Wednesday

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s been longer since I last posted than I intended.  I’d planned to write at least one entry over the Thanksgiving weekend, and then I got caught up in trying to deal with the holiday and actively avoided anything even vaguely resembling self-reflection.  (It’s easier to get through emotionally weird situations if you’re not thinking damn, this is an emotionally weird situation.)

My family is notoriously bad at celebrations.  We’re mostly split into the American holidays are a construction of the retailers and everything has to be perfectgoddamnperfect! camps. When I was about 10, it started to seem to me that the actual holiday wasn’t worth the full week of stress and anxiety and just generally feeling shitty about myself.  I’ve woken up with rashes (with absolutely no physical precedent…I just psychosomatically willed my body to react) before several family holidays, and have now, not once but twice, knocked my own ribs out of place.  (Hurts like a motherfucker, by the way.  Every time you move it reacts, and every time you breathe, your ribs move).

And Thanksgiving is a weird holiday for someone with food issues.  I stopped eating meat when I was 11, and I found nothing more traumatic as a young vegetarian than opening the fridge to find a naked, dead-ass turkey staring at me.  It wasn’t that I’d never seen one before, but that year I’d stopped thinking about it as food and started thinking about it as a dead animal.  (I remember this story more than the actual event…because thank gods, my powers of repression are in good working order…but one year right around then, my dad’s mom came over to our house with two live turkeys and proceeded to kill, pluck, and disembowel them in our backyard.  We were already rocking the WASPy, everybodybefuckingnice! suburban house of horrors thing…we didn’t really need a poultry snuff film happening outside).  Once I was old enough to start making my own versions of holiday food, we had vegetarian food and normal food.  Like I needed the reminder that I’m not normal.

But, in all the stress and anxiety and therapy-fodder, I missed the idea that we’re tribal creatures, and cyclical creatures.  I mean missed in the sense that I didn’t understand it for the longest time, and that part of my understanding was incomplete without it.  We’ve been marking time on the calendar with the seasons for thousands of years, and 50 years of over-commercialization can’t erase that.  I really do think we need harvest festivals, and solstices, midsummer nights and days of the dead to connect us to the earth.  We don’t need to be farther removed from our food; we don’t need to have more layers of plastic, and corn by-products, and radiation, between us and what keeps us going.  We need to know, intellectually and emotionally, that it comes from the dirt, the sunshine and the rain, and we need to take moments to remember why, for thousands of years, we were thankful to have it.

Greek yogurt, strawberries, coffee, creamer.  Homemade chili.  A banana and peanut butter (a combination I alternately adore and am disgusted by).  Veggie fried brown rice with broccoli, onion, red pepper, mushrooms, two eggs and olive oil.  And a glass of whole milk, one of my favorite things in the world, after my workout.  $4.77 for the day.

 

Tuesday

Posted: November 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

I very often get strange looks from people when I tell them generally how I eat.  The vegetarian thing alone, depending on where in the country I am, gets varying degrees of disgust and horror.  (In Arizona people are fine with it; in California people ask me if I’m lacto-ovo or vegan or pescetarian; in Wisconsin people ask me how I survive and why I would do such a thing; and in North Carolina people were flat-out offended, like I stopped eating meat when I was 11 for the express purpose of someday, far in the future, not eating their barbeque).

But besides my veggie-fabulousness, I eat a lot of things that are supposed to be bad for you, and when I talk about those things people give me this look that says stop fucking lying, you couldn’t possibly eat all that shit.  My diet is kind of a cross between Mediterranean and dairy farmer’s daughter, actually.  When I first started working with Lisa and learning how to eat for my body, this was really hard for me to accept.  I was a teenager in the 90s, the era of fat-free (jack up the sugar so it tastes okay); sugar-free (artificial sweeteners are flat-out toxic); Olestra (fake fat, one of the side effects of which is anal leakage); margarine (that shit is just scary); skim milk (they have to add powdered milk because skim on its own looks blue); canola oil (I have no idea wtf is actually in canola oil); eggs that raise cholesterol (simple carbs raise cholesterol, not eggs); Diet Coke (recent studies show diet sodas increase sugar cravings and make you eat more sugar); and one of my current favorites, corn syrup (diabetes, increased levels of bad cholesterol, fatigue, headaches, low immunity and hormonal imbalances).

And so, in comparison, my current diet of eggs, dairy fat, nuts, avocados, olive oil, fruits and vegetables is supposed to be bad for me.  All that engineered-in-a-lab, fake food is supposed to keep me thin, and right about now I should be a jillion pounds and miserable.  (I honestly think that a lot of this comes from people wanting to increase profits.  There’s a lot more profit in corn syrup than there is in an ear of corn).  Eating this way fixed my #1 health issue (inflammation) and, most days, I don’t think I’m fat.  My eating habits are in no way perfect, but eating ice cream, drinking whole milk (raw milk when I can get it), and making avocado omelets keeps me happy and healthy.

Greek yogurt, strawberries, creamer.  An egg burrito with salsa and cheese.  An apple with peanut butter. Chili with cheese, water, and a glass of milk.  $5.09 for the day.

 

 

Monday

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

I remember why I don’t cook.

Let’s back up.  I woke up all excited about doing this, except that I was going to go shopping on Sunday and didn’t, so I was improvising for breakfast (1 cup milk $0.23, 2/3 cup pumpkin granola $0.41) but granola and milk is a childhood favorite food of mine, so I was happy.  The most amazing thing about working where I do, in a room full of writers, is that our company pays for coffee!  Seriously, free and abundant caffeine makes this job go a lot damn easier, and it’s kinda sorta somewhat drinkable.  (At my last job, the branch manager would only let us use Folgers, partially because he was cheap and partially because he thought everything else tasted weak.  We brought in Dunkin Donuts coffee, because it’s not that everything else tastes weak, it’s that Folgers tastes like lighter fluid.  He told us to get rid of it).  So…free coffee, with my bad habit, made from corn and plastic, probably going to give me cancer someday gingerbread creamer ($0.39).

Lunchtime, I went to Trader Joe’s, then came home and made an egg and cheese burrito, another comfort food (2 eggs $0.46, 1 tortilla $0.16, 2 tbsp salsa $0.13, 1/2 tbsp butter $0.05, 1 oz cheddar $0.27).  Just writing this makes me miss Someburro’s in Tempe soo much it hurts…apparently, Southern California somewhere has Mexican food that doesn’t suck, but that somewhere is nowhere near me.  I put pinto beans ($0.60) and black beans ($0.30) in the crock pot and went back to work with an afternoon snack (1 granny smith apple $0.14, 2 tbsp natural peanut butter $0.14).

I got home after work…and this is where we came in to this story.  My house smelled good and warm, especially because of the bay leaves I put in my beans.  But I was hungry and tired and, although I didn’t know it, just at the beginning of a week that was going to suck monkey balls.  And I actually had to freaking cook.

For the record, I don’t like cooking, or eating, really, on a regular basis.  It’s totally repetitive and a waste of time, because you have to do it all again the next day.  Like making the beds or washing the dishes.  And Monday is so not the day to have to come home and do it.  But…your fearless writer soldiered on.  I also yelled at the cat and tripped over the dog and was super bitchy to the boy and forgot I was supposed to drive my own ass to the gun range so I was late and cranky and ended up shooting like I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (which I can.  Usually.  Not that we have anything remotely barn-like here.  I could probably hit the broad side of a crack house.)

An onion ($0.69), a half red pepper ($0.64), a sweet potato ($0.25), canned tomatoes ($1.49), organic tomato paste ($0.89) and 2 tbsp olive oil ($0.18)…chili.  For a week. $1.00 a serving.  Plus 1/2 ounce of cheddar ($0.13), because my chili has virtually zero fat, and you have to fix that.

Leaving out the part where I had a minor crankymiss meltdown, which wasn’t really because of the cheap and healthy cooking so much as it was about the fact that I was cooking at all…I did really well.  With the $0.13 I spend filtering water from the tap, I spent $4.09 and and got 1480 calories with 60 grams of protein.  Pretty good first day.

Enough Water

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

Will there be enough water?  When my ship comes in. –The Dead Weather

I’ve been thinking a lot about water.  Specifically, how our perception of it as a commodity changes.  It’s a basic human need, and so it’s always been valuable, but it seems to me that we’ve started attaching class significance to it that exceeds what we have done before.  (This is completely unscientific and devoid of any research whatsoever, by the way).  We still think of it in many parts of the world in the context of scarcity…I don’t have enough water, I have more than you, I have more than I need.  We think of it in terms of energy and time spent…I spend my days walking to get water for my family.  (You can’t think about water in these terms without also looking at gender.  This is women’s work, and women and girls are more affected by water issues.  In parts of Africa, one in ten girls stops going to school when she starts menstruating, partially because of the lack of clean water and latrines: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007783.html).

In the U.S., we think of water in terms of status and money.  Bottled water is better than tap water, although tap water is safe to drink in much of the U.S.  And then we have gradations of better water, water as a status symbol.  (I have to admit, I do think Fiji water tastes better than any other kind).  And we’re willing and enthusiastic about paying a ridiculous markup for bottled water from municipal sources; we’re spending money on what we can get from the tap because it looks better in a bottle.

The other way the world looks at water is in terms of cleanliness, and this is interesting to me.  For most of our cultural history, clean water meant things like no cholera.  It still means the same thing in much of the world now.  In the U.S., our clean bottled water is factory-sealed, untouched by human hands.  (Like the chocolate fountain, pre-Agustus Gloop).  It’s a reflection of our completely irrational fear of any kind of germs.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Center, we trade $4 billion each year and mountains of wasted plastic bottles to feel like we’re safe from germs.

I drink a lot of water, although I should drink more.  I don’t drink soda or fruit juice unless I’m sick, although I do like green vegetable juice and Trader Joe’s makes a spinach/celery/parsley juice that it absolutely addicting.  One of my favorite people in this world, Lisa (nutritionist, DPT and all-around goddess whom I believe knows how to fix everything that goes wrong with my body) taught me to eat your calories and drink only water, tea, and coffee.  (And wine.  She’s met my stress-bunny ass and knows that red wine is good for me.)  In this food-stamp experiment, not drinking calories is amazingly beneficial, both for my wallet and my body.  I don’t have to worry about factoring in a major source of calories and chunk of my budget that other people do.  I use a Pur water pitcher and pay about $7 for a filter that will last me for two months.

That’s $0.11 per day for safe, clean water.  It really is worth much more.

Not Wal-Mart

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

I went shopping yesterday for the rest of the food for this week.  As I said before, I’m not willing to do this if it means eating food from Wal-Mart.  (I don’t know how they get them all to smell the same way…sort of like feet, industrial strength cleanser and desperation…and I’m pretty sure some of the people there are mole-people who live underground.)  I’m very lucky to live and work about 3 miles from a Trader Joe’s.  In fact, when I moved to California, I didn’t have a refrigerator for the first month.  I fed myself fairly well for a month from everything they had in that store that didn’t need to be refrigerated, and I didn’t get sick and I didn’t go broke.  Freeze-dried strawberries are fraking awesome is all I’m saying.

I do have this little shopping-when-hungry problem.  It’s how I end up with mango butter and goat cheese.  And yesterday, by the time I got to the store I was cold and tired and hungry, and it was already dark outside for some godsawful daylight saving reason that I still don’t understand.  I was trying really hard to steer away from anything that wasn’t on my list, and I did pretty well, but I did wind up buying some produce that was a little more expensive but looked so good.

Oh, yeah, I haven’t talked about the gollum complex, which I totally, completely overlooked when I designed this project.  As soon as you say I can’t have something, I wants it! kicks in.  Honestly, I underestimated the fuck out of that impulse, and I didn’t think it would be as strong as it was yesterday.  It makes perfect sense, though…there are a ton of things I don’t eat.  (Meat, fish, anything with gelatin, fast food, trans fats, or anything I very scientifically determine is unhealthy.  And a whole bunch of things, like margarine and asparagus, that I think are icky).  Because I’m restricted in other ways, I like raspberries, dark chocolate, raw almonds, edamame, this amazing pumpkin ice cream that Trader Joe’s makes that I think I’ll end up buying a year’s supply of.  All that stuff is good for me, but it also tends to be expensive and I’m waiting to see if I can splurge a little bit this weekend.  I’m not so happy about the rules right at this moment.

Here’s what I bought:

Trader Joe’s

  • 8oz white button mushrooms, $1.69
  • Organic tomato paste, $0.89
  • Whole canned tomatoes, $1.49
  • Frozen strawberries, $1.69
  • One red pepper, $1.29
  • Two containers of greek yogurt, $1.99 each
  • 3 bananas, $0.19 each
  • One red onion, $0.69
  • 4 granny smith apples, $0.59 each
  • Large grade AA fertile eggs, $2.79 (more expensive than the regular eggs, but they’re a big source of protein for me so I buy good quality eggs)
  • Broccoli florets, $1.99
  • Half gallon of whole milk, $1.89
  • Total: $21.32 (California doesn’t charge tax on grocery food)

 

Target

  • 1lb dry pinto beans, $1.20
  • 1 lb long grain brown rice, $0.71
  • Coffeemate, $1.94 (Bad bad habit!  I need to get back to drinking half-and-half)
  • Total: $3.85
 

So, the total for the groceries so far is $25.71.  Some of that will be left over; I can’t eat a pound of pinto beans and a pound of rice in a week.  I’ll also be using some pumpkin granola, cheddar cheese, peanut butter, tortillas, salsa, butter, black beans, a sweet potato, and olive oil from my fridge and pantry.  I’ll calculate those things into my totals for each day…I ran around like a psycho coupon lady and checked the prices for everything I knew I would be using.  I made a crock pot full of chili last night, and my house still smells all tomatoey and spicy.  It’s one of my comfort foods…something my mom made a lot when I was a kid, although my recipe is different.  It’s way spicier than hers, but it doesn’t have meat and I’m pretty sure she would never think about putting a sweet potato in it.  Either way, it’s food that makes me think of home, and it’s a great way to start this week.

Food Stamp Challenge

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

This whole idea came about because I can’t resist poking stupid people.  The Coffee Party posted this article on their Facebook page (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/food-stamps-congress-budget-cuts_n_1068336.html) and the comments turned into a discussion about how it’s impossible to feed yourself, let alone feed yourself well, using food stamps.  I refrained from saying flat-out you people are stupid; instead, I came up with yes, you can eat healthy food on a food stamp budget.  Don’t believe me?  Watch me. (Really not much of an improvement from just telling people they’re dumb.)

According to the article, nine congressional Democrats are attempting to eat on $32.59 a week to protest cuts to the food stamp program.  We have simultaneous obesity and hunger problems in this country, and when we discuss one, the other tends to follow, at least within my extended circle.  (I’m very aware that lots of people in this country do not link food and health, for reasons I cannot comprehend.)  The argument is that we’ve set up a system in which you can’t eat healthy food if you’re poor; essentially, that we’ve created a class division in which we feed garbage to the less fortunate.

My take?  That’s bullshit. I opened my mouth and said I bet I can feed myself well on $32.59 a week. So here I go.

Some guidelines and clarifications:

1. I don’t eat according to federal guidelines.  You know, the ones that gave us the four food groups, and then the food pyramid, and then the OTHER food pyramid, and now “My Plate” (www.choosemyplate.gov), which looks like it’s meant for preschoolers, and not the sharp preschoolers.  It looks like it was designed by a preschool teacher stuck in a classroom full of kids eating crayons and misunderstanding simple directions (sit, stay, nap).  Anyway…I’m not eating according to what the USDA says I should be eating.  They’re pushing way too many grains, too many fruits, and dairy isn’t a food group, dumbasses.  Eating the way the USDA says I should eat would make me depressed, then fat, then sick.

2. I’ll be eating the same things I usually eat, with the same ratios.  Lots of protein, a good amount of fat, (skim milk is disgusting and also of the devil), vegetables, then fruits and grains.  I don’t eat a lot of processed food, and I eat drive-through-type food a handful of times a year.  The last time I ate drive-through was July or August, and I had a shake from In-and-Out.

3. I rarely eat out.  Once or twice a week, tops.  It’s expensive, and you don’t have much control over how they make your food.  I’m sure servers hate me…last week, I was at Claim Jumper ordering this: the tomato flatbread with no butter, no margarine, no oil, no alfredo.  And the salad with no dressing, no cheese, no croutons.  I’m annoying, I realize.  (I also live in this weird Suburban Bermuda Triangle, in which there are no independent restaurants.  Go 5 miles in any direction and I can find things I want to eat, but I think that any indie restaurants within that radius morph into Olive Gardens and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf(s) and Paneras.  Good food goes in, but it doesn’t come out).

4. Also…and this is a big thing…I don’t eat meat.  Haven’t since I was 11.  That is going to make this challenge WAY easier, but the fact that you won’t see any meat on my menus isn’t an aberration.

5. Did I mention I don’t cook?  Anything I can’t make in under 10 minutes or throw in the crock pot, I don’t really want to eat.

6. I don’t like having to put a lot of thought into food.  I tend to plan out my meals a week at a time, and then buy whatever I need to make that happen.  I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, I usually eat some variation of the same thing for lunch, and it’s normal for me to make a big pot of something that I can eat for dinner that week.  That won’t be specific to this week, and it’s not some kind of sacrifice in order to come in under budget.  I’m just not that interested in having to think about what I’m going to eat three times a day, seven days a week.

7. I’ll be making damn sure I get adequate nutrition.  1200-1600 calories a day, and about 40 grams of protein.  Again, that’s how I normally eat, and it works for my body.

8. I’m going to buy most of the food I need this week, but everyone has butter and olive oil and ketchup, things that you don’t buy every week.  I’m using that kind of stuff that I already have, but I’ll estimate what they would cost and add those things to my total.  I’m not going to worry about salt, pepper, and other spices, because I’m not quite that OCD yet.  I’m also not going to start shopping at Wal-Mart (also of the devil) so I can get things cheaper.  I buy the bulk of what I eat at Trader Joe’s, and anything I can’t get there I get at Target or Von’s.  If I can do this eating from regular grocery stores in Orange County (one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.), it should be possible anywhere.

9. Another thing I don’t do…I don’t drink soda on any kind of regular basis.  I had a Diet Coke in September because I found out at 4:45 that things were blowing up at work and I wasn’t going anywhere.  Not seeing soda on my menus isn’t unusual for me, either.  I do have a wicked caffeine habit, though.  By next Monday, I bet you I’ll be willing to sell my soul for a Lo-Carb Monster.

10. Any food I usually get for free, I’m going to continue to eat for free.  My department has breakfast on Friday mornings, for example.  (Leaving out the assumption that the majority of people using food stamps probably don’t work in places that celebrate casual Fridays with communal breakfasts).  And coffee.  We have fairly decent free coffee at work, and I drink gallons of it.  I’m going to continue to do so, mostly because I think the withdrawal headaches would put me in a coma or cause me to kill a lot of people.

So, those are the rules of the game.  Let’s play.

 

 

 

Healthy vs. Cheap

Posted: November 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s common knowledge that you have to choose between eating healthy and eating on a budget.  Everyone know that, we all believe it, and we all want to.  It gives us another excuse to eat poorly, and creates more of the divide between the haves and have-nots.

A lot of people first heard this put into words in Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, where he talks about the lack of playgrounds in poor areas that aren’t attached to fast-food restaurants.  It’s well explained in a New York Times article from 2007: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/05/a-high-price-for-healthy-food/

The argument is that high-calorie, energy dense foods are cheaper than low-calorie, nutrient rich foods.  That part of the argument is true.  It’s cheaper to buy orange soda than it is to buy orange juice.  Strictly comparing cost-per-calorie, this is just math, and it’s math that even children coming out of our tragic public schools could do.  And we have a lot of evolution behind us that says it is in our best interests to get as many high-calorie foods as possible, because Fred and Wilma really couldn’t go get brontosaurus burgers at the drive-in.  If you had the chance to kill a mastodon, you better have killed the fuck out of that mastodon, and eaten as much of it as possible because you just never knew when another one was going to come along.

To sum up…if you’re a caveman, high calories = keep you alive = healthy.

Except that you are not a caveman.

I know that there are people living in this country who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  This country produces enough food that no one should have to wonder when they’re going to be fed next, and the fact that a lot of people are in this situation is disgraceful.  But, most of us aren’t.  We are living in a place and time where calories are easily available, and yet we’re still acting like they’re not.  Our predominant goal should not still be to get as many calories as possible.  That’s become a cause of ill-health for our entire country.

So yes, for a dollar I can buy more calories of orange soda than I can of orange juice.  While we’re talking about that, no one has stopped to ask if I need those calories.  I can drink water much more cheaply than I can drink either soda or juice, and that is healthier for me, but it throws a wrench in our nice, tidy equation.  It’s this fact that makes me think that the accepted fact (that it is cheaper to eat poorly) is bullshit.  It’s certainly cheaper for me to drink healthily, and in order to have a conversation about healthy vs. affordable food, we need to stop for a second and think about our definition of eating well.