Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Food Lines

Think this can't happen here in the U.S.? Don't be so sure. At any given time, due to "Just in Time" supply chains, there is only three days supply of food available in the pipeline. What happens if there is a general disruption to the supply chain for a couple days? Long food lines and rationed food. Think there won't be pushing and shoving?


You need to have at least a couple weeks' supply of the basics to carry you through any shortages. For me, that means dry beans, rice, noodles, and dry soups.  The few things available at the store or in your cupboards can be added to round out your basic meals. This will get you by in comfort while others are struggling.

Check out this LINK for an example of what can happen. Disregard the politics and focus on the food.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Seven Foods to Buy When You are Broke

At more times than I care to admit, I have been between jobs and broke. Other times I just had more bills due to random costs (broken windshield, vet bills for dog, etc.) that made things uncomfortably tight. But you still need to eat. Beans and rice, noodles, potatoes, cereal, and PB&J sandwiches became my staples. Below is some good information I lifted from an article by Aaron Crowe for U.S. News and World Report. I'll add my own comments to it when I have more to say.

1. Brown rice
The vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are some of the benefits, but one of the biggest pluses may be that the high amount of fiber in brown rice helps slow digestion and fill you up for a long time. "Fiber is one of the best [nutritional components] that helps with satiety, or the feeling of fullness," says Rachel Begun, a food and nutrition consultant in Boulder, Colo."They also help to spread the food dollar because they're a component of meals that can help you make a fulfilling dish."

Brown rice © iStock / 360/Getty Images
I add small amounts of vegetables such as onions, peppers, peas and maybe some left over meat like chicken or pork to round it out. 

2. Beans
Like many items at the grocery store, buying in bulk can save a lot of money. Dry beans can cost about $1 per pound and expand to three times their volume when cooked, turning three to four cups of dry beans into nine cups when cooked, says Carol Wasserman, a certified holistic health practitioner in Manhattan. And beans, like rice, can be flavored with spices and herbs to make the main portion of a meal. "We have to kind of shift our thinking from having the meat be the center of the plate," and be more creative with other dishes, such as rice and beans, says Julieanna Hever, a plant-based dietician in Los Angeles and host of a healthy living talk show on Veria Living. Beans are also a very healthy choice. They are high in fiber and protein, low in fat and sodium and have minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and zinc, along with vitamins such as folic acid, thiamin, niacin and B6.

Bowl of mixed dry beans on wood table © Bill Noll/iStock / 360/Getty Images 
Beans come in hundreds of varieties and flavors. While they do not have the same complete protein profile as meat, they are still a good substitute. I often add mixed beans to other dishes, especially soups and stews, to "stretch" them, as my mom used to say. They also add nice flavors and texture to other foods. You can buy dry beans in bulk when on sale and keep them for years in dry, dark, cool storage. Beans are also one of the easiest crops to grow; they are always a major part of my garden.

3. Potatoes
These versatile vegetables can be added to casseroles and used in a variety of ways, and they're every bit as nutritious as colored vegetables, Begun says. They contain 45 percent of the recommended daily nutritional intake of vitamin C, 18 percent of fiber and 18 percent of potassium, a mineral that regulates blood pressure, she says. They've been found to have the lowest cost source of dietary potassium. The average potato is virtually fat free, with a high water and fiber content to make it ideal for weight-loss at 200 calories for an average baked potato, according to information from GoIreland.com. Be careful how you cook them. Frying a potato raises fat content from 0 to 8 grams.

 Potato with dill and scalliom on a plate © VankaD/iStock / 360/Getty Images 
I love potatoes, cooked almost any way possible. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap for various health concerns due to their high-glycemic index. Certainly eating nothing but high-carb foods is not great for your waist line, but for most active people they are fine as a side dish. They are certainly cheap and buying them direct from the farmer, if possible, is even better. Leave the skins on to get the most nutrition.

4. Green vegetables
Any leafy greens, such as broccoli, spinach and kale, have lots of nutrients per calorie and help protect against inflammation and disease, Hever says. Some lettuces can be bitter, she says, but can be offset in a salad with carrots, beets and other sweet vegetables. "People aren't really used to it," she says of bitter greens such as kale. "It's kind of a taste bud transition that some people have to get used to."

 Broccoli © Luka/Cultura/Getty Images 
I would expand this category to all highly colored vegetables, especially those that are orange or red. I eat a mix of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and radishes (all raw) nearly every day. These four vegetables together are a highly potent anti-oxidant mix. They can be very cheap as long as you buy them fresh and whole as opposed to the cut up bagged products that grocery stores sell. 

5. Frozen vegetables
Buying fresh vegetables in season is an inexpensive way to get them, but frozen vegetables are a good option too, Begun says. They're picked at the peak of their flavor and aren't nutritionally inferior to fresh ones. The downside of fresh vegetables is they might be picked before their height of ripeness and often travel many miles to a grocery store, she says.

 Closeup view of an open bag of frozen vegetables assortment© Juanmonino/iStock / 360/Getty Images 
Fresh is best, of course, especially if you can buy then direct from the farmer or gardener. Better yet, follow my blog for tips on growing your own. Last summer I grew a tremendous amount of green beans so I froze about forty or fifty servings. Now, six months later, I am still enjoying produce from my garden!

6. Peanut butter
This is another economical source of protein, rich in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Peanuts contain resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, says Sharon Palmer, a food and nutrition writer in Duarte, Calif.,. who covers plant-powered diets.

 Peanut butter sandwich © Elke Dennis/iStock / 360/Getty Images 
I was at how little the author wrote about peanut butter. PB is a huge part of my diet; I eat PB every single day. It is a high-calorie food so some people might choose to avoid it but for me it is a perfect balance of protein and healthy fats. PB on celery, whole wheat toast, mixed with rice (try it, it is popular in The Netherlands), PB & honey sandwich, etc. are all nutritious foods. Not all PB is the same though, read the labels and avoid those with added sugars and oils.

7. Protein bars
You may not want to make them the only part of your diet, but they obviously have protein in them and cost about $2 each. Andrew Ross and his wife, who live in Baltimore, eat a Quest protein bar from GNC every three hours from when the time they wake up until when they go to bed. They started this habit in April and he's lost 78 pounds so far. They also eat Power Pak pudding once a day, which contains 30 grams of protein per can and less than 200 calories. The protein bars have 20 grams of protein and less than 200 calories. Ross estimates that they spend less than $400 per month on food and drinks, saving money by buying in bulk during sales.

 Protein bars © 4kodiak/iStock / 360/Getty Images 
Many protein bars are very expensive but some are very reasonable. Right now, I'm buying Marathon bars for 66 cents. These bars have 21 grams of protein and 280 calories and cost less than a cup of coffee. Nearly every town has a deep discount grocery store that sells out of date foods. There is one near my dad's town that I can get a dozen good protein bars for $2.00. Add a piece of fruit (apples seem to go great with protein bars) and you have a good lunch.

So there you have it, seven foods that are generally cheap and are always nutritious. Add these to your shopping cart and cut your food bills.