Eating well on a budget is one tough recipe

Get dinner on the table.

If that’s your job at home, then you understand the enormity of the task. It’s relentless; it’s messy; and it starts at the grocery store.

Last month, my family conducted an experiment, “MyPlate on My Budget,” and I blogged about it for HeraldNet. Rose McAvoy from “Our Lady of Second Helpings” helped me with yummy recipes.

My question was, could my family follow the USDA Choose MyPlate recommendations and also keep to the USDA Cost of Food at Home “thrifty” budget? That meant spending $5 a day on food per person, but also filling our plates half full of fruits and vegetables. The real kicker was affording fish twice a week.

The result of my experiment was “yes,” but this meant making radical changes. I stopped buying organic milk, started buying a lot of potatoes, stocked up on frozen veggies and served several disastrous fish meals that have probably scarred my children for life.

I found that it is easy to get my kids to eat fresh spinach and strawberries, but it’s really hard to make them eat frozen spinach microwaved to mush. It’s the same thing with fresh, wild-caught Pacific salmon, versus frozen fish flown in from Norway.

The more I studied the MyPlate requirements, the more confused I got. Why does the government want my husband to eat potatoes or corn every day? Why is there no recommendation for Meatless Mondays? Why are they pushing us to eat fish twice a week instead of encouraging people to choose sustainably caught fish more often?

By the end of March, I was beginning to turn into a conspiracy theorist.

I fully support Michelle Obama encouraging families to be active and eat more vegetables. (Laura Bush wants us to read more books and nobody accuses her of trying to orchestrate our free time.) What I can’t support is food lobbyists pushing their wacky agendas onto my dinner table.

The basic recommendation of filling your plate half full of fruits and vegetables is good. But if french fries count as vegetables, where does that leave us? Where does that leave children across America relying on school lunches?

There’s also something sad going on when (on the thrifty budget) I can’t afford to buy milk from Washington dairies. Every time I passed on Darigold or Smith Brothers to buy milk from who-knows-where, I felt like crud.

Food, money, politics, health and the environment: They are all related.

So the next time 6 o’clock rolls around, know this: If cooking dinner every night seems tough, that’s because is it. Food is more complicated than we know.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.

Talk to us

More in Life

Photos by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times 

The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House will open to public visitors Memorial Day weekend.
A landmark steeped in 19th century history reopens on Whidbey

Beginning May 28, you can venture inside one of the state’s oldest buildings: The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, which dates from the 1850s.

Caption: Incorporating frozen vegetables into your menu plan is a fast and cost-effective way to save money on rising food costs.
The secrets of cheap meals: frozen veggies and slow cookers

They not only stretch your food budget, but also timesaving godsends for busy parents. Here are three recipes to try.

Cinderella_Red.jpg: Red Riding Hood (Katelynn Carlson) gets advice from Cinderella (Grace Helmcke) in Red Curtain’s production of Into the Woods, running May 20-June 5 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave. in Marysville.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Marysville troupe stages a Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece. Jazz, featuring the sons of legend Dave Brubeck, takes over Edmonds. And there’s this music festival in downtown Everett …

Navigating the rough, often scary seas of a hospital stay

After helping a friend who underwent major surgery, Paul Schoenfeld reflects on ways to cope for patients and their loved ones.

Sam Bowles records the run off the water from a chalk drawing with friend and co-artist, Rhyanna Mercer, Tuesday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 10, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jackson High’s global TikTok star is chalk full of ideas

Sam Bowles, 18, uses vibrant videos and social media fame to raise awareness of autism.

I canceled my flight to Frankfurt, but now I can’t use my credit

Melissa Crespo receives a $2,060 ticket credit when she cancels her flights to Frankfurt, Germany. But now her online agency has told her she can only use 25% of the credit at a time. Can it do that?

Lonicera ciliosa, commonly called orange honeysuckle or western trumpet vine. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: orange honeysuckle

Its orange trumpets announce spring is here, and hummingbirds are irresistibly drawn to it.

Home & garden happenings in Snohomish County

The Mill Creek Garden Tour will return this summer after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.

Photo Caption: Would you believe a zipper sold for $18,450 at Morphy Auctions? What about a diamond necklace that looks and works like a zipper?
X-Y-Z spells ‘big money’ with this high-fashion zipper

It’s actually a necklace, but the zipper function works. Someone paid nearly $18,500 for it at a recent auction.

Most Read