“I can feel your anger. It gives you focus. It makes you stronger.” – Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
I heard a couple in line behind at the grocery store the other day complaining about the high cost of food. I turned around, ready to feel sorry for them in this tight economy, and saw what was sitting on the conveyor belt. Junk food (e.g., chips and cookies). Highly processed, convenience items (e.g., taco meal kit and pre-sliced chicken strips). Liquid sugar (e.g., soda and “orange drink”). That made me mad. They weren’t buying food so much as pre-purchasing a few bags of garbage for trash day. And then… I was sad, because I realized that they probably didn’t know any better than to grab things that are supposedly “easy” or “fast” for dinner, or how to make a healthy and yummy meal out of real ingredients, and how to really stretch every penny out of each food dollar. I hope their frustration leads them to look past the world of convenience and toward homemade foods.
Cooking is a lost art these days. I know. I wasn’t taught how to cook and was completely overwhelmed in college and my early married years. It wasn’t until I started to think about what we were eating, what we were spending, what our bodies needed, and how our food was grown, that I started to change my food buying ways. It is a skill and it needs to be learned. (And yes, I do occasionally grab the nearly worthless, might as well eat the cardboard box it came in, taco meal “kit” or pick up a 12 pack of soda when company comes over.) While reading a dollar stretcher email (love those) earlier today, I stumbled upon this and wished I could have handed it to that couple behind me a few days ago.
10 Things You Can Stop Buying at the Grocery Store
by Carol Charron
Live less expensively, eat healthier, and be more environmentally responsible
1. Packaged Meat – What’s so great about buying a chicken whole? It’s like getting Thanksgiving dinner any day of the year. You have this easy to cook, beautiful chicken and it becomes a Sunday dinner on baseball night with a simple rub of oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Who can’t pull a chicken out of the fridge and do that? You can even prepare it the night before and have your teenager put it in the oven at 3pm the next day. With the leftover bones and loose meat, do what Grandma used to do. Put them in a stock pot or slow cooker and make soup.
As for the other cuts of meat, the bigger the quantity, the better the price. If you can’t afford to buy beef by the whole or half side, find a sibling or a neighbor that will go in for half with you. No more living at the whim of market prices. You will save money and have a freezer full year-round. You can even inquire at the local 4-H fair for an animal you can buy after prize time. This is going to be a shock to you city folk, but that’s where they go after the show. The piggy goes to market!
2. Juice – It’s healthier to eat your fruit whole. You get necessary fiber from the skins and the flesh. Stop paying for packaging and do it right. If you need to drink something, squeeze it from whole fruit one glass a time.
3. Microwave Popcorn – I had no idea how far removed we had become from the real thing until I recalled memories of my dad shaking the old pot on the stove to make real popcorn to my kids. I thought it would be fun to share that experience with them. When I made it, my kids loved it so much they won’t let me buy the microwave stuff anymore. I now have a jar of kernels that I keep next to the stove near my bottle of oil. Yeah, it has real butter/margarine and real honest-to-goodness salt, but I control how much. It’s a lot cheaper than the packaged stuff, and the taste will drive you wild. You’ll wonder how we ever became converts to packaged microwave popcorn. You won’t miss it.
4. Vegetables – You should be buying them locally at the Farmer’s Market to support your local farmers and local economy. We are simply slaves to our grocery store habit. When you grow it yourself, you can use everything. Recycle cuttings to make soups, and what you have left over you can compost, supporting next year’s garden. If you don’t have land, make a potted garden.
5. Cookies – The sky is as limited as your pantry and your Betty Crocker(r) Cookbook. Make them from scratch. Your kids will like your cookies better than the packaged cookies.
6. Spray Cleaners – You could pay $3 or $4 for that spray cleaner. That said, check the prices on vinegar, ammonia and bleach (not to be combined with each other, of course) at your local dollar store. Most of the time, when you buy a spray cleaner, you are getting the same ingredients in better packaging. Save your spray bottle, and when it’s empty, you can clean it and refill it with these money savers.
7. Bottled Water – By now, you have heard how awful all that packaging is for the environment. Here’s another case of paying for convenience. Buy some portable bottles and save a bundle by doing it yourself.
8. Herbs – Most of us only use four or five herbs in our kitchen. From seed, you can have herbs fresh and ready to cut in just a few weeks. My basil plant is thriving.
9. Bread – Like the chicken in the oven, throwing four or five ingredients into a bread machine is the easiest thing in the world. Do it at night before you go to bed and wake up to fresh bread the next morning. You can even make use of the dough-only function to make a pizza.
10. Trash Bags – If you buy fewer packaged foods, you will have less trash. If you compost your fruit and vegetable stems and peels, you will have even less trash. If you recycle your cartons, milk jugs and egg cartons, you will have less trash.
We’ve been sold a lot of imaging and branding through advertising that has convinced us that we need to buy this brand, that bag, this carton. What we really need to do is live less expensively, eat healthier, and be more
Take the Next Step:
It’s a win-win-win situation! You can be friendlier to your waste, wallet and earth all at the same time. Start with the list above. Is there something here that you’re willing to stop buying? Give it a try. You’ll love the rewards.
Healthy wishes to you all.