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Old 04-02-2011, 12:00 PM   #1
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Default Seeking Advice: Becoming a Healthier Foodie

Like many foodies, I view food as a source of excitement and adventure, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that when it’s placed in proper perspective. But, sometimes, I expect far too much from food emotionally. Consequently, I eat out excessively and empty my wallet at gourmet grocers, searching relentlessly for the next big thrill. The habit, for me, for me, is unhealthy and has become ridiculously expensive.

I’d like to find food enjoyment in cheaper, healthier ways – especially by cooking cool, interesting meals at home, taking delicious-but-easy lunches to work, and eating primarily when hungry. Unfortunately, my husband and I are having trouble getting from Point A (restaurant and junk food obsession) to Point B (inexpensive, healthy whole foods). To add to the complication, he could happily spend the rest of his life eating nothing but steaks, burgers, and chicken nuggets; and I won’t eat any meat other than occasional seafood.

So, share your ideas. What are you doing to make your great enjoyment of food more positive and sustainable? (I've thought about growing a kitchen herb garden, taking cooking classes at the farmer's market, etc.)
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Old 04-02-2011, 03:11 PM   #2
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I eat a variety of foods. I do not always eat unhealthy foods, but I have stopped forbidding myself the things I like.

I enjoy fresh salads from time to time. I love to shop at farmer's markets when I can. I have also been teaching myself how to cook for the past year or so. Really cook, not just microwaving things.
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Old 04-02-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
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Here's my advice, coming from a similar place of foodie frustration. We were spending waaaay too much on gourmet grocery store goodies and eating out more meals than not. But also for me it became a matter of eating to help manage health issues taking priority over eating solely for pleasure and adventure. I had to find a way to create balance and still enjoy food, just in a very different way.

We got involved in eating more local, organic, sustainable, fresh, seasonal, free-range and grass fed, humanely raised, hand-crafted, etc... kinds of food.

The way that makes food interesting for me is the fact that the selection changes with the seasons and there are new and different things to try all the time, especially at the local farmer's markets. Enthusiastic growers and enthusiastic foodies make for a very good combination. I've found that the vendors at those kinds of markets are mostly a friendly lot who enjoy answering questions about their produce and always have ideas to share on how to cook with it. They get excited when you get excited about what they have to offer and there's a really neat foodie vibe there. There is a very small but thriving organic Saturday market I go to that welcomes both local farmers and backyard gardeners. I have found varieties of produce there that I have never even seen in gourmet grocery stores much less supermarkets and big produce markets.

And going to this little local market Saturday mornings inspired me to learn more about backyard gardening and start a container garden to try my hand at growing some of my own vegetables and herbs.

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Old 04-04-2011, 08:06 PM   #4
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EMH1701, thanks for sharing your perspective. That approach makes a lot of sense. People (in particular, my husband) don't always get my love of crazy combos and impatience with recipes but, by gosh, I'm going to cook more anyway. Good luck to you in your quest to do more cooking, too.

And Tracyarts, I really like the idea of going to farmers markets where people can actually meet the farmers who grow the food. Surprisingly, I haven't done much of that to-date, even though my great-grandmother was a big believer in supporting farmers face-to-face. Adopting that practice would be a lovely way to remember her and the fun days we shared during my childhood.

I'm ready to experiment!
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Old 04-04-2011, 08:35 PM   #5
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Find out if your neighborhood/area has a food co-op. They are often cheaper and have better products. You'd have to work there a few times a month but it would likely be worth it.

I second the idea of eating seasonal foods. That does keep things interesting. Some things are always easy to find and always around so I buy these things on sale a lot even if it's not something I'm going to use right away. I am always in need of things like onions, garlic, scallions, mushrooms, and peppers. I sometimes cut these things up as soon as I get home and freeze them in small baggies so they last longer and it saves money. Other things I always have around are butter, yogurt, milk, eggs, french bread, bacon, cake flour, sugar, coffee, tea, olive oil, vanilla. All things that can be bought on sale or with coupons. I love to bake and find it's easier (and terribly cheaper) sometimes to whip up something than it is to go to the store and get something processed and full of preservatives, plus I just like to experiment in the kitchen.

Then there are the sources I use a lot for recipe ideas: foodnetwork.com, allrecipes.com, epicurious.com, cooks.com, and my favorite cookbook: "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman. There's also geekwise.com. They don't have recipes persay, but they do offer up short histories of all kinds of ingredients. If I've never heard of something I look it up on geekwise and I find out the history of it, how to prepare it, how to buy it, and the most common usages, what it should taste like. This made me less afraid to try tripe at a great noodle house in china town and I discovered it's kinda bland. How can people love that stuff? LOL Anyway, the next thing is cheap eats. NYC has lots and lots of cheap eats (Not even including fast food places), that go beyond burgers, pizza, and hot dogs. It is possible to eat good, relatively healthy food for less than $12 here. I can only hope the pickings are as good in other places.
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Old 04-07-2011, 06:24 PM   #6
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Why not take visiting farmers markets (to meet the people who grow your food) one step further and actually grow some of your own food? I've found that by simply growing my own food, along with sourcing the closest local foods I can (milk, eggs, meat, and fruits/veggies), I easily get to indulge in being a foodie and I tend to eat healthier. For me, finding the excitement in delicious basics...a perfect summer heirloom tomato, local raw milk with cream on top (!), making my own butter from local cream from the same dairy, and so on...really gets me excited about food without buying into gourmet grocers and haute cuisine.

That said, I'm a total foodie and I love a great meal from a great restaurant or made at home with wild boar or winter truffles, but they're savored during special occasions. Its incredible how connected I feel to my food when I've made it...even a bowl of pasta with butter...where I've rolled the pasta out myself, made the butter myself, and grown the herbs I'm topping the pasta with myself...its amazing. The nice side effect is that the enjoyment comes from more than the flavor, AND I tend to eat less because I'm saving those ingredients for other dishes I have in mind. Buying things off the supermarket shelves is a false idea of abundance...kind of like when kids equate ATM cards with machines that dispense unlimited free cash. REALLY making your own food from scratch helps you feel connected to that meal in a way that you just don't get from buying even the best artisan ingredients from a farmers market or from Whole Foods. When you've seen your little seedlings bear fruit, its even more amazing.

I highly recommend reading some foodie books too...especially Michael Pollan. He's a foodie if there ever was one, whose concerned with both food quality and health. There are others, but he really sucked me into 'conscious eating' in a way that nothing else was able to. There are tons of other authors who touch on this, but he's a good one to start with, and popular enough to be easy to find.

ETA: Now I'm REALLY friggin excited for summer! Canning and marketing and getting dirty in the garden, I can't WAIT. *Squeee!*

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Old 04-07-2011, 08:09 PM   #7
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Olwen, yep, there’s a food coop not too far away (Atlanta’s freaky and wonderful Sevananda), plus plenty of other good health food stores nearby, including one of my neighborhood favorites, the DeKalb Farmer's Market -- which has a wild array of foods but is not a meet-your-farmer kind of place. Small weekend markets pop up regularly, though.

As for cookbooks, eh, I’m not too big on coloring within the lines. But, on a lark, I typed “no-recipe cooking” into Google and, surprisingly, found tons of references. Intuitive Eating, meet Intuitive Cooking. Woo hoo!

Knottyknicky, you convinced me to try another garden this spring, something small. Here’s a favorite pic from my first (and only) one – a container garden planted two seasons ago. And you’re right; it was really pretty thrilling to watch this squash and its blossom grow from a packet of seeds.
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:33 PM   #8
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I don't usually like using cookbooks and recipes either, but it can be an excellent way to learn techniques and find flavor combinations that you might not have thought about. I never would have learned the right (read: safe) way to slice a butternut squash had it not been for a recipe for a butternut squash lasagna that I regularly make now
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Old 04-08-2011, 12:59 AM   #9
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I love food coops and farmer's markets. Go to www.localharvest.org to find the ones near you. My food coop has a website that lists recipes along with whatever fruit and vegetables are current. At times there has been a food seminars held at the farmer's market. It has been a great way for me to try out different foods.
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Old 04-08-2011, 01:40 PM   #10
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I wish there were grocery coops in my area but all I can find are CSA's
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Old 04-08-2011, 03:12 PM   #11
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I wish there were grocery coops in my area but all I can find are CSA's

You're lucky there are even CSAs
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Old 04-08-2011, 03:54 PM   #12
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Lol, that's true. Isn't it the darndest thing, that they aren't more widespread in areas with so much agriculture...
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Old 04-08-2011, 04:51 PM   #13
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Advice for healthier foodee adventures is MUCH easier than healthy and inexpensive recommendations. The best way to save money is to make food at home. Mediteranian cuisine is usually very healthy, with a lot of vegetables and not much fried stuff. Find a good spanish cook book and hit a farmers market. I would also try various Asian fare. Thai curries can be healthy, filling, and inexpensive. Noodle dishes can be healthy as well if the oil is used lightly and the noodles are from rice or mung bean. The best bet for making inexpensive food is to get recipes originating from poorer countries. People don't talk about that because it comes across as a bit harsh but it's totally true.
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Old 04-09-2011, 10:36 AM   #14
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My hubby and I wanted to also eat healthier so we started with 1 meatless meal a week, and still 1 of my favorites..Canned whole black bean burritos. I use a low carb whole grain torilla, a can of heated whole black beans (you could use pinto beans if you don't like black beans. Some 2% sharp cheddar cheese, maybe some sliced black olives, onions (sweet, when I can get them), some low fat sour cream and salsa. So good and pretty cheap too).
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Old 04-20-2011, 05:28 AM   #15
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Thanks, everyone!
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Old 04-20-2011, 04:00 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oirish View Post
Advice for healthier foodee adventures is MUCH easier than healthy and inexpensive recommendations. The best way to save money is to make food at home.
Quote:
The best bet for making inexpensive food is to get recipes originating from poorer countries. People don't talk about that because it comes across as a bit harsh but it's totally true.
I buy a lot of frozen veggies and mix them into stews and soups. Also, I flavor things a lot now with onions or garlic, instead of salt. Or chili peppers, I love spices.

It doesn't have to be cost prohibitive to eat healthy. But if you buy only organic, it will be. I personally can't afford a ton of organic stuff. I eat a lot of beans also, and brown rice, wild rice, or other whole grains. I'm not vegetarian, but I do eat tofu from time to time.

Also totally agree with the recipes from poorer countries. The vast majority of the world eats rice and beans as a staple because meat is expensive in their country.
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