Category Archives: pantry

Reconditioned Food

Under the what’s-in-your-food catgory…an article caught my attention at the beginning of the week about reconditioned food.  I’ll be totally honest with you and share that this idea never ever crossed my mind.  I assumed that if food was in any way spoiled it needed to be discarded.  This article, however, made it abundantly clear that this is not the case.  The fact that the company in question only received a “sharp censure” from the FDA is truly wrong.

In Home Ec (as we used to call it) I remember being taught in the sixth grade that soft foods with any hint of mold, discoloration, or odor should be immediately destroyed as bacteria travelled quickly through them, whereas in hard foods they are more localized.  I don’t know about you but in my book applesauce is a soft food.

The FDA has a manual that talks about food reconditioning.  But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  With the increasing rates of food recalls due to bacterial infections, poor sanitary conditions and massive outbreaks of illness why is our government willing to allow corporations to knowingly serve bad food for profit?  Silly question…we all know the answer is money.

As a consumer the answer boils down to what is one of my top catch phrases…eat real food.  Do I buy some packaged foods, yes I do.  But I try to buy as little as possible, purchasing most of our groceries as whole food and then making the items myself.   We have already severely reduced our canned goods (most of what we have on hand is in our emergency preparedness closet), and are weaning ourselves off of most snack foods.  This last is not so popular with our teens but we certainly don’t have nearly as much as we used to.  I also get more and more products from local sources that I trust.

The more I learn, the more I am motivated to make things myself.  For example learning that “an average of 225 insect fragments or 4.5 rodent hairs per 8 ounces of macaroni or noodle products.” is okay is motivating me to get out the pasta maker again.  I still, and always will, throw out whatever is contaminated in my house.  When we have had a moth infestation everything they got into was destroyed. That’s why my dry goods are stored in glass or plastic, to keep them out.  Hard food products can be washed, and cleaned so although I don’t like it I understand how it can be allowed in a case like the one in Illinois.  But it’s motivated me to double check the pantry seals on things.

The FDA has set up a Reportable Food Registry which is a first step.  But I believe they need to know that this practice is unacceptable.  What are your thoughts on the matter?


coconut | photo: Robert Wetzlmayr

This Thanksgiving we had coconut cream instead of whipped cream.  It was a delicious substitute for those at the table who could not have dairy and it paired very well with the pumpkin custard.

Coconut is a great food item to have in your pantry.  A source of phosphorus which is beneficial for strong teeth and bones as well as supporting kidney function, there are many different ways in which coconut can be added to the diet.

Let’s start, though, by addressing the allergy issue.  According to the FDA coconuts must be labeled as a tree nut.  And there does appear to be a potential for cross-reaction for anyone who is allergic, or sensitive, to either walnuts or hazelnuts.  This means that if you have a sensitivity to either walnuts or hazelnuts and consume coconut products, you may want to discuss this with your allergist or to try an elimination diet and see if you should not eat coconut.

Ways to use coconut include:

  • Coconut meat – a tasty treat which can be eaten fresh or dried.  
  • Coconut flour – the dried ground meat can be used in baking and is especially popular for gluten free baking.  It’s also a good source of protein with 100 g of coconut flour containing just over 19 g of protein.
  • Coconut water – sometimes called coconut juice, this is the liquid from the center of the coconut.  It is a fairly balanced electrolyte fluid; far tastier, and certainly far healthier, than sports drinks.
  • Coconut milk – made from the ground meat this is a tasty dairy substitute that many people enjoy.
  • Coconut cream – the solid section of the coconut milk which rises to the top; this can be skimmed off and used the same as whipping cream.
  • Coconut oil – made from the meat, this is a healthy source of medium chain fatty acids and can be used in baking and cooking.  It even makes a great facial moisturizer. 
Coconut flour, milk and water all substitute fairly well at a one-for-one ratio for their conventional counterparts.  Coconut oil substitutes one-for-one although I have found that because it melts differently it sometimes gives a different texture to baked goods.  We have added this versatile range of products to the pantry and are enjoying the tasty variety that they add to our diet.  I’m sure you will too.

Cherry Jam

Cherries were very reasonably priced at the grocery store leading me to buy an extra five pounds to make cherry jam.  I like making my own jam because then I know exactly what’s in it.  And I manage to avoid all of the nasty ingredients that I do not want in my pantry, HFCS, artificial flavors, artificial colors, etc.  that I complained about in a recent post on grape jelly.

Jam is very easy to make.  I’ve taught a lot of people how to make it and invariably the response is, “That’s it?”  Yes.  That’s really it.  It’s not that hard, it just seems complicated because most of us don’t can food anymore.  Honestly I don’t even make that much these days.  Now that the kids are older and most of them out of the house we just don’t go through jelly, jam, chutneys, and pickles the way we used to.  So I tend to save my efforts for the more expensive items.  Like cherries.

After washing and draining the cherries comes the task of pitting them.  Without fail every single time I make cherry jam I wonder why the heck I have never invested in a cherry pitter.

I need one because, first it takes a doggone long time to pit five pounds of cherries.  Second if you’ve ever tried to get cherry juice out of a white blouse you’ll appreciate that my fingernails look none too clean for at least a day or two afterwards.

Another challenge is trying to pit the cherries without attracting the attention of other people in the house.  Invariably five pounds of cherries turns into a fair amount less after certain unnamed people start eating them faster than you can pit them.

To make the jam simply combine the cherries with lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, and pectin and let it cook for a while on the stovetop until it thickens.  There are lots of great recipes for cherry jam out there.  The one I use comes from the Ball Blue Book which is a great resource for recipes and information on preserving all kinds of things.

My other favorite canning/preserving book are:

Once you’ve created jam you put it into sterilized jars, hot water bath it and then you’re done.  One of my favorite sounds is the little plinking noises made by the lids sealing after their hot water bath.
The jars will keep for up to two years in the pantry.  Each time we take one out and eat it we are reminded of the sweet, juicy taste of summer.  Believe me, in the middle of winter the hot, steam-filled kitchen and huge pots a-boiling on the stove are a far distant memory.  It’s all worth it.

Yummy Lunch Wraps

Any time you see food beautifully prepared it means someone has had their fingers all over it.  Julia Child

Rice paper wraps can be a fun way to make a meal or snack.  You hydrate the wrap in a bit of water and then roll it around whatever you want for a filling.  Cool, tasty, and very satisfying.  If you keep these in your pantry you will always have the start of a delicious wrap.  I buy mine at the Asian store however many mainstream grocery stores are starting to carry them as well.
This is what hubby and I had for lunch:
Laying out all of the ingredients: (clockwise from the top):
organic baby spinach
dulse (a very yummy seaweed)
organic, preservative free turkey
sweet bell peppers
rice paper wraps
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
(realized they didn’t make it into the picture)
Assembling the wraps is a bit finicky.  You need to start by wetting the rice paper. I use a dinner plate with a little water in it to set the paper in, let it soak for ten seconds, flip it over and soak again, then use it.  It’s very sticky at this point so you need to be careful in how you handle it.
Lay out all of your ingredients in the middle of the paper giving you enough at the “top” and “bottom” to be able to fold over before you roll the sides.  I also lay out the filling just a little to one side which make the end of the roll work out better.
Add some fresh fruit and it’s a really satisfying and delicious lunch.
This was my plate (on a lunch size dish).  I decided to be honest and use this first roll so you could see they don’t always turn out perfectly.  They still taste great. 
You can fill your rice paper wrap with anything you like, hard cooked eggs, other veggies, sprouts, dressings, avocado, whatever comes to mind as a tasty combination.  

Food Storage

Becky wrote and asked about storing food.  She’s starting to make more of her own foods and would like to purchase in bulk but is not sure how to store things.  This is a brief post but one that shares my experience and what I do.  The storage that I am talking about here is dry storage, I’m assuming that if you have a freezer or even two freezers you are already using them to full capacity.

dry beans in jars | photo: dancesincreek

For smaller items (seeds, beans, herbs, etc) I collect glass jars.  Lots of them.  I confess that I have aspirations of being one of those wonderfully well organized people who has all their jars coordinated and they are the same so they all fit neatly on the shelf.  The truth is, well, let’s just say a little more practical.  It’s a mis-matched hodgepodge of jars.  I use smaller jars for smaller things and bigger jars for larger quantities.

If it is something that requires a good seal (such as agar agar) I will sometimes cut a piece of wax paper to put over the top of the jar before placing the lid on it.  Obviously things kept in jars do better stored in a cool dark place.

I like using glass jars, even though they are more breakable, because I feel that they are the best, least contaminating containers.

For large quantities I use five gallon buckets.  Although they are plastic, it is not possible to store very large quantities in other containers.  Many people can get five gallon buckets for free from their local grocery store.  In the bakery section simply ask for their buckets; the grocery stores throw them away.  These are food safe buckets.  Sometimes they come with some of the contents (frosting, etc) still stuck to the inside, but washing them out is a small price to pay.

For the lid I use something called a gamma seal.  This is a great thing to create a water-tight, air-tight, vermin-proof seal.  I like them in part because they are spin-on/spin-off rather than a rip-off-your-fingernails-prying-the-lid-open.  Essentially there is a threaded plastic ring which snaps onto the rim of the bucket.  The lid then threads into the ring.  If I am planning on very long term storage (more than six months) for the contents of a bucket I will add oxygen absorbers to help the contents last longer.  The trick with the oxygen absorbers is to figure out how much airspace is left in the bucket so you know how many absorbers to use.

I find that a five gallon bucket easily stores twenty-five pounds of dry goods.  I use mine to store grains such as hard wheat, barley, oats, and buckwheat.  I also use these buckets to store sucanat and evaporated cane juice crystals.  Due to the weight I don’t stack them more than three high.

In order to make sure that I am staying on top of my large scale dry goods I write the contents of the bucket on a piece of scotch tape with weight and the date it needs to be used by.  This piece of tape is placed on the rim of the lid.  This way the buckets are clearly marked and when I go into them and I can see how much I still have left.  The tape sticks well enough to be used but comes off easily enough if the information needs to be changed.


Raspberry Vinegar

Raspberries are coming in to season.  Their fragrant luscious aroma greets me every time I walk into the produce section of my local grocery store.  And their plump juicy red fruit temps me.  I love raspberries and truly miss the raspberry bed I had in Connecticut.  It was stocked with four different varieties each bearing at a different time pretty much ensuring a summer full of fresh flavorful berries.

Sadly the drought here in Texas has done a number to my fruit bushes.  The trees seem to be holding their own but the elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and goji berries are all shriveled and I’m not sure they’re going to make it.

Raspberries are such a wonderful fruit because not only are they tasty, they’re so versatile.  They go great in fruit salads, eaten fresh, baked into scones or crumbles, on top of oatmeal, in a smoothie, the list goes on.  Plus a little as one half a cup provides 4 g. of fiber, over 25% of your daily value for vitamin C and just over 20% of your daily value for manganese. One of my favorite, extravagant ways to use raspberries is to make a raspberry vinegar.  This way I can enjoy that fragrant summer flavor all year long.

This is my favorite recipe using raspberries from Fancy Pantry which is one of my best-loved preserving cookbooks.

Red Raspberry Vinegar
  1. 8 C. raspberries, cleaned, rinsed and drained
  2. 3 C. white wine vinegar
  1. The recipe calls for the raspberries to be used in two portions.  You can freeze 4 C. for later.
  2. Crush 4 C. raspberries and place them in a sterilized, heatproof 2 quart jar
  3. Add vinegar and and cover the jar
  4. set the jar in a deep saucepan and fill with water to come halfway up the jar
  5. set over medium heat and bring the water to a boil
  6. Reduce the heat and keep the water simmering for 20 minutes
  7. Remove the jar and set aside, uncovered to cool the contents
  8. When cool, add a lid to the jar and set it aside
  9. Shake the jar every day for 2 weeks
  10. Strain the jar to remove old raspberries, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
  11. Crush 4 C. raspberries and pour infused vinegar over them
  12. Repeat the scalding as done above
  13. Let the vinegar rest for two weeks, shaking every day
  14. Strain the vinegar discarding the fruit, it is okay to lightly press the berries to extract all the juice
  15. Line a funnel with an unbleached coffee filter and place in a sterilized bottle
  16. Filter the vinegar into the bottle
  17. Cap or cork the bottle and store in a cool dark pantry
  1. The vinegar may develop sediment as it stands, this is okay but the vinegar can be re-filtered if you wish
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy

Budget (and Eco-)conscious Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping | photo: BotMultichillT

Several times in the recent past when I’ve given a lecture to a parent group or other organization one of the questions I’ve been asked is about grocery spending.  Many people are noticing that their grocery bills are going up but the packages are shrinking, as reported in a March 28, 2011 column in the New York Times.

As they look harder at their grocery bills people also question how much they are spending overall.  Wondering what other folks are spending.  Several have told me they are curious but afraid to ask, it seems rather personal and it may not be an apples-to-apples comparison.  After all the chances of two families buying everything the same is pretty minimal.

There is one resource that you can use to help you determine your food budget.  The USDA publishes a Food Plan document which they claim represents categories that people can use to see if they spend in various categories (Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate, or Liberal).  The link is to the last available publication as of the time of this writing, February 2011.  Our household consists of two adults, one teenager, two dogs and a cat.  I do include the animals because I buy food for them, even though I know this is not factored into the USDA document.  Our family currently spends in the Low-Cost category.  I’m comfortable with that for a few reasons.  Obviously the aforementioned animals, but also because we choose to spend some of our food dollars on certain organic foods.

Now I understand that not everyone can afford to purchase organic.  I don’t know anyone who can afford to purchase 100% organic.  That being said, you can learn where to get the biggest bang for your buck.  The choices that you make are up to you so you need to define what works for you and your family.  One thing I have noticed over time is that certain organic foodstuffs are coming out in storebrands and the prices are dropping.  I call this voting with my wallet.

If enough people are willing to support these foods, producers will take notice.  When it hits the storebranding you know you’ve made an impact because grocery stores do not spend massive advertising dollars to convince folks to buy something, they let the big guns do that and they come in when they see it’s something people want.  It happens all the time, and not just with food.  Look at what has happened to the cost of iPhones.  The first ones were extremely expensive.  Enough people bought them that in just a few months the price was slashed 50%.  The law of supply and demand.  We can effect the same change in our food.  If we choose to purchase foods without artificial ingredients or that are not GMO (and organic is the only way to tell at this point for some foods).  If enough of us do this it sends a message.

Okay, off the soap box and back to the post.  In the interest of helping folks save some money at the grocery store I’d like to offer my

Five Top Tips for Budget (and eco-)Conscious Shopping:

1.  If you’re going to buy organic fruits and vegetables buy the ones that really matter.  The Environmental Working Group has put together a Shoppers Guide to Pesticides wallet card that lists the Dirty Dozen; those twelve fruits and vegetables that are most likely to be contaminated by pesticides.  They even have an iPhone app if you’d rather have it with you at all times.  The card also lists something called the Clean Fifteen; those foods that are least likely to be contaminated by pesticides.  So save your money by not purchasing those organic bananas and buy organic strawberries instead.

2.  Buy more whole foods.  Yes those organic apples may seem more expensive.  But how much is that applesauce?  And how much more applesauce can you eat than whole apples?  Orange juice?  Did you know that there is an average of four oranges in one eight ounce glass of juice?  That glass goes down pretty easy but I think most people won’t sit there and eat four oranges in one sitting.  On average the more whole foods you buy the more nutrient dense your dietary intake.  Overall this should equate to less money spent at the grocery store.

3.  I truly deeply believe that organic dairy is the way to go.  It has no added hormones, no antibiotics, and the cows are not fed pesticide-laden grain.  What goes into that cow goes into it’s milk so it makes sense to not drink or eat those products by choosing organic dairy.  Having said that, it’s not always easy to find or afford 100% organic dairy products, I truly understand that.  If you cannot add organic dairy to your budget it is important that you at least purchase products that are free of rBGH.  This hormone was created to make cows give more milk.  But it doesn’t go away just because the cow has been milked.  So we consume it right along with the cheese or yogurt or whatever dairy product we are eating.  You can download a free RGBH Free Dairy list for your state from Sustainable Table.

4.  Eat less meat.  Somehow we have become convinced that we NEED meat and we have to serve it at almost every meal.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Most Americans eat far too much meat.  We could stand to eat more beans and other legumes.  A great source of protein with less environmental impact and far less expensive.  A package of lentils costs less than a dollar at my local grocery store and makes five cups cooked.  That’s a LOT of lentils and a lot of protein.

5.  Waste less.  This is probably the biggest money saver out there.  Stop for a moment and think about how much food you may have thrown out in the last week, two weeks, a month?  That’s all food that you paid for.  You probably even cooked it, increasing it’s value more as you spent time and energy to create the dish which rotted in the back of the fridge before being sent to the landfill.  Jonathan Bloom has an excellent website about the topic of wasting less food and that’s his book on the left there.

The premise is simple.  Buy less and you’re likely to waste less.  Or at least buy less perishables.  And plan.  Plan not only what you are going to eat but what you might do with the leftovers.  I wrote about this over a year ago in my post on Sequential Eating.  By making a plan it does help to avoid waste which in turn helps to reduce your grocery budget.

If you have the space in your yard and you do wind up with some vegetable waste you can at least compost it.  This way it gets turned into good usable dirt that you can put into your garden.

It’s important to remember that if you are making changes to your eating habits and to your grocery budget to make these changes gradually.  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  In order to be successful at these changes make one at a time.  Once you’ve mastered one change you can make another and continue to improve your grocery habit (and spend more wisely).

Eat White Food

I frequently spend a lot of time asking people to eat the colors of the rainbow.  There are so many tasty colorful foods that I am at a loss to understand how the Standard American Diet came to be mostly beige.  On my Facebook Fan Page I often push colorful foods.  For the most part this means fruits and vegetables that are higher in nutrients, tasty and easy to incorporate into the diet in their whole food form.

Today however I’m here to advocate for white foods; at least some of them.  I’ll still be one of the first to tell you that white rice, white pasta, white bread, white potatoes and that ilk are primarily simple carbs and not a great choice.  But there are some other white foods that are fabulous and should definitely be part of your nutritionally dense, healthy eating plan.

Cauliflower ] photo: Liftarn

Cauliflower – A cruciferous vegetable that is loaded with vitamin C, cauliflower also provides vitamin K, and some folate.  It’s also got a type of phytonutrient called glucosinolates which are a good choice for detoxification activity within our bodies.  Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make cauliflower high on the list for cancer prevention and heart health while it’s high levels of fiber make it a great choice for supporting healthy digestion.  You can eat it raw, steamed, baked, roasted, and cooked.  Don’t forget about the greens, these are also edible and make a great addition to a stir fry or curried greens.

Parsnip | photo: A.Cahalan

Parsnips – A root vegetable that is loaded with fiber, parsnips also provide vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.  They have a wonderful mineral content that includes calcium (yes folks, 1 C. of parsnips gives you 5% of your RDV for calcium), magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.  I’ve read that before people knew that potatoes were edible, parsnips were one of the prized root vegetable for their mild, delicious flavor.  They can be eaten raw, cooked, mashed, steamed, and make a wonderful addition to a root vegetable medley or a carrot, sweet potato, parsnip latke.

Garlic | photo: geocachernemesis

Garlic – Another wonderful root vegetable garlic is a fabulous antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, cancer fighting, immune system boosting food that needs to be a part of your diet.  If chopped and let to sit for a few minutes oxidization boosts the powerful antioxidant allicins.  Many people, myself included, when feeling a little under the weather, will chop a clove or two of garlic and swallow it down raw (do not do this on an empty stomach as it may cause digestive upset).  Delicious, healthy, easy to use in a vast array of dishes, it’s one white vegetable that belongs in your pantry.  As tasty as it is, it’s no wonder that there’s a recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

White Onion | photo: multadroit

Onions – there are all different types of onions so it seems a bit odd to single out the white ones since I tend to use them all.  The white ones include sweets, cipollinis, shallots, pearl onions and more.  Try them all, they’re delicious and so good for you. High in chromium, which is great for your blood sugar, onions also have a high level of sulfur compounds which makes them a great choice as a heart healthy, immune boost, cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory vegetable.  They also provide copper which is important for bone health.

Mushrooms | photo: Chris 73

Mushrooms – everyone is going crazy for shitake, oyster, portobello, maitake and other mushrooms these days.  But that doesn’t mean that you should discount those tasty white mushrooms.  They pack a nutritious punch with lots of fiber, vitamin B12 (especially important for vegetarians and vegans), potassium, copper, and selenium.  1/2 cup of mushrooms provides a whole lot of flavor yet only 7 calories. Another easy, versatile vegetable they can be used in many different ways in a wide variety of cuisines.

White Beans | photo: Rasbak

White Beans – This color covers a number of different kinds of beans, navy, great northern, cannellini, pea beans, and more.  A great source of protein, white beans also offer a great source of iron and fiber.  They are good for stabilizing blood sugar, good for your heart, your digestion and can be eaten so many different ways.  They pair well with an almost endless combination of vegetables, herbs, and spices.  One of my favorite ways to eat them is cold (after cooking) in a salad drizzled with a pesto dressing.

Celeriac | photo: AlbertCahalan

Celeriac – Sometimes referred to as celery root this tastes like a cross between celery and parsley.  It’s great in combination with other root vegetables, goes great into a slaw, cooks up well in a casserole, and is another great choice to add to your diet.  Low in calories but high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese it’s considered a detoxifying vegetable.  It may also help with blood pressure health and support bone health.

So eat a rainbow of food, whole foods that is, but don’t forget white is all the colors of the rainbow and needs to be part of your plate too.

Food And Money

The USDA is predicting an increase in all foods for 2011; depending on the item it is expected to range from 2% for things like sugars and cereals to as high as 5.5% for dairy products.  If you are interested you can see the chart here.  Part of the increase is due to the higher costs for corn and soybeans.  Remember, it’s a cycle, what we eat needs to eat.  I actually anticipate that the costs for meat will be much higher than currently predicted due to more people deciding to purchase meat and dairy that is organic to avoid the GMO contamination of corn and soy.  These are two of the most heavily GMO crops but our government doesn’t identify that so the only way to avoid it is to purchase organic.

There are a number of ways that you can save money on your food bill in the upcoming year:

Plant a vegetable garden.  Using your space for edible gardening can be attractive and save you food dollar costs.  During both World Wars Victory Gardens were planted in every yard and public park all across the United States.  It’s a concept that I think many people are rediscovering.

 Even if you buy a tomato plant at the garden center and plant it in a pot you will still get far more produce than if you purchase your tomatoes at the grocery store.  And believe me, they’ll taste better.  We’ve just re-arranged our side yard and brought in a load of organic dirt, working on creating a better vegetable garden.  We’ve also put in herbs and a few fruits in the yard.  

Here are a couple of books that I think are great for backyard vegetable gardening

Mel Bartholomew is the authority on getting the most out of the smallest space. If you have any gardening space available, even just one square foot, you’d be amazed at what you can grow.

Rosalind Creasy shows you how to incorporate beauty and function in your garden by making your landscape edible.

If you live in an apartment or don’t have access to a plot of ground you can consider container gardening.  Even one  reasonable size container can grow a lot of tomatoes and basil or peas and mint or…read the book.

And there seems to be an increase in folks growing food on rooftops and terraces.

If you shop at warehouse stores frequently the prices are good but the quantities are huge.  Don’t buy more than you need, after all 50 pounds of potatoes is a lot, especially in a family like ours with just three people in the house.  Just because the price per pound is low, if you wind up throwing out rotten potatoes (or anything else) you’ve just lost money.  If you really want the item consider saving money by asking family, friends and/or neighbors if they want to share these items with you.  This way you’ll both save money and there will be less waste.

And speaking of waste…

According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland, Americans, on average, throw away half of their food.  Half!  That’s a mind-boggling concept.  Knowing, really knowing exactly what is in your pantry is a great start, learning how to be mindful of it is the next step.  Jonathan has a lot of great information on his blog to help you avoid food waste.  Don’t want to read the book (although I highly recommend it)?  There’s an app for that — yup, a company called UniByte has created an app to help you better manage your food purchases so you will waste less.

If you do wind up with food waste, and some of it is inevitable such as potato peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, and the like, consider composting.  This is also environmentally friendly in that the food scraps become usable dirt instead of going to the landfill where they cannot be used to grow more food.  

A little off the beaten path but for those who have access, inclination, and a sharp eye there is always the idea of foraging.  According to my friend Merriweather it is important to remember a couple of key points:

1.  Know what you are foraging.  Many edibles have an inedible counterpart that looks almost the same.  He points out that these inedibles wind up in either the “kill your kid dead” or “keep you on the toilet sick” category so it’s important to be very sure of your identifications.

2.  Forage responsibly using appropriate tools to cut and dig rather than ripping and shredding.  This allows the plants to continue to grow and is the best way to forage.

3.  Make sure you have permission. Here in Texas, and probably elsewhere, plant rustling is against the law.  Getting a huge fine for public trespassing or theft is not going to help your grocery bill any.

While Merriweather sadly does not yet have a published book there are some great foraging books out there:




And last, but certainly not least, another way to save money at the grocery store is to learn to make your own.  One of my favorites is making my own granola which definitely saves money over the store-bought versions.  You can make your own pudding, soups, muffins, snacks, spice mixes, beverages, pickles, jams and much much more.  Currently I am fermenting kimchi on my kitchen counter, starting another batch of kefir and have just finished making another batch of bean sprouts.  These require very little hands on time and save quite a few dollars while providing healthful foods for my family.  Making your own has a number of benefits:

1.  It will save you money
2.  You will avoid extra packaging and commercial waste
3.  You will avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals (which you don’t need in your diet anyway)
4.  Often when you make your own you make smaller batches so you are less likely to waste it

So here’s to a new year, a new grocery budget, and new possibilities for your health.

Grocery Store Flow Chart

Remember my motto:  Eat well to be well?  Obviously a lot of what we eat has to come from somewhere and for most of us that starting point is the grocery store.  A lot of people have sent me this very funny flow chart “How To Find Real Food At The Supermarket” by Darya Pino of Summer Tomato .  I love it and am taking her permission to “feel free to share this with friends” by sharing it with all of you.

While written in a humorous vein it certainly isn’t too far off the mark.  If it’s not whole food don’t eat it.  Too many ingredients?  syllables?  vague claims about health?  It’s probably not healthy.