I buy organic, local produce. It costs a little more, sometimes, but not all the time. In fact, if you focus on what's in season and only buy that, it can cost much less. Even so, mass-produced, fruits and vegetables out of season from half-way around the globe are available all year, are often quite attractive, are equally as often genetically modified, and can be darned tempting. But let's be honest and realistic with ourselves; grapes and watermelon in February make no sense. Same with tomatoes. If you've ever gardened, you know how much sustained heat and sunlight it takes to grow them. If you can't imagine growing them in your yard right now (weather-wise), it might be a safer choice to leave them on the shelf.
Wild-caught, cold-water fish does cost more, so does organically raised, grass-fed beef and lamb. Again, it's going into your body---for nourishment, not just tasty entertainment.
One thing we can do is use this to our advantage. Simply don't buy as much, use everything you buy, and eat less. I am not advocating starving yourself. I'm not recommending never eating the foods you love, and I'm not suggesting a bank loan to buy your groceries. At our house, we spend more on individual ingredients than we used to. Sometimes I have to look away from the price in order to put something in my shopping cart. We shop at a local natural foods store and farmers' market, order fish from Vital Choice and beef from Hearst Ranch. And we spend less on meals than most people I know. We eat almost all our meals at home, and we eat well.
High quality protein will fill you up faster and leave you more satisfied longer than processed, bulk food, even if that food is gluten-free. I make every attempt to cultivate a taste for only those foods that are really good for me. Oh, I'm not saying that I'm 100% successful at that, but I continue moving in that direction. Some gluten-free pastas are really good, and many people can eat and enjoy them. I am not one of them. So I choose to by-pass the gluten-free pasta, and eat brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat where I might have used pasta in the past. Any of these grains are far less expensive than heavily processed pasta.
One other way to off-set the cost of quality, of course, is to eat a little less. I can remember times when I ate as quickly as I could just to finish my food before it got cold. (I have this thing about really hot food.) Problem was I didn't really enjoy the experience and stopped being hungry long before I stopped eating. And it was definitely not a boon to healthy eating or a healthy weight.
I'll get off my soapbox for now and share a dish that follows this philosophy. The ingredients are organic, simple, and accessible this time of the year, at least in California. It's cute. too.
My heritage, in part, is Lebanese, and this dish, while not authentic, is reminiscent of food my mother and grandmother cooked as far back as I can remember.
- 10 to 12 round squash
- 2/3 cup brown rice, I use Lundberg organic
- 1/2 pound ground beef, preferably organic, grass-fed
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 ounce olive oil
- 15 ounce can organic tomato sauce
- salt and black pepper
Simmer rice in 11 ounces of water and 1 teaspoon salt for about 45 minutes. You can also use left-over, precooked rice, about 1 cup.
Cut off top of squash and cut a small sliver off the bottoms, so they will stand easily. Using a small spoon, a measuring spoon or melon-baller works well, removed the seeds and inner portion of each squash, leaving about 3/8" of flesh all around. Sprinkle inside generously with salt and pepper.
Combine cooked rice, meat, and onion, stirring well to mix.
In a Dutch oven or deep pan, pour olive oil and about 3 ounces of tomato sauce. Place stuffed squash on top. Carefully pour remaining tomato sauce over the tops. Add one cup water.
Simmer for one hour or until tender.