Friday, February 19, 2010
As this post is my entry in Fight Back Friday (generously hosted by Food Renegade), I feel I should warn you that it is written from the position of one who is shaken. If you conjure in your mind the image of a scrawny kid being suspended in the air by a hulking bully, the scrawny kid swinging like mad even though he knows he's about to be pummeled- that scrawny kid is at the point where I feel like I am today.
I shouldn't complain. Because relatively speaking, my family is doing pretty well shifting to a real foods diet. My problem is three-fold: I'm simultaneously shifting to eating real food and learning how to prepare real food, the local foods available to me right now are limited in scope and prohibitively expensive, and I can't afford screw-ups.
Because I never learned how to cook with real foods (with a few exceptions), I don't have a bank of tried-and-true recipes to substitute real foods into. So, every night's dinner is a game of chance. Last night I lost. Again. On the upside, I learned that nobody in my family likes scallops- except the dogs, who like them lots thankyouverymuch. On the downside, dinner's failure left us hungry and unsettled since nobody wanted any more fruit and there aren't any prepared snacks in the house. I need fallback possibilities! It probably sounds dumb to those who've been at this a while. But in my household, every ounce of my time is fought over by the myriad things to be done. I need to learn things that can be done cheap and fast that will be healthy and filling. And don't involve eggs or bacon, since I'm the only one who will eat them. *sigh* How do other single parents make this transition?
I'd really like to buy more local foods. But doing so presents a real dilemma for me. For example, I have in my freezer one .70lb local, grass-fed bison steak. It was $13.99/lb, so my steak cost me $9.79. I am terrified to cook this thing. If I screw it up I will have to beat myself. Twelve ounces of local-ish bacon...$6.79. Local-ish grass-fed but non-raw milk is about $6/gallon. The butter is roughly $5 for half a pound. (And who the heck is buying the $22 pastured chickens?!) If the rest of my bills didn't add up to so much, I would happily pay these prices. But I can't very well stop heating the house, or paying my friggin' property taxes (for which, apparently, I get my driveway packed solid with plowed snow).
Perhaps the most discouraging thing to me right now is the screw-ups. I know this is part of the learning curve. But I so can't afford it. I took a chance on the scallops. They were on sale. I love it when I can buy shrimp on sale. They keep well in the freezer, everybody likes them, and I know what to do with them. Seafood is so good for you, I was hoping to expand the offerings a little. But no. Even at the sale price, that loss stings. Recently, I even screwed up one of my old stand-bys- beef stew! How I managed I do not know. But I do know that $10 of local beef were in that pot and it was absolutely inedible. Surely this is one of the reasons the family cook fell for standardized industrial foods! I don't want to go back to that life, but ooh, the pain of transition.
You're probably wondering, by this point, what's up with the picture at the top of this post. That's what I miss. I miss my garden being open for business. I miss knowing that if I screw-up dinner, I can run out back and come back with a full meal in no time. I miss my garden being full of things I know how to cook (admittedly, because I don't actually have to cook most of what comes out of my garden).
My plan is to keep swinging and hoping not to get pummeled. I would welcome advice from those who have gone before me on this journey. What recipes do you fall back on? What real food snacks are popular at your house? How do you stretch the expensive ingredients? Enlighten me. Please!