How do I do this?

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How do I do this?

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1bookaholicgirl
Edited: Jul 18, 2007, 10:38am

We have recently starting to improve our diet and move toward much more natural, non-processed foods. It is my husband and I and our four kids. My first step was to remove all, or nearly all, foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and transfats. It has been difficult but I have found substitutes that are made with sugar instead of the high fructose corn syrup - even ketchup and BBQ sauce (a staple on the children's plates at nearly every meal unfortunately). It definitely helps that there is a Trader Joe's nearby and that most of the larger grocery stores are realizing that people want to be able to buy these products without looking all over the place for them.

My next step is to start incorporating more meatless meals into our weekly menu. I do not think that most of us will ever be completely vegetarian but I do think that we will eventually eat many more plant based meals. I have a feeling that my 10 yr old daughter will probably be mostly vegetarian with some seafood at some point but the others are more of a challenge.

My problem is that I am also trying to incorporate more organic and/or locally grown products into our diet. We live in southeastern Pennsylvania - there is not a lot to choose from during the late fall, winter and early spring. There is a limit to how many apples one person to eat during that amount of time. How do the rest of you accomplish this? Do I buy only frozen veggies and fruits then? My girls prefer raw veggies with some type of dip to most cooked veggies and I would like to try to include that in their meals. Is it possible to undertake something like this in an area with a limited growing season? Should I mostly concentrate on local produce during the spring/summer months and move to organic during the rest of the year? Does anyone know of a website or cookbook that can help with this? Thanks for any suggestions that you have.

Since this is all new to us, I am sure that I will have many more questions. I have looked at this group for a few months now and have found it very informative. Thanks again.

Edited to add: I am a SAHM on a very tight budget. I am trying to stay within a budget of about $100 to $125 a week for food (this includes paper products and some cleaning products but not health and beauty products). Any suggestions or ideas should be budget friendly if possible :). Thanks.

2sussabmax
Jul 19, 2007, 1:45pm

I will probably have more to say about this later, but I wanted to say it is great that you are doing this! So many people don't think that much about what they eat, but it is wonderful to see more and more people taking the time to do it.

For local produce, I recommend farmer's markets. You can freeze or can for winter months, but I think that every little bit helps, so if you can only do it during the summer to start with, that's fine. I would bet that there are more choices than you realize in the spring and fall, too. People tend to think of the narrow range of common fruits and vegetables, but if you are willing to be more adventurous, you can find other choices.

I will come back tonight when I am home from work and expand on this. I have other ideas, but no time to look for links now.

3bookaholicgirl
Jul 19, 2007, 2:00pm

sussabmax - Thanks for taking the time to post a quick reply. I am looking forward to your ideas. Thanks again.

4sussabmax
Jul 20, 2007, 5:25pm

Sorry, I totally forgot about this last night! I will try again tonight or sometime this weekend....

5sussabmax
Jul 23, 2007, 12:44pm

Okay, I am finally here! First of all, a couple of book recommendations:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver--I am reading this now, and it is really interesting, in that it is about a fairly normal family trying to eat as locally as possible. They make a few exceptions (coffee, grains, spices, for instance), but they do as much as they can. I am not that far into it, but it has some good recipes, and some information about how to set up a garden, and a lot of information about what this like day-to-day, and how things have changed so much in our food culture, and other related issues.

The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating and Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and JB Mackinnon The touchstones don't seem to be working, but they have a great website, too: http://100milediet.org/ These people were much more extreme than Kingsolver's family; they didn't eat any wheat for something like 8 or 9 months until they found a local source, for instance. But their tips on the website include a reminder that it doesn't have to be all or nothing, so it is still a good resource.

I am so with you on the High Fructose Corn Syrup. That stuff is evil. If you can find some HFCS-free ketchup, I have a great BBQ sauce recipe. Trader Joe's is a great resource, because they are pretty cheap for the quality of the food. But, I would say the biggest thing is to use as many fresh vegetables as you can. They are relatively cheap, and so healthy. I use a lot of rice, too, which isn't local, but it bulks up meals, and it is cheap.

If you are looking for a cookbook with good, easy meatless meals, Nava Atlas' The Vegetarian Family Cookbook is a great one. There are a lot of really good recipes in there that my kids will eat, and that are quick and easy. My kids will eat this stuff, and I can make a lot of the recipes on a weekday evening.

I hope this helps!

6bookaholicgirl
Edited: Jul 23, 2007, 1:04pm

Thank you so much for the book ideas. I will get them from the library once we come home from vacation.

After a lengthy discussion with the family, they have agreed to more meatless meals a week and incorporating more veggies and veggie recipes into their diets but have said a firm, definite NO to the no meat idea. That is fine because it should be their choice and not mine. I have the More with Less Cookbook as well as a cookbook called Simply in Season which I think will help add some recipes to our meals. A lot of the recipes in both have a vegetarian version as well as one that incorporates a bit of meat so it can be used for all of us.

On the nights that their meal is heavy on meat, I will subsitute something, a meatless version of what they are having or simply have the sides for that night. I have decided to keep seafood in my diet for now but not every single day, possibly two or three times a week at most. I also figure that incorporating fish/seafood into the family once a week would be a way to improve their diet as well.

I was in Trader Joe's the other day and picked up some soy corn dogs and soy "breakfast patties". Surprisingly, to me, both were pretty tasty. Since we are going on vacation, I haven't completely sat down and prepared menus and purchased substitutions for me but I will do so when we come back. I have also found a few good websites that I have been looking at and have gone through this site and written down a ton of cookbooks to check out.

I have found organice ketchup both at Trader Joe's and at the local supermarket - Heinz makes an organice ketchup but not everyone carries it. It is a little bit more expensive than the regular and I can only find it in one size right now but I am hoping to find it online somewhere. I would love to have the BBQ sauce recipe when you have time.

Thanks again for your help.

7mamajoan
Jul 23, 2007, 1:15pm

A couple of easy ways to do meals for a mixed group of some veggies and some non-veggies:

* "make-your-own" night -- particularly with burritos/tacos. You provide the ingredients and everyone builds their own. Also works great when you have picky kids (i.e. one kid won't eat beans, one won't eat tomatoes, etc.). You can also do make-your-own pizzas which is the same idea. Everyone gets to include the ingredients they want and exclude the ones they don't want.

* stir-fry -- you do the veggies in the wok, cook the meat in a separate pot (can also cook tofu separately too) and combine on the plate for each individual.

*pasta with sauce -- separate out some of the sauce before adding meatballs

8ForrestFamily
Jul 23, 2007, 6:07pm

I am not sure that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is really a book I would recommend to a starting out veg*an, as a whole chapter is given up to justifiying eating meat and killing animals!
I would recommend 'The Way We Eat' (for some reason it is called The Ethics of What We Eat on LT) as a good starter on understanding the ethical choices of what we eat - not as heavy a read as it sounds!

On the substitutes thing - I found TVP mince, which you should be able to find at most wholefoods/healthfoods shops makes a good mince substitute - if you use it in bolognaise sauce and the like most people can't tell the difference.

9bookaholicgirl
Jul 23, 2007, 6:19pm

mamajoan - Great ideas. Actually, on Saturday I did make pizza and made two for the kids and the hubby using leftover spaghetti sauce that had meatballs in it (I crushed up the meatballs) and one for me with roasted eggplant and green peppers. I make many Mexican type meals and would have no problem not adding the meat to mine.

I make a lot of crockpot meals and think that I am going to get a smaller crockpot so that I can start the meal, separate them when I get to the part where I have to add the meat and then cook them in their separate pots.

10bookaholicgirl
Jul 23, 2007, 6:21pm

Megami - I am going to look for the TVP mince soon. I have also seen recipes which use half meat/half lentils and thought that I could start doing that for the rest of the family and gradually reduce the amount of meat they are eating and then add the TVP to the mixture and reduce it till it is just lentils/TVP or something like that.

Thanks for the book suggestion also.

11sussabmax
Edited: Jul 24, 2007, 8:02pm

Well, I wasn't recommending Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for the vegan part, but rather for the local part.

Another good book about vegan eating from a health perspective is The McDougall Program: twelve days to dynamic health. The focus is definitely on health, but it is good information, and it gives a lot of good information on making the transition from a meat-heavy diet to a mostly, if not entirely meat-free diet. Dean Ornish has some books like this, too, although I don't know the titles, and he isn't so opposed to low-fat dairy.

If you want a really fun vegan cookbook, I would also recommend Vegan With a Vengeance, which has lots of incredible recipes, but they tend to be a bit more time-intensive. Being a SAHM, that may not be as big of an issue for you as it is for me, but I still use this cookbook a lot because the food is just so good.

Also, my BBQ sauce recipe is really easy:

1 cup ketchup
4 TBSP white vinegar
4 TBSP brown sugar (could use turbinado sugar, if brown sugar is a problem)
4 TBSP vegan Worcestershire or A-1 Steak sauce (which is totally vegan, even though it is for steaks...)

Mix and enjoy! Or, you could saute one cup of chopped onions in a little bit of oil, add the mixed sauce and heat, that is good, too.

12bookaholicgirl
Jul 24, 2007, 8:09pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

13bookaholicgirl
Jul 24, 2007, 8:09pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

14bookaholicgirl
Jul 24, 2007, 8:17pm

Thanks for the BBQ sauce recipe - it sounds really good and super easy. I didn't realize that A-1 was vegan. I know that worchestershire (spelling?) isn't because of the anchovies and I guess I just assumed that A-1 had them in it also. FYI - Trader Joe's steak sauce is not vegan because it does have anchovy paste.

I will probably still read the Animal, Vegable .. . book because I have heard it was good before and I think that if you do eat meat you should try to eat meat that has been killed as humanely as possible such as on an individual farm rather than a huge, corporate farm. I have heard Vegan with a Vengeance is a good book as well and will look into it. There are some days that complicated recipes are ok but between taking the kids to school, volunteering at school and all of the picking up, dropping off, sports to go and watch, etc., even as a SAHM mom time is sometimes tight.

Tomorrow will be my first real challenge as we have been given tickets to a baseball game. The tickets include a buffet before the game and according to my hubby, he doesn't think there will be much for me to eat. I believe there will be sandwiches and I think that I will ok with picking off the meat and eating just the veggies and roll. I don't feel any desire to eat the meat but am worried that there won't be much to eat except for junk and that really isn't what I am trying to accomplish here. Unfortunately, you cannot bring your own food and I don't think I will have time to eat before hand. If worse comes to worse, I will buy something inside the park even if it is only a slice of pizza.

Thanks again for all of your suggestions.

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