Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's a Big Job

Cooking, that is. When you don't do processed food, when you don't eat out, when you eat a lot of fresh produce, cooking becomes a full time job. My mom commented that I'm more like the housewife of old, cooking all three meals a day. That's time consuming business. It would be difficult to fit in a job, too.

I figure that, on average, I spend about 4 hours a day in the kitchen, preparing food and cleaning up. Sometimes it's more and sometimes less, but I think that's a fair assessment. Sometimes Anthony and/or Davan help with kitchen stuff, but I'm thinking I still average about 4 hours a day.

Before breakfast even comes around, there are the dry, clean dishes from the previous day to put away. Often there is a dish or five that somehow didn't get taken care of the night before and need washing or loading in the dishwasher. Seems little, but it all adds up.

For breakfast during the week, I usually make either a smoothie or cinnamon apples in pita pockets. Neither seems like a big production, but for the smoothie, say our most common - blueberry - for both Davan and I it goes something like this:

2 frozen bananas, which means that sometime previously, I've peeled them, broken them in half and stuck them in the freezer in a ziplock freezer bag
2 -3 cups of spinach, which means I need to wash it
2 TBS flax meal, which means that at some point, I used the coffee grinder to make meal out of the seed we buy in bulk
1 TBS hemp protein
3 cups frozen blueberries
enough almond milk to mostly cover the other ingredients, which means I've soaked the almonds and then made almond milk at some point, although sometimes I do use bought almond milk and lately, I've started experimenting with oat milk

Then, of course, there's doing the dishes, as well. Today, in addition to the smoothie, I cut up an apple and a large plum because Davan had a friend over to play and she came before we got around to breakfast, so I wanted her to be able to munch on something, as well.

Next, usually, comes lunch. Lunch is sometimes leftovers, sometimes something new. Today I chopped veggies to dip in some peanut sauce I have leftover from yesterday and sauteed some mushrooms that needed using up. I packed those things up for after swimming, when Davan is starving.

I'd planned on giving the girls a snack of left over pancakes with peanut butter, but, when I went to get them, they were gone. I cut up another apple to get them started, then looked around for something else to give them for a snack. We don't keep crackers or eat out of the box type cereal around. We have bread, but it's sprouted and an acquired taste. I often give out whole wheat pita pockets with peanut butter for friend snacks, but this friend doesn't like pita bread. I was, I have to say, rather stymied. I threw together some quick pancakes with spelt flour, cinnamon, flax meal, baking powder, apple sauce, soy milk (I had some open for a recipe - we don't actually use very much soy milk) and a dash of vanilla. I made peanut butter sandwiches out of them and the girls scarfed them down. I was glad they didn't have to go to swimming hungry.

Meanwhile, around other things this morning, I got some red beans and some pinto beans going in the crock pot for a soup for dinner tonight. I just put them in the crock pot, add boiling water, turn the crock pot on high and the beans are done in a couple of hours. I don't presoak. Later in the morning, I chopped up an onion to add. Still later, I prepared some kale to add. I also added salsa and garlic. It's a Mexican bean soup I'm going for here.

When we got home from swimming, I adjusted the seasonings for the soup and unloaded left over food and empty containers from our after swimming snack (lunch for me) of veggies and mushrooms. Actually, Davan wasn't much into the veggies today and ate all of the mushrooms and just some of her veggies.

Still to do today in the kitchen:

-unload the dishwasher
-wash the snack containers and the items I used for the pancakes (usually I wash as I go, but we were in a hurry to get to swimming)
-add frozen corn to the soup and check seasonings again
-make a salad to go with the soup
-clean up from those things and dinner, as well

Those are for sure things. Additionally, we often want an evening snack, so that will be prepared and cleaned up after today, as well. I might have some bananas that are ready to prepare for the freezer, but they could wait a few more days if I don't get around to it before. The flax meal supply is pretty good, so I don't need to grind more.

This is a pretty typical day kitchen-wise. Of course, then also associated with food prep is meal planning and shopping, which adds more time. We get our food from 4 or 5 different places.

We belong to a CSA, which I think is a great idea, but it hasn't worked out that well for us. This is the second time we've joined one, each time a different farm. I like this one a lot better than our first, which had some odd food items and was much further away for pick up. However, we have to supplement heavily to have enough produce for us and we got a whole lot of one particular type of pole bean this year that we didn't much care for, just as an example. I think we'll give up trying. Although I really do think it's a great idea and it works well for some folks.

I shop at Winco, a bag your own groceries sort of place. We buy a lot of produce there, the vast majority of which is not organic. Ideally, I'd like our produce to be organic, but we've tried in the past and it really does break our budget. We used to belong to an organic produce delivery place because there aren't a lot of places to buy organic right near us. It was a nice service, but expensive. Also at Winco we get frozen cherries, frozen veggies, some canned beans, cooking spray, salsa, whole wheat pita bread, and bulk flax seeds.

We broke down and got a Costco membership. We used to be members back when we ate a lot of prepared food, so it's not like we've never been exposed to Costco before. It's where we've been buying our cat food for about a year, but my parents pick it up for us or friends do. We decided to bite the bullet and do it for ourselves. We've gone once and, other than the cat food, bought almost exclusively produce. I don't know that they're cheaper than Winco, but they are definitely cheaper than Safeway and the like.

We order food from Azure Standard once a month. My primary purchases from them are bulk beans, bulk flours (mostly spelt these days), bulk popcorn, almond milk (unsweetened - both plain and chocolate), bulk nuts, organic peanut butter, brown rice, dried unsweetened cherries and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Sometimes things I've ordered don't come and then a stop at one or two other places is in order.

The health food section at Fred Meyer carries the almond milk we like. Bragg's can be found at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's is a good place to buy nuts and dried fruit and I like the 100% recycled toilet paper they carry at a decent price. (Yeah, I know, recycled toilet paper. The possible jokes are endless.)

I also spend a good deal of time and money at our local produce stand, especially in the summer. I buy all our berries (that we don't pick ourselves) there. Right now I can get large boxes of apples cheap.

In the summer, the farmer's market is a good place for produce, as well.

So, yeah. Feeding even our little family of three is a big production. It was much easier when I bought a lot of boxed mac and cheese or Lipton's noodles and sauce or even pasta and a packet to make pesto sauce with. When we ate store bought cookies. When having steamed broccoli with dinner a couple of nights a week felt virtuous. When we had boxed cereals on hand. When crackers and cheese and apple slices were lunch. When we bought cheese sticks. When we ate fast food.

Now, though, I feel pretty darn good about what is going into our bodies. We are all healthier. Two years ago we were struck by the flu and were really sick for about a month. Yeah. I month. And not just lingering, but sick. Now that we're eating this way, the small bought of stomach flu that Davan had a few weeks ago was probably the worst. We do get mild colds, but they aren't usually enough to slow us down. When Max was here, he got more sick (of course, he did all he could to not eat healthily) and I felt more than mildly sick a time or two (stress, I'm thinking). But, overall, we're healthy people. And that's good.

Now. If it were just cheaper rather than more expensive to eat this way, it'd all be good.

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