Baby Step 13: Saving on Produce

BabyStep13Last Baby Step we talked about taking a look at what we really spend on food – including all those last minute purchases and take out bits. Today I want to focus on saving money on some of the healthiest food around, produce. Saving on produce tends to fall into two basic categories: 1) spending less and 2) using more (or wasting less if you’re into complete grammatical parallels). Both approaches are obviously valid, but the greatest savings (and satisfaction if you’re a cheap freak like me) comes from employing methods from both categories to maximize the nutrish for the dinero, moolah, green, whatev.

Some of these are obvious, but if you’re anything like me you tend to get real good about focusing on one and then forget some of the others. Let’s run through the possibilities. Healthy food, which for most folks means adding more produce, is affordable because  it satisfies you and prevents spending money on chronic illness. Healthy food is more affordable if you get good at finding it cheap and using it all. Continue reading

Baby Step 4: Adventure, Experimentation, and Gratitude

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it: “I want to eat healthier, but my kids (partner, whomever) won’t eat that food.”  Everyone who said it was 100% certain that this was true.  The only thing I am 100% certain about as regards feeding others healthy food is that if you don’t have it/make it/serve it, they certainly won’t eat it.

Changing our own eating habits is hard; convincing others that this is a group project can be daunting at best, but the difficulty of the task doesn’t mean the effort is not worth it.  Big Sis and I have both enlisted our families (immediate and in some cases extended) in our pantry transformations and we have some ideas that just might help you do the same.  The truth is that, as with any meal, eating real food is easier and more enjoyable when you do it with the people that you love.

So here we approach the core of Baby Step 4: just as eating healthier foods requires you to be more conscious of what you’re eating and how you’re making it, so too will rallying the troops involve an evolution in consciousness about food.  You must be the leader in the movement to develop an attitude of adventure, experimentation and gratitude surrounding food and mealtimes in your home.

Our suggestions fall into three basic categories:

  1. The Use and Acceptance of Baby Steps as Progress
  2. Attitudinal Adjustments
  3. Education

Baby Steps

I can’t speak for everybody, but when I embark on a new venture that I’m enthusiastic about, I want to share it.  I want to share it with everybody and I (unreasonably) want everyone to be as excited as I am…  It’s sweet, isn’t it?  The cold water of reality is a bit uncomfortable.  Just because I’m enthused doesn’t mean they will be.  My loved ones’ priorities might be entirely different than mine and the mental steps I’ve taken to prepare myself for this wonderful new transformation have not been their mental steps as well.  If we can agree that baby steps are an effective tool for making changes in our eating habits, we must remember that those we wish to encourage (and feed) deserve the same gracious and gentle introduction to foods with which they are unfamiliar and that they may not be initially inspired by.  Does this mean don’t try? No, no it doesn’t.  It may mean don’t try ALL the time.  It may mean be ready to see consumption without complaint (but no real enjoyment) as progress over grousing.  It may mean lovingly saying that you understand when deep inside you’d like to remove all the plates from the table and tell everybody to….  okay, that’s just me now and again – I know, it’s not pretty.

1. Establish baby steps with your family by: designating one meal per week to be healthier food night/ or healthier entree or side dish night if you need a gentler step.

Attitudinal Adjustments

Family mealtime means different things to different people and for many folks it is comfort.  When we are trying new foods, it’s not always so very comfortable.  So rather than highlighting the comfort of familiar foods, we must highlight the adventure of trying new things.  This can be particularly challenging with little people.  I get it, really I do.  But again, if we give up all we can be sure of is that they will NEVER try the new food.  If we persist and attempt to make it fun, who knows what will happen?

This is what we remind my sweeties of.  If you don’t TRY it, you’ll never know.  We then remind them of the foods they’ve tried and discovered how delicious they are.  If we’re trying a dish that highlights flavors from another culture, we talk about that place and the role that this food plays there.  We take an adventure.  When they are adventurous with their food, we lavish them with praise.  Big Sis had a great idea that I think we will implement – the adventurous eater medallion.  We may also try adventurous eating hats. Occasionally, in desperation, we appeal to their sibling rivalry and have a race to try the new food.  I can’t say the last method encourages delightful table manners, but it does seem to work.

Feeding this little mug is not always easy.

In addition the the positive role that adventurousness and competition can play, there is no way to overstate the importance of gratitude at the table.  Mr. Little Sis has instituted a fabulous family tradition at the beginning of our meals.  As head chef, I occasionally become discouraged by the cajoling that feeding twin 5 year olds can require.  When we sit down to eat, Mr. Little Sis immediately says, “Thank You Mommy, for making such a wonderful meal for us.”  The twins usually follow on quickly, even if they are mid-complaint or moving stuff around to see what’s under there icky-face-making.

The most interesting thing about it is that once they’ve said thank you, they rarely return to the complaints, at least not with volume and vigor, which helps keep the mood at the table a little lighter, and prevents them from discouraging one another from trying new foods. Highlighting the importance of gratitude in a positive way, “We are so fortunate to have this healthy and nourishing food, and to be able to enjoy it together,” over the “There are starving kids all over the world who would be happy to eat that ____,” rightly changes the focus at the table from whether or not the meal meets every individual’s expectations to mealtime as a time to come together and recharge.

2. Establish adventurousness and gratitude by asking for it and acknowledging it.  Reward adventurousness and model gratitude.

Education

Different strategies work for different people.  Some like the games (my daughter) and some need the rationale.  I am still making this meal even though you’ve expressed it’s not your favorite because it has ingredients in it that do _____ inside your body.  Anything that helps that boy’s allergies will go in the mouth.  Guaranteed.  It is difficult NOT to take advantage of that knowledge.  We’ve also talked a great deal about why I pack their lunches and why I don’t include many of the things their friends eat regularly.  I marvel at the lack of pushback on this.  They occasionally express their severe deprivation (along with a host of injustices that I have perpetrated), but they also, I’ve found, are able to make choices that they would not if we didn’t share so much food information.

I’ve discovered that when they are offered a treat at a party, they limit themselves, without my saying anything.  They tell me when they’ve had a surprise goody at school or with friends so that I can make adjustments to what I give them for the rest of the day.  They GET IT.  When they’re older and they ask about McDonald’s (or whatever) rather than toeing the line on that front as they do now, perhaps we’ll sit down and watch SuperSize Me together.  My husband and I watched several food documentaries before we embarked on the last round of dietary changes, discussed the information we found, researched the questions that remained.  Just as I need information to make a big change, so too do the loved ones in my life.

3. Educate your loved ones by telling them why you are doing what you are doing.

So your Baby Step?  What should you do?  You should consider your surroundings and try (gently and patiently) to get’em on board.  Your life will be easier; your food will be healthier; and your table will be a place of adventure, experimentation, and gratitude while you tackle another pantry swap, or try a new recipe.  Baby Steps for you, Baby Steps for them.  It worked for all of us once, right?

Baby Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest.

The Sis sisters want you to feel good, to eat well, and to enjoy your food.  We do not want you to go on a diet.  There are so many diets out there, so many plans that will tell you exactly what you will eat and will give you a variety of ways of measuring, quantifying, and analyzing your food so that you can be sure you’re staying on plan.  This is not what we’re about.

Baby Steps to Better Health is a way to learn how to eat real food, healthful food; to learn how to change your relationship with food and to move from a place of deprivation to a place of healthful and satisfying abundance.  So the first step asked you to make a switch, to find one unhealthy item in your diet and switch it out for something healthier.  Didn’t do it yet?  Didn’t go so well?  Went great?  It’s all good.  You can jump in where we are, start from the first step, whatever you like.  Any step you take towards healthier eating is a good one.  Today, we’re going to get started on Step 2: Be Fearless. Be Honest. Huh?

I used to teach and one of the things my colleagues and I constantly reminded ourselves was that you have to teach where the student is.  You have to figure out what they know if you want to teach them something new.  The same is true for any habit or change that we are trying to make, isn’t it?  If I want to build a table, I need to get real honest with myself about my carpentry skills; I have to see if I have the materials required; I (this is certainly true for me) would have to learn some very specific skills; then I would be ready to start building successfully, rather than making the kind of table I would make if I just started banging away with hammer and nails(and believe me I speak from experience here as I am a long-time bang away at the unknown kind of gal).

The next few baby steps are prep work, getting honest with ourselves about what we eat, investigating the materials we have on hand, and learning some new skills.  Rather than thrashing about and banging away at our food, our self-esteem, our bodies, and our nerves, it seems wise to take some time to gather our resources and suss out exactly where this road starts so we can get on with making it go somewhere healthy and delicious.

What I’m going to suggest here may put some of you off, and perhaps that’s why I’ve been jabbering (stalling) here.  I want to suggest that you keep a food journal… NONONONONO don’t click away.  I’m not talking about THAT kind of food journal.  I don’t want you to measure your stuff and write down how many calories are in things.  I don’t want you to assign numbers to your food.  I don’t want you to categorize your food and check things off.  I don’t want you to freak out about writing these things down.

I just want to suggest that you make a note of what you’re eating (including snacks).  Why?  So we can post them and judge each other?  I’m hoping you know us better than that, but in case you’re concerned, no, there will be no judging.  The Sis sisters both know from experience that a lot of eating is driven by habit and convenience.  A great deal of our munching is not really considered, it may be reflex, it may be habit, it may be a lot of things, but getting it on a piece of paper makes it really easy to look at our choices and find some places to begin, to set some goals for ourselves, to identify good candidates for the kinds of switches that we’ve suggested in Baby Step 1.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down. 

A few months ago I realized that I was putting on a little weight and was feeling a bit lethargic, weighed down, a little slow and unmotivated.  I began to pay attention to, and to write down, what I was eating.  I realized that every day while I was making dinner, there was quite a bit of snacking going on.  The exact contents varied, but more often than not a fair amount of salt and fat worked their way in there.  Some days I nibbled so much that I wasn’t even hungry for the delicious, healthful meal I had prepared for my family.  It took my attention to identify that habit, to realize that I was letting myself get too hungry at that hour and to be sure to listen to the call of the wild stomach before I became a ravening beast.  I needed to see it to make the change.  Once I saw it, it was very easy to identify some changes that I could make.  I didn’t need anybody to tell me what to cut first – I knew it.  I could see it right there on the page.

Be Fearless. Be Honest. Write It Down.

So what should this food journal look like?  You know what I’m going to say, right?  I don’t care what it looks like.  I don’t care what you write it on.  I don’t care if you use shorthand.  I don’t care if you write it with a crayon with your toes.  My only recommendation is that you put it together in such a way that you will be able to look at a whole week or so without a lot of effort – so writing each day on the back of a receipt that is in your wallet full of receipts from the last 4 months (is this just me?) is probably not the way to go.  Beyond that knock yourself out.  Write it wherever, however, this is YOUR exercise.  You are finding the real starting point for YOUR road to healthier eating.  No numbers, no measuring, just a log of what you are doing.  No judgment, no fear, no recrimination.  You can do this.  Just take a step, with a pen (or a crayon) and a piece of paper.  We’ll take it with you.  We can be fearless and honest together.  Okay, GO!