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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Food - When it feels like you have no choice

People give me a really hard time when they learn 2 facts about me that exist simultaneously. Fact #1 - That I insist on buying only organic produce. Actually, I insist on buying everything but meat organically, if possible - it not always possible. (The reason I don't buy organic meat is that I simply can't. An organic whole chicken costs 15.00 or more when I can get 2 factory farmed chickens for about 10.00. I wish I could buy grassfed directly from a farmer, but as of now, I just can't.) And fact #2 - That I get food stamps.

Most of the time - especially among my friends, they bite their tongue. But here's what happens, we only get so much a month to buy food, and when that's gone, THAT'S IT! There's no more money to buy food. So, from time to time, generally from about the 8th to the 12th of the month, I start saying things on facebook such as: I wanted to make this, but I realized that I didn't have this or this. OR: My kids are mad at me because we don't have anything to eat for breakfast except for eggs.

Once I make comments like that - which by the way I do for one reason only, because food is VERY VERY VERY important to me and I'm always posting what I make - I almost always get a comment (usually in private) that if I'm always running out of food, then I shouldn't eat only organic. Naysayers think that being poor enough to depend on foodstamps means that I SHOULD HAVE to feed my kids cheap processed crap and let them grow up with health problems. They don't for one second consider that doing so means that my kids will then be depending on the system their whole lives. They will depend on it to pay their medical bills. And if they get TOO sick, they will be depending on society to pay for their disability: Such as SSDI.

I refuse to fall into that trap! So long as I have breath in my body, my boys will eat organic apples and bananas. They will eat organic broccoli and brussel sprouts. They will drink coconut water and Kombucha (and the occasional sip of wine that I make). They will snack on seaweed and sardines.

When I give them sugar, it's in the healthiest form possible, such as organic dark chocolate using fair trade cane juice (which is sugar before all the nutrients are stripped out of it). Even just reading the descriptions of what my kids eat has probably made you cringe. You probably want to hug my kids tight and cry on their shoulders: "How could your mama deny you all the good things in life?!" (I.E. candy and processed junk food.)

Roll my eyes.

On the other hand, I have a large support group of friends on the internet who understand my insistence on real food for my kids. I am surprised at how often my closest friends subtly tell me I'm crazy and a no good leech on society for daring to need foodstamps, and then using them to buy expensive food rather than the cheapest stuff available. I am even MORE amazed by how many of my foodie friends from all over the world have invited me to come live with them for a while.

I have seriously considered it. If I went to live with a foodie friend on a farm, I would not have to worry about feeding my kids good wholesome food. I would be able to learn the mysterious skill that keeps plants from dying when I try to grow them. I WOULD GET TO RAISE ANIMALS!!! for milk or for meat. It sounds very close to paradise to me...

Except that I would then be dependent on my friend. As much as possible, I never want to be dependent on any one again. (Did you just snort and ask: What about depending on the government, and by extension, everyone who pays taxes? Well, I need to depend on somebody while I strive to earn an income and support myself and my family - and my hubby strives to earn a degree so that he can get a dependable and well paying job. Better to use a program especially for helping out the poor than to mooch off of just one person. Shrugs.)

I'm getting slightly off topic. I wanted to address that Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese SNAFU. Basically, a concerned mother wants Kraft to remove the harmful artificial dyes from their products and Kraft refuses because their sales are still strong. I.E. They have no reason to make changes because most of the public is either unaware that they are eating toxic crap. And the ones that are aware often ask this: "Well, what choice do I have? I can't afford to eat all that Organic and All Natural stuff!"

(You can read up on the SNAFU here: Food Babe VS Kraft)

Do you know what I think when I hear that common excuse? I think: what a bunch of bull!

The consumer thinks they have no choice but to buy regular crappy Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese because it's cheap and their kids will eat it - which eliminates the real problem: fighting with the kids to eat something. They will say over and over: "I would buy the organic version if it weren't so expensive!"

Well, let's take a look at that for a minute: Kraft-Macaroni-Cheese-7-25-Ounce-Boxes
Here we have 15 boxes of regular Mac 'n' Cheese for 21.72. That = 1.448 per box. We'll round that up to 1.45. I'm also going to assume that the grocery store will usually carry it for the same price or more. (And that sale prices and dates will vary greatly.)

If you compare that to the organic version of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, of course the organic version is more expensive. Organic version It's 25.44 for 12 six ounce boxes. So that comes to 2.12 a box. Taking that one step further, the regular is .20 per ounce and the organic is .35 cents per ounce. The difference really adds up!

HOWEVER, rather than complain that the organic Mac 'n' Cheese is more expensive (which it's really not, only .67 more a box) I would ask you why you feel the need to buy from a large and obviously uncaring company when you could buy the ingredients and make it yourself in the same amount of time and effort.

NOTE: Because you have to add butter and milk to either the Kraft version or a homemade version, I am not going to cost compare those items.

A 12 oz box of organic noodles in just about any shape or variety I want generally cost me 1.99 a box or less at my grocery store. They are the generic organic brand, but I still consider them better than non-organic, YMMV. In fact, it's often on sale for 1.49 a box! (Basically, I just got twice as much noodles for almost the same price as the Kraft brand! If you want to get technical to keep better track of it: 1.99/12oz= 16.5 CENTS per ounce.

Tell me again how buying organic is too expensive?

To the box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, it calls for butter and milk to be added. If you want to save money by using the exact same non organic butter and milk, you are still saving money by buying a box of organic noodles rather than a box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese. (Not to mention, how many people decide that to feed 4 people, they need to make two boxes of Kraft anyway? Two 7.25oz boxes at 1.45 versus one 12oz  box at 1.99 for organic means that you are actually paying an entire dollar MORE to buy non organic!)

If money was really that much of a concern, NO ONE WOULD BUY KRAFT MAC 'N' CHEESE! They would buy regular noodles and make their own homemade version. So I'm going to stand up and shout this at the top of my lungs:

BUYING ORGANIC IS NOT TOO EXPENSIVE! You simply have to rethink how you buy groceries.

But wait, Ms. Smarty Pants, I've got you here (you say to me)! You haven't dealt with the cheese aspect!

You're right, I haven't. Let's make a choice here. Are we going to go with the cheapest 8oz shredded cheddar cheese I can buy at the grocery store? (Around here, that's 2.12 a bag.) OR Am I going to go with something a bit spendier? OH WTH! Let's do both :-) 2.12/8oz= .265 per oz. Let's say that you typically use half a bag, so 4 oz. * .265 = 1.06 (I could have just done 2.12/2, lol, but I figured do it by oz in case some of you use less or more.)

1.99+1.06= 3.05. Again, 2 boxes of Kraft at 1.45= 2.90. If a difference of 15 cents for enough to feed 4 people REALLY too expensive???

Now for the organic cheese: Organic-Valley-Raw-Sharp-Cheddar This is 8.00 for an 8oz block of cheese. Keep in mind that I regularly buy this in the health food section of the grocery store for 4.99.

To use the same 4 oz, you'd be spending between 2.49 and 4.00 (depending if you buy it at my grocery store or online). Therefore, 4.00+1.99= 6.99 (or 2.49+1.99=4.48) for 12oz of organic homemade macaroni and cheese versus 2.90 for Kraft non-organic OR (2.12*2=) 4.24 for Kraft organic. Yep, this is where people can complain that going totally organic is expensive. To buy cheese from cows that haven't been fed growth hormones and antibiotics is VERY expensive! But you gotta ask yourself, what do I really want my children to eat? Ultimately, cheese is one of those things I have to compromise on, and only buy organic on occasion because we go through like 5 pounds (5*16oz) of cheese a month. (Okay, it probably actually takes us a month and a half to go through a 5lb bag, shrugs.)

NOTE that my homemade version using organic cheese from my local grocery store only comes to 4.48 versus 4.24 for the same amount of organic Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese. Again, a difference of .24 cents. Let's say you make this twice a week, 4 weeks a month. That's a difference of .15*2*4= 1.20 (for the organic noodles but cheap cheese) or .24*2*4= 1.92 (for the organic noodles and organic cheese from the health food section of my store).

I know that every penny counts and every penny makes a difference, BUT COME ON! You're going to tell me that you have to buy Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese because you can't afford to spend 2 extra dollars a month to make your own organic version???

I'm sorry, I just don't believe that. So what's the real excuse?

I was raised on it! I love how it tastes! I'm addicted to it! My kids won't eat anything else!

Now those are excuses I believe. The question then becomes, are those excuses really good enough? Are they really a good reason to feed children toxic synthetic chemicals and GMOs (because let's face it, they don't have to label GMOs, so they are probably in there too)?

That - my friend - is for you to decide. :-)

Have a happy day,


  1. First of all I compleatly support your choice to eat in the healthiest way possible. Being poor does not mean you have less right to eat healthy. It is unfortunate that healthy food has to be more expensive then additive riddled crap they want to sell us now. My mission in my family is to find the best homemade recipes for the processed foods we love. I am doing a good job of it. Very rarely does Hamburger Helper come into our home. (Hubby LOVES the Beef Fried Rice) This week I am filling my freezer with homemade cream of mushroom soup and I am looking for a good red beans and rice recipe that tastes similar to the boxed stuff. Anyway I am off topic. In my experience I like to make my own mac & cheese. It tastes better and is more cost effective. I do not tend to buy a lot of organics but I do buy food that is as close to it's natural state as possible. No Velveeta for us. Now I find that buying cheese by the block is generally cheaper than shredded and made this switch for my family awhile ago. And when you are melting cheese for a sauce that you want to be smooth you should always use block cheese and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese has additives to keep it from clumping that make cheese gritty when melted down for a sauce.(Organic may be different) I also want to say that cheese sauce can be made in in the time it takes to boil noodles. I use the Mornay Sauce recipe from "The Joy of Cooking" and it is delicious. I also use it for cheese sauce for veggies. I like to use some Gruyere too when I can and never skip the nutmeg. So I will share my recipe for you all.

    Mornay Sauce (white cheese sauce):

    2 Tbsp butter
    2 Tbsp all purpose flour
    1 cup Milk
    salt and pepper
    ground nutmeg
    1 cup grated cheddar cheese (4 oz) or gruyere.

    Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat.
    Whisk in flour until well blended and smooth, about 1½ minutes; remove the pan from heat.Slowly whisk milk into roux.Return the pan to heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.
    Continue to cook, whisking, until sauce is smooth and hot and has thickened, 1-2 minutes.
    Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg. When white sauce is smooth and hot, reduce heat to low and stir in grated cheese. Stir until cheese is melted; remove from heat and stir into noodles or over veggies! Yum!

    1. Thank you for sharing your recipe, it sound so yummy!

      My favorite sauce is a bit like alfredo (or stroganoff if you add mushrooms). It's equal parts butter and cream (generally 1 stick of butter to a 1/2 cup of cream... maybe a little more, I never measure, lol!) Let the butter melt, and then add the cream, some salt, garlic and onion powders. Stir for a bit to mix, and then add parmesan cheese and stir over low heat until the cheese melts and the sauce melds perfectly.
      Add the mushroom to the butter before anything else and sautee if you want stroganoff style sauce :-)

      I am a big fan of nutmeg though, so I will be trying the mornay sauce recipe as soon as I can :-)
      Thanks again and have a happy day :-)


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