Saturday, January 30, 2010

Income, Nutrition, Weight, and Spoons

If Only People Understood Nutrition is one of those posts that I adore that then gets me thinking. I adored it so much I shared it with friends, one of which wrote You wouldn't be fat if you just ate right! to express his agreement.

While I agree with what FatNutritionist has said I had a hard time applying it to myself. I've been very lucky, I have an income source that covers the basics if I'm careful. I hesitated to see how I could 'let' this apply to me since I'm able to pay the rent, utilities, and buy food other than ramen when nothing unexpected comes up.

Here's where the catch comes in. I'm chronically ill and so is Mr. Wacky. Many of the ways to eat frugally take more spoons. Most foods that don't take many spoons to prepare are expensive or unhealthy.

Most of the suggestions I read on the internet for treating various chronic health issues include dietary changes. Being on any type of diet with food restrictions tends to up the financial cost and spoon cost of food preparation. 

Often I hear that I wouldn't be sick if I ate better and I wouldn't be fat if I ate better plus I wouldn't be sick if I weren't fat. I've had people tell me that if I really wanted to get better I'd do whatever it took to change my diet. I tell them I put every resource I have into it and am told I'm just making excuses.
(My fun/entertainment budget is often used as 'proof' that I'm lying. I need something to take my mind off pain and to put fun into my life when I'm mostly housebound except for medical visits and errands. Mental Health is important too.)

I've looked up resources about frugality on the Internet. The funny thing is, many people who write about frugal living aren't actually living near, at, or below the poverty line. Or they have large families and can take advantage of economies of scale that just aren't feasible for a family of two. Sometimes, the ideas just don't apply to the resources available in your geographic area or just take too much energy for a chronically ill person to take advantage of.

My internet research hasn't been utterly useless.  Some ideas have been helpful such as couponing, buying in season, don't buy things just because they're on sale and you might use them, emphasize flavor over quantity while cooking, check dates and only buy what you will use before it goes bad, check the per unit price, use generics, think about travel costs before driving to get a good deal, use your pantry, use what you have before buying something, and store things properly.

I've learned some tricks over the years for cooking as well. Using our crock pot slow cooker has helped immensely because the prep work can be spaced out. Sit to do as much as possible. Mixing prepared and fresh items to maximize nutrition with as little work as possible. Look for recipes with a short ingredient list. Always keep in mind clean up and use liners for pans whenever possible. Leftovers make good breakfasts and lunches. Use a timer you can keep with you so you don't forget something in the kitchen.

I've basically given up on standard meal planning despite how much money it could save us. Instead, we buy a standard group of things with very little variety that can be combined in various low-energy ways because we just can't predict what will be an appropriate dinner any day. Unfortunately, this leaves us in quite a culinary rut.

Ideally I'd throw casseroles together on my 'good days' that can be kept in the freezer till needed. However, we don't have the storage space or tools for that and I haven't had a day that good in years.

When I spell it all out here, I see that I have additional barriers to good nutrition beyond my income. Knowing that someone like FatNutrionist ends up writing blog posts because people who can barely afford ramen and mac and cheese are getting told they could do better if they only tried right does help me to realize that no matter what I do someone is not going to think it is enough.

No one else is going to cut me any slack on this subject. I'll have to 'let' Fat Nutrionist's post apply to me because when I look at the big picture, it sure looks like it does.
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