November 10th, 2008
The election is now over, the Neocons and their operatives at Treasury and the Fed are doing their best to loot the nation completely before power changes hands, and the citizens are collectively holding their breath, wondering just how bad it will get, thousands of jobs disappearing every week. The Grinch may well have succeeded in stealing Christmas this year – looks like we won’t have Circuit City to kick around anymore.
As the economy falls (for everyone but the oil companies, who are enjoying record profits as usual), the prices of just about everything keep going up. The most primal of our needs is food, and how we will survive the depression without sacrificing our health, our weight or our taste buds is a question many families are beginning to struggle with.
By next spring we can expect the number of home ‘Victory Gardens’ to explode as patches of lawn are tilled under and favorite veggies are planted. Depending on where you live – thus how long your growing season is and whether you get two a year – a family can produce a significant chunk of its annual consumption of fresh greens, tomatoes, peas, peppers, and various specialty items like melons, squash, eggplant, artichokes and tasty herbs. In a well-managed yard garden of no more than 12×20 feet and a clever porch container garden.
In the meantime, here are some basics for making the most out of short food dollars while getting the most nutrition and least amount of excess fat from your day to day diet.
1. Eat More Soups and Stews
Basic one-pot meals can be hearty, tasty, nutritious and extremely satisfying. If you don’t have a crock pot, consider one as your Gift Wish this year. You can start a soup or stew you prepped the night before when you make your morning coffee, it will be ready to eat when you get home from work.
For these you can use cheaper dry legumes and grains, bullion stocks and storage veggies like potatoes, onions and carrots. If you’re meat eaters, a ham hock in the pot adds a lot of flavor. Cheaper cuts of beef make for fine stews, and chicken is a perennial favorite. Can be purchased in tuna-size cans (same aisle), will make tasty chicken-rice or chicken noodle or chicken n’ dumplings. A good pot of hearty soup or stew can last a couple of nights, or provide easily microwaveable lunches the next day. Every time you don’t buy prepared food you’re saving real money for better tasting and more nutritious home-cooked meals.
And don’t forget about pot pies – a great way to stretch a good hearty stew when there’s lots left over, they freeze well and can be made in single-serve portions when you’ve got time!
2. Learn All About Quick-Breads
To go with those hearty soups and stews you’ll want to whip up some good side-breads. A 5-pound bag of cornmeal (self rising) can make a lot of cornbread either for dunking or crumbling or just munching. There are good recipes for various quick wheat breads using leavening agents that don’t require as much work as yeast. Crackers are another side that doesn’t take long to whip up and can be as hearty as you like with sesame, caraway or flax seeds, some herb flavorings and maybe some additional flours (rye, oat, etc.) to the usual wheat.
3. Window Box, Porch & House Plant Gardening
Salad greens – your basic variety of leaf lettuces, spinach, etc. – love cool weather. Even if you live in an all-winter-freeze environment, if you’ve a sunny window you can attach plastic weather sheeting in such a way to enclose a window box, which will then pick up enough heat from the house through the window to allow growing salad greens. If you can water and harvest from inside the house, even better!
These boxes need not be deeper than 3-4″ of good potting soil and compost, lettuce and spinach have very shallow roots. If you sow the mixed leaf seed, don’t worry about separating the plants. Just cut the leaves when they get to be about 3″ tall with a pair of scissors, they’ll keep growing back. Spinach should have a bit of room, harvest outside leaves and let the center keep producing more.
Dark green leafies like kale and collards can easily be grown in well-insulated pots on the porch, so long as your porch gets sun. They’ll grow right through snow cover, but you have to keep the pot from “ground-freeze.” Harvest these the same way as spinach (though the leaves are much bigger) – outside first, let the central plant keep producing rather than just cut the whole thing down. I have collard and kale plants in my garden that are two years old, their multi-harvested stems several feet long, still producing fine greens.
And peppers (chili or bell) can grow indoors all year long in a good size pot if it gets sun. They even have seeds for ‘ornamental’ pepper plants just for houseplant use, though the peppers are indeed edible. And like avacado and citrus trees, they’ll live forever if you take care of them.