Hi Fitties!

I’m back. I don’t want to talk about what happened this morning at my hearing, let’s just say I acknowledge defeat and leave it at that.

Instead, let’s talk soup. Technically, split pea soup is not “clean” in that it cannot be eaten with minimal processing. It has to be cultivated then picked and dried then soaked and boiled and even then it can be hard for some people to digest.

However, it is “clean-ish” and sometimes, you just eat “clean-ish” foods to keep you out of no man’s land. Ie, eat the split pea soup before you decide fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy is a better idea.

I’ve been trying to stay abreast of my grocery bills because we spend a lot of money at the grocery store. You know that adage about not buying growing kids cheap shoes? My husband grew up with that and another adage: Don’t buy low-quality food. So I may not have cable and I don’t drive an SUV, but I can buy as much fruit as I want. Veggies too. Meat? No problem. Candy bars? Not so much.

Still, I get a little excessive sometimes. So I’m trying to pay more attention to where our food money goes. Because that eats into our wine budget. 😉

Here’s an example: We recently bought a pot roast (around 5 pounds) from Hannaford’s that was on special for $2.89 a pound. Braised in some tomato and wine sauce with carrots, onion, potato and celery, we had delicious (really delicious) dinner on Sunday and Monday and we had lunches for Monday and Tuesday. What is that… 2 people times four meals… 8 meals? For maybe $15 worth of food (counting the meat and vegs). Less than $2 per meal. Sort of like the fast food drive thru, without the promise of type II diabetes and heart disease at the other end of the trip.

So here’s the soup I’m making now, I call it Oliver Twist Soup because each meal will be so ridonkulously cheap. I’m itemizing out the cost so you can see how cheap and easy this is.

Please note: this food is not organic. I love the idea of eating organic (maybe, I think I’d still prefer to spend the extra money on wine), but I have a mortgage and, with 2 lawyers in the house, several thousand dollar a month student loan payments. Not happening. Non-organic fruit, vegetables and meat is better than mac n’ cheese and beanie weenies. My blog is, I hope, a realistic one. We have to have a place to live, pay certain government debts and then eat. Any health benefits of an all-organic diet will be dissipated by the physical stress of living under a freeway underpass. True story.

Ingredients:

2 potatoes (91 cents — disclaimer, I got these puppies on the discount produce shelf. They had a tiny spot I needed to cut out).

1 leek ($1.49)

1 bag Goya dry split peas, rinsed, soaked according to directions on bag (.99)

2 cans Goya red beans ($1.78 — tip: Don’t spend an extra .10 on the low sodium beans. You rinse and drain them anyway, you’ll be fine.)

1 anise bulb (aka fennel) ($1.69)

3 carrots (I’m guessing .40 for 3, based on the total cost ($1.19) and what’s left in the bag)

collard greens (.85)

1 tbsp bacon fat (um… I have no idea how much this costs. We just save it from our bacon.)

1 can of TuttoRosso Tomato sauce (.99 — disclaimer, this was labeled as crushed tomatoes and it was actually sauce. So I think that’s why we got such a good deal.)

Misc: Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes various sprinkles of things from my cupboard (I’m out of Mrs. Dash. Huh).

K, I added all that up and got $10.29 for the total. So how many servings can I get out of this bad boy?

Absolutely ENORMOUS soup pot. Teeny bottle of red pepper flakes are for perspective.

I’m thinking I can get at least 10 meals out of this, maybe more (that is a big ass pot, yes?) So assuming only 10 meals, this soup (that took me scarcely over an hour to make) will cost $1.03. Keep in mind, since Sunday afternoon, my husband and I have cooked a whopping TWO TIMES for our lunches and dinners (we have eggs for breakfast, so we cook every morning for that).

Time consuming? No. Expensive? Certainly not. I argue this is actually easier than dealing with boxed foods and cooking times or take out. He doesn’t have to go buy lunch. I don’t even have to think about what I’m having — I already know what’s there.

Now, I hear you asking, Elizabeth, I don’t like collard greens (fine, eat spinach or kale or some other green. Experiment! Do you think this recipe came to me from Julia Child? Use different beans or use lentils, I don’t care!)

Or… Elizabeth, that’s not enough protein for me/my husband/ my three sons who play football. You can add diced chicken breast or start with a nice Italian sausage or bacon as your base. Another bonus: Most people will eat anything that has bacon or sausage as a base (okay, not all, but I doubt they’re reading my blog. They’re probably off at one of those organic ones ;)). I’ve made a similar soup with ground turkey meatballs instead of the legumes.

You can also add some staying power by grating cheese on top of the soup or serving it with toast and crackers.

Listen, there may be plenty of reasons to not eat healthy, but I haven’t found one. I’ve found excuses (time and money) which I’ve dispelled above. Some people may not like healthy food because, truthfully, Oreos taste way better.

And that I can’t help you with. I can’t make veggie soup taste like Oreos. Just like we brush our teeth everyday because we invest in our dental health, sometimes we eat foods that are good for us but don’t taste like Oreos.

It is the inconvenient fact of adulthood, doing things that are good for us but we don’t want to do. Now I’ve mentioned before that your palate will eventually change and healthy food WILL taste good to you (I SWEAR IT. But not if you pitch it in the sink after one bite and order sweet n’ sour chicken and fried rice.)

Have you seen the pictures of starving people eating, essentially, garbage? I’m not saying “eat your food, people are starving.” No. My argument is that we can eat anything we put our mind to. Even garbage. Because we have a desperate urge to survive.

The blessing of our country is that many of us will never experience that drive of eating anything in order to stay alive. The curse of our country is there is no reason outside of ourselves to put down the fried chicken and pick up some broccoli. Or to put down the Oreos and pick up some kidney beans. The motivation has to come from within ourselves. I’m not asking you to eat garbage, I’m inviting you to eat real, healthy food. You really can do it. I’ve seen pictures of people eating much, much worse things.

(BTW, if you want a recipe for that soup, I don’t really have one. It basically involves chopping all the veggies, sauteeing them in bacon fat, adding salt and pepper and other herbs that strike your fancy, adding the tomato sauce and topping off with water until it looks about right. You can use chicken stock if you have some made, but I go through that stuff like water. So… I used water).