Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gourmet everyday

Our new diet is basically forcing us into a kind of gourmet meal every single day. From grilled chicken and lettuce wraps to marinated pork loin roasts with roasted garlic and baby spinach, every single day is a kind of healthy epicurean adventure.

As I believe I have complained before, it’s expensive. The Smart Brain People have been putting out study after study in recent months picking apart the connections between poverty and obesity, asking themselves thoughtfully how the poor can afford to be so fat.

I have the perfect example of how this works. I needed 12 ounces of pork loin for one of the meals this week. There were three kinds of roast-worthy pork at the supermarket. Boneless pork tenderloin, for $4.69 a pound; boneless pork loin for $3.69; and pork shoulder for $1.99.

It took every ounce of willpower I had not to grab the shoulder. As I was reaching for the middle-road pork loin, I was agonizing over the price difference. I was thinking of all the other bills I’ve got to pay, all the other hooks that are tearing my paycheck to shreds. And all the while, that lovely marbled shoulder was cooing at me: “You know, I roast up good and tender…uh-huh…all this fat makes for self-basting, that’s what…I’m delicious and you know it…you know you want me…cheap…fatty…pork…shoulder…mmmmmmmm…”

I almost had to slap my own hand away from that shoulder. I had to remind myself, firmly, that while I may not be affluent, I am pretty darned far from poor. I do not have to freak out over a $1.25 difference between the pork shoulder and the pork loin.

But when I wandered into the canned goods aisle and reached for two cans of black beans…at $1.19 apiece…I realized that there is quite a lot I can do to bring the costs of this diet down.

Two cans of black beans will give us enough for this one week for $2.38.

Or, I can buy a bag of dry black beans for $0.99. Take them home and put them straight into the crockpot, cover with cold water and let them sit until I’m ready to go to bed – at which point, put in a little garlic powder, some dried onion flakes, a quarter teaspoon of salt and a few cranks of fresh ground pepper. Turn the crockpot to low and go to bed. In the morning, drain and rinse the beans and set them into the fridge.

That evening, divvy them up. They won’t last long in the fridge, so put whatever you’re not going to use into the freezer when you get home from work. Viola. I’ve now got enough beans to last us several weeks, for less than the cost of one week’s worth.

It’s an old trick, reapplied. Anything I’m reaching to buy, I’m asking myself if I can get the raw materials for it and make it myself. If I’ve got red leaf lettuce on sale and romaine not…what’s the nutritional and taste difference? I can substitute arugula or mustard greens for escarole, get my grains in bulk from BulkFoods.com, make my own whole wheat, low fat bread.

This diet is still going to be more expensive than the ‘whatever was on sale’ cooking I usually do. And I’m probably going to be shrieking in dismay fairly regularly as I’m loading up my fridge with crisp, healthy fronds.

But on the other hand…my husband lost nine pounds in the first week. And I’m fitting into my jeans better – usually I’ve been making that “…well, you know how it is, putting on jeans that were just washed…” excuse during my morning huff-n-puff session. But the last few days, even right out of the dryer, they’re zipping up nicely and without a whole lot of groaning.

Which is good. Because honestly, having to start your day with a wrestling match against an inanimate object – and losing?!

Not fun. Not fun at all…

No comments: