An apology/discussion on being broke and buying expensive food

Boooo MCATs! Womp womp 😦

So Jon Lim and I had a collective freak out last night about the MCAT, which we’re taking in three weeks. I think we both realized that we’ve been taking it too easy and really have to kick it into high gear. Because of our new studying fervor, I think we’ve both sort of let the blog slide. I’m really sorry that we haven’t been posting as frequently. I know Jon feels the same way and I promise that once this exam is over, we’ll get right back into it.

That being said, I might as well leave you with something food-related to think about. Afterall I did take the time out to write an apology, so I might as well put in the time to actually address food haha. So I was watching The View the other day (yeah I know… it’s not a regular habit, I promise) and the ladies were talking about the emergence of “fat letters” that schools were starting to send home to kids they thought were at risk for becoming obese. Now while that is an issue all on its own, the discussion took a different turn when Whoopi Goldberg brought up the sometimes outrageous prices of fresh produce. If any of you cook or go grocery shopping once in a while, you might have noticed how much a pint of blueberries costs. Even in season, a small package goes for about $4. Red seedless grapes are close to $4/lb, but considering a bag of two bunches is between 2-3 lbs each we’re talking close to $10. Clearly something is wrong here. The creators of Food Inc., a documentary on the food industry and its evils, points to corporate America as the main culprit. While we can sit here and debate who’s to blame, I’m more focused on what the average person is probably thinking: what to do about the cost of food? I’m referring specifically to fruits and vegetables, which are really the key to fighting this obesity epidemic (along with exercise!)

Over the last year I’ve really had to struggle  as I went grocery shopping in hopes of finding good produce for what I thought were reasonable prices. It amazed me how much I was spending on groceries. As a college student, I really have no money that I can call my own. I’m lucky enough to have parents who can afford to pay for my education and the associated costs, like foodstuffs, but wasn’t about to be reckless with their money. How was I going to balance out my fiscal guilt with my gustatory desires? Compromises were made, but in the end I think I was able to cut down costs without cutting down on nutrition. What did I learn exactly?

1. Buy frozen vegetables. Prior to 2nd semester, I would have never even given the frozen vegetable aisle a second thought. I used to equate frozen with unfresh and preservatives. But after doing some research, I found out that frozen vegetables are picked at the peak of ripeness and quickly frozen to keep them at that state, preserving their nutritional value. I found that for the most part frozen broccoli, corn, and green beans kept their flavor pretty well after cooking. Be wary of those “instant” steamed vegetables that you microwave in the pouch. Those usually come out soggy and quite frankly, sickly looking (if you can call a vegetable “sickly”).

2. Buy seasonal. Okay I will admit, I really only apply this rule occasionally, but that is due to my inability to limit my fruit intake during the winter months to just apples and oranges. I need variety in my diet and this tip limits that, but at the same time it really does save money! I’m not going to create a list of what vegetables/fruits are available during each season; you can figure that one out for yourself just by looking around the grocery store. Ever notice the ridiculous amounts of zucchini and yellow squash in the produce section during the summer? It’s because they’re summer vegetables! Pay close attention to how much of what is available at any given time and at price changes during the months.

3. Only buy what you plan on cooking THAT WEEK. I don’t think I listen to my own rules very well because I break this one all the time. But seriously, don’t buy fresh asparagus for a pasta dish if you don’t plan on making it that week. More likely than not, you’ll forget you have the asparagus until a month later when you discover it in the back of your fridge after sniffing it out. I’ve done that on so many occasions and it’s just a lot of money down the drain. Fresh produce has such a short shelf life that trying to plan a meal two weeks in advance just isn’t feasible.

4. Portions! I love self checkout lines because it avoids the potentially awkward situation of having to deal with a sales clerk judging me for buying one bell pepper, or one lemon, or one onion, or… well you get the picture. This tip sort of goes along with my 3rd tip in that it helps cut down the amount of wasted food. Of course you could make an excess amount of food and save the rest for leftovers, but if you’re like me and have a hard time eating the same dish three meals in a row, your leftovers will probably be forgotten. Again, that’s money down the drain.

I hope you apply these tips the next time you go shopping for fruits and veggies. It takes time to fight the system and advocate for cheaper produce, but while you’re waiting for the big changes, perhaps these little adjustments will make eating healthy easier on the wallet.

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