Today is THE day

I am tracking my family's efforts to reduce and eliminate packaged, processed foods beginning today for a whole year. Beginning today!

Over the weekend, I devoured Cheap Eating: How to Feed Your Family Well and Spend Less by Pat Edwards. This book was published in 1993 and written by what must be the world's best home ec teacher. (Wait - quick check of Pat Edwards bio indicates she is a reporter with a life-long interest in Home Economics who also served as the house mother for troubled boys).

Of course, having just lost my job my twin goals are eating better and spending less. Cheap Eating startled me; turns out, in 1993 Pat Edwards knew all about the things that Michael Pollan wrote about (in much greater detail) in 2007. Must be that journalist-with-an-interest approach.

Number 8 on Pat Edwards' Ten Commandments for Cheap Eating reads: Avoid convenience foods. Look at the labels - they're largely chemicals that nobody can pronounce, understand or digest...If you are willing to spend an extra ten minutes in the kitchen, you can generally prepare a better tasting, more nutritious meal at less than half the price.

Couldn't be better news, if you ask me.

Cheap Eating is also full of tips on recycling (as a means of saving money and the earth) and organic gardening (as a means of saving money and your health).

She opens Chapter 2 with the key to successful Cheap Eating: To eat cheap, you have to think cheap, and planning has always been a foundation for saving money.

She suggests the following steps:
prepare your weekly menu
- list absolutely every ingredient necessary for the weekly menu
go through your cabinets, pantry, refrigerator, and freezer crossing off everything you already have (thoroughness at this point can help to avoid extra trips to the store)
- add non-food items like toilet paper and laundry detergent
(And then, once you have compared the regular prices at three different stores, you are ready to shop.)

This morning, we had oatmeal from our super-budget-friendly 42 ounce cylinder of Quaker Oats. Cheap and healthful stuff there (though, technically, this must be a processed food, yes?). For lunch, we are having leftover veggie soup I made in my Vita Mix yesterday (thrown together recipe below). Dinner will be today's big adventure.

Veggie soup:
I gathered up the various veggies I had in my fridge (onion, celery, carrots, red pepper, yellow pepper, green pepper and broccoli), some garlic, a can of dark red kidney beans and 2 cans of diced tomatoes. I chopped and sauteed onion, carrot and celery. I put these things in the Vita-Mix - onion, celery, can of tomatoes - with juice - garlic, a 1/2 cup of kidney beans and a little bit of water and blended until smooth, then added the blend to the sauteing vegetables. I chopped and added all the bell peppers, added the rest of the kidney beans, and some Mrs Dash seasoning. I let it cook until all the veggies were tender. It was crazy good - kid and hubby approved. Also I added a little Sriracha chili sauce to my bowl, which punched up the flavor even more.