Sunday, October 7, 2012

Problem-solving: Primal eating easy and cheap (ish)

I like good food, and I don't really like slaving away in the kitchen. Which is why going out to restaurants is such a hard habit to break for me. However, now that I'm trying to eat more primally, and in a way that makes me feel energetic and healthy (not to mention headache free) I'm forced to eat at home pretty much always. I'm still on the lookout for answers to the "how to eat out" question and once I have it figured out, I will blog it. I'm also on a pretty tight budget. Fortunately, it's usually just me, and I can use some portion control to keep my costs down (otherwise I could eat a pig in one sitting.)  When my boyfriend is over, he can eat up all my groceries in a matter of a few hours. Since he is NOT at all primal, despite my urgent requests, he often supplements the good food I will feed him with pizza rolls and PBJ sandwiches. I hate what I believe it is doing to his health, but it does stretch my grocery budget!

For now, the way I've tackled eating/cooking at home in a few different ways. In my area there is an organic delivery service that can't be beat. A lot of farms have something similar. I get the local farm box. My company is out of Livonia, MI and is called door to door organics. If you live in this area, I highly recommend them. It's just a little over $20 per week to have fresher than fresh local organic produce delivered to my door. Sometimes I get so much produce I have to skip a week (you can always put your delivery on hold), and I've never had a complaint about anything they sent. I ordered the local box because I've been watching too many post-apocalyptic shows, and figured it would be a good idea to identify and know how to prepare the kinds of foods that grow around me locally. Since I'm in Michigan, right now that means a lot of squashes. Eventually I plan to start my own garden, another reason I figured it would be a good idea to get to know my local vegetables.

Since primal eating is all about eating meat, even though vegetables are the main portion of what I eat due to budget, I also get some organic hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats at Whole Foods or Trader Joes.

Last but not least, because I LOVE how fresh veggies look spread out on tables, I usually stop by my local farmer's market on the weekend and pick up a few extra things.  My goal is to do all this, the organic delivery box, the farmers market, and the Whole Foods meats, for $50 per week. Not easy, considering on my most recent trip to Whole Foods, I paid $17 for a 4 lb organic frying chicken. $17!!! Someone around me recently commented how crazy it seems that we pay MORE for organic food or unprocessed food, when 100 years ago (or less) this was how every food item in the US was grown and prepared. I will save my rant about "Big Agriculture" and how we have allowed it to poison our food supply for another day though, today I'm talking about how to solve some initial "going primal" dilemmas.

I could see right away that first of all, to get me over the sweets craving hump, I needed SOMETHING. Something to look forward to that seemed like a treat, but wasn't the end of the world for my body if I indulged (or overindulged.)  My answer to this was tea with honey. If my Enterolab comes back saying my body is cool with dairy, I will add cream to that treat in a matter of seconds! I bought a jar of Raw Wildflower Honey from Whole Foods (about $4) after reading up on the best kind of honey to use, and honey vs agave, and honey vs regular old sugar, etc. Mark's Daily Apple actually had a really good article that convinced me that if I'm going to use honey, Raw Wildflower Honey is one of the best options. So I have some different herbal teas, chamomile, sleepytime, peppermint (I have some fancy-schmancy Teavana loose-leaf teas but I actually prefer the Celestial Seasonings) and a spoonful of Raw Honey, stir slowly, and yum. We have a yummy treat. I like this with breakfast, and also as an evening snack, if I'm watching TV or just relaxing with my boyfriend and talking (and I actually got him drinking tea too!)

The next step was to figure out an afternoon snack that worked for me to replace my old standbye, the candybar. I had tried a few things. First, I started with an apple and peanut butter, delicious. Although I haven't been primal enough to be able to choke down the unsweetened PB, and my JIF wasn't looking like a great alternative sadly. My next answer was veggies and hummus, which is good (although I read somewhere that hummus isn't primal and I have no idea why, the kind I eat is literally chickpeas, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice- which SEEMS primal) The problem is that that is an afternoon snack that still takes too much preparation for me (I am pretty lazy apparently). Most of the Paleo/Primal community seemed to be recommending nuts for this snack category. I, however, am not sure I can eat nuts.Whenever I do, I seem to get a little hivey/itchy and sometimes it seems they can bring on a migraine, but it's been difficult to assess whether that is actually from nuts or some other mysterious element.  I know nuts were listed as a migraine trigger in one of my lists along the way. I think it's because they have a high tyramine level which can be a trigger, if I am remembering correctly.  Then I read somewhere that when women are craving chocolate or ice cream (my big cravings) they are actually craving FATS. Interesting. I researched the health benefits of olives (lots), and headed on over to the Whole Foods olive bar. Olives for my afternoon snack- easy and delicious. Although, I'm a little worried about their potential to give me a migraine, right now I'm operating under the assumption that if I follow primal eating, I will lose the migraines without having to rule out everything on those old trigger lists. Fingers crossed.

For a quick breakfast, I found a little miracle at Whole Foods (and also at Kroger) in pre-packaged cage-free hormone-free hardboiled eggs that are already peeled in a sealed bag. Their are six in each bag, which means I can have two eggs for breakfast in less than five minutes time. No prep at all. I believe the bags were just under $4, and I bought two for the week. I'm going to explore the idea of boiling and pre-peeling my own eggs to save on some money too.  So eggs with a cup of tea and honey for breakfast- perfecto. If I have any veggie leftovers, I'll try to eat those too. The other day I had half a roasted acorn squash with my eggs and it was delicious. 

I know some people think when you are starting a Primal diet that it is best to severely restrict your carbs altogether (i.e. no veggies, no honey) but I'm looking at it as a lifestyle change, and if I don't have a few little yummy treats I will never stick to it. I also like baked fruit, though not big on raw fruit, other than apples.

Now, in order to keep my eating code and to keep costs down, I will have to be bringing lunch to work every day. I HATE packing lunch. I used to just throw a can of soup and a can opener into my work bag for lunch. So cutting out all processed foods, let me in a quandary. Last week I managed to mix up some Tuna with some safflower oil mayo, dried cranberries, and chopped celery (it's what I had around the house) and split it into two little tupperware lunch packs. I can't eat tuna all the time though, plus isn't there some issue with the mercury? What to do?

It's going to take a little more pre-planning but what I've set out to do is make a big batch of soup or stew on Sunday (which is house cleaning day for me anyway), and divide and freeze for the week.  Soup seems to fill me up better than other things, and I love having something warm at lunchtime. It feels more like comfort food than a salad does to me.

So this is week #1

In my organic grocery local food box this week, I got a Friday delivery of acorn squash, baby white turnips, carrots, delicata squash, green pepper, kale, sweet potatoes and green beans ($23). I then went to Whole Foods and bought a 4 lb frying chicken, 2 lbs of beef stew meat, and 1 lb of side pork (FYI: I had read that side pork is just bacon before it's cured. You can salt it and cook it like bacon.)

It's Sunday night and I will be making a chicken, acorn squash, and kale soup (recipe below). When the soup runs out mid-week I plan to make a beef stew with the beef chunks, carrots, sweet potatoes and some fresh thyme I have left over from last weeks run to the farmers market.

For a snack/lunch when I got home from the store, I baked some of the side pork (I bake all my bacon) 20-30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, and baked two turnips 40 minutes in the same 400 degree oven. The side pork is out of the world good! I just put it in a foil covered cookie sheet, salted and peppered it, and baked. The turnips, I just cut the greens off (will do something with those later this week) and washed and baked.  They turned out lovely. I ate them skins and all. No peeling or chopping necessary.

This week's lunch: "Colorful Chicken and Squash Soup" (taken from Taste of Home magazine in March 2007.)

1 fryer chicken (4 lbs)
Water to cover about two inches above the chicken
5 lbs of peeled and cubes butternut squash (I'm using acorn squash since it's what I have)
Just over a pound of fresh kale, chopped
6 medium carrots, chopped
2 large onions chopped (I'm only using one and saving my second onion for the stew later this week)
3 tsp of salt (I use sea salt, but any old salt would work, sea salt has more vital nutrients)

1) Place chicken and water in a soup kettle and bring to a boil. Then cover and simmer for an hour.
2) Remove chicken and set aside to cool (I tear it up with my bare hands, so I want it VERY cool!) I use a big bowl for this because it makes it easier to start tearing up later.
3) Some people will skim off the fat and strain the broth. I skip this step. I like the fat in my soup, tastes good, and makes it more filling I think. I do however usually take a few cups of broth out at this point and freeze it to use later in other recipes. I put it in a Nalgene bottle in the freezer.
4) Add your other ingredients (squash, carrot, kale, and onion) to the broth and bring to boil again. Once it boils, reduce to simmer for 30 minutes or until veggies are fork-tender.
5) Rip up the chicken. I kind of like doing this, it's weirdly satisfying to me somehow. Clean your hands well, and get ready to get them dirty again with chicken parts.  I use three bowls. I put the whole chicken in the first one, then I have a meat bowl and a "garbage" bowl.  Then I just rip it up, going slowly, and putting all skin and bones, and anything that looks icky into my garbage bowl, and all the meat parts that I will eat later into the meat bowl. The breasts usually come off in a big white chunk, which is nice (though I prefer dark meat!) and sometimes I'll freeze the breasts to eat in a separate meal and just use up all the small meaty bits in the soup.

One last thing about the squash. This was the first recipe I ever used it in, and it couldn't have been more foreign to me. If you use butternut squash like the recipe calls for, you just cut it in half the long way, scoop out the pulpy innards and cube it. The recipe says to peel it first, and you could do that with a potato peeler, but the skin has a lot of fiber and nutrients in it, and I didn't bother with it and my soup turned out fine (any time I can simplify things I will!)  Since I will be using acorn squash, I'm on the fence about the peel this time. I eat my acorn squash peel when I roast it, and again, it's very good for you to eat it, but I am not sure how it will hold up in the soup. I'll let you know what I decide.

This recipe says it yields about 14 servings, but I would say I usually get 5-6 meals out of it (I will probably eat about two bowls at each sitting, or pack one super big bowl for lunch) This should last me for five lunches this week though, unless I end up eating some for dinner since it will be already made and I can get a little lazy like that!

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