Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bah, Humbug!

I'll say this clearly. I am not a Christian (although I respect my Christian friends' and relatives' beliefs as long as they don't "proselytize" all over mine ;-) ).

That said, what is it with "bah-humbugging" all over the greeting "Merry Christmas," anyway? So okay, Christians intend it as a recognition of Jesus' birth (even though the man wasn't really born then), and what of it?

You may call that "proselytizing," too, but you know? Whether or not it's meant that way, you don't have to take it that way. Plenty of other folks (me included) mean it as an innocuous, cheery greeting representative of the holiday itself: good feelings, good food and once-a-year treats, good times with friends and family, Christmas trees, having fun, presents and Santa, Rudolph's brave plight, all that.

So go on; relax already. And oh, yeah: Merry Christmas. :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The fish is ...

... swimming away from my diet, for the most part. I posted a bit ago here that to my chagrin, I felt I had to include some fish in my diet suddenly (after more than 25 years with nary a carnivorous twitch), because for some reason, I just needed the extra protein punch. It's been a couple of months now and I am happy to report that those cravings have eased significantly. Not entirely gone, and maybe they never will be, but I so much enjoy being largely vegan again. That's just me. :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two "flexitarians" in the house?

Hmm. Okay; so I am still feeling a little bit guilty about doing the fish thing a couple of times a week, but I also realized something else. I apparently have had a "veggie" impact on my boyfriend, such that he's become a "flexitarian" himself. He used to be much more of a diehard meat eater than he is now. He still does burgers a couple of times a week (I just leave the room when he's cooking them), but he does a lot more without meat than he used to. And, there are a lot more fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge than there used to be for him -- and we're both actually eating them. So although I've had a slide in the opposite direction, somewhat, he's actually come more toward being vegetarian. Both healthier for it? Most certainly. Cheaper grocery bill, too? You bet.

So for those of us who have had to go back to eating a little bit of meat or fish after many years without, we can at least rest assured that at least we do have somewhat of an impact, apparently, on helping those around us eat healthier even as we strive to. (And of course, this helps our animal friends out as well.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gimme a break: Soda's not "food"

There's a TV ad (in the US) running right now against the proposed soda tax where a (slender, natch) "mom" begs the government not to impose it because it's already expensive to "feed" families and this would make it more so. NOT! Soda isn't a real food, and is nowhere near "nutritious"! So just don't buy it if you can't afford it. Problem solved. (And psst, your kids just might be healthier for it, too.)

I'm for the tax, personally. We got soda as a treat every now and then when I was growing up, but we didn't get to drink it like water. (We got to drink *water* like water; funny thing.) Imposing a tax might just offset the healthcare costs that can come from too many unhealthy food choices -- including too much soda -- even if it won't necessarily stop people from buying nutritional "junk" like soda as food staples.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More protein, please

This flies in the face of everything I truly knew as a vegan for 25 years, but as a 40-something woman, protein seems to be of paramount importance all of a sudden. Things have changed drastically. Until now, I actually favored complex carbs over "too much" protein to feel my best (which isn't hard to do, since beans have a nice complex carb mix and fiber along with the protein punch), but now, things are shifting. Before, "too much" protein (even from veggie sources) left me tired, cranky, and craving bread, rice, or pasta. But now, I figure I'm easily getting 20% more protein than I was just a month ago, and carbs are no longer such a favorite. The result is a clearer head, more energy, and (yay!) some pretty decent muscles showing up, finally, from workouts.

Can you do that with vegan sources? Lots of people probably can, and I first tried peanuts, soy, then (at least still vegetarian) eggs to try to get what I needed before I started on the fish. So if you're vegan/vegetarian and just can't seem to shake a hungry "muddled" feeling that's new, you might want to give some moderate protein boosting a try. It just might fix things for you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just like any religion …

… vegetarianism has its zealots who think that their way is the only right way to think, to be, to live. (Not all, just a few.) It's one thing to know unshakably that something is right for you, but entirely another to try to project that on others, besides. These folks'll try any number of tactics to bring everyone to "their" way of thinking, too. Shock, with horrid pictures of suffering animals pasted on placards (or on websites), shame, coercion, bullying, etc. – all for the sake of peace and innocence, of course. ;-)

But I've also noticed something else. It doesn't work for long, and hooray for that. My sincerest admiration goes to those who won't be coerced by such low-life tactics.

People may be repulsed in the short term, but they're usually so disgusted and dismayed that it drives them further away from trying vegetarianism, instead of drawing them closer. They might even continue to eat meat defiantly because they don't want to be like "those people."

I've also noticed something else. Those same people who won't be coerced are also usually kind, thoughtful people, many of them animal lovers. They just aren't vegetarians. And these kind, thoughtful people are pleasantly surprised to learn that they can make a positive impact to lessening animal cruelty and to the environment by a few small changes in behavior. Like going meatless a few meals a week, or only buying free range, or refusing to wear fur. Rendering a little education is much better – and far more respectful – than being a bully.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Starting to be convinced

About three weeks into this new "not quite vegan" lifestyle, the psychological struggles are starting to abate and I'm just starting to admit that darn it, I feel better physically than I have recently as a complete vegan. All for a couple of servings of fish a week.

For one, I have a lot more energy and can concentrate better. I wasn't sure at first, but I'm starting to be convinced that it's because of the fish. It wasn't always that way, by the way; in my younger days, I never ever thought that I would eat meat again after I became vegetarian at 18. (Actually, after that initial assessment, I never gave it a thought for the next 28 years or so.)

And number two, I have a lot more stamina when I work out than I've had for probably the last year or so. I'm not sure when the shift happened, because it didn't occur to me to try anything to fix it or even that anything was really wrong until I just had a craving for fish one day (for the record, I've never really liked fish before this even when I did eat meat and never thought I would). Then presto, a little fish, and it's like I'm on speed -- only in a good way.

I've always said that some people need meat and shouldn't be belittled just because they do, but it never occurred to me before this that individuals probably have different needs throughout their lives and that even once-vegetarians can become "flexitarians," or part-time vegetarians, when the need arises, such as when they get older. And, as it turns out, there may be some science to this.

In part because I was trying to make myself feel better about this shift, I was reading up on this and I found out that middle-aged women (of which I'm one) tend to need more protein, and more concentrated protein, to help build bone mass just before they reach menopause. If that's true, then I'm relieved to be where I am, that's for sure.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Disappointment

I know this blog doesn't have a huge following, but dammit! One of the things I'm struggling with is that I feel as though I've "let people down" by having to include fish in my diet again. And again, intellectually I don't agree with that; I'd be the first to say, "Have your fish, if that's what you need" to anyone. The reality of oh-so-messy feelings is quite different, though.

The intent of this blog, and the website before it, was never to do what so many vegan sites do, which is to try to convert folks to being full-time vegetarians or vegans, or even to provide a cozy spot for veggies-only to sit a spell (though you most certainly are welcome to; it's just not the main focus). There are already plenty of those kinds of blogs and sites.

Instead, I just wanted to kind of bring the two camps together – meat eaters and veggies – so that in some small way, any kind of militancy would stop and both sides could start talking about solutions to all of the problems we face now; solutions to help end commercial meat production and bring it back to free range, humane practices; solutions whereby just maybe, people would give careful thought to what they were eating so that even if they did need to eat meat, they could think about where it was coming from and scale back consumption a bit to help out the environment and give less business to the meat industry.

And I'll continue to do that, even as I assimilate this new identity for myself. Things are just going to be a bit fragmented for a while until I can do that, so bear with me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One thing about the grocery bill …

… is that the "fish twice a week" thing actually is less expensive than the completely vegan diet (even from scratch, as I cook), because I eat a lot less and rarely get hungry. So I like the convenience of not having to eat so often (or as much), and I like the savings. Still, having to adjust to knowing I'm eating a poor defenseless animal bites. Aargh! :-) Knowing too much can suck sometimes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More on this "new" identity

It's strange. I've never been of the opinion that *everyone* can be vegetarian or vegan, because each of us has different dietary needs. So I'd be the first one to tell someone in my shoes who has begun to eat fish or meat again that if that's what had to be done, so be it. And just like so much else, it's a lot easier said than done. Because … it's okay if it happens to "other" people, but not me. Yep; double standard. Imperfect, contradictory thinking, trying to sort this all out.

Because here's the thing. Now I suddenly "need" a little fish a couple of times a week. Not sure why, but I suspect my age (46) and a ramped up workout program might have something to do with it. Building muscle, and I can't be as efficient as I once was at it because I'm older, so I need a more concentrated protein source than beans and rice can provide? (I even tried eggs and soy protein powder, to no avail. Fish was the only thing that "clicked in" and made me feel energetic again.)

So, okay, it makes me feel better physically, but I still struggle ethically with it. How many other vegans or vegetarians have spent the last 25 years not once thinking about eating meat or fish, and secure in the knowledge that no animal was going to suffer because of them today – only to have that vanish the instant their bodies said they needed something they didn't want? And how many like me struggle with that and do it anyway, because they somehow must? That's where I am at the moment; I'll continue to sort this out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A change

This "lazy vegan" isn't quite one any longer. For the past couple of weeks, I've felt the need to add a little fish to my diet, this after more than 25 years without anything of the sort. So I guess you "never say never."

I continue to support veganism, vegetarianism, and anyone who wants to try it even part time. (And actually, I still eat a mostly vegan diet, but with a couple of servings of fish thrown in every so often.) It feels strange to have a need to eat fish, and I struggle with my own feelings on that. But I've also always supported those who "need" meat and fish, and I guess I should count myself among them. This will continue to evolve, I'm sure, and I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sorry about that!

It was brought to my attention yesterday that there was no "comments" section in my blog. (I don't get very many comments anyway, so I didn't notice. ;-) ) I've been tweaking my blog set up a little bit and somehow the "comments" section got turned off. It's back up and running and yes, I do want your comments if you want to submit them.

Thanks,

Kim

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When life's a struggle

Tough economic times are ahead for a lot of people right now because of the state the economy is in, and it's no different for vegans, either. Yes, we can eat more cheaply than most people, but we still have other bills to pay just like most folks, and sometimes the money just isn't there, or it's going to be delayed.

When it gets to that point, I really start taking things one day at a time; is there any choice? Freelancing sets you up to have this skill, anyway, because it's a pretty spotty way to live, financially, for most people. You have times of plenty when you put away the extra (and long for sleep ;-) ), and times of scarcity when you coast for a little while on what you've got saved (and hope the next job pops real soon, even as you catch up on sleep). And usually, if you're lucky and frugal enough, the next job(s) pop before the money runs out.

Tunnel vision can be helpful

At that time, it's helpful to have tunnel vision, because there really isn't anything you can do, so you just look at what can happen the next day. If you're going to be okay the next day, the next week, bravo. Time to concentrate on finding some work. And if you're not, well, usually, you still get by.

Thing is, this too shall pass. We've got a good President, as it appears, in office who just might bring us out of this; if relatively similar circumstances in the '30s are any indication, we've been through this before and are set to prosper even more after things have settled down. I watch every news conference he holds with excitement and hope. He's not a god, to be sure, and he can't fix everything, nor can he do anything overnight. But he does appear to be listening to people and focusing on what needs to be done, and that's a good sign.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Are there any "cants" when it comes to being vegan?

Being vegan is a very personal choice, and if you've decided to adopt this lifestyle, you might think that now, you're suddenly bound by a strict set of rules that says you can never have animal products at any time, either in your diet or in your life in general.

However, that's not necessarily true. Because being vegan is such a personal choice, yes, you're going to find people who strictly adopt being vegan in every single segment of their lives. And if so, bravo. That's their choice, certainly.

However, that kind of strict focus can be detrimental, too. If you've decided to become vegan and adopt a purely strict vegan lifestyle in every sense right away, it can be quite difficult to live your life. For example, there are many, many products you wouldn't otherwise think of that have animal byproducts in their makeups, including even such things as some elements of computer ware. Most strict vegans, too, probably unknowingly use at least some animal byproducts occasionally simply because they're largely unavoidable in modern society.

The "danger" of strict veganism

What's perhaps "dangerous" about strict veganism, especially those who are newly trying it out, is that it's so strict it may be impossible to keep up, and may tempt you to give up the veganism altogether. If that's you, then I would encourage you not to be so strict with yourself. "Mostly" vegan is still better than "not" vegan, as the situation applies to you.

Instead, do the best you can and start out slowly; cut out animal products from your diet if you can so that at least you know you're not consuming animal products this way (this is where the bulk of animal products' consumption comes in), then slowly look at the rest of your life, too, and make changes there as you can. (By the way, many of we vegans have vegan diets, but still use animal byproducts in the rest of our lives, such as to feed our pets; this means that many in the vegan population are not purely strict with their veganism, in that they use absolutely no animal products whatsoever. This is unrealistic for many people, and therefore not everyone follows this focus.)

Remember that even "a little" is better than nothing. If you can't be perfectly strict in your veganism at least at first, that's okay. You may find as time goes on that you can cut other products out of your life comfortably once looking for alternatives becomes a way of life. And that may be the best way to live a comfortable AND conscientious vegan lifestyle.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fitting in

One of the things that being vegetarian or vegan for most of my life has taught me is that it's really okay to be different. I came to vegetarianism relatively early in life (18), which is just about when you're stopping your quest to "fit in" and beginning to find out who you really are.

This was really good, because when you're "different," people tease you and sometimes are outright hostile to you about what you believe. Or, they expect you to be hostile to them because they don't ascribe to *your* beliefs. It certainly gives you a backbone and gets you used to handling people who think they can embarrass you or otherwise take you back to those days in junior high when bullies really did embarrass you just for fun and think it was "cool."

That's true of a lot of things that happen, of course, but being vegetarian (or part of any group that's outside of the mainstream) puts you a little bit outside of everyone else and can make you do two things. Negatively, of course, it can make you feel as though you're superior to everyone else because you ascribe to this "healthier" and more "responsible" lifestyle. That's not really true, because vegetarians too have bad habits, no matter how hard they try.

Positively, though, it can give you a sense of independence that lets you think outside the "groupspeak" when you have to. Not all the time, of course, but you already know you're living a different life than a lot of people are, so you're used to being at odds with others sometimes and are comfortable with that feeling.

It's not perfect, of course, and even as an adult I'm still tempted to be embarrassed by people who try to make me so for whatever reason. For example, some of the comments I get on this blog are attempts to embarrass me out of my mindset that not everyone, necessarily, should be vegetarian, or that I should be ashamed because I think that way. And yes, sometimes, I can be as tempted as anyone to act that way, too. But I'm glad I've had the training (if you can call it that) to be able to stay outside of that type of behavior a lot of the time when it pops up. Just another advantage to being vegetarian. :-)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Keeping things secret?

Most of the thinking I do about being a vegan or vegetarian comes from, of course, my perspective and those of my friends who share this lifestyle with me. But I've noticed that there's kind of a funny conundrum going on sometimes.

Whether or not you want to be vegan or vegetarian full-time, most people would agree that doing so least part time is good for your health. That assumes, of course, that you eat veggies, beans, whole grains, and (if vegetarian) low-fat dairy as part of your efforts to go vegetarian/vegan, not that you simply load up on the cheese pizza, potato chips, and anything else that can classify as "vegetarian" but is still junk food.

But there's almost sort of a … not guilt, but a propensity sometimes to try not to be found out that you're actually going vegetarian part time by your more diehard meat eating friends. After all, you might get a little razzed for being a "tree hugger" or some other such namby-pamby term.

So it's really funny, because I've had more than one person over the years, especially recently, kind of sidle up to me and whisper, "I eat vegetarian three days a week," or something similar as though it's a big secret. And I guess it is, really.

The point is, I wish people didn't have to be embarrassed about the healthy, conscientious food choices they make. If they are, though, then I guess keeping a secret is worth having one more person jump on the veggie wagon at least part-time and therefore save their health, our friends in the animal kingdom, and of course the environment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Lazy Vegan and the "latte factor"

If you've been to visit my website or have read my blog before, you probably know that I ascribe to something called the "Lazy Vegan" lifestyle. And as far as finances go, I keep my grocery budget, among other things, as small as possible. It's pretty easy to do, and it can even help you get out of debt.

The latte factor

How so? There's something financial experts sometimes call the "latte factor," meaning incremental expenses that nonetheless add up over time and that could be cut pretty painlessly from your budget. Things like that latte from Starbucks on your way to work (take coffee from home instead), eating out (bring your lunch to work), and so on.

But the latte factor applies to more than just small expenses that you don't need and could come out of your budget fairly easily. It's something you can do with your grocery budget, too. And that's where the "Lazy Vegan" element comes in.

Take a look at your grocery budget

Take a look at your grocery budget once. (And if you don't have one, this might help you out even more than someone who already has a budget.)

How much of the food you buy could either be made much more cheaply at home (and isn't right now), or could be cut out altogether? Chances are a lot of it could.

Getting out of debt the Lazy Vegan way

Now, I've got a challenge for you. If you're in debt (or just watching your finances very, very carefully) and you want to get out, there's a way you can probably cut your expenses and then apply that extra to getting out of debt. Unless you've already cut your grocery budget to the bone, I'm going to wager that you don't currently feed yourself or your family for, say, three dollars a day per person, maybe less if the folks in your family happen to be vegan or vegetarian.

Now, take a look at your grocery budget again. How much do you spend for groceries in a month? Take that three dollars a day per person, multiply by the number of people in your family, and then multiply it by 30 (an average number of days in a month). Is the figure you get less than what you currently spend on groceries?

If it is, guess what? You just found a relatively simple way to save some money and maybe conjure up some extra cash for yourself (and to pay off those debts).

It may not happen overnight, but you can teach yourself how to cook from-scratch healthy meals for very little, and you don't have to like to cook either. (I know; a common theme here, but bear with me.)
So the first month you try this, take the Lazy Vegan master shopping list (on the Lazy Vegan website at: http://home.earthlink.net/~kimcof/mastershoplist.html), tweak it to remove foods you absolutely hate and add ones you need and like (like meat, different vegetables, etc.), and go shopping. Again, give yourself a budget of three dollars per day per person, times the number of days you're shopping for. So if you're shopping for a week for three people, that's nine dollars a day time seven days, which gives you a budget of $63 for the week. Four people, $12 a day times seven is $84. You get the drift.

So that's your challenge. Now, take a look at the shopping list. You'll notice that just about everything on there is about as basic as it gets, meaning it's not processed, prepared, packaged, etc. (except for things like peanut butter and canned tomatoes, things like that; no mac and cheese, though).

I'll bet you that you can fill up your shopping cart with enough food for everyone in your family and stay pretty close to your new grocery budget. Depending on where you live in the country (like New York), you will probably have to pay more, but in some cases, you might even be able to pay less.

Now what?

Now, you've got lots of ingredients so that you have to cook from scratch, and that's where things like the crockpot and bread machine come in. If you can't afford a crockpot or bread machine and you don't already have these, you might be able to buy one with what you've saved in groceries, or you can borrow them temporarily to give this a try and then get your own once you know this works.

If and when it comes time to invest in a crockpot and bread machine and you don't have them, check thrift stores; they're notorious for having these things very inexpensively. I have two bread machines, I got them for $10 each at Goodwill. I paid $20 for each of my crockpots new. Freecycle is also another good place to get what you need, for nothing. Check their website at www.freecycle.org for a group near you.

Try it

I'll bet you be surprised at how easy this is once you get the hang of it. (And I'd be interested to hear how you do with this if you decide to give this a go, too.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A "little slip"?

I've occasionally heard vegans and vegetarians talk about having "a little slip," or sometimes a major one, if they jump off the vegan or vegetarian bandwagon temporarily and indulge in the land of dairy or even carnivorous delights before going back to usual plant-based culinary pursuits.

Usually, this pronouncement of having a "slip" is done with a fair amount of guilt. It's as though being a vegan or vegetarian is a full-time religion that one simply must pursue to perfection, no matter what deprivations must occur to be successful. And if one fails, self-flagellation must occur. Right?

Well, not so fast, I think. Now, I'm all for having a conscience, and I'm certainly aware that eating a healthy diet is necessary. I'm also all for being vegan or vegetarian if that's what your body needs and it's important to you. And yes, I do think that even those people who decide they must continue to eat meat can probably cut back pretty substantially and therefore save both our animal friends and the environment a lot of grief, even if they can't give it up altogether.

But what is it with the guilt, already? Do we have to define an occasional dabble in dairy or even meat as failure if we decide to pursue a veggie lifestyle? I don't think so; I've said before that I don't think we know everything about the human body or what it needs, so maybe an occasional craving like that is just a means to make sure we get something we need. Or maybe it's just that you have a sudden craving for meat or dairy after X years of not having it.

So, why not indulge -- without the guilt? Chances are it's something that's going to happen only occasionally anyway, unless you decide one day that a completely veggie lifestyle isn't for you anymore. People have been known to change on that, too.

Regardless, though, it really is true that most veggies (full or part-time) are conscientious about food choices, as well as the impact they have on the environment and on the animal population. That really does put us ahead of the crowd, to my thinking. And that careful sense of responsibility we carry with us should be enough to assuage the guilt for an occasional "slip," if it happens.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Can you be a vegetarian or vegan if you don't like vegetables?

I can go in on my blog site and look at keywords people are using to search with when they find my blog (whether they're actually looking for me or not), and it gives me ideas sometimes on what I can write about. One particular keyword search I saw recently asked something to the effect of, "Can you be vegan if you don't like vegetables?"

Yes, you probably can be, but here's the thing; you'll have to eat the vegetables anyway, because you can't be a HEALTHY vegan and not eat vegetables. (Really, though, you can't be a healthy omnivore, either, and not eat vegetables.)

Now, I realize people really, truly do have aversions to particular foods for what are probably valid health reasons. For example, I really, truly can't stomach meat. It makes me ill to both smell it and to try to digest it. My particular physiological makeup not only does just fine without meat, but it does better without it than it does with it.

Can the same be true of vegetables? Maybe for a specific vegetable, but what I'd ask the person who doesn't like vegetables in general is whether or not he or she has really tried to eat them; I ate meat, for example, for 18 years before I became a vegetarian, and during that whole time I ate meat, I didn't quite feel right but I thought you had to eat meat to be healthy. Once I removed the meat from my diet, presto. I instantly felt better.

Age has something to do with it

One of the reasons vegetables can taste bitter to younger people especially is because as we get older, tastebuds develop and get more mature so that you begin to like flavors you didn't previously; for example, a lot of vegetables have both bitter and "astringent" flavors to them that often take a bit of tastebud maturity to really begin to like. So if you're a young person and you don't like vegetables, wait a bit. As you get older, it's likely that you will like at least some vegetables, and you should always give things another try every few years to see if your taste buds have changed, assuming you're not actually allergic to them. (I love most vegetables, but two I still can't stomach despite trying to get used to them are brussels sprouts and rutabaga; I do give them a taste every couple of years, though.)

Lots of choice, so lots of things to experiment with when it comes to vegetables

With meat, you've only got what are probably four main choices of meat (poultry, fish, beef, and pork). So if you don't like meat, you're pretty much out of luck when it comes to choices. With vegetables, though, you've got lots and lots of different choices; if you don't like one type of vegetable, you've still got lots of choices to try. Chances are, you'll find at least five or six vegetables you really do like if you give it an honest shot. You can put those in your diet first, and slowly expand out from there as your palate gets used to the taste of vegetables.

Masking the flavor healthfully

If you really can't stand the taste of vegetables at least at first, there is a way to mask the flavor healthfully (no butter or excess salt). Put just a drop or two of stevia in them to give them a bit of a sweet flavor that's healthy. Not a lot, just a drop or two, then mix very thoroughly (stevia is VERY sweet when undiluted). It will give you time to adjust to the taste so that you can stop using it once you've learned to appreciate the taste of vegetables. (And of course, you can always make sure you get a couple of servings of fresh fruit a day right off the bat even if you don't like vegetables at first.)

If a vegetable dislike sticks with you

If a particular vegetable you're trying still doesn't taste good to you after you've given it a fair try (assuming you don't already know you're allergic to it and therefore shouldn't try it at all), I honestly do think your body's trying to tell you something and that you shouldn't have it. I think our bodies are smarter than we are about a lot of things and really do know when something isn't good for us if we listen to them. That said, though, there are still a lot of choices available to you that you should try even if you find you don't like a particular kind of vegetable. Happy eating!

More on eating for about a dollar a day, "lazy vegan" style

Yesterday, I posted that I ate comfortably and well on a little more than a dollar a day without having to cook much. I can do that because I buy only whole ingredients (except for an occasional treat), cook from scratch, and only eat nutritious foods, for the most part (no junk food). I also use crock-pots and a bread machine to make most of my meals so that I don't spend a lot of time cooking. And, I bulk cook and freeze a lot so that I can cook two or three days a month if that and then spend the rest of the month eating the results without having to do any other cooking.

It's really easy to cook this way, but you don't necessarily have to do it exactly the way I do it to be successful at it. I bulk cook and freeze most things, but you don't have to; a small crock-pot and a bread machine are still going to get you some really decent meals very cheaply even if you have to do it more often than two or three days a month, for very little work. I can bulk cook and freeze far ahead because I have a 13 cubic foot freezer (bought specifically for this purpose), but I realize a lot of folks aren't going to have that.

Recipes

I've been asked to post some recipes and shopping tips, and instead of reposting everything here, I'll just direct you to my website. Again, that's at:

http://home.earthlink.net/~kimcof/lazyvegan.htm

It's not very well organized right now because I originally started writing the content there as a newsletter; I just posted back issues of the newsletter in chronological order on the website so that people who didn't have them could go get them. Every issue has a recipe, cooking tips, shopping tips, etc., but if you're looking for something specific, it's a little hard to find it the way things are organized right now. I will reorganize the site so that cooking tips, shopping tips, the grocery lists, and all of those things are easy to access from the blog itself.

Some tips on "lazy cooking and shopping"

For brevity, though, I'll just outline a couple of things I do here so that I can eat for what amounts to a little bit more than a dollar a day now.

· I shop once a month, which forces me to really think about what I'm going to be buying and stay within a budget. (You can buy fresh, hardy fruits and vegetables that keep and frozen fruits and vegetables for variety, which means you don't have to be running out to the store every minute; that can cause you to spend more.)

· I basically buy the same ingredients as staples month-to-month, but have learned to make different recipes from them.

· I bulk shop at a local stock up store (here, it's Aldi) for nonperishable things like canned goods, coffee, generic koolaid, etc., every three or four months. They're about half the price of the local grocery store even for its sale prices. Then I just hit the local grocery store for items that won't keep long term.

· I have perhaps a dozen entrĂ©e recipes that I can just throw together and then freeze, plus a favorite bread recipe and several healthy dessert recipes that I work with most of the time. I don't get bored easily when it comes to food, so having a relatively limited menu works for me; you could spice it up for yourself if you need more variety than I do.

Finally, my "master shopping list" is on the Lazy Vegan website here:

http://home.earthlink.net/~kimcof/mastershoplist.html

It has all the ingredients I purchase and just keep in the pantry, fridge and freezer all the time to make the meals I always have on hand. When I made the list, I also included blanks for folks to put in things they need that I don't (like meat if they don't happen to be vegan or vegetarian).

That should get you started if you're interested in giving this a try, and again, I'll try to get the website organized this week so that you can find recipes and other tips more easily than you can now.

Best,
Kim

Friday, January 30, 2009

Can you really eat on a dollar a day and NOT be hungry?

With the economy slumping, we're all looking for ways to tighten our belts. A recent widely publicized blog had a young couple trying to eat on a dollar a day each to see what it was like and to bring attention to hunger. (Admirably, they donated proceeds from the publicity and from the difference in their food budget to charity.)

But one of the things I noticed about what they did was that even when they were trying to eat cheaply, they used at least some refined, processed foods, things like fresh strawberries, tofu "turkey," and so on. Those are pretty expensive foods when you're trying to eat cheaply. And they drank Tang, which is a pretty pricey drink for what it is, that's mostly water and sugar. Myself, I drink water or generic koolaid I buy from a store called Aldi, and I sweeten it with stevia. It costs me about $0.10 to make two quarts of koolaid that way.

Using inexpensive, whole foods to cook from scratch

Now, I've been a "lazy vegan" for 25 years, and I've been doing most of my own from scratch cooking for about a dollar a day since about 1995, when I really rolled up my sleeves and got down to work learning how to use a crockpot and bread machine. Actually, from about 1995 to about 2005, I really did eat on a dollar a day (and not starving or dieting at all) or a little less, without even trying.

Not quite a dollar a day, but close

For about the past … say, three years, I haven't been able to quite squeak by on a dollar a day. It's more like $1.20 a day. Food prices have gone up substantially and I'm not willing to be really hungry (nor is it healthy to do so) or to cut back unless I really, really have to.

The point of this is, though, you really don't have to starve or go hungry to eat on about a dollar a day or a little more -- and you don't have to dumpster dive like "freegans" do unless you want to.

You do have to do most of your cooking from scratch and cook from healthy, whole ingredients instead of from prepared foods. Prepared foods are what cost you money, and that includes so-called "fake meat" for us vegans. Stick with whole, "can't get any simpler" ingredients like beans, whole-wheat flour (make your own bread by using a bread machine) and other whole grains like brown rice, fresh in season veggies and frozen veggies, fresh and frozen fruits without sugar added, some meat if you need it, and so on.

I've posted about it here before, but I've got a website at http://home.earthlink.net/~kimcof/lazyvegan.htm that I started before I started this blog; really, this blog replaced it. There are some simple recipes there to get you started, tips on using a crockpot and bread machine to make most of your meals for you, and a basic explanation of the "lazy vegan" lifestyle as it relates to cooking. It's vegan-based, but I've tried to include substitution tips for people who eat meat too.

I personally hate to cook and do everything I can to avoid it, but using a crockpot and bread machine lets me eat as though I bought all my meals ready made without the expense, and not much more work. And it's healthier, too, since I can control the ingredients in what I eat.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The economy, veganism and vegetarianism (including part-time), and weight

If you've been reading about the economy and the papers lately, one of the things you might have noticed is that pundits are actually thinking a bad economy might make us as Americans MORE obese, not less. That sounds counterintuitive, doesn't it? You'd think with less money, we'd have less money to buy food, and therefore, we would all lose weight. But that's not necessarily true.

Why? Because "cheap" foods like white flour, white bread, and macaroni and cheese stretch food dollars further, that's true. However, they are also nutritionally bereft of just about everything but calories.

There's another point to this, too. With empty calories, your blood sugar zooms up and down, which leaves you hungrier sooner, and therefore likely to eat more. What can you do instead?

Stretch things with beans

No, no, I'm not saying you have to become completely vegetarian or vegan if you're not one. But here's the thing; beans are a whole lot cheaper than meat as a protein source, and they fill you up, too. And because they have both soluble and insoluble fiber in them, they're going to help you get and stay "regular," and they'll actually help you lower your cholesterol, too.

So instead of trying to stretch your food dollars by buying "empty calorie" foods, stretch them by using beans along with some meat to bulk up your protein sources, and then spend a few bucks on some fresh or frozen vegetables, too.

Your budget

Try this: Give yourself a food budget of, say, $100 a week for a family of four. (If it has to be less, that's okay; you can just buy a little less meat and a few more beans, vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, etc., than you would with a little more money.) You'd be surprised at what you can get with that if you're careful. Concentrate on buying the fruits, veggies, and beans first (along with some dairy as applicable), and then buy the meat as the last thing you get.

You'd be surprised at how much food you get for $100. The meat can flavor the meals you make with other protein sources like beans so that you still feel satisfied, but they're a lot healthier with a few beans tossed in and a lot cheaper, too.

Using a crockpot

Crockpots are one of the best ways to make hearty soups and stews with a little bit of meat thrown in for flavor, but stretched with beans and veggies for the best value and good health, too. And, they make cooking easier. Give them a try.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oh, and Puritan's Pride stevia …

… has no aftertaste (thanks to FeedBurner for showing me my keyword searches, although this probably won't help the person who was looking for that info). It's as good as any other I've tried, and generally clocks in at about half the price of other places. (NAYY; I just like Puritan's Pride.) Hope that helps someone!

Ain't it the truth?

I read other people's blogs a lot, and on one blog I'm following (hey, BJ :-) ), the writer talks about how friends and family were all about appearances and spending a lot for Christmas, even during these tough economic times.

The thing is, that's been true a lot for me, too, only I've never really been a big spender before this, and I'm uncomfortable with this value system that says we should have to try to keep up with the Joneses, always have been. I don't necessarily get nasty reactions from people when I don't; it's more, "Oh, that's too bad you don't have enough money." That can be a little frustrating sometimes, considering that the people who say that to me probably don't have enough money either, but they do it anyway. So I've always been a bit out of step with what at least seemed to be the general mindset of, "Spend, spend, spend" before this little economic crash we're having.

A "good" thing?

I get a lot of people riled up when I talk about how this economic recession or depression or whatever you want to call it might actually be a "good" thing, in some ways. Not the massive loss of jobs, no, but the so-called "credit crisis" in general. You see, the so-called economic "health" we've been experiencing has actually been built on debt in large part, for a long time. Our own debt, our government's debt, and so on. Fake money, in other words. So maybe this correction we're undergoing is actually going to put us back in the mindset our parents or grandparents had, which is that you only buy what you can afford and nothing more, using real money that you actually earn before you spend it.

In some ways, I'm lucky because I'm single and I've never had to discuss my finances with anyone else, so my money has always been my own to earn and spend, without having to worry about what others might think. (I do have a boyfriend, but he feels exactly the way I do about spending and is just as frugal as I am, so we have no disagreements there.) And freelancing can be spotty indeed, with good times and bad times, so I've experienced my own economic "depressions" when the rest of the country was just flush and fine, which makes me a bit of a (dare I say it?) maverick that way, too.

Anyway, I just wanted to say, "You rock!" to all the folks who follow sensibility and don't spend money just to keep up with the Joneses, but only in things they truly want or need -- and can really afford.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A new day!

I am as beleaguered as anyone by the state of this economy, the lack of affordable healthcare, the loss of jobs, and the grind of ongoing war, but today, I have hope.

Mr. Obama's election means renewed hope in so many areas, but one of our most pervasive needs, when looked at from a global perspective, is a need to return to honor in the way we treat even our enemies.

One of the most stirring parts of Obama's inauguration speech for me was when he hinted at our need to return to the nation we once were in our dealings with the rest of the world; we have given up our ideals and our place of honor to take shortcuts in the name of fighting terrorism, something I have never felt was right. Obama alluded to it when he said:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake."

Bravo, Mr. Obama. Bravo.

(What does that have to do with being a lazy vegan? Nothing much, I guess, except I consider myself a bit of a "peace monger", too. Meaning that we can treat even our enemies humanely -- even if they wouldn't show us the same humanity if the situation were reversed. That doesn't mean we don't have to fight terrorism, of course, but we can do so honorably, in part by following the rules of the Geneva Convention, something that the previous administration largely ignored in the name of "protecting our safety." Today, I hope we have that "moral center," for lack of a better phrase, back.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

A new day is about to dawn

At least, I hope that's what's going to happen with Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow.

I always prided myself on the fact that I could get by on very little when compared to other folks who ate meat. And in fact, that's probably still true; I probably still spend a fraction of what most people who eat meat spend on groceries (and some vegans, too, if they rely a lot on expensive "fake" meats and other foods to fill their nutritional needs).

But admittedly, it's quite a bit more than it was, and even though I'm still doing okay, I know what it means when people say they're hungry; best wishes out there to all the folks who have lost their jobs because of this declining economy, and here's hoping that this new administration will begin to correct that situation as fast as possible.

Green jobs?

One of the things I find exciting about this administration is that it has been talking about developing lots of new jobs (here, in the United States) that focus on "green" energy development. The United States is woefully behind the times when it comes to reducing its dependence on fossil fuels (another "vegan" passion of mine), and this bodes well for our future and for that of the planet, too.

So, as we await the inauguration of Barack Obama tomorrow, I'm excited for us and for the possibilities the future seems to suddenly hold. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Now I'm in a "mixed" relationship, too

Right around the time I started this blog, I met a couple online who live in New York City and who are a "mixed" couple. One of them is vegan, and one of them had been a meat eater, but was struggling to try to adopt her boyfriend's vegan lifestyle, with mixed success. She wrote about struggling with her cravings for meat. (Joselle, how's that going?)

If you've read this blog at all, you know that I don't advocate, necessarily, that everyone become vegetarian or vegan. In fact, I truly believe that some people need to eat meat, based upon individual physical needs. My focus has been on getting people to try veganism or vegetarianism part time and/or reduce the amount they eat, so as to cut down on consumption, and to also make changes in the meat production industry, so that the animals who are raised for food are treated as humanely as possible.

And here we are. :-) Almost a year ago, I began dating a wonderful man whom I have a lot in common with. And no, he's not a vegetarian or vegan, and has no intentions of becoming one. It helps that I've never expected him to (although I have helped him up his veggie consumption).

Surprisingly, though, he has gone "meatless" a couple of days a week when we've been together; he says he doesn't miss it for those couple of days, but he does get cravings for some meat after a few days, and just has some when that happens.

It's been tough to be around when he's cooking meat, such as when we eat dinner together and he includes meat in his stirfry, for example, but I just leave the room when he's cooking it. I can pretty much handle it when he's eating meat during the meal, since of course I haven't lived in complete isolation and have had to be around other people eating meat during certain occasions. And of course, I've had to handle my own cats' meat (I feed them both cooked and raw meat as part of their diet) through the years, so it's not like I haven't been around it.

Still, it's been interesting and has been something I've had to get used to. I'd be interested to hear how other "mixed" couples handle their dietary differences, too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Veganism and the economic crisis

A friend of mine has a blog wherein she talks about finding old friends and enemies from high school (remember high school? Yech) on Facebook, and being tempted to compare herself with those who have apparently become "more successful" than she in the ensuing years.

I've thought about this a lot myself, since I live a pretty simple life. I always have lived a simple life, either by necessity or choice depending on current circumstances, and sometimes I'm tempted to compare myself to "more successful" friends and colleagues and find myself lacking.

But here's the thing. Especially as a vegan, I've learned to pay very close attention to how my behavior impacts the environment especially. What I noticed is that often, those with "more" money also spend more money, sometimes wastefully and sometimes in ways that cause more trash, "keeping up with the Joneses" behavior, et cetera. One of the reasons our current economy is in collapse is because appearances became more important than whether or not we as a country actually had the money to live the consumptive lives we were living.

What's my point? I don't think the current economic crisis is necessarily entirely a bad thing. It's taught us to revamp our priorities, scale back unnecessary spending, and most of all, not to spend money we don't have. We were doing that as a country and as a government for a long, long, time, and the piper finally came calling.

Don't get me wrong; I know lots of people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own because of this economic collapse, and people are hurting -- including me. That's tough, and it's going to take a lot of time to recover from that. But maybe, just maybe, this will sober us up as a country so that we learn where our priorities are once again, spend only on what we really, truly want and need for ourselves instead of to impress others, and learn how to take care of the planet in the process, too.

And that doesn't necessarily have to include becoming a vegan or vegetarian for everyone, but maybe the economic crisis will also have more people turning to this gentler and more environmentally friendly diet at least part time because it also happens to be cheaper. So maybe that's one more silver lining, too.