Our grocery bill has gone way down over the past year as my mother and I have narrowed our food choices substantially. Because she doesn’t eat as much as she did before, and her mobility is more limited than it was, I now cook exclusively from “scratch.” If you are too young to know what that means, I’ll tell you: Cooking with basic ingredients, and using nothing that is pre-prepared. It takes time, and it takes love. And I have both.
As I write this blog, I am browning beef bones to make a simple brown stock. The aroma is mouthwatering, and I haven’t added a thing other than heat! Using a recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook, I will add vegetables and herbs and boil it down for many hours into a ‘glace de viande’ – a syrupy, jelly-like glaze which I will freeze into cubes and use to stir into soup or sauce. Bone broth is particularly nutritious, and a good thing to have on hand when Mom is not keen on eating a real meal. I’ll mix it with a bit of rice and veggies, confident that I’m giving her a meal packed with vitamins and minerals.
When shopping, I buy organic items ninety percent of the time. Some will say that it’s not that important to do so, or that there’s hardly a difference, regardless of how the food is grown, but I believe they are wrong. I recall a study done by Rutgers University that showed that organic tomatoes contain almost 2000 trace units of iron versus only 1 (one) unit for conventionally grown tomatoes. Now, the study did not measure vitamins- it measured minerals – but many of the minerals that have been lost in our soil and are therefore missing from our produce have more importance than we have previously given them credit for. A wonderful article in Biodynamics talks about the comparison and the interrelationships between elements and sums it up quite eloquently: small differences in nutrient levels can mean a lot.”
I’m hitching my wagon to their train – the one which says that students perform better and have fewer absences when they eat organically, the one which quotes doctors saying that their cancer patients have more successful outcomes when their diet is improved. I can see a difference in my mother’s alertness and strength when we avoid ‘junk’ and I don’t think it’s my imagination.
I did say that my grocery bill has decreased, and it has, because I don’t buy anything I don’t need. However, I do choose the very best quality, and that’s not cheap. My mother taught me that there’s a difference between cheap and inexpensive, and I do love to get things on sale. Yet added to that advice is what my dear grandmother told me, “What you don’t pay to the grocer, you will wind up paying to the doctor. ” Point well taken!
I grill free-range chicken or wild salmon, or make a meatloaf or hamburger out of grass-fed chopped beef. Mom drinks organic milk and comments every time on how delicious it is. I squeeze her a glass of fresh grapefruit juice in the morning, and the taste alone is incomparable to something out of a can or bottle. The tastiness of the food I make encourages her to eat and drink more – an important factor for the elderly.
The organic, pasture-raised eggs I give her cost more, but eggs themselves are a near-perfect food. They have been found to contain almost everything a body could need, with the exception of Vitamin C and niacin. Not only are whole eggs a source of complete protein (they contain a full range of amino acids), twelve vitamins including all the B’s plus A, D, E and K, choline, biotin and folic acid, selenium and iodine, magnesium and a lot of other stuff. They also contain the important Omega-3 fats. (And, if you’re worried about cholesterol, they have been shown to increase the amount of HDL, or “good” cholesterol.) Boil a large one for 6-1/2 minutes and you have a perfect soft-boiled egg and no pots to clean! How easy is that?
Years ago when I learned that most fat people are actually starving to death, I had a hard time getting my head around that concept. Our bodies need certain things and if we don’t get them, we will scan the horizon and consume things that don’t do us any good. If what these studies say is true, and I believe they are, then we can get more nutrients from less of the right kind and quality of food, and the fact that Mom seems to be eating smaller portions of my ‘from scratch’ cooking should not be a concern.
She may not be filling up on breads and cakes and cereals, may not crave sweets and gooey desserts, not pig out on cookies and chips, and she’s not as ’round’ as she once was, but she has a grip of iron and an arm of steel, and I’ll bet she would win if we arm wrestled. I may challenge her just for fun.