Can't Afford to Eat Fresh, Organic, or Local?

$100 of produce from Kitchener Market.
Beautiful isn't it? A colourful abundance of fruits and vegetables. This week's 'haul' at the Kitchener Market provided this small mountain of mainly local produce for just under $100. $100 for fresh food that will feed our family of 5 for the next 2 weeks (and then some). That breaks down to $1.43 per person/day. 

I constantly hear people say they can't afford to eat fresh, organic, or local. That it's inconvenient. That it spoils too quickly. That their kids won't eat it anyway.

It's no wonder fresh foods have so much work to do to gain popularity.


Cost:
You've probably already guessed that I think it's pretty reasonable to pay $1.43/day to feed a single person entirely fresh, and mostly local food. Even if you don't have access to this type of market (read further down about convenience) that doesn't count you out. With access to any type of grocery store you can still load up on fresh stuff, and end up paying far less than you would buying comparable meals of fast or highly processed foods. Even better? Fueling your body with the kind of foods in our little produce mountain above will sustain you longer and better than any processed food possibly could (for further reduction in food costs). Even if you're not completely sold on organic and local, loading up on whatever fresh foods you've got available to you can be a really great start.

Convenience:
Whatever area you're from there will be a host of various resources for fresh and whole foods: farms, CSAs (who deliver), community gardens, markets, small shops/businesses, and grocery stores (and if you're not able to grow your own food, just plug any/all of these along with your area into good old Google, and off you go!). There are also amazing innovations from groups like Foodlink (who just put out a very cool local food app) who are working hard to make it even easier to connect with good food. In our area there's even a company who allows you to place orders for a huge array of local and organic food online, then delivers it right to your door.

I'll be the first to admit that I just don't find the convenience argument a convincing one. With an incredibly busy family of 5, living on moderate means we can still manage the time, effort, and money it takes to get fresh food on our plates. I'll readily acknowledge, and respect that not everybody's in the same boat, but we are a country very rich in resources. So let's share them.

Spoiler Alert!
It's amazing to me that in a relatively short amount of time people went from preserving and storing their own foods to complaining that fresh food spoils too quickly. But I also get it. Why waste money on food that you end up throwing out? I don't want to do that with my money. But it's not the case that fresh foods can't be stored and kept well. That lovely bunch of fruits and veggies above? They'll definitely last beyond on our next shopping trip in two weeks. That's because we invest in reusable containers to store a lot of it. Lettuce, spinach, peppers... tucked into containers, and kept nice and cozy in the fridge.  

My Kids Are So Fussy!
You are not alone. My son and I both suffer from Plain Tastebud Syndrome (a condition that still makes eating Quinoa a very concerted effort on my part). One of the tricks I've developed that works really well for both of us is to find recipes for dishes we all love that allow the addition of minced veggies, herbs, or things like ground flax for extra nutrients. Pasta, casseroles, tacos, and pizza are an excellent way to expose kids to some of the things they might normally turn their noses up to.

Here's a fantastic pizza 'recipe' based on that principle!:
I generally simmer my sauce for at least an hour. It's not necessary, I just enjoy the flavour and texture of a well-simmered sauce. If you do too, start this well before you want to eat, or make a double batch of sauce for pasta one night, refrigerate/freeze and then have it at the ready for pizza night.

Use approx 4 cups of whatever basic sauce you love (whether that's a basic store bought, or homemade). Use your discretion on amounts based on what your family will reasonably eat. This is the recipe I use for my family. Excluding baby Eadie, this feeds a hungry toddler, a teenage boy, and two adults with a serving left over.

1-2lbs ground beef (depending on how thick you want your sauce... and if you eat meat)
Veggies
Large fistful of baby spinach
1 Lrg Portabello mushroom
3 cloves garlic
1/2 a pepper of your choosing
1 full medium spanish onion
Herbs
Basil
Oregano
Parsley
Chili Powder

I'll admit I don't really measure anymore, but I generally put approximately 2 tablespoon of each if I'm using dried and then ground black pepper & salt to taste. If I have fresh herbs available I usually take a good handful of each. Use half of the herbs in sauteing the meat and veggies before you add the sauce, and half after.
A large wok, or wok-like frying pan is best. Heat virgin olive oil or flax oil on medium (or slightly above). If using meat, start the meat and cook thoroughly through with lid on. Drain, then start adding veggies and herbs, leaving garlic to last. Reduce heat (about halfway between minimum-medium), and stir in sauce. Simmer, stirring occasionally.

Dough
3 cups of your favourite flour
1 tablespoon active yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon ground flax

Basically throw it all together and kneed it until well blended. I toss spices into the flour as I kneed too for a little extra flavour. Divide in three equal balls, and roll out with a rolling pin. Oil 3 cookie sheets and spread each crust out on the sheet.

Toppings: Go wild!

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