Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Money? No Problem *Update

***I've added on to this subject over here. I have an idea that I think might help. Check out A Cure for Ignorance?

Every so often I get comments from people that have one recurring theme. They tell me all about how little money they have to spend on food per month, the stretched budget, the cost of fresh produce and conclude that they are just too poor to eat healthy. I think this is a lousy excuse.

You may not be able to afford the $6 a bottle pure fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, but that's hardly an excuse to buy Kool-aid. You may not be able to afford top quality steaks and organic free range chicken, but you don't have to eat potato chips and candy just because they're cheap.

Nowhere else in the world are the poor so overweight, and so undernourished. There is an epidemic of over eating in the US, but very little of what is eaten is real food. Take for example peasant food in eastern Africa. It centers around teff, a highly nutritious hardy grain, and lentils, full of fiber and protein. In addition to this are locally available vegetables. All other things being equal, I would venture that a person eating this diet would be a good deal healthier than the North American peasant diet of mac and cheese and Twinkies.

In India the poor live on lentils, beans and Basmati rice, yogurt, cabbage, spinach, and soft cheese. If there is more money they also eat flat bread made with butter and flour. Their candies and desserts often have lentils ground up and mixed in with them. Even though it's fatty, it's still healthier than here.

The world over people exist solely on rice and beans, vegetables, and the occasional meat dish. This, modern science tells us, is the best way for our bodies to eat.

Now, take a look at your local stores. Bulk grains and beans are about the lowest priced things at the store. Making anything at home from scratch and raw ingredients is cheaper and healthier than buying it pre-made. Now if we consider that the produce in season is usually $1 or less per pound, and that your average family size bag of chips is 1-2 dollars it seems to me that if you can afford to buy junk food, you can afford to eat vegetables. (Of course, this means you have to let go of the idea of eating strawberries year round in exchange for leeks and cabbage, not perhaps as exciting, but excellent nutrition.) If you can afford to buy Mac and cheese, you can afford to eat beans and rice. If you can afford to buy Kool-aid you can drink water and herbal tea instead. Going further, if you can afford to buy milk a few times a month, you can afford to make your own yogurt. If you can afford to buy breakfast cereal, you can afford to purchase the ingredients to make muesli and granola. If you can afford to buy loaves of bread, you can afford to purchase whole wheat flour and make your own. One bag of whole wheat flour costs less than a standard loaf of bread, and makes 10-20 loaves. Then, if you purchase a grain grinder and pay for wheat berries in bulk and grind it fresh, about $0.25/lb you can pay for that grinder in about a year with the money you've saved on bread.

Seed for sprouting is very inexpensive. One package of organic seeds is less than $3 and produces crop after crop of healthy nutritious sprouts. Sprouts are one of the most densely nutritious things you can eat. They are easy to make, with simple homemade equipment and only take a few days. People with limited means have little excuse for not having adequate nutrition when sprouting is such a simple means to add value to your diet.

Instead of focusing on what you can't afford to buy, spend your energy imagining what you can purchase, and what you can make. The need for frugality is rather an opportunity for creativity than an excuse to spend what extra you have available on things that have no nutritional value at all. And yes, every one deserves a treat from time to time. If you can't afford to purchase high quality treats, consider making your own from scratch. This is cheaper and makes for lovely memories for your family as well.

20 comments:

Meredith said...

Great post, Carrien! I should print this out and re-read it before I grocery shop each week.

Matilda said...

Excellent post!!

Homemaker05 said...

Great post! What a reminder! I've linked up to your post in my own... I hope you don't mind!

Meredith A. said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Bravo!!!!!!! I try to tell people this ALL the time; and they wonder why they stay sick. Thanks for a great reminder.
God Bless!
SuzeQ

Jennifer said...

Great, informative post. I love it and couldn't agree more. Now if only my children would eat the local produce available in January I might be on to something. I have to say they eat better than most kids though. Thanks for the food for thought.

Muddling Through said...

Great post! The cookbook, More-with-Less Cookbook, by Doris Janzen Longacre, a Mennonite, is also filled with things along these lines. Don't know if it's still in print.

Mary said...

Concurring with Muddling Through.
The More With Less Cookbook is wonderful to use for simple, healthy, uncomplicated and inexpensive dishes.

Michelle Smiles said...

Great post - I agree completely with the sentiment. We all (myself included) eat too much processed crap.

I will say that I think some of the issue, especially for those in the lower income brackets, is often lack of knowledge. They don't know HOW to eat well. They don't know how to bake their own bread, cook dried beans, use fresh produce in dishes their children will actually eat. Their parents often fed them mac & cheese and twinkies so that is all they know. I used to work in a women's shelter and would have loved to have had someone come in and teach the ladies those things - nutrition on a budget. (And the staff - working at a shelter pays poorly and often the staff doesn't know how to do those things either.)

Alison said...

I couldn't agree more!
What a well written post.

Stephanie @ ATime4Everything.com said...

Woo Hoo! Finally someone who thinks like I do about nutrition and frugality!

a. borealis said...

Preach it!

mom huebert said...

Yeah! What Stephanie said!

TracyMichele said...

AMEN! Although I agree with the eating seasonal vegetables, etc. what about buying twice the amount of fresh items your children do like and freezing 1/2 to be used later in the year?

Fantastic post!!

mama k said...

Stellar post!

I couldn't agree more.

LadiesoftheHouse said...

Great post..we try to live and eat the same way. My mother in law is coming from Poland for Christmas and she is an expert at making nutritious meals from almost nothing, having lived her whole life with very little. The first time she visited America she was in such a major culture shock all she kept saying was Why all the waste-Why all the waste?

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. Its so true...

Mom of twelve said...

Great post!

I wanted to add a little story about something that we noticed in regards to the "poor" eating less healthily. When my husband was laid off work 5 years ago we were accepted into a local "gleanings" program, which many people from our church were part of. This organization receives donations of all types of food, produce and some products from local companies that have too much or product close to expiration dates. Sounds all nice and fuzzy doesn't it? Getting all that excess food to the poorer folks who can really use it, right? Well, you can't help but notice that 90% of the "food" available is breads, desserts, packaged foods, cereals, etc. The second thing we noticed was that the several of the families that we knew who also were getting food from this program we noticeably gaining weight. I would "shop" there very carefully, to get the meat, cheese, produce and household products (hey free toilet paper from hotels that replace all those half used rolls is great!) that I thought were the best of what they had to offer, and then would get scolded by the very concerned, loving lady running the program that I was not taking near enough for the size family I had. How to tell her that most of that food was just junk, when everyone else was so thankful for it? Well, we left the program. It just wasn't worth it for the little actual real/good food they had and the temptation to bring home all that junk food. It is not a bad organization, just a bit misguided.

I would guess food banks and food closets at churches are much the same as boxed and canned foods are easier to store. We have the mentality that as long as the food is cheap (or free) that is what makes it "good". Not that the food should also be good for us. =)

all4him said...

What a fantastic post. I so agree with what you said. We eat what I call cheap healthy. I know someone who eats totally organic and spends $250/week for a family of 4. We spend $70/week for a family of 4, though we don't buy everything organic. We shop the sales, cook from scratch, find local farms to buy from and I do use coupons but not for processed food. I used to justify the junk if it was free after coupon, then I realized if a bottle of poison was free after coupon I still wouldn't feed it to my family! America really needs to wake up. It breaks my heart to see how people it and the health problems that they have as a result of it. Sadly, most don't want to listen. I didn't want to listen either until my husband's and my daughter's lives were in danger due to severe allergic reactions which I believe were brought on by eating a ton of processed food. Now, we eat whole, natural food and they are doing much better, Praise the Lord!

Joyce

Anonymous said...

While I agree with the post, it doesn't deal with the main reason why people get hooked on junk food: life. When you have little money, life is not easy, and food is one source of comfort. Salty, sweet, and greasy food are extremely satisfying, and give us a sense of safety from hunger (even though they are dangerous to us). Moreover, for most people, things like burgers and fries were a special treat, a break from regular food. When the price of these treats dropped to roughly the same cost as fresh food, some people to switched to junk food.

Also, in lower income neighborhoods, it's a little harder to get some kinds of bulk grains. There aren't health food stores. I also had some second hand experience with free food banks that's basically the same as mom of twelve's, and worse because I'm a vegetarian. They had food I couldn't eat, because it was junk food or processed meat.

Another terrible thing that's happened, due to fast food, is that regular cooking jobs have been deskilled. There are millions of people serving food, but don't know how to cook food from scratch. They all earn little money, and the fast food is their cheapest source of nutrition (due to company discounts).

People say poor folks should do this or that, but, look at the world we've made. All the skills related to real cooking are totally devalued, then, made totally irrelevant. Cooking is becoming a luxury. People have to work so much, they don't have time to pass on the knowledge of cooking, or to work on learning the skill. Salty, fatty, and sweet processed foods have ruined our ability to appreciate subtle tastes.

Enough with the finger wagging. How about outlawing junk food? Put the squeeze on the 20 or 30 national chains.

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