Buying from scratch when you can’t afford organic

One of the things I’ve struggled with lately is the idea of putting certain chemicals in my body through the food I eat and the personal care products I use. I’ve really been trying to get away from over-processed foods, especially since I’m currently pregnant. When you start to research some of things that are put into our food from raising the animals or plants to the creation of the final product, it really is quite scary!

I can buy organic foods at our local Walmart and our Giant Eagle grocery store, but the prices are sky high. Walmart isn’t too bad – I can buy a can of organic spaghetti in a can for $1.29 – but selection is extremely limited. The same exact can at Giant Eagle is $2.99 (but they have an incredible selection!) For the record, the same can of spaghetti circles in a well-known non-organic name brand is about $0.89 at our Walmart. Both stores are five miles from my house.

I can also make a 40-minute trip (mostly country roads, so it’s about 15 miles) to the nearest natural foods store, and find every variety of organic food possible. The same can of Annie’s Organic Spaghetti in a can would be about $2 at this store, but the distance is prohibitive, unless I’m already out in that area.

So what do you do? You want to avoid those additives – growth hormones, genetically modified foods, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors – but how do you do that when you simply can’t afford the price or the distance?

I’ve found I can avoid a lot of these additives simply by buying ingredients to cook from scratch. Buying flour, baking powder, sugar, and cocoa to make chocolate cake may have some pesticides or genetically modified components, but you won’t find the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and other additives you find in a boxed cake mix. (Speaking of other additives, why is there high fructose corn syrup in that non-organic spaghetti-in-a-can?)

It’s also cheaper to buy organic flours and sugars than it is to buy the organic boxed cake mix – but it’s almost always cheaper to cook from scratch – organically or not.

The biggest arguments I hear against cooking from scratch are time and knowledge. I often hear that cooking from scratch requires more time, but I can’t say I’ve really had that experience unless I’m comparing cutting up fresh vegetables to put in a stirfry compared to simply pouring in a bag of prepackaged veggies and meats and heating. Most of the time, it is just as quick to prepare a meal with fresh foods as it is to prepare a box meal.

I also hear people say they don’t know how to cook from scratch. Cooking can be tricky, but it’s not that difficult. A good cookbook goes a long way – I particularly like the old Good Housekeeping, Betty Crocker, and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. If you can find an old copy, grab it up! It’s full of every imaginable recipe – and all from scratch.

When you can’t buy organic – buy from scratch. Less processing = fewer chemicals, additives, fats, sodium, etc. You control what you put in your body – you may not be able to completely eliminate bad things like growth hormones, pesticides, and GM food, but it will be a great improvement on prepackaged foods.

Eating Out Way Too Much and Loving It!

Today was Thursday, and so we did what we do most Thursdays – we ate out.

We actually don’t have this in our budget, and it’s okay.  We didn’t spend a dime.

Every Thursday night our good friends have a standing invitation for several couples to come over and enjoy some good cooking, friendship, coffee, and a time to ask everyone else questions they’ve been having – mostly about the Bible.  Many times, couples will bring some food along, but all that does is make sure we have more than one dessert choice!

We spent four hours there tonight, and it was the best time I’ve had in…well, a week! The only thing it cost was the gas to get there (and I meant to bring some cookies, but I forgot them in the kitchen.)

It got me thinking – for us, eating out is often a time for us to socialize with our friends.  After church on Sundays some of the same couples have a tendency to go to a hole-in-the-wall diner with the best buffalo chicken salad I’ve ever had! (Cravings….)  We do it because we want to spend more time together, and because it means when we go home we can go straight to bed for a nap.  I don’t know why Sundays wear me out so much, lol.

But I think I had more fun going over to our friend’s house and eating her chili than the diner on Sunday.  And it was free.  And it got me thinking that if I didn’t have this friend who wanted to cook so people would come over on Thursdays, it would be so easy to get a bunch of friends together on a weekly basis for a pot luck – each of us would cook one part of the meal, or perhaps each week would be someone else’s responsibility.  That way, we get all the benefits of eating out – not having to cook, having a chance to socialize – without the negative aspects – the unhealthy nature of most restaurant foods, and the cost!

Is this something that would work in your life?  Do you have friends who would love to start a dinner co-op?