A friend on The Homegrown Hippie Facebook Page recently posted with questions for switching to a more healthful lifestyle for herself, her partner and her young sons. I loved her questions and they gave me an insight into where I want to go with the Homegrown page and blog in the coming months. More and more people are moving toward healthful living but it can be expensive and time consuming! So here are some answers about how to make the transition easily without breaking the bank…and without temper tantrums from family members who don’t want to eat tofu!
I eat healthfully on a budget. I also rarely get vested in big meals or anything that requires lots of dirty dishes or standing in the kitchen for long periods of time! I like simple, efficient, and cost effective! I’m posting my response to her in this blog because it’s a lot of info and I think more people can benefit from it!
How can we eat healthier on a tighter budget?
I keep it simple – I don’t make big elaborate meals. This is a good time of year for eating cleaner too because it’s warm and our bodies naturally gravitate toward fresh foods. Salads, smoothies, wraps and quesadillas are my go-tos because you can mix and match so much and can incorporate so many different foods in them and they’re also quick. Planning meals helps with budgeting but also don’t buy more than you will need unless you can freeze it. There’s not much worse than a refrigerator full of fresh foods that have wilted or rotted! Look for what produce is on sale and plan your meals around those items that week.
How can we accomplish this without giving up at least SOME of the things we really enjoy (hello bacon!)?
I still eat bacon! Bacon has always been my vegetarian/vegan downfall! I have it generally once a week…I’d probably eat it more if someone else would cook it for me…and at their house so my house doesn’t smell like it for days! I eat it in moderation. And I hippie it up too – bacon, avocado, spinach sandwiches on wheat are awesome! Don’t deprive yourself. Instead, eat the good stuff. If you’re going to have ice cream – make it your favorite, have a serving, and savor it. Also, save the recipes that call for odd ingredients for when you have time and make sure any new ingredient will be one that you actually need. Some recipes call for shallots which can be more expensive than onion. Using onion is fine!
How can I prepare our new foods on a time constraint?
For me this goes back to keeping it simple. Along the way I’ve figured out how to make soups, sandwiches, quesadillas, wraps, smoothies and juices out of whatever I have in the house. I’m not afraid to match up odd food pairings and hope it turns out ok! Save the big deal meals for when you actually have time for big deal meals. Another aspect is preparing things in advance. For instance, when I want a Quinoa Fruit Salad I make extra quinoa so that I can use it for other things during the week. I then only make one pot of quinoa and it’ll keep in the fridge. It can then be used later with taco mix for tacos or taco salad, can be used to make veggie burgers, used instead of oatmeal as a breakfast (great with fresh fruit and a little almond milk and honey), added to soup to make it more hearty. Another option would be grilled or stir fried veggies, have them with one meal, make extra and carry that over. I use all sorts of grilled veggies in quesadillas. Veggie hash is the same way. If you’re making dried beans – make a pot for the week. Black beans can be added to soups, into veggie side dishes, in quesadillas (can you tell quesadillas are one of my faves?), salads, etc. You can even use different kinds of beans to make hummus and use it as a dip and as a sandwich spread. My personal favorite is white bean hummus – great on sandwiches. Also, if you have a day a month to spend on prep – you can chop veggies and put them in the freezer. This is great for onions and peppers and such!
How can I best prepare him AND my son for the changes–as they will clearly be radical.
Decide where you will start and start out slow. Baby steps are key! Anyone I’ve ever helped transition to a more healthful lifestyle or eating plan I’ve encouraged to take baby steps. If you decide food is the first place you’ll start then finish the foods you have an begin incorporating healthier versions as you go shopping for replacements. Pick one meal a day when you and all family members will eat a completely natural, non-processed meal. Stick with that one meal a day and get in the habit. This helps the make the transition more smooth. This also helps out your body because when you begin to remove processed foods and replace them with natural, whole foods your body begins a detox process. Going cold turkey or doing something like a juice fast can put your body into a sort of shock state and can actually hinder your process physically but causes undue stress on your system.
– As you become accustomed to eating one healthy meal a day, choose another meal of the day to add. This can also include all the snacks. Keep adding until you are eating each meal and all snacks from a healthy, natural array of foods.
Another idea for your son, especially since it’s warming up, is getting a popsicle mold and making lovely hippie goodness treats for him! Check out 100 Days of Real Food. She has kids and comes up with the greatest lunches for them! Of course, this might work for your fella too!
How can I find GOOD protein supplements, other than chicken, that we won’t gag over?
I am not a meat lover…real meat anyway. I like bacon because it tastes like bacon. Chicken tastes like a chicken! Therefore, if I eat chicken it has to have been prepared so that it doesn’t actually taste like chicken. Same with beef. I like small bacon cheeseburgers sometimes – because they taste like bacon, cheese and ketchup – not cow! My take is go as natural as possible. Yes, you can buy commercial vegetarian/vegan meat substitutes – but they’re still processed and full of chemicals and non-natural ingredients. I buy sandwich meat but I strive to buy the unprocessed stuff. Here it’s usually more expensive. Not sure about there. Also remember that the protein doesn’t have to be the main focus of the meal, allow it to be more a side and fill up your place with fruits, veggies, and grains. Have your plate be: ½ veggies and fruits, ¼ protein/meat, ¼ whole grain
Cheese – in moderation of course
Beans – the possibilities are endless and they can be used in so many ways. I make Lime Bean, Black Bean or Lentil burgers. They can be turned into hummus. They can be smushed and used in a quesadilla! Add them to your salads. Eat them with your fingers as a snack even!
Quinoa – this African grain is a favorite of mine. It’s great, for one. Nuttier than rice but still mild. And it’s so very versatile! I make quinoa lettuce wraps, quinoa tacos with black beans, quinoa with coconut and blueberries for breakfast, quinoa in quesadillas with spinach. It also doesn’t take long to cook. Real rice takes at least 45 minutes. Quinoa cooks in about 15…20 tops.
Other whole grains – whole grains have protein! But on that token, so do vegetables! Have some meatless meals!
Fish – I don’t cook a lot of fish (or meat either other than bacon) but when I do it’s generally flounder and occasionally salmon. Flounder dusted with cornmeal and spices and lightly pan seared is fabulous with roasted veggies
Nuts & Seeds – Again versatile. They can be a snack or added to salads. I even add raw nuts to my smoothies (a cheap blender won’t chop them fine enough though and by cheap I mean a $20 blender)
Nut butters – Oh how I love natural nut butters. Sunfower butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and even peanut butter. Nut butters can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or wraps. One of my favorite breakfasts is a wheat wrap with sunflower butter, chopped strawberries, shredded fresh (I use fresh frozen, thawed) coconut, milled flax seeds, and cinnamon – roll it up and eat! Sometimes I add a bit of cream cheese if I’m feeling froggy.
As far as tofu, tempe, seitan go – I occasionally get a hankering for tofu and I used it in my veggie lasagna but it’s rare I eat it. Generally if I buy tempe or seitan…I end up wasting it because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of cooking it. So – I don’t buy it. It’s also processed and my goal is to weed that stuff out.
Granted all this is easier once you get some recipes and see how to use things in various ways. And when you figure out what folks like, what works, what doesn’t. As you well know with families there’s much trial and error. I LOVE carrot juice…the fella…yeah, not so much! I’ll be posting more this spring and summer and I’ll keep your questions in mind. Thank you for asking them because I believe there are more people out there who are in similar situations looking for quick, inexpensive, yet tasty and healthful food options! So, I’m going forward with that in mind! Check out the recipe section here on the blog as well as the Hippie Eats, Homegrown Juices, and Homegrown Smoothies albums on the Facebook page for recipes and ideas!
Brown Rice or Quinoa Bowls are also a tasty way to create fabulous meals! I follow a general template and then change the ingredients to create variety. Look for some recipes on the FB page!
Template: Brown Rice or Quinoa, “Seasoners”, Veggies, Beans
What are Seasoners? Onions, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms, herbs, spices, etc.