t really dedicate the time to it that it needs.

      And amen – I do need a remind that I shouldn’t obsess about these things. I do tend to obsess. 🙂

      I will certainly continue sharing! Thanks for your input Sheri!

  8. Michele
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great post Elizabeth, more people need to think about food the way that you do.

    My husband and I are also on a quest to eat organic local food whenever possible. I find that if I eat what the seasons provide it makes this much easier (I live in Minnesota, so we truly do experience dramatic shifts in seasons and the food available). Eating with the seasons is also best for the body (from an Eastern medicine perspective). We live in an apartment, so it is not easy for us to grow anything other than some herbs when the seasons permit. Luckily, we are blessed with bountiful farmer’s markets and a thriving local food movement. We are also blessed with EXCELLENT co-ops, which makes eating local organic food much easier (and cheaper).

    Two things we can’t live without:
    1. A large pressure cooker and plenty of canning jars. The pressure cooker I got for free and the canning jars were next to nothing on Craigslist. Last summer my husband and I would have tomato canning dates – it was a total blast and totally satisfying to end up with canned tomatoes to use for the rest of the year. We also made a spaghetti sauce that can’t be beat. The tomatoes were so inexpensive at the farmer’s market and many times we had people giving us free tomatoes because there were just too many for them to use!

    2. Food dehydrator. I got mine cheap off of Ebay. We use a lot of red peppers at our house for fajitas and the like. Last year I cut them up in strips and dehydrated baskets of red peppers when they were practially giving them away at the farmers market. They rehydrate beautifully. You can dehydrate almost anything (except eggs and most dairy). There are wonderful books on dehydrating available at the library.

    We have also drastically reduced our consumption, which has also drastically cut our grocery bill. We sometimes splurge on some lovely local bacon or sausages for breakfast. Instead, we have learned to love and cook creatively with the grains and beans found in the bulk section of the co-op. Big money savings, and so nutritious. I highly recommend Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” if you need some inspiration. Also, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is a terrific read about eating with the seasons.

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ooo, a pressure cooker and dehydrator – what a great way to store your food! Thanks for the reminders!

      I adore ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’. Makes me want to live on a farm. But then I realize I’m a city girl, through and through!

      Thanks for the other book recommendations – I will check them out!

  9. Posted February 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

    i would love to do all of this stuff as well. i wish that the farmers around here wouldn’t be as limited as they are to sell their products locally (from what i’ve heard). we’ve been moving around so much that i haven’t been able to keep a good personal garden, but hope to. it makes me sad that things which aren’t good for you are sold to people, but it is apparent that isn’t changing for a while. gah!

    so curious about the flavor of raw milk. i’ve been looking for at least a dairy that sells milk from cows who don’t eat corn and i’ve found only one and it is 45 minutes away. goodness MI is a tough one (sheri’s right!)

    • renee
      Posted February 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

      i grew on a dairy farm in VT. our family never purchased milk at a store until like 2002 and that was because we sold the farm! raw milk is so creamy!! you have to stir it because the cream settles at the top!!

  10. Posted February 22, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    you’re on the right track! to be totally honest, it is especially difficult with things like coffee and sugar, as you mentioned. i have found that meeting at least one requirement helps–fair-trade and organic labels can generally be trusted. also, you may check out greenlings. we did that for a while (austin CSA that’s delivered to your door) and you can get local dairy, meat, etc. i love the idea of knowing your farmer.

    budget-wise, buying less meat will allow for even more organic and sustainable choices–you might be amazed how it works out! 🙂 what i’ve found is that the further down this road you get, the easier it becomes.

    i have to second the comment about canning–i learned how to can/preserve/pickle last year and it is amazing. talk about stretching your dollar. homemade organic strawberry jam? yes, please. also must second Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (also vegetarian) as an excellent resource.

    here’s a post to help with the BPA in canned food problem, at re-nest.com.

    i wish you the best on your food journey, and thanks for the link love!

    • Elizabeth
      Posted February 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink | Reply

      A friend of mine told me that costco sells organic fair trade coffee and sugar in bulk for a lot less than you can get at most places! I don’t have a membership, but I have a friend that does, and I’m going to see if she’ll let me tag along with her to stock up on some organic fair trade items!

      This summer, I may be seeing if you’re willing to teach me some canning methods if my garden is successful! Aubrey was saying how great you are at that.

      I will add ‘How to Cook Everything’ to my wish list on paperback swap. That and Michael Pollan’s book, ‘Food Rules’. Thanks so much for the feedback!

  11. Posted February 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I totally agree with you. Those are my everyday concern as well. I also don’t buy organic products from large farm; especially milk, eggs and meat. Even though they have organic marks, I can’t trust 100%. I’m curious how they put everything under control.

2 Trackbacks

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