Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Is Organic Worth the Cost?

Believe it or not; sometimes it is! I know.... you're at at the store and the price of organic apples seem so outrageous compared to their conventional cousins. What to do? Bite your lip as you reach for the organic apples while deciding to scrimp on something else? Or, does it seem logical to go conventional and keep that savings in your pocket? Perhaps, organics is just not your thing, and you could not care less. (Why are you reading this?)

Truth be told, you will be saving some money in the long run while doing something good for yourself and the earth. Wait a minute, I'm in deep, let's back up a bit.....I guess for the most part you have to decide what is more important to you when it comes to buying organic. For me, the most important thing is the health of my family. It just does not make sense nor is it healthy to dump chemicals, which are known to be carcinogens, into their bodies.

Sure, I could save some money by purchasing conventional , but the more I read; the more I become aware of how my simple decision to reach for organic produce and products somehow makes a global difference....my tiny impact counts towards helping the preservation of the earth, reduction in the toxins being used, shrinking the landfills by recycling...oh my, the list goes on and on! That said, I may not be some leading expert or activist on global issues and the like, but I believe it is our duty to protect our earth as it will some day be inherited by our children and grandchildren.

Yes, it should matter. Back to the point of my post; I'd like to share some organic money saving tips with you; for the next time you find yourself asking, "Is organic worth the cost?"

Source: Organic.org

Making the effort to buy organic products is a healthy choice, but it can have an undeniable impact on our budgets. To save you time, energy, and money, we offer the following tips for buying organic on a budget.

Comparison Shop. You may be able to find less-expensive alternatives at different stores. Many major chains are coming out with their own organic brands, such as O Organics™ at Safeway and ShopRite Organics at ShopRite.

Cook More. The more convenient the food is, the more expensive it is. For example, buying an organic frozen dinner may save you time in the same way a conventional frozen dinner would, but it costs quite a bit more than its non-organic counterpart and much more than a homemade meal. Buy organic items that are lower in price (such as produce), and make your own dishes from scratch.

(Our family is famous for this one; I guess that's why the kitchen is the heart of our home.)

Stock Up. Stock up on your favorite items when they go on sale. Or try something new that is on sale or is priced well, and you may find a new favorite!

(This helps a lot; especially when you have to buy food for 6 people.)

Buy in Bulk. Buying in bulk will keep costs down. Look for many pantry staples often available in bulk, such as beans, legumes, rice, flour, nuts, chocolate chips, and much more. Many local co-ops have extensive organic bulk sections.

(This is our Mode of Operation; it really helps!)

Organic Coupons. Keep an eye out in the Sunday paper and grocery circulars for coupons and, again, stock up to take best advantage of the savings!

(Join a local co-op, or shop at a local health food store. Some carry or circulate coupon booklets that can save quite a bit and have weekly sales that you can check out!)

Shop in Season. Shop farm stands and farmers’ markets for the freshest, most-delicious produce while supporting local farmers. Purchasing in season produce from your grocer may also keep costs down.

(This is the best way to go for fresh, seasonal produce; even better if it's locally grown.)

Be Selective. Decide to only purchase organic milk and produce. See the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” for the most-contaminated produce and tailor your decisions based on these.

For more information, click here to read a Shopper's Guide to the Dirty Dozen.

Eat With Friends. Last but not least, make it fun! Choose some like-minded friends and get together to each prepare an organic dish—a great way to add variety to your organic diet while keeping your own purchases down. Get together for a weekend potluck—or, during the week, arrange a food swap to minimize cooking and maximize eating organically.

Cheers to your health and well being!

How does your garden grow?

Dear reader, I know this post is late as we were with our veggie planting (our bad). But, better late than never!

Mary , Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

Ah...the rituals of spring; warmer days, birds nesting, trees awakening, and playing in the dirt again! Our family (mostly my husband) has been working diligently on our vegetable garden for the past few weekends. It's hard work, but so very rewarding. If you haven't tended a garden before, you have no idea what you're missing; you're in for a wonderful treat. I guarantee, it's labor intensive, but it's all good!

So why do we tend a vegetable garden? For starters, it subsidizes or grocery bill, reduces our family's intake of pesticides when we eat what we grow, teaches our children the wonders and benefits of eating local and organic produce, provides a way for us to share our organic bounty (I hope) at the local Farmer's Market, encourages biodiversity while reducing our impact towards global warming into our already choked environment....I can feel a turn of the tide. For me, one of the best parts of tending a vegetable garden is communication! Yes, it's wonderful to communicate with other gardeners about the trials and errors of gardening. Our top advisor happens to be my mother-in-law who resides in Atlanta (she's got a fantastic green thumb) and shares a wealth of information with us here in Austin. We exchange photos, plans, ideas, planting tips, what's for dinner?.....how I wish she was here, but the telephone is just as good for now.

And how does our garden grow? Certainly not silver bells or cockleshells or pretty maids all in a row! We started with different varieties of tomatoes, squash, and peppers, cucumber, edamame beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, kale, salad greens ( we had some in a salad yesterday evening...yum!) I can't forget you, precious herbs... basil, mint, thyme, oregano, rosemary, dill, cilantro, heavens; we have a plethora of edible, tasty greens. Actually, we've already been enjoying our vast varieties of basil; sweet, thai, and purple leaf mainly in pesto. We languish for spring to have fresh basil readily available especially for pesto...to spread on tomatoes or polenta pizza, tossed in squash pasta, mixed in dips and salad dressings...mmm! Meanwhile, we wait patiently for those tomatoes (they are still green), squash (loads of blossoms), peppers (some green; some blossoms), and of course, all the other veggies that have started to poke their leafy heads from under the earth to embrace the warmth of the sun. Ah, spring has sprung and so has our vegetable garden.

I'd like to share our family's favorite pesto recipe; it's versatile and delicious! We haven't come up with a cute, catchy name for it, but I promise that it's delicious...did I mention that already?

The Vegan Kitchen's Perfect Pesto
Adapted from "Vegan With a Vengeance"
Yields about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups packed basil leaves
3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tsp coarse salt (I use Celtic salt)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (trust me on this!)

Start by toasting the pine nuts in a small pan on the burner for about 5 minutes until fragrant. Watch them carefully as they can get brown and burn quickly.
Place the basil, toasted pine nuts, garlic, and salt into a food processor and process the mixture while adding the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Add the nutritional yeast and lemon juice and process until you have a somewhat thick mixture.

Note: This pesto is not like your average oily pesto that is more of a puree. It can be quite addictive, and I think it's absolutely wonderful!

I'd like for you to share your favorite pesto or basil recipe. I think it's grand to try new recipes even if you tweak them a bit. That's the creative adventure of cooking; at least for my older son who loves to experiment in the kitchen. I think he'll be tickled pink. But, please be considerate; after all, this is a vegan blog. One more thing, now that spring is in the air, we'd love to hear....how does your garden grow?