Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Keeping Healthy Food on the Table

            As I said in my earlier article, “In the Beginning,” the idea of starting homeschooling was not very hard.  The finances, however, were a big concern.  One stipulation my husband and I firmly agreed upon was that we did NOT want to start putting junk food on our table, saying we could not afford anything else.  If it got to that point, we discussed, then we would consider putting Babygirl back into public schools and me going back to work.  We wanted healthy food on our table, but with the prices of groceries skyrocketing, how was I to find a way?
            Fortunately, I had a great deal of help in this area from encouraging, insightful friends and family members who provided ways in which the food on our table is not only healthier than when we were on two incomes, but it also tastes much better than what we ate when I worked. 
           For my entire working lifetime, I would come home tired and have to “throw something together” for dinner.  If I was too tired to do that, we ate at restaurants (because my husband is not a fan of fast food).  Now, however, I am at home with time to plan and bake our meals.  The vast improvement in what we eat now was brought to my attention two months ago when my husband and I were discussing where to take the family for a Valentine’s meal.  We could not decide on anywhere, though we discussed some of our favorites of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and Johnny Carrino’s.  We thought Babygirl would definitely pipe up with requesting Cici’s Pizza (her favorite), but she surprised both of us.  Without even pausing to think about her answer (which is very rare for her – she considers every question at length before answering), Babygirl replied, “I want your food.  I want to stay home.”  That was the best Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever received!  I loved hearing that my food was better than our favorite restaurants.
            I did say that I got help, and cooking was definitely something I needed help with.  My wonderful, insightful mother started purchasing the cooking magazine, “A Taste of Home” for my sister and me a couple of years ago as part of our Christmas gifts.  Along with the magazine came access to their website, with thousands upon thousands of tested and tasted recipes.  All I have to do is type in “chicken” in the search menu and it gives me hundreds of recipes, which I can narrow down to the type of recipe I want to make that evening.  I have made breads, desserts, main courses, side dishes… I’ve made it all with this one website’s recipes.  If by chance a recipe is not on the site, then I can “Google” it and usually find it.  The cost per year is not very high, but it has been an invaluable gift.  Thanks, Mom!!
            The other blessing which we have received to keep the food on our table healthy came from my neighbor, who also home schools her children and has been a stay at home Mom many more years than I have.  She has been a resource I could not have done without this year!  She taught me something called a produce coop.  She had been in one, but when I told her I was definitely going to stay home, she brought up the subject of us starting one ourselves.  That suggestion has kept two bushels of fresh fruits and vegetables on my table every other week all year.  In doing the coop, also, I have been able to meet many people who I enjoy talking to, and it also blesses their lives with inexpensive, delicious produce.
            This is how our produce coop works.  The members of our coop pay $20 for a bushel of produce.  We have told them our aim is to make the shares 1/3 fruit, 2/3 vegetables (because vegetables last longer).  We then take their money to a produce distributor and purchase several cases of fresh fruits and vegetables.  (Actually, our distributor e-mails their price list to us and we call our order in a few days before “Coop Day”).  We try to spend every penny they give us, to make it as good of a deal as possible for our members.  We then take the cases home (it usually fills the entire back of a van, with the back seat down or removed) and divide it evenly among the shares of people in the coop, adding 2 shares for me (it is held at my house) and one for my neighbor as payment for doing the work.  We put these shares in bushel-sized laundry baskets, which the members return before the next pick up date in two weeks.  They get a great deal on fresh produce and we get to keep fruits and vegetables on our table in exchange for doing the work.  This would definitely qualify as a Win-Win deal!
            With limited income, it is very difficult to keep healthy food on the table.  It is much easier to go pick up “Five for $5” bags of burgers with a side of greasy fries, but it’s not healthy to do on a regular basis.  I am thankful to God for the help which He has brought into my family so that we can eat food that is unprocessed and delicious, and that doesn’t cost too much money.

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