Saturday, February 12, 2011

Class Wars.... Really?

Recently, in a mainstream magazine there was a 5 page article devoted to the idea of class wars and what that means for people to eat well and how different socio-economic groups are even more separated by the new "foodie" craze. The upshot of the article was that with the new "foodie" craze those in lower socio-economic groups are even more discriminated against and feel even more "out-cast" because they are not able to "keep up" with the expensive food trends.
I am constantly floored at the stupidity and the lengths people will go to - to create problems that do not exist. Recently, on a talk show Michelle Obama was heard to say, "It's not enough to teach mothers that they need to feed their children fresh vegetables, if they don't have access to those vegetables then the education doesn't matter." I applaud the first ladies efforts to increase awareness about the value of fresh, wholesome foods, but seriously question whether there is an access problem to whole foods or the problem lies with desire to obtain the fresh whole foods and to expend the effort to acquire them. (In many low socio-economic neighborhoods their are ethic food stores with an abundance of fresh whole vegetables.)
It really is not a matter of not being able to obtain or afford - it is a matter of choice. I am tired of people not taking responsibility and doing the easy things. And it is not a matter of class, people in all socio-economic groups choose not to educate themselves. They choose to purchase pre-packaged, high convenience foods, they chose not to read labels and they choose to in the end blame someone else for their health problems. This is not a matter of class wars, it really is a matter of desire.

So what is a good economical solution? I recently purchased a book on container gardening and in it are plans and instructions on creating a perfect vegetable garden. It does not require much space and one will receive enough vegetables that not only will their family eat well but they will probably have some for their neighbors. The cost is not that great -for the same price of one or maybe two months' cable bill - you would have enough vegetables that a trip to the grocery store may not be necessary. There are issues with winter months and true lack of space (for those who live in a NY high rise) but it really is about - where there is a will - there is a way. The biggest problem is that most do not have the will. We love the idea of eating well and the colorful bounty of vegetables that would be worthy of a Martha Stewart display, we just don't want to have to put in the work.

This spring (March, April and May) we are taking the the money that would have been spent on our cable bill - about $30.00 a month- and we will set up our container garden. My children will be able to plant, tend and harvest the bounty that will become our dinner meals. Its a win, win - they get outside, they are able to participate in helping the family achieve it's survival goals, I don't have to tell them to turn off the t.v. and we will save a vast amount of money not having to buy our vegetables at the store. If successful we may just extend it 3 more months and learn how to can our bounty to save for the winter.

I believe its about making choices, not war. This is something almost every family could do if they chose to. It probably won't be easy, we may have some failed crops, we may not have vegetables some nights but that is all part of life and the learning process.

In the meantime, if container gardening is not for you low cost doesn’t have to mean low quality. In fact, some of the most inexpensive things you can buy are the best things for you. At the grocery store, getting the most nutrition for the least amount of money means hanging out on the peripheries near the fruits and veggies, the meat and dairy, and the bulk grains while avoiding the expensive packaged interior. By doing so, not only will your kitchen be stocked with excellent foods, your wallet won’t be empty.
1. Oats
High in fiber and complex carbohydrates, oats have also been shown to lower cholesterol. And they sure are cheap - a dollar will buy you more than a week’s worth of hearty breakfasts.
Serving suggestions: Sprinkle with nuts and fruit in the morning
2. Eggs
You can get about a half dozen of eggs for a dollar, making them one of the cheapest and most versatile sources of protein. They are also a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may ward off age-related eye problems.
Serving suggestions: Huevos rancheros for breakfast, egg salad sandwiches for lunch, and frittatas for dinner.
3. Kale
This dark, leafy green is loaded with vitamin C, carotenoids, and calcium. Like most greens, it is usually a dollar a bunch.
Serving suggestions: Chop up some kale and add to your favorite stir-fry
4. Potatoes
Because we often see potatoes at their unhealthiest,as fries or chips, we don’t think of them as nutritious, but they definitely are. Eaten with the skin on, potatoes contain almost half a day’s worth of Vitamin C, and are a good source of potassium. If you opt for sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll also get a good wallop of beta carotene. Plus, they’re dirt cheap and have almost endless culinary possibilities.
Serving suggestions: In the a.m., try Easy Breakfast Potatoes; for lunch, make potato salad; for dinner, have them with sour cream and chives or top with chili.
5. Apples
I’m fond of apples because they’re inexpensive, easy to find, come in portion-controlled packaging, and taste good. They are a good source of pectin,a fiber that may help reduce cholesterol, and they have the antioxidant Vitamin C, which keeps your blood vessels healthy.
Serving suggestions: Plain; as applesauce; or in baked goods like Apple Breakfast Bread
6. Nuts
Though nuts have a high fat content, they’re packed with the good-for-you fats—unsaturated and monounsaturated. They’re also good sources of essential fatty acids, Vitamin E, and protein. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, you only need to eat a little to get the nutritional benefits. Although some nuts, like pecans and macadamias, can be costly, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds, especially when bought in the shell, are low in cost.
Serving suggestions: Raw; roasted and salted; sprinkled in salads.
7. Bananas
A dollar usually gets you a banana a day for the week. High in potassium and fiber (9 grams for one), bananas are a no-brainer when it comes to eating your five a day quotient of fruits and veggies.
Serving suggestions: In smoothies, by themselves, in cereal and yogurt.
8. Garbanzo Beans
With beans, you’re getting your money’s worth and then some. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but garbonzos are also high in fiber, iron, folate, and manganese, and may help reduce cholesterol levels. And if you don’t like one type, try another— black, lima, lentils … the varieties are endless. Though they require soaking and cooking, the most inexpensive way to purchase these beans is in dried form; a precooked can will still only run you around a buck.
Serving suggestions: Throw them in soups or process with garlic and salt and eat with veggies as a dip, in salads, curries, and Orange Hummus
9. Broccoli
Broccoli contains tons of nice nutrients - calcium, vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, and fiber. As if that isn’t enough, broccoli is also packed with phytonutrients, compounds that may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Plus, it’s low in calories and cost.
Serving suggestions: Throw it in salads, stir fries, or served as an accompaniment to meat.
10. Watermelon
Though you may not be able to buy an entire watermelon for a dollar, your per serving cost isn’t more than a few dimes. This summertime fruit is over 90 percent water, making it an easy way to hydrate, and gives a healthy does of Vitamin C, potassium, and lycopene, an antioxidant that may ward off cancer.
Serving suggestions: Freeze chunks for popsicles; eat straight from the rind; squeeze to make watermelon margaritas (may negate the hydrating effect!).
11. Wild Rice
It won’t cost you much more than white rice, but wild rice is much better for you. Low in fat and high in protein and fiber, this gluten-free rice is a great source of complex carbohydrates. It packs a powerful potassium punch and is loaded with B vitamins. Plus, it has a nutty, robust flavor.
Serving suggestions: Mix with nuts and veggies for a cold rice salad; blend with brown rice for a side dish.
12. Beets
Beets are my kind of vegetable — their natural sugars make them sweet to the palate while their rich flavor and color make them nutritious for the body. They’re powerhouses of folate, iron, and antioxidants.
Serving suggestions: Shred into salads, slice with goat cheese. If you buy your beets with the greens on, you can braise them in olive oil like you would other greens.
13. Butternut Squash
This beautiful gourd swings both ways: sometimes savory, sometimes sweet. However you prepare the butternut, it will not only add color and texture, but also five grams of fiber per half cup and chunks and chunks of Vitamin A and C. When in season, butternut squash and related gourds are usually less than a dollar a pound.
Serving suggestions: Try Pear and Squash Bruschetta; cook and dot with butter and salt.
14. Whole Grain Pasta
In the days of Atkins, pasta was wrongly convicted, for there is nothing harmful about a complex carbohydrate source that is high in protein and B vitamins. Plus, it’s one of the cheapest staples you can buy.
Serving suggestions: Mix clams and white wine with linguine; top orzo with tomatoes and garlic; eat cold Farfalle Saladon a picnic.
15. Spinach
Spinach is perhaps one of the best green leaves out there — it has lots of Vitamin C, iron, and trace minerals. Plus, you can usually find it year round for less than a dollar.
Serving suggestions: Sautéed with eggs, as a salad, or a Spinach Frittata
16. Pumpkin Seeds
When it’s time to carve your pumpkin this October, don’t shovel those seeds into the trash they’re a goldmine of magnesium, protein, and trace minerals. Plus, they come free with the purchase of a pumpkin.
Serving suggestions: Salt, roast, and eat plain; toss in salads.
17. Coffee
The old cup-o-joe has been thrown on the stands for many a corporeal crime, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, but exonerated on all counts. In fact, coffee, which is derived from a bean, contains beneficial antioxidants that protect against free radicals and may actually help thwart heart disease and cancer. While it’s not going to fill you up like the other items on this list, it might make you a lot perkier. When made at home, coffee runs less than 50¢ cents a cup.
Serving suggestions: Just drink it, or for the out-of the box detox - organic coffee enemas. (for instructions on this see or the Gershon Institute)

Although that bag of 99¢ Cheetos may look like a bargain, knowing that you’re not getting much in the way of nutrition or sustenance makes it seem less like a deal and more like a dupe. Choosing one of these items, or the countless number of similarly nutritious ones, might just stretch that dollar from a snack into a meal.


  1. So agree with you. Produce in ethnic grocers is fab. Now just quit allowing food stamps for unhealthy food and get parents to quit driving thru drive thrus at fast food places.

  2. Hey cuz. Hugs. Miss the TX family.

    I'm with you on folks needing to engage in buying healthy food and taking ownership over what we eat. I also know through my work where I'm knee deep in grocery stores that there are food deserts where there aren't grocery stores and these oftentimes coincide with areas where there is a lot of poverty. It's way more profitable to put in a grocery store where people have higher disposable incomes. I just read on a PBS site that TX is one of three states with the highest # of food deserts. It might be harder for some folks to get to places selling produce, or better yet, organic produce, than any of us would like.


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