Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why do we...

Why do we spend thousands of dollars a year on food that we don't even enjoy and that is bad for us?

I have a family of 4, two of which are teens. Last night, I took a whole chicken, removed the breasts, cut them into chunks, skewered them and roasted it. Then I boiled the rest of it with some left over celery and carrots from a veggie tray we had earlier in the week and when it was done I stuck it, pot and all, in the fridge. Tonight I took it out of the fridge and removed the now solidified fat, de-boned the chicken and removed the veggies and made dumplins. Main dish for 2 meals for 4 people for less than $5. And we had leftovers.

A couple of nights ago, I roasted a pork loin that I had gotten on sale for $2.99 a pound. So I got a big one. Needless to say, I had left overs there too. I sliced it all and put the left overs in the fridge. The next night, I took about half of what was left and chopped it up. The rest I put in the freezer. With the chopped pork, I added BBQ sauce and a little bit of water and we had BBQ sandwiches. That is what I will do with the pork in the freezer too. 3 meals for 4 that cost me about $8.

I find that when I try to actually plan meals or make a grocery list, I wind up spending a fortune. My husband has gotten really, really good with the coupons. And a national chain grocery store here ( that doubles coupons) will have clearance prices on some of the more expensive luxury items that we normally wouldn't buy. With the coupons we have gotten some of these things for free. So now for meals, I just kind of wing it. It is cheaper that way.

I really do try to stay away from premade convenience foods. Not only do they have a lot of salt and fat, I can generally make the same thing for a lot less. But then again, I cook. Alot. My kids even like my cooking. My husband says that I don't make Dumplins right, but he has always eaten them anyway, so they can't be that bad.

I am as guilty as the rest of us about craving chips and Little Debbies. But I try not to go over board. I get them only when they are on sale. I generally don't get to eat any of them because of the human vacuum I call my son. He has been known to inhale a bag of chips, 3 or 4 Little Debbies, then ask me when dinner will be ready because he is hungry. Go figure.

Plain folks

Maybe the Amish have it right. Wouldn't it just be better to stop spending so much time worried about the dollar and just make a pie instead? Granted, there are a lot of things that I would miss, like electricity, but if it just came down to it, I could do with out it.

I have cooked full meals for 15 men over an open camp fire back when we were doing the Civil War reenacting. I have even cooked full meals on the top of a fireplace insert when the power would go out as a kid. You just have to watch it a little more closely.

Even when the power has gone out since I have been married, I still have a charcoal grill. I could, in a pinch, use wood and a skillet on that. Although, I can't help but remember the time when the kids were small and the power went out. We cooked hot dogs over a candle for dinner. It was fun, and silly, and kinda weird, but they will remember it for the rest of their lives.

I think most of us would just panic if basic services were to go down. Look what happens every time NY has a black out. When ours goes out, my husband begins to pace the house, waiting for his computer to come back on.

We have lost the ability to just be still. Maybe we should try to get it back.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The way it should be

I just watched a show about a tribal society on a pacific island. They live, every day, by sharing absolutely everything. The entire village will go fishing together and split the catch evenly. The guy hosting the show brought gifts of food and tangible goods to give to the village and the chief very carefully divided everything. He spent almost a month with them, living the same way they do, helping to hunt and fish, even sharing his personal first aid kit with a guy who had a really nasty infection in his foot.

We hoard things in America without even realizing it. I am not saying that we should be communistic by any stretch. What I am saying is that most of us have much more than we need and we should be concerned more about others. How many times have you walked by the guy sitting on the curb asking for a few coins without even seeing him? We are not going to miss that 47 cents in our pockets, but to him, it might be a can of beans.

Once, my family and I had picked up individual meals from a fried chicken place, and on the way home, stopped at Walgreens to pick up a prescription. There was a man there asking for a dollar to get himself a burger. We gave him 2 of the meals and I thought he was going to cry. It wasn't much to us, but to him it was everything.

You never know when you will come across an angel in disguise. Be kind to others because someday, it might be you that has to rely on the kindness of others.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I am living too late

It would seem that with all of the technology that surrounds us every day, driving us all to be busier, that we would all be happpier if we could just slow down and live. The vast majority of Americans are caught up in the idea that more is better...more money, more car, more house, more activities away from the home...I mean, come on! Do we really need to be able to watch tv on our phones?

Personally, I would be perfectly happy living in a modest sized house on a few acres far away from any Walmart where I can grow a nice little garden and watch the birds and squirrels from my window. All of those 45 minute commutes to work every day are bad for us. And I am not even talking about the gas prices. Stress and heart disease are killers. And the bad thing is, we do it to ourselves. Even though my husband can see his office from our front yard, he still telecommutes into work every day. As far as I can tell, that is just perfect.

I grew up out in the middle of nowhere. My mother called it a play farm. You know the kind, just enough acreage and critters to be a pain but not enough to make any money. We had a garden that was about 3/4 acre filled with every kind of vegetable that we would actually eat. My brother and I got to spend our summers off from school picking garden. After we spent all morning picking beans, squash, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, melons, and whatever else caught Dad's attention in the seed catalogs, we got to enjoy spending the afternoons, snapping or shelling beans, canning, feeding the chickens and pigs, gathering eggs, and all of the other assorted chores.

In the fall, it was cutting wood and picking apples. Being a girl, my dad would not let me run the chainsaw, but I did have to pull all of the poison ivy off of the felled trees since my mom and I are not allergic. In the winter, we would kill a pig and a cow and spend 2 weekends cutting meat and putting it in the freezer. (the chickens we did in the summer...Ahh the smell of hot wet chicken feathers!) Dad wasn't the best meat cutter around so we had some really strange looking cuts of meat. If we couldn't tell what it was supposed to be, we gave it a generic label of "steak" or "roast" depending on how thick it was. Any pieces too small to be "steak" became hamburger or sausage.

One of my parent's friends had a milk cow. We had chickens. 2 dozen eggs = 1 gallon of milk. I was in high school before I ever bought a gallon of milk in a plastic jug. I had always gotten it out of a pickle jar and had to shake it up first. Lunch meat came wrapped in waxed paper from the gas station up on the hill and was less than $1 a pound. Bacon always had a rind on it. And pies were always made with fresh fruit. Picking soda bottles off of the side of the road was our allowance.

We went to town once a week and that was to go to the bank. And maybe the grocery store for coffee, sugar, cereal, tea, and if we were lucky, sodas. We almost never bought any of that "Chinese Crap" that my dad was so dead set against.

Like kids everywhere, we griped about having to do chores, but we did them because if we didn't, we got our backsides tanned. We lived without gameboys and i-pods, cell phones, cable tv, computers, and *gasp* we didn't have a microwave oven (called a "Radarange) until I was a teenager.

We didn't feel like we didn't have much. We had plenty of food, a decent house, wood heat for when the power went out, and each other. I really miss it. I griped about it at the time, but ya know, I was a happy kid. I am not mal-adjusted because I got my butt whupped a few times. I don't need a new car every 3 or 4 years. My cell phone is almost 4 years old but it still works so why spend $200 on a new one.

We, as a society, spend way too much time listening to advertising. We don't gotta have the I-phone. Geesh, I don't watch tv at home. Why would I want to watch it on a 2 inch screen while I am riding the non-existent public transit? We all just need to unplug for a day. No computers, tvs, cell phones, conference calls, soccer practice, ipods, or SUV's. Just sit in your favorite green place and watch the birds.

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