Monday, May 30, 2011

How To Eat Organically For Less

When my neighbor brought me a basket of tomatoes from her garden last year, I had no idea it was going to change my life.

The basket was full of dark purple tomatoes with yellow streaks. Gorgeous. And, as I was to find out, delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I went right back over to my neighbor’s house and asked her what the heck kind of tomatoes she’d given me, because I’d never tasted anything so good in my life.

Her response, that they were heirloom tomatoes, sent me on a quest to rediscover food the way it was meant to be; free from pesticides and the act of modifying a crop for perfect size, shape, color and durability (which often sacrifices taste and nutrition).

Making the commitment to feed my family as organically as possible was a costly one in the beginning. I quickly learned how to cut costs, though, so that I wasn’t paying an arm and a leg to feed my family healthy, nutritious and flavorful food. And you can, too!

Here are some tips that can help bring down the cost of eating organically.

Eat With the Seasons

Ever notice how grapes are three times the cost during the winter than they are in the summer? Foods that are in season are cheaper! They are more abundant, and often don’t have to be shipped as far, cutting down on fuel costs.

Something to note is that the organic season can be slightly different from the non-organic season, so even though an item may be in abundant supply on the shelf, you may need to wait a bit longer for the organic version to appear.

Join A CSA

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program offers organic produce from a local source on a regular basis. You are basically cutting out the middle man, so overall costs are quite a bit lower than buying the same produce at the store. The variety is often large, and can sometimes even include meat, eggs and dairy.

When we belonged to a CSA, we got a large box every other week, and for $80/month it was more than enough to feed our family of three adults and one child. We also got things in our box that we’d never eaten before, and it was fun to learn to cook new things.

Buy Food at Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Markets also cut out the middle man and offer organic produce at huge savings! If you wait until the end of the market, many vendors are willing to sell their items at an even lower cost, and the more you buy of something, the more likely you are to get a better deal. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

If you need to go during regular hours, you can also seek out vendors that are organic in practice, but just can’t afford the very expensive process of becoming organic certified. I was amazed at how many vendors practiced organic farming but couldn’t display the logo. Prices here tend to be a bit lower as the farmer doesn’t have to pass down certification costs to the buyer.

Buy Unprepared Food

You pay quite a bit more to have someone else cut your onions, carrots and celery into tiny pieces and call it Mirpoix. Buy your produce whole and dirty, and wash and cut it yourself to save some money.

Purchase at Food Warehouses

Buying certain items in bulk can save a bundle! While the Costcos in my area don’t sell fresh organic produce, they do sell large bags of organic fruits and vegetables in the frozen section. One large bag of organic green beans will last my family through three meals, coming out to a per meal cost of about $2.

Use Coupons

Coupons for organic items are few and far between, but they ARE out there. A Google search will bring up several sites that deal exclusively with organic, green and healthy living couponing and sales. When these sites don’t give you exactly what you need, writing to a company and telling them how much you like their product and would appreciate some coupons often gets great results.

Grow a Garden

Growing your own garden is the cheapest way to eat organically! Not only are seeds inexpensive, you have no doubt about how your food has been grown. Many nurseries are now carrying organic plants as well, if you prefer to start a bit ahead of the game.

Eat Less

While it may sound crazy, the more nutritious the food you put into your body, the less your body needs! Your body will naturally adjust its hunger signals based on the nutrients it’s receiving. Even if you spend more on organic food, you will spend less in the long term.

I do spend more on produce than I used to, but my monthly food budget hasn’t changed. By buying less processed food, and using the tips above, I’ve been able to break even. You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to eat healthy and support local and organically sourced food.


How To Plant an Organic Garden
Simply Organic In-Store Coupons
How Is Organic Farming Different?
Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables You Should Buy Organic

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy To Be Duck Free

I was working at my desk while Mason napped on the bed near me when Gabi slammed open the bedroom door and ran to my side.  I was about to lay into her when she said the most horrifying words.

Gabi: MOM!! Dad's on the computer and we're looking at baby ducks! We're going to get a duck!

Oh HELL no!

You may be thinking, Oh Laural, chill!  They're probably just pulling your leg!

But I know something about my husband that you do not. And that thing is that he once owned his very own pet duck. And he is constantly hinting that he would like to get another pet duck. For the children.

So far I've been able to brush the comments off and hope that he gets over it. Or buys us a farm. But there was something about Gabi's excitement that immediately put me on high alert.

And then I heard Gilberto trying to get Gabi's attention by whisper yelling from the living room.

Gilberto: Gabeeeeee, come back! Don't tell mom, Gabi! Shhhhh. Come BACK! You're going to ruin everything!

I was down those stairs faster than I've ever been before.

Me: What on earth are you DOING? You KNOW we're not getting a pet duck!

Gilberto: Come on, honey! It would be awesome!

Me: Have you lost your mind?! We can't get a dog because our house is so small, but you want a duck that will quack and shed feathers and crap everywhere?

Gilberto: But you can train a duck! My duck was trained! It only pooped in it's box! Well, in the room where the box was. But not anywhere else! And it followed me around and...

Gabi: There are mini-pigs, too, mom! Dad said maybe we could get a pig!

Gilberto: The pigs cost $350, but the baby ducks are only $5!

Two sets of hopeful eyes were trained up at me. Pleading with me to say yes.

I quickly made it clear that pets, especially ducks and pigs, are NOT an option for us. Gabi ran to her room to cry, and Gilberto dejectedly turned back to his computer. No doubt promising to himself to never let the pet duck dream die.

This must be my punishment for trying to figure out how to hide a chicken coop on my patio from the HOA.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Expanding The List Of Kitchen Items That Cannot Be Mothered

Gabi has a habit of trying to mother inanimate objects, like pieces of fruit, with disastrous results.

A few months ago she dressed a butternut squash up in doll clothes, tied her jump rope around it and pretended it was a pet alligator.  I'm still not sure how it happened, but the squash alligator met its end after coming into contact with a kitchen table leg and splitting in three. 

Today I found Gabi in the living room cradling a bag of flour tightly wrapped in a baby blanket.  I let her lug the thing around until I noticed a thin layer of white dust coating her skin. Sure enough, the bag was leaking.

Me: Gabi, we need to put the bag of flour away now. It's leaking.

Gabi: No, mom! It's my sister!

Me: It's only your sister until it explodes all over the floor and creates a huge mess! We are going to avoid that situation, so bring it to me now, please.

Gabi: If that happens I'll clean it up!  You'll ruin everything if you take her away from me now!

Me: Honey, it's not up for discussion. 

Gabi did NOT want to turn over that bag of flour.  We argued a bit more before she shoved it into my arms, sending up a cloud of flour, and started running up the stairs. 

Gabi: FINE, MOTHER!  I hope you're happy that you killed my sister and now I don't have anyone to play with because Mason's SLEEPING!

First, Mason was no longer asleep after that oh so dramatic tantrum on the stairs.

Second, her teenage years ARE NOT GOING TO BE FUN.

The bag of flour is now safely inside a Ziploc bag and back on the cupboard shelf.  Before I put it away, though, I noticed that she'd given the poor bag a face. 

No wonder she was so attached!  It's like naming a stray puppy- it just makes it all the harder to say goodbye.   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Plastic Wrap Is Chewy, Unlike A Layer Of Chicken Fat

Gilberto ordered his usual Country Fried Steak, and had his fork and knife ready before his plate even hit the table.  He was hungry, and took a huge bite.

While he was chewing an odd look crossed his face, and he started poking at his chicken.

Gilberto: There's a very thin layer of fat on this!  I've never noticed that it had fat before.  Boy, it sure is evenly dispersed. See?

I moved some sauce off of his chicken with a knife for a better look.

Me: Hon, that's not fat.  That's seran wrap.

The cook had forgotten to remove the seran wrap from the chicken before throwing it into the deep fryer, and it had melted onto the meat.

Me: You just ate seran wrap! I hope it doesn't get stuck in your intestines!  Oh my God, I have to blog about this.

We were both laughing so hard we had tears streaming down our cheeks.

Waiter: I am SO SORRY. We'll get a new meal out to your right away.  Can I get you, well, can I get you ANYTHING else?

Gilberto: Oh no, bro, don't worry about it.

Me: It's actually a pretty funny story!

Gilberto: An honest mistake. No worries!

Me: I'm actually going to blog about it later!

The waiter looked at me shocked.

Me: Oh, but...  No, it's not like that!  I won't even write down the name of the restaurant.

More shocked staring.

Me: I mean, I'm not a food critic or anything, ha ha ha.  Just a little ol' blogger, and...

I forced myself to stop talking and let the last remnants of my voice fade into the uncomfortable silence. 

Gilberto: Ha ha ha?

Me: Ha ha ha?

So we're pretty sure that while his new meal didn't have seran wrap, it probably had something else added.  And we didn't order soda refills, just in case.

But the highlight of the evening was finding out that the Chicken Fried Steak was NOT FRESH!  Shattered dreams, I tell ya.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Slightly Amusing Chicken Recipe

I'm guest posting at San Diego Deals and Steals today!

It's one of my favorite local blogs for ways to save money and how to have fun on a budget, so when blogger Kate needed a guest post, I jumped at it. 

The only thing is that at first she was looking for crafters, and I am NOT a crafter.  Glitter and liquidy glue have been banned from my house (we're still finding glitter from a project gone awry YEARS ago).  I told her I was bummed I couldn't contribute because of my aversion to crafting, and she asked if I could do a recipe.  And, well, yes!  I cook!  So I have recipes! 

We shot around a few ideas, and then she hit me with the whammy.  She told me how funny I was and how she couldn't wait to see what I came up with.

Y'all, it's really hard to be funny with chicken.

The resulting post is definitely a recipe, and might be read as slightly amusing.  At parts.  But in the end it's all about how good the meal is.  And this meal?  Is GOOD.

So if you'd like to know how to make the family friendly, affordable and super easy Chicken with Artichoke Hearts and Sun Dried Tomatoes, hop on over to my post at SD Deals and Steals!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bloody Lip Number Five And Counting

I only have one child of each gender, so I'm not an expert on how different it is to raise boys versus girls.   

What I do know is that while Gabi loved to run, jump and climb at 15 months, she wasn't interested in beating my head with a wooden spoon.  Or chomping down on my toes.  Or scratching the bloody daylights out of my arms.  Or using her head as a battering ram. 

Mason loves to do all of those things.  Especially the head as a battering ram thing.  He likes to get a running start, and by the time you see him coming at you out of the corner of your eye, it's (WHACK) too late.   

This is the fifth bloody lip he's given me. 

After I took this picture I went home and promptly got a head butt to the other side of my lip.  I'm now sporting a Double Header.

Mason is so much more physical than Gabi ever was at this age.  And by physical I mean violent.  Like he's practicing for the time he'll have to take down his first moose to feed the tribe.  The poor little guy has no idea that the closest to a moose he'll ever get is fishing with Daddy at the park pond.

For now we're teaching him that hurting others is BAD, being gentle is GOOD, and hoping that in due time we can channel his energy into something more productive than wanting to provide meat to his family.  Like sports (says a dutiful Brazilian wife).