Food: thrift or nutrition (can you have both?)

Two of my favourite people: Anna-Marie and Daniel, who happen to be getting married next May. This is one of their engagement pics, done by Tony Donovan Photography

I had the distinct pleasure of having dinner last month with two of my favourite people: Daniel and Anna –Marie. I served a yummy stuffed zucchini, cut veggies and fantastic banana cookies and fruit for dessert. It sounds fairly simple and in some ways it was, but because Anna –Marie needs to eat a gluten AND dairy free diet, it was a little more challenging than usual to prepare this meal.

The zucchini was easy – I omitted the cheese on one of the zucchini boats and omitted the breaded topping. The veggies were eaten plain or with tzaziki, of which Anna-Marie could have a little. The cookies are gluten/dairy (and sugar) free – as long as you use gluten-free oats and no vanilla.

And that’s where I began to get an appreciation for the fact that if you have food challenges and you like to bake, you need to be rich. Gluten-free oats are a little bit hard to find and when you do, you pay through the nose for them. It also made me think – again – about the cost of eating healthy; not that eating gluten is necessarily unhealthy but I think you know what I mean.

Why is it that real food is more expensive than crap food? I’m not even talking about organic food – an apple of any kind typically costs more than a chocolate bar or a twinkie. A can of lentil soup costs more than a box of Kraft Dinner. A piece of salmon (wild or farmed) costs way more than a package of wieners. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture? Shouldn’t peaches be cheap and ramen noodles expenive?

I’m gorging on Honeycrisp apples this season: only 90cents a pound at Willowview Farms in Abbotsford!

 

I know that there are ways to eat healthy and economically – cooking and baking from scratch, making different choices, even eating less, for example – but I feel for people who have health issues or who are on extremely tight budgets and struggle to feed themselves and their families. It’s just wrong, isn’t it?  I realize that there are economics involved here and that this is a complicated conversation – but food is a right, not a luxury, and as such should be affordable for all.

Waiting for a miracle – artist Edith Krause

If you want to explore this issue more fully and you live near Abbotsford, I urge you to come see the exhibit Just Food – the right to food from a faith perspective at the Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford. It includes artwork from 18 artists – Canadian and international – who were given two human rights declarations and scripture texts from the Old Testament and asked to create two pieces of art based on these. It is a stunning exhibit. October 16th is World Food Day at 7 pm, MCC is hosting a panel discussion on this topic at the Reach, along with a guided tour of the exhibit.

In the meantime, I’d love your thoughts on all this!

Here’s my cookie recipe, which I got from the Vancouver Sun. If you’re concerned about gluten, buy gluten-free oats and omit the vanilla.

Go Bananas Cookies

1.5 really ripe bananas

2 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup ground almonds

3 tablespoons finely shredded coconut (unsweetened)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup raisins, or chocolate chips or dried cranberries (I’ve used all three and I like cranberries the best. I think peanut butter chips would also be awesome.)

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mash the bananas and then mash in the vanilla and coconut oil, set aside. In another bowl, whisk together oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and raisins (or whatever you’re using.) Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined. The dough is very loose and does not hold together well, but don’t worry about that. I took a tablespoon of dough in my hand, gently formed a ball and squeezed it together as much as possible. Place 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Bake for 14 minutes until bottoms are golden. Let cool for about 20 minutes to set. Makes about 15 bite-sized cookies.

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13 Responses to Food: thrift or nutrition (can you have both?)

  1. Denise says:

    I discovered this first hand when I became a single mom of three….I could buy 2 litres of pop for a fraction of the cost of juice or milk, white bread was (is) cheap but just try to buy it with actual grains and the cost doubles….the list goes on! Fortunately my grandma had taught me the fine art of soup, making bread and cooking jam (without pectin)…she always said with those skills I would be able to feed my family during a depression or war….little did she know how valuable that skill would one day become 🙂

  2. Little Sis says:

    I think it is possible to eat healthfully on a budget, but it is DECIDEDLY more difficult to do this than it is to eat junk on a budget. And yes, I agree 100% that there is something very upside down about the pricing of food if our goal is to encourage a healthy population. I think too, however, that many folks in the modern world have funny priorities. We often set aside a pretty small fraction of our total budget for food – are far more choosy about our homes, our clothing, and our cars than we are about what we put in our bodies. It is a truly complex problem with plenty of blame to go around. My sister and I have been tackling the healthful on a budget problem, perhaps we can all push for changes at a systemic and cultural level.

  3. EROSE says:

    My husband and I have this conversation every Sunday before we go to the store. We have a budget of $40/week for food, which is more than some people have. But it’s always a challenge to eat healthy on that budget, and we don’t even eat processed food! We can make it work if we cook all of our meals from scratch, only eating meat once a week (if that), and only buying things that are on sale. We make all of our own yogurt and bread, as well as a variety of other things. Still there are some foods that we would really like to eat that we can’t afford (organics, for example). My solution is to eat less, and avoid snacks, but my husband needs healthy snacks during the day – it seems like every week we are debating cost vs. health. It’s so hard.

  4. Sixballoons says:

    Yes it is so fascinating to me too! I bought an artisan sourdough loaf once for my hubby’s birthday as a splurge as it was six dollars… Then i read up and realized I can learn to make my own, and add wheat bran and whole grains. I have been baking up a storm and figuring that the material cost is so low per loaf. I need to discover more tricks like this. In Port Hardy, I saw organic apples selling for almost $4/lb… Most of us cannot afford this and would see it as a luxury. That made me sad for small coastal communities where the problem of expensive produce is further magnified.

    • i would love your sourdough bread recipe. i tried making sourdough once, with whole grain flour, and while it was flavourful, the texture was really dense and dry – not chewy, like i wanted it to be. please share!

  5. You are so right – I find the only way to try and eat better is to cook from scratch and scour the weekly flyers for loss leaders – that way I know exactly what goes into my food.. I am getting 20 lbs of organic apples for free next week as put the word out I was looking for someones extras and a neighbor of my moms (who does not spray therefore organic) was happy to offer up her extras. I hope to make a bunch of applesauce to freeze and do some baking.

    • what a great idea! it’s amazing what we can find when we network. i was just reading the Lulastic blog recently (see link at right) and she was talking about urban foraging – making fruit leather from crab apples and blackberries that she’d found in urban spaces. i feel like i need to do this more.

  6. adoptionista says:

    This is our big struggle! Budget v. health….now that we have babies (x 2!) we want to be healthier…but it’s tricky to do it without breaking the bank.

  7. i want to make that granola! it looks so yummy! keep up the good work/thrifting/faith, from breanne’s cousin

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