This week I’ve been thinking a lot about food. This isn’t massively unusual, thinking about eating, cooking, shopping for food (as well as actually doing all of these things) takes up a goodly portion of my time and energy. And this time is only going to increase as I commit to making more and more food from scratch. My goal is to use nothing pre processed by the end of the year. Now I will still be buying cheese, milk and flour, all of which are to some degree ‘processed’ but I won’t be buying crackers, yoghurt, dips…you get the idea. I would like to reach the point where my cupboards contain only ingredients and the yummy homemade results of those ingredients.
I’m making a good start and trying to simply add in extra things each week. I already cook our meals from scratch (except for soup, I buy that in tins) but that doesn’t mean that each meal is exceptionally inspiring; that is something I’m working on too. But there are other elements that I’ve noticed can push up the food bill beyond raw ingredients. I know I’m not the only person to get the checkout and have a minor coronary as the number on the digital display just keeps going up. And up. I mean $5 and upwards for Hummus. Hummus! My boys can go through a pot of that stuff in a lunchtime. Can I really be spending over $10 a week on mushed up chickpeas? And yoghurt, don’t even get me started. Even a non organic yoghurt can easily run to $4-5 a pot and I have been finding myself buying up to 4 pots a week in order to keep my probiotic loving children supplied with their favourite runny snack. $20 a week. $100 a month on sour milk.
Well no more. I am striving to rob the supermarket/whole food store of some of their profits as I produce at least some of our own favourite foods. My kitchen is starting to feel like a little unit of production, though it is all slotted in over the course of hours and days around the house. This week I’ve produced
– Chicken stock (2 batches from 1 carcass!) which made about 3 litres of concentrate
– 2 batches of Hummus (I’ve been using dried beans that I soak overnight then cook which makes the whole thing much cheaper)
– 6 loaves of wholewheat bread (using organic flour and coconut oil)
– 1 batch of choc chip oat cookies (the equivalent of 2 and a bit store bought boxes and without the very long list of ingredients)
– 2 batches of apple sauce
-2 litres of yoghurt (using organic milk so producing nearly 3 pots worth for less than the price of a pot of organic yoghurt)
– home made lara bar (a tray that will last us a good few days for the same price as about 2 store bought ones and with lots of added extras like chia seeds and coconut oil)
That is roughly $84 worth of food there, perhaps more if you account for the bread being organic and all natural rather than just the price of a standard loaf. I’m not sure what all my ingredients cost but it wasn’t $84! And that is not even including the many fruit smoothies that we have for breakfasts and snacks but without the polystyrene cups and hefty price tags. What I’m losing out of the budget is the cost of paying someone else to make my food for me. I’m also ridding myself of all the plastic packaging these items come in, no yoghurt pots, plastic boxes or aluminium lined cardboard to get rid of. I can reuse glass storage containers and mason jars and can even find uses for some of the bulk bags my flours came in.
I still have food costs of course, ingredients cost money. But I am able to buy better quality ingredients and be much more in control of what I use. I know exactly what we are eating because I made it! I am slowly moving our kitchen away from being a unit of consumption to a unit of production and it feels good to see the fruits of my labours being happily consumed by my family. This work that I do has a direct impact upon our quality of life, our health and our budget and generally the time it takes to make these things can be slotted in around our regular day. As I do each task more and more the process becomes easier taking less time and effort.
This week I’ll be looking for some new challenges; as well as making some of the staples listed above I’ll be making some beef stock and rendered fat, some oat snack bars and getting creative with meals using recipes from the e-course I’m taking at Whole Food Kitchen. It’s a course teaching how to approach a whole food diet with tons of advice and recipes as well as a great online forum. I’ve made one of the meals so far and it one exceptionally tasty and took about 10-15 minutes to prepare. Couldn’t be better!
It may seem like a small thing, to produce food at home that we used to have to buy, but to me it feels important. I feel that I am taking control of my home, making active choices rather than blinding walking the aisles and buying whatever a supermarket has to offer that week. By making so much myself, by meal planning and buying only the ingredients that I need, I avoid making rash purchases of pre made foods that cost way more and are full I things I can’t pronounce. I am seeing myself as a producer, someone who is empowered, rather than a consumer. It gives me a sense of purpose, a connection to a vision of how our family should work. Each time I turn on the oven or reach for my food processor I am taking a step closer to a feeling of independence and, more importantly, competence.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. In that case our family is home made and pretty darn tasty.