Last summer I got a vegetable garden up and going. It was some work and some expense, but it felt good to get out and get my hands dirty. I just planned out the garden for this summer based on what worked and what didn't. And -- although this might start an argument with my son -- I didn't cater to his whims about what he'd like to see in the garden because outside of the cherry tomatoes and pumpkins, he didn't want anything to do with eating any of it. Oy.
But there are choices when you're buying seeds or plants. Do you get those that come in packages labeled organic and pay more for them? Or do you save a little money and figure I'm not putting any chemicals on them... can't that be good enough?
Last night several girlfriends and I attended a free class on how to eat organic on a budget. Healthy organic. It is held every month at our local coop. And the information was very good. It was also nice that the manager of the coop who taught the class lives and eats the way teaches... with a full-time job, a pre-schooler and a husband who works full-time, i.e. she gets the bonus of convenience. Lately since I've restricted the budget, I've automatically started using Sunday as my day to pre-make some foods to get us through the week. It's when I bake bread or a make a snack. Turns out our instructor uses her weekend for that, too. She also gave us some skills on organizing to prepare multiple meals and track what goes in and out of the freezer.
And when she says on a budget, she means that each of the meals she gave us recipes for are able to be purchased in the coop (using a lot of bulk elements) for less than $2.10 a serving. A lot of it is made up of beans and grains. And she discussed different ways to prepare beans so that they don't have to soak.
I'll be using three of her meals during the week of March 5-11th. We'll see how they go. Most of the recipes were vegetarian, but are are also meat friendly -- or vegan friendly depending on which way you want to alter them. Overall, I'm really glad I went because since starting our new household budget a month ago, by shopping at traditional grocery stores I've had to let go a lot of the organic eating we were doing. Milk was a big one that I cut out. As X-man's milk consumption has gone through the roof in the last 8 weeks, the days of water or watered down juice are few and far between. And I can't pay $4-6 per gallon each week for two gallons for organic skim milk. That would be 8-12 percent of my overall weekly grocery budget for four people. I also used to buy the smart chicken and the high-end cage-free, organic eggs. Now I buy regular Tyson chicken breasts and the lower-end grass fed Eggland's Best (usually with a coupon)... particularly since I recently learned that cage-free could mean anything. In my heart, I know that eating with a whole foods approach is better for my family and the environment. And if there's a way to make it convenient that's all the better.
But it does take a crazy amount of planning. Guess it's a good thing I like that part of my domestic goddess status, right? It's a learning curve, so hopefully by the end of the summer I'll have a better plan and approach it with less fear and intimidation. And see about volunteering at the coop...