Eating Healthy Is Hard…and Expensive…Or Not!

Part 1.

Welcome back!

Someone you know says (In a whiney voice) “But all those healthy whole foods are expenssssive, I can’t affooord to eat that waaayyy…….”

Here is where I roll my eyes, and say (in a stern voice) “Yes you can”.

Nutrition and healthy eating nuts like me hear this all the time. And yes, if you only eat food that has been through a factory, sealed in plastic, and put on a shelf for your convenience, buying the organic “healthy” types of these foods is quite expensive. Organic frozen dinners cost more than conventional ones, and really they are only a smidge better for you. They still have to add some crazy ingredients as stabilizers and lots of salt in order for that food, cooked weeks or months ago to still taste (and I say this loosely) “good”, and be vaguely palatable by the time you re-heat it in your microwave.

I have just started reading Joel Salatin’s book Folks, this ain’t normal. I highly recommend you find it and read it too. Salatin is the Virginia farmer made famous by Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma. His Polyface Farm is a shining example of how all farms should be operated and he also happens to have a life philosophy I agree with. He brings the points he makes in the chapters back to why industrial farming isn’t such a good idea and argues for the local food movement.

What’s got me going on this subject is Salatin’s steady argument for America needing to get back into the kitchen, learn to cook again, grow our own food, and re-learn how to preserve in order to save the bounty we grow in our own yards. I agree whole-heartedly with him. So many people just don’t know how to cook anymore, and don’t understand food preservation. They believe preparing their own food to be a labor intensive, scary process that requires strange ingredients and long recipes. This is simply not true. Add in the belief that it is going to cost more, and you end up with lots of unhealthy, unhappy people who barely know how to boil and egg.

I think this is such a huge and wonderful subject!  It will make a wonderful series.  Consider this post Part 1 of Healthy Eating on a Budget, and Simple Cooking 101!

Here’s a secret, I don’t love cooking. I am totally into food, and I want to prepare my own food most of the time, but I want to spend as little time as possible preparing it. Because of this, and thankfully growing up watching a mother who feels the same way, I have garnered recipes and cooking techniques that have minimal labor, ingredients, and cost. Sometimes I even surprise myself when I sit down to eat my plate of food and realize how quickly I made it. Does anybody else feel this way?! I know so many people who love cooking and are passing around recipes. I take one look at a recipe, and you know what I see first? The length of the ingredient list. If it looks long, I don’t even take the time to read it. I’m never going to make that. If I realize it’s just a long list of spices then I look for a prep and cooking time. That is my second deciding factor. I feel like I may be weird among the food and nutrition blog people. They like cooking ALOT. Crazy. Those food bloggers are amazing though! And because of their innovation and time spent slaving in the kitchen I have some really great recipes that actually are quick and easy.

Here’s a REALLY good example.

Sauerkraut! It is SO easy to make. And it is much much cheaper to make on your own that to buy that $9.00 jar from the store (I am, of course, talking about real, naturally fermented kraut with lots of good probiotics and vitamin C). It is actually a great thing to get someone started not only cooking in the kitchen again, but also home fermenting. Do it once, realize how easy it was, and big doors to a whole new world open up.

I am giving you the basic step by step guide to making plain sauerkraut. If you want to get fancy the possibilities are endless. You can add pretty much any raw vegetable or seaweed, spices, and herbs. I recommend just trying plain old cabbage for your first jar. Then, if you like it, start expanding into other neat tricks.

Step 1: Find a head of cabbage that looks good to you. Go to the grocery store, farmers market, or grow your own in a garden, the flower bed, heck, in a bucket on the back door-step. (A cabbage takes about 50-60 days to harvest). Cabbage is actually a pretty cheap vegetable pound for pound.

Green cabbage at the farmer's market. Only 0.75 a pound!

Green cabbage at the farmer’s market. Only 0.75 a pound!

Step 2: You will need a big cutting board, a big sharp knife, a big bowl, a large jar or several smaller ones, some salt, and something you can beat the cabbage up with (like a meat hammer, or the blunt end of a wooden rolling pin, even a clean beer bottle might work). And, really, you can use a small cutting board and a little dull knife, it just might take longer.

Step 3: Wash the cabbage. Peel off the outer 3 leaves or so and set them aside. Cut the cabbage in half, then cut that solid stalk bit out of the bottom. Now cut each half in half again. Cut in as thin slices as you can manage, almost like shredding. I cut my cabbage so that I end up with pieces that are about 2 or 3 inches long and about ¼ thick.

Slicing the cabbage

Slicing the cabbage

Step 4: Put the “shredded cabbage in the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of salt (more cabbage means more salt, so if you make bigger batches with multiple cabbages add more salt accordingly). Stir it up a bit.

Step 5: Sit down with your bowl of cabbage and using the tool you chose earlier, start beating up the cabbage. Pound it for about 5 minutes. You want it to look almost like it’s been cooked. I wait until I start getting splattered by the liquid that’s been produced during the beating. You want that liquid.

Step 6: Squish your mixture into the clean glass jar or jars. Pack it down really well and have that liquid rise over the top of the packed in cabbage. Take one of those whole leaves you peeled off earlier and fold that up and pack it down on the to of the jar. Try your best to have that mostly under the liquid too.

photo

Step 7: Push the jar to the back of the kitchen counter and loosely cover with the lid or a towel to keep critters out. Gas is also produced during fermentation and it needs to escape.

Step 8: Walk away. Come back in two or three days and check out how your kraut it doing. Feel free to give it a taste test. I like 3 or 4 days. When you feel like it is to your taste, or if you are getting nervous, put the lid on the jar and move it to the fridge. The cold pretty much stops the fermenting process. Eat it when and as you like!

Just give this a try. Experiment. Don’t be afraid of failure. When it works out, you become so excited because you made this! This thing you can eat that you never thought anyone could make at home ever! Suddenly, you’re feeling alot braver. And it only took, like, 15 minutes!

Let’s get this movement going. Get back into kitchen, for just a little while. Grow you’re own! I know the summer is nearly over. But some of you live in climates where you can start cool weather veggies now….

Make me stop. I could go on forever on this subject. I will save much more of this for future posts on the home-cooked, home-grown, home-fermented, or at least locally bought movement! Let me know how you do! How do you feel about getting American’s back into the kitchen? Let me know what you think of Joel Salatin’s book, too!

Be well,
Jen

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