Saturday, February 4, 2012

Thrifty? Meet Easy.

Like many folks, I'm in lukewarm pursuit of learning how to eat healthier while spending less and saving time. I've been looking into a few books and checking out some new blogs (especially this one, Heavenly Homemakers), trying to find ways to work more whole foods into our diet.

I've been making a little progress, and I'm thinking I might make a semi-regular blog feature of this. Say, once a week I might write a post about these topics, or share a recipe or something.

And while my progress towards those goals might be glacial, hey, at least I'm creeping along in the right direction. For instance:

Used to be I only made one or two breakfasts a week, and always on the weekends. Now I probably make breakfast 5 or 6 mornings a week.

Used to be I bought a lot of prepackaged junk for everyone to snack on. Cookies, chips, ice cream.
Now? Though I still buy them occassionally (and they must be on sale), I usually make homemade after school snacks, and about once or twice a month I make some ice cream from fresh-from-the-farm milk. Yum.

Making slower progress in how many homemade dinners I make, but I'm getting there. At this point we get pizza delivery most Friday nights, and we might all eat out once every week or two. Yeah. I need to work on that.

Used to be I thought I would not have time for anything "from scratch", but I no longer live in fear of it.

Now, fear not, "from scratch" for me does not mean grinding my flour and making my own pasta. What it does mean is making honest-to-God meals from recipes, not from opening a box and sticking it in the microwave.

We still have a large share of pre-packaged things in our pantry, though, such as boxes of cereals for the days I don't make breakfast, cans of soup for the kids to snack on, and yes, I'll admit it, some Stove Top and some Kraft Mac-n-cheese is always nice to have on hand. I am human. I have my weaknesses. Don't judge.

Anyway, I found a book not too long ago that helps me to:

a) make more from scratch
b) save money
c) save some time
d) feel productive.

It's the Make A Mix cookbook and I have to say, it's kind of cool. It shows you how to make certain mixes in large quantities that can be used to make a variety of dishes.

For instance, I just mixed up a big batch of "Quick Mix" and put it in an old ginormous Costco-type pretzel container. Then when I want to whip up pancakes or muffins or biscuits, I just measure out some of the Quick Mix and add a few other ingredients like eggs and milk and stuff and I'm good to go. Think homemade Bisquick.

Of course, there's all kinds of other things in the book, too, like making your own onion-soup dry mix for seasoning things, salad dressings, etc. The point is, if you spend a little time mixing up the dry ingredients, making from scratch later won't take up as much of your precious time. And of course these mixes you put together from the basic ingredients only cost a fraction of what they cost when you buy them pre-packaged in the grocery store.

Lastly, you can tweak things to get whatever health benefits you might be after, whether that means using more whole wheat flour, less salt or sugar. Whatever keeps your heart tickin', your arteries clean as a whistle, and your blood sugar at a reasonable number, I say go for it.

How about you all? From scratch? Eat out? Frugal? Let me know where you stand....

And throw me a vote, will ya'? Tanks!
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Sarah said...

Oh Anne, I feel almost beyond help. Your post intrigues me, but exhausts me. I don't want to cook and neither does my husband, despite his temporary SAHD status. I believe we would all benefit from a change but it is a dream I am not quite ready to tackle...

Rooster Inn said...

Congrats to you!!! I take more short cuts now than I used to because of work, and I have to admit that I use a combination of mostly whole/homegrown foods, and homemade mixes. I love to make very big batches of many dishes and freeze dinner sized containers for later use. Heat and eat!!! I Love the idea of you writing about this every so often:-)

Anne Kimball said...

Hmmmm. How can we make this easier? How about trying to pick one area where you would like to make a change. Make more breakfasts? More dinners? Cut your grocery bill down? Move more to whole and/or organic foods? Let me know one area and I'll see if I have any suggestions for you. Don't give up hope yet, Sarah!

Anne Kimball said...

I'm pretty ecclectic in my approach to food, meaning that there are several things motivating me: cost, whole, simplicity/time. I definitely mix my approaches. I am nobody's "purist": somedays I'm looking for cheap, somedays yummy/comfort, other times more healthy. We'll see where this takes me....

Michele said...

I love the idea of the mixes and I'll be keeping an eye out for this book. I try to cook from scratch and am trying to lower our family food bill. I try to make big batches of stuff and freeze half. Also trying to find stuff my 3 year old WILL eat, he's favourite phrase is 'too spicy' (even for applesauce LOL). I look forward to your posts on food and cooking.

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