Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Outraged yet? Pay attention!

One of my favorite buttons says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I pay a lot of attention, so that should explain much to the people who know me.

"I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’ Well, I’m not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot - I don’t want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!’ So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"--Quote from the movie Network (1976)

On Friday I completed the Live Below the Line Challenge which I wrote about with tips and recipes (of a sort) on this blog. The challenge (to which you can still donate here) opened up a lot of conversation with people I know--and a few I never met before--and many of these people either had tales or tips from their lives living on little money or questions asking for advice or tips from me.

One friend told me of going to a food bank:
"I was grateful for the help but blown away by the quantities of sugar they gave me. I understand processed foods like mac and cheese and canned veggies because they keep and are easy to donate. But why did they give me 5 packages of cookies, frosted flakes and 2 bags of marshmallows? A box of 'nilla wafers and two packages of sugar wafers too. There was way more than that in terms of sugar. They gave me beef liver and some kidneys, which I would not know what to do with even if I did eat organ meat. I guess that is what people donated and I should not be upset because I am taking a hand out."

Outraged yet? This person is not taking a government "hand out" (I am using quotes, because I don't see programs such as SNAP to be hand outs) but utilizing the charity of the citizens in the area. Compassionate conservatism, right? And for one's integrity, one gets marshmallows, cookies and kidneys. And we wonder why there is an obesity epidemic. Not only do we, as a culture, eat this way, but we see so little wrong with eating this way, that we consider marshmallows appropriate "food" to donate to those in need. I'm not saying we don't all deserve a cookie now and again, regardless of our station in life, but if you are donating a case of marshmallows and no vegetables or pasta or beans or rice to a food bank, then you might want to reconsider your own eating habits. And if you own a business and are donating a case of marshmallows which is about to expire so you can get a tax write-off, you might want to consider making a "real" donation, as well, so your conscious can stay crystal clear. And--hey!--extra tax write-off!

For the challenge, I just utilized things I've learned over the years. Yes, we used to be "poor." We utilized Medical Assistance, CHIP, WIC, SNAP and even, briefly, TANF. Here are some of those things:

  • Rice, beans, lentils and grains (like barley and wheat berries) are cheap in bulk and can be combined in infinite ways for breakfast, dinner and lunch and the leftovers always taste better than the first day, so you're less likely to waste leftovers. You just have to plan ahead because of the soaking. But you can soak a bunch a the beginning of the week and keep in the fridge until you're ready to cook. They are all pretty good sources of protein, as well, except for rice.
  • Nuts and nut butters are great sources of protein and not too expensive.
  • Eggs are a cheap source of protein and aminos.
  • You can add anything to pasta. (ANYTHING! Veggies, nut butter, sauces galore, butter, oil, spices, herbs, meat, eggs, fish, beans. Seriously: anything!) And pasta is cheap and filling and great reheated as leftovers.
  • Greens are probably cheaper bought frozen or bought in bulk and prepared for the freezer yourself [I highly recommend the previous link for instructions on freezing greens], because you won't have them going bad in your fridge if you don't want to eat the same ones three days in a row.
  • Weighing and measuring ingredients and portions allowed me to know almost exactly how much a meal cost and how many calories and grams of fat/protein/et cetera. So a good set of measuring cups and spoons and scale are important.
  • Freezing things like pesto, minced garlic, chopped onions and peppers in airtight bags or containers let's you buy items in bulk when they are on sale and makes it super easy when it's time to cook. (I did baby food this way when the kids were little as well. Cook, puree and freeze in ice cube trays. Pop the cubes into a freezer bag.)
  • Having a wide variety of condiments, seasonings, dried herbs and spices is important because it allows you infinite varieties with few ingredients. Buying these items in bulk is easy since they generally last forever under proper storage conditions. You can buy one or two bulk items a month until you've built up your cupboard.
  • TVP is a great meat "stretcher" or substitute, stores wonderfully and can be bought in bulk cheaply. I have a vegan "sloppy joe" recipe using TVP instead of ground meat, and you cannot tell the difference.
  • I learned to make a lot of things on the cheap from the Tightwad Gazette books. (Taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup mix, muffins using leftovers--don't forget to freeze extra muffins for later, shake 'n' bake, baby wipes--I used this a LOT and saved a LOT of money when my youngest was in diapers, but I used cut up flannel and terry, rather than paper towels as we did cloth diapers--and on and on...) I highly recommend checking your library for them if you can't afford to buy the compendium. (Don't forget, libraries will try to order books they don't have if they think it's a good addition to the collection. All you have to do is ask.)
  • Crock-pots! Crock-pot meals are not only easy, but help with eating on the cheap. There are a ton of great crock-pot recipes on the web, but one of my favorites is A Year of Slow Cooking.
  • The website MyFridgeFood is new to me, but really helpful if the cupboards are getting low or you have a craving for a specific ingredient but don't know what to make with it.
  • Sprouts are easy, even if you aren't a "green thumb," cheap when you buy bulk seeds, nutritious and can be used in myriad ways. Plus they are a fun project to do with your children. Even picky kids will eat healthier if they helped to make the food.
So, I hope you can use some of these tips, no matter what your economic situation and pass them along. These tips are a great starting point for eating less animal protein, saving money, using less packaging, consuming fewer "Big Food" products and getting creative with your diet.

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