Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making it a Yummy 2009

Whether you call it making resolutions or setting goals, your new year's planning is likely to include intentions to improve your health or finances in 2009. (See the government's list of popular New Year's resolutions).

Since this is that time in January where resolutions start to fall through the cracks, here are my yummy suggestions to help you get re-motivated about working on some of those food-related goals!

Goal: Eat local.
There are many reasons that "eating local" is a good thing. By shopping at your local farmer's market or CSA, you often get fresher food at better prices than the grocery store. Additionally, it's fun to get in touch with eating seasonally-available produce and learning about where your food comes from. I enjoy seeing photos of the chickens that produce the eggs that the farmer just picked up the morning that I purchased them from him. And getting to pet a baby goat from the local goat cheese vendor really helps you think about how food gets on your plate. That brings me to another benefit of eating locally produced goods: reducing the your environmental impact. By eating local, you may be helping reduce your carbon footprint on the planet!

p.s. I discovered another side benefit of eating locally is that your favorite produce is often still available when it has been recalled at the megamarts. Since the agribusiness vendors that have been dropping the ball on food safety lately in their quest to make money, it's good to have a food source you can trust. I was thrilled to be able to enjoy spinach and tomatoes free of salmonella and e coli when much of the country was missing out.

Goal: Eat less to eat better.
This is of the same philosophy as Michael Pollan's "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you didn't catch this mantraback in 2007, now may be a good time to pay attention. Some benefits of eating less are obvious. For example, less money spent on groceries can lead to more money in your bank account and fewer calories in your belly can lead to a smaller pant size. This can also help you simplify your life. Think about the produce you throw out because it rots in your fridge. Think about what your great grandmother would say about the lengthy ingredients lists on some of the junk food in your pantry. By eating (and purchasing) less, you are likely to see positive effects on your wallet as well as mental & physical health.

Goal: Bring your lunch to work
This one may sound obvious, but if you haven't already started doing this, maybe you haven't done the numbers. If you're one of those people who subscribes to the philosophy of "must eat out with others to build my career", consider reducing the number of times you eat out. Alternatively, see if others in your lunch circle are interested in brown-bagging it from time to time. You may be surprised at who is also trying to be savvy with their lunch money in your office.

For starters, check out this Lunch Savings Calculator. While it assumes you're currently purchasing your lunch every day, it still provides useful information on how much you can save by packing lunch and earning interest on the difference over time.

Also, visit The No-Excuses Guide.

Goal: Plan your meals
For some of you, this may already go without saying. Planning your meals is a great way to save. You can save money by taking advantage of weekly specials, reducing food waste, and from eating out because you didn't know what to bring. You can also save time deciding on what to eat throughout the week, which can be a stressful task.

Since others have said it better, I'll let the experts do most of the talking for this one...

Goal: Learn to cook
Chances are you'll save money by learning the basics of cooking and relying less on eating out. I actually prefer eating at home most of the time. Not only because I am trying to spend less at restaurants, but because I like what I make more than I like a lot of restaurant food. I find restaurant food to be lower quality than what I would get at home. It's often too salty for my palate or just too fatty, even if my taste buds enjoy it. Plus, I don't have to calculate a tip!

If you know nothing about cooking, I suggest asking a friend to help out and getting your hands on a reliable cookbook like How to Cook Everything. Also, don't be afraid of making mistakes. They can be half the fun (plus you'll learn what not to do, which is just as important)!

  • Post Punk Kitchen - Watch demonstrations online and check out their yummy recipes, too
  • Cooking for Engineers - Their tagline says it all: "Have an analytical mind? Like to cook? This is the site to read!
  • Alton Brown! - AB is a culinary idol. You will not be more entertained while learning about food than by watching Good Eats.

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