Sunday, April 17, 2011
When The Destroyer was born, I didn't step foot in my kitchen for about 4 months. He was an..ahem...intense newborn. He was a constant nurser who barely slept, and Manimal was working long days trying to get our house renovated so that we could move back in (see "the other blog" if you missed the story of our renovation). He hated his car seat and would scream from the second the door opened and he saw the offending object, until we arrived at our destination and he was reconnected with his boob. Grocery shopping was not high on my list of fun things to do, and the few times I did manage to get fresh food in the house it would inevitably spoil before anyone got around to cooking it. Breakfast and lunch were whatever snack foods I could prepare for myself with a baby in arms, and dinner was "out," where we would eat quickly in shifts so that we could take turns bouncing the baby. Usually I would prop him in place with a boppy pillow, and spread my napkin over his head so that I could eat over him (one handed of course) without staining his onsies with bar-b-que sauce.
We didn't take a lot of time to think of the ridiculousness of this situation, we didn't have a lot of spare moments for intuitive self-reflection. There came a day, though, when The Destroyer learned how to crawl and discovered that there was more to life than boobs and not sleeping, there was...destruction. Manimal was home before 8 o'clock for once, The Destroyer was happily destroying and we (miraculously) had something cookable in the refridgerator. I don't remember what culinary miracle I pulled together, probably some version of "eggs scrambled with whatever we had on hand," which is sort of the signature dish of our house. I do remember that we sat around rapturously eating it, and commenting about what a treat it was to eat in for once. When eating at home has become a big treat, something is seriously out of balance, so we started working on eating at home more often.
When we eat out, we don't hit the drive thru at MacDonald's. We eat a lot of Thai, Korean, Middle-eastern...generally what's considered to be the "healthier" of the available restaurant options. When I cook at home, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about fat content, or carbs, or really nutritional content in general. We eat a lot of vegetables because we like vegetables, and we eat them with full fat cheese, and in sauces that are laden with salt and oil. None the less, when we made the switch (back) to eating at home instead of eating out, we all lost weight without even thinking about it. Our "food" bill was suddenly about half of what it had been, and this was all without an conscious effort on our part, other than a desire to eat our own food in our own home.
When Ragnarbaby came a long some of our "take out" standards slipped back in, of course, as well as a few pantry "staples" that I'm not especially proud of (boxed macarroni and cheese...). I don't beat myself up about it, and I don't really fight with my kids about what they eat. I chop the vegetables up small enough that it's hard for them to spit them out, and I put enough butter on top that they eat it. We get pizza about once a week and sometimes dinner is canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I'd never bought canned soup in my life before having a second child, but something's got to give. When I went back to work things gave a little bit more, and now our "diet" is a mix of simple homemade food, mixed with some things that come in boxes, cans, and bottles. I don't like to go grocery shopping more than twice a month if I can help it, and if it dirties more than two pans, I don't cook it. I do still make some of our staples (chicken stock, mayonnaise etc.) from scratch though, but they have to pass my "test," which is something like this:
Do I habitually keep all the basic ingredients in the house, or would I have to go and buy something new?
Does making this involve complicated steps, or a lot of time?
Can I make it "in bulk" to save time later on?
How long will it last in the refrigerator or freezer?
Is there a significant cost savings over buying this at the store?
If whatever it is fails that little test then it goes on the shopping list and I pay going rate for whatever it is.
The cost of everything in the grocery store is going up, thanks to gas prices and other economic factors, so there has been a fair amount of discussion in the "blogosphere" about making from scratch. Of course I can't sit idly by while other people offer advice, so I'm going to do a series of posts about things that I've found it to be worth making from scratch...you're on the edges of your seats I'm sure.
Ragnar...full of good intentions.