Friday, 13 July 2012

Frugal Friday (13th July)

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is for families to share mealtimes and eat together.  This is something that we as a family certainly enjoy - and I also enjoy the privelige, as keeper of our home, of being responsible for creating our menus, and preparing our meals.  I always endeavour to keep our meals reasonably frugal - trying to make use of left-overs, and cooking from scratch wherever possible rather than buying expensive, packaged and processed meals.  Recently, Papa Bear and I have been examining our diet as a whole, and have decided that we'd like to take this a little bit further and try more specifically to ensure that what we eat is wholesome and nutritious, without costing us any more money.

I've been doing some research that has led me to want to try some new ways of preparing and cooking foods to make them provide us with the greatest benefits that I can.  As a family, we have always felt strongly that gimmicky diets which exclude certain food groups, or rely on foods being prepared a certain way, are not God's way for us to nourish ourselves, and therefore, not how we ourselves want to eat.  On the other hand however, we also feel strongly that God does want us to keep our bodies as fit and healthy as we can, in order that we glorify Him  -

"What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's". (1 Corinthians: 19 - 20).

For this reason, we've decided to make the following changes ...

1.  Eat less meat, especially red meat, and increase the number of vegetarian meals we have each week.  By vegetarian, I simply mean, meatless meals.  In England it is possible to buy quite a wide variety of vegetarian products, foodstuffs made of Quorn or Tofu, or other vegetable proteins, which are designed to look and taste like meat.  Some of these are much lower in fat than their real meat counterparts, and are sometimes much cheaper to buy.  But they are not without drawbacks - they are often full of artifical additives, in order that they taste good, and they are not necessarily always cheaper than meat products.  On the whole we prefer to do without meat substitutes like this altogether.  Instead, our meatless meals consist of dishes that are naturally vegetarian - such as macaroni and cheese, chilli bean bake, and green pasta to name but a few.  These are all meals that we eat regularly anyway as they are cheap, filling and good for us, so this is not so much of a drastic change, just a slight alteration of direction!

2.  Soak grains before using.  This isn't going to cost us any more than not soaking them, of course!  I do already soak rice and pulses before cooking them, usually for about 12 hours.  But I am going to try the pre-soaked grains method for breadmaking.  I already make all the bread we eat, but don't usually soak the flour beforehand.  I am going to try out several different techniques before I settle on one - I'll see which the family prefers.  There are two reasons why soaking grains is valuable.  First of all, soaking breaks down the proteins in the grains so that they are more digestible, and secondly, it also neutralises the phytic acid which is present in them, which can prevent the proper absorbtion of the nutrients in the grains when they are released as they are consumed.  It is best to soak grains in an acidic liquid such as whey, buttermilk or ideally, kefir (a kind of cultured dairy product a little like yogurt, but with a more sour and pronounced flavour).  You can also use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, and as I always have these 2 last to hand in the kitchen, I shall be using them to start with, or perhaps buttermilk, as I very often use this in baking anyway.  It will really just mean a very slight change to the way that I prepare our bread.  Instead of putting the ingredients together and starting the breadmaker immediately, I shall combine the ingredients (apart from the yeast) the night before, and leave them at room temperature to soak overnight.  In the morning, I will add the yeast and start the breadmaker as usual.  In all truth it is no different to leaving the mixture in the machine on a time-delay setting, except that I shall combine the ingredients thoroughly to allow the flour to soak in the liquid, and instead of using water and milk powder, I shall use buttermilk.  For all other grains, I will use lemon juice or vinegar.  And wait to see if we feel any difference, using this technique!

3.  Another cost-saving change that I am making which will hopefully also have a beneficial effect on our health is to do away sweet treats and high-fat foods such as cakes, scones and cookies.  We don't eat dessert during the week, only at weekends, and this will not change.  But Papa Bear feels that he would like to try eating healthier snacks between meals and in the evening, so there will be a few changes there.  Instead of the less healthy treats, he'll be eating things like fruit, raw vegetables with salsa as a dip, or yogurt for a treat.  I'll be making some healthy cereal bars for him to take to work, and this week coming he has got home baked wholegrain bean pasties to look forwards to as well!

There will be some other changes too - a leaning towards less sweet food overall, and fewer ready-made products - for example, instead of using canned soup in recipes such as casseroles or bakes, I'll make my own sauces, and we'll be eating more vegetables and fewer carbohydrates.  But we won't be making a big deal out of this.  No food will be "banned" (this is just calling for us to crave it, and possibly even make an idol of it) and no foods will be considered "good" or "bad".  All food is good for us - in moderation!  We believe in a simple approach to healthy eating.  As long as most of what we eat is wholesome and nutritious, the odd treat cannot do any harm.  A healthy diet consists of all the food groups - with a bigger focus on wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and low fat proteins.  There is no need for it to be any more complicated than this.  We don't need to spend lots of money on fancy food products or detailled cook books.  There is no need to follow rigid eating schedules and schemes that suggest we exclude certain foodstuffs or eat others to extremes.  This isn't how God wants us to eat.  And if we have more food than we need - then we must thank Him for such abundance, be grateful for what we have, and enjoy it - whilst keeping some back to share with others!  It's wonderful to have the freedom to be able to choose from such an incredible variety of delicious things to eat.  I just pray that we'll continue to use this freedom sensibly, and make wise food choices that will keep us healthy and vigorous, and make good use of our resources.

Now, I'm off to do some menu tweaking!

"Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion". (Ecclesiastes 5: 18).