“The list of health problems I think it would very hard to live with is SO much longer than the list of foods I previously thought I couldn’t live without,” Merrill Alley.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
feeding a family of four heartily and nutritiously on less than $8 per day
So many people these days are out of work, bunking in with friends and family, and so very limited in their choices. But…they don’t have to ruin their health because of unfortunate circumstances. While it is true that a frozen pizza is cheap and filling, it is not as nutritious, tasty, or interesting as a pan as roasted, organic, root vegetables. Preparing meals from scratch isn’t as time consuming or labor intensive, as many believe. A pot of beans or vegetable soup is uncomplicated and inexpensive. Growing sprouts in glass jars is easy, fun, fast, and economical.
Certainly, cheap, calorie-dense, prepared foods will allow for basic survival and keep one full but often at the expense of daily nutritional needs and opens the door to degenerative diseases and viruses. For instance, humans need at least 90 mg of vitamin C daily. Without it scurvy may develop and immunity will weaker. Bananas and apples are good but not good enough. Why? Since an apple or banana provides approximately 15% of vitamin C, you would need to consume 7 or 8 a day to get enough of just this vitamin. Because the body doesn’t store vitamin C, each person in the family would need a several apples and bananas every day-expensive. Because one cup shredded green or red cabbage provides 85% of vitamin C, it is an inexpensive alternative. Raw or cultured cabbage can be very enjoyable. One favorite cabbage salad recipe contains one small head of green or red cabbage, shredded, a red pepper flakes, a couple grated carrots, a bit of cilantro and onion, salt, and pepper. Another good one is one small head of green or red cabbage, shredded, one apple minced, a little lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Red Kraut is beautiful plus easy and fun to make in quart canning jars from shredded red cabbage, a pureed apple, and salt. In addition to vitamin C, cabbage is rich in vitamin A, potassium, calcium and many other nutrients. One pound of organic cabbage costs usually around $2.
A family on a very tight budget can eat like kings if they are smart. High-protein, organic root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, garlic, onions, radishes, potatoes, or yams are delicious roasted (thinly sliced or cubed) with some dried herbs, salt, and pepper. Organic beets can be grated to make a classic French salad with the addition of lemon juice, pepper, and sea salt. (The French make the same child-pleasing salad with carrots sans pepper.) Beets are not only delicious but a rich source of B-complex, phytochemicals, and potassium. Plus, they are a 2 in 1 vegetable. The green tops are an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, beta-carotene, Vitamin K, other vitamins and other minerals are wonderful in salads, smoothies, and braised. During the gardening season, excess greens and herbs can be dehydrated to add to soups and stews for winter nutrition and flavor.
Back to the pizza’s filling power, roots are filling calorie-dense foods. They can fill up the belly but unlike the pizza, they aren’t constipating, aren’t empty of nutrition, and don’t create/exacerbate degenerative disease. For instance potato (or other root cellar vegetable) soup is one of the easiest things to cook. It needs no fats or flours to make a rib-sticking meal. Wash and dice a couple stalks celery (optional), a few sprigs of parsley (or dried herbs) 1-2 lbs. potatoes, beets, carrots, squash, and/or yams, 1 onion, and a few optional mushrooms, add them to a quart or 2 of water in a crock pot or soup pot, cover with a lid, and cook over “low” heat until vegetables are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste and puree or not. Eat with cabbage, carrot, or beet salad. Brown bagging couldn’t be simpler with a thermos of soup, a container of salad or kraut, and a few cinnamon-dusted apple slices.
Another amazing thing about root vegetables, winter squashes, and cabbage is their ability to stay fresh all winter, when kept in a cool location. One octogenarian friend told about his childhood family garden with all manner of carrots, onions, potatoes, squash, beets, and cabbages that kept them fed during winter. They grew them in summer, filled the root cellar in the fall, and ate foods as described above all winter and spring.
Another nutrient packed, belly-satisfying product my friend’s childhood family grew were beans for drying. Whether you buy or grow your dried beans, they are very nutritious, delicious, and economical. A pound of organic pinto beans generally costs under $2 and expands to three pounds when cooked. For the most nutritious, least gassy beans, soak in water for 24 hours, drain and rinse, sprout another 24-48 hours, rinsing and draining each 12 hours. Slow cook your beans with some chopped onion for 3-12 hours until very tender, depending on the age of the bean. This seems like a lot of work, but it becomes automatic. Generally, we are in the kitchen for breakfast and dinner. Use these times to rinse beans and sprouts. It's that easy. Beans are a powerhouse of fiber, folate, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, B vitamins, and protein with many other vitamins and minerals in small amounts. A pot of pintos mashed with salt, pepper, and chili powder is delicious. Our favorite is to make pinto tacos with intact romaine leaves or corn tortillas (sometimes homemade) topped with alfalfa sprouts and salsa (maybe cultured from the summer garden). Additionally, adding a cup of cooked beans or lentils of any variety to your vegetable soup makes for an entirely different presentation.
Back to those apples and bananas…a morning without a proper breakfast makes for a wasted day. Organic brown rice is inexpensive and can make a nutritious, delicious meal. With one cup of cooked rice, ½ banana (or 2 prunes), and ¼ apple per person, you have the means to feed and fill the family. Puree until utterly smooth in the blender ½ c. cooked rice, ½ banana (or 2 prunes), ½ + c. water, and some cinnamon per person, stir in ½ c. cooked rice per serving. Heat until steamy and stir in ¼ diced apple (fresh or dehydrated) per serving. It’s very yummy and filling plus packs in a nice amount of protein, iron, calcium, vitamins, and minerals.
Finally, adding a small bunch of sprouts to the top of soup or mixed into a salad each day can dramatically increase vitamins and minerals in the diet. A simple mixture of alfalfa, clover, and broccoli is easy to grow in pint canning jars with a bit of cheesecloth and a rubber band. Using about 2 t. seeds per jar, soak, drain, rinse, and drain each 12 hours until they are ready in 3-5 days. Start a new jar each day for a constant supply of fresh greens. Since sprouts are 100s of times more nutrient dense than mature greens, only a small handful is needed per person per day. More is better, but less is enough.
It is possible to feed a family of 4 a diet like this for about $50 +- per week without growing anything except sprouts and is much less than the $114 allotted amount for food stamps for a family of four. With this left over money, additional fruits and vegetables as well as food for storage can be purchased. There are dozens of ways to prepare root vegetables, squash, cabbage, and beans so that boredom need never set in. Thankfully, this diet is nutritionally sound for all humans, according to the research of Dr. John Mc Dougall and Dr. Colin Campbell. All of these except the bananas and maybe rice can be grown in the summer garden or in the house for an even higher level of self-sufficiency. What a grand thing to teach our children!