April 19, 2013
Grocery List Day
Today is Grocery List Day. I should be working on that now. I ought to have my laptop, recipe binder, and notebook spread open on the table hacking away at my biggest chore, but my stomach feels wretched today and I can't get myself there. So I'm here, writing to you about it instead.
I've written before about meal planning, and my family watches me do it every week, but most people (unless they themselves are meal planners) don't understand what goes into it. For my family it can become an over-the-top chore. I meal plan for several reasons, but reason numero uno is protecting my family's health. We are a family who eats a very specialized diet. My health depends on it. My husband's functionality at work depends on it. With a disease like Fibromyalgia hanging out in the dark corners, snarling it's threat to return, there is little space for dietary screw ups. My efforts here keep me off the drugs, and out of the doctors' offices. The way I eat means everything for the way my life feels. My husband fought against ADHD for most of his life, having been put on Ritalin at a very early age, and trying it again when he was in his 20s, because it affected his concentration at work. Now days, Jeff gets up at 5am, studies for a half hour before leaving for work, arrives at work more than an hour early so that he can study some more, works for four hours without ever peaking at crap like Facebook or Slashdot, studies at lunch, and works for four more hours before heading home. Then he squeezes in another hour of studying before bed at night. Ya'll I'm not sure that I could concentrate that long. He is brain tired when he lays down at night, and it's all allowed by his nutritional choices. The Jeff I know now is hardly the same person as the Jeff I knew before we made the food changes in our life. It's important to us.
However, we are humans of the modern American era. We are tempted. We are tempted by friends who eat differently, by convenience, by cravings, by newness. We are tempted just as much as anyone else. So, another aspect of my meal planning is to alleviate the pressure of those temptations by making my menu more tempting. My menu needs to tempt us home on a Saturday night when we're thinking we want to stay in town and eat out. My menu needs to pull me out of my life and into the kitchen every single day for lunch and dinner. My menu needs to present meals that don't give me whining kids, or bored adults. My menu needs to protect my ability to stick to the food that keeps us who we are.
While I follow guidelines for our diet: No grains, Only whole food ingredients, No prepared or packaged foods, etc., I also have to be mindful of meeting the actual nutritional needs beyond the rules. I have to make sure that our overall consumption is balanced in favor of health and development, not just flavor and convenience. It's taken me years of studying to work out what this looks like.
But convenience is a factor too. I love food. But I don't get my jollies off of spending my life in the kitchen. Four or five days a week, I don't wanna. Lunchtime comes too fast, dinner sneaks up on the tail of lunch, and I still wanted to go to the library. I can't expect myself to be in the kitchen peeling garlic, and making marinades every night. I won't get in the kitchen and cook up a soup, or chop a salad for lunch every day. It ain't gonna happen, and if I don't know that when I make my menu, then I'm going to waste time and money. I'm going to wind up throwing away food that didn't get made, spending on something to eat instead, and blowing time on a menu that's going to stare at me accusingly from the fridge while I avoid eye contact. Convenience is a factor.
Money is a factor. With Jeff working for non-profits who routinely cannot pay on time, or at all, we haven't cracked $40k in years. That's 5 mouths, a herd of animals, a house, a car, and life to squeeze in without ever stepping away from a wholly organic diet. Budgeting is a factor ya'll. There were times when the only thing in the store that I could afford where organic potatoes, bok choy, acorn squash, and soup bones. Money is a major factor.
At the end of the day I've got to meet the needs of a highly specialized healing diet, three snobbish palates, two finnicky little girls, having a life outside the kitchen, and not collapsing under the weight of organic food prices. There ought to be a degree program for this. It's been a long process to get where I am - that I feel that I can consistently meet all those requirements, no matter what. Even five months of no income.
Every Friday around 11am I realize that it's Grocery List day, and I think, "UGH!" But when I'm done I feel damn good. Like I just finished a marathon. I'm proud of the years of research and practice that back up the achievement of each week's menu. I'm relieved that I have a list that prevents me from having to step foot in a store more than once per week, and that I know, within 5 dollars, how much it's all going to cost at the checkout. I'm satisfied that my menu rivals any restaurant, and that cleanness aside, it will taste better too. I know that when I get home I have animals and gardens that will save me hudreds of dollars a month, and I know, without a doubt, that everything we've been through has given me the peace of mind of knowing that nothing in my life feels out of control anymore. Not even something as complicated as this. I know that not even for a billion dollars would I go back and choose a different path, or wish that I could skip over any part of the past 5 years.
We wanted to learn, and we really, really are. We wanted to be different, and boy are we.
Now, off to do The List.