Prior to our move East, J did most of the cooking because he enjoyed it, and I just really didn't have the desire to make a meal at the end of the day. My job was emotionally exhausting and often required many, many hours of overtime in order to get a decent night's rest, knowing you'd done what you could to ensure safety that day....it didn't leave room for much more than a vacant stare at the wall for about 20 minutes when I first got home.
There were days that I'd get off at 6pm, J was still on a rotation somewhere, and since the daycare was just across the street I'd wait until 6:30 (which was the latest I could pick H up) so that I'd have that half-hour to just be before I had to be mama and wife.
Flash forward to now when I get excited about the new recipes I'm going to try, bread I've just baked and jam I made and we've come a long way, baby. Add in an overall increased awareness of health-conscious meals and my impact on my kids' future eating habits, and I've already started planning my dream kitchen.
One thing I've noticed is that I have to be doubly careful in my planning now that I've started buying more organic produce, especially those on the Dirty Dozen list. For us, cost is absolutely a factor in our grocery shopping, so we won't be going to Whole Paycheck anytime soon; I could get lost in there for hours and spend, well, our whole paycheck. There are a lot of things for the budget-minded that don't need to be organic; bananas, avocados, onions and corn to name a few as they don't contain pesticide residue, generally. But an example of a group we've chosen to shell out for is wild caught fish and sea-food (think salmon that is a natural shade of pink ;)).
However, to get back on point, the produce that is organic I've found to be ready to go within the first few days of purchase. So plan your work and work your plan, or you've doubly 'wasted' money when you have to throw out the bad produce that you spent your hard-earned schuckles on.
That said, I've found so many farmer's markets in our area as well as a local grocery chain that carries a lot of locally grown produce. While I try to do a big shop for staples at BJ's or Price Chopper, I do make a weekly run for produce to Roche Bros, because they just have beautiful produce and generally have great prices. Shopping the exterior of the store, in general is what you should aim for. Aside from flour and baking staples, the exterior rim of the store is where you'll find that you should be spending the bulk of your grocery dollars; dairy, meat, seafood, limited bakery and produce. The aisles are full of processed foods and general traps that are so easy to fall in, especially if you've got a sweet tooth like me, or are hungry when you shop.
A lot of farmer's markets are now accepting food stamps and EBT cards, which I think is just fabulous. The Central Community Branch YMCA in Worcester holds a weekly market on Saturdays from June to October and they DOUBLE food stamp values.
If we continue to have healthful options that stretch food dollars that are already scarce, we could be making the small steps it will take to curb child-hood obesity. Now, if I could just get H to see that Hot Dogs and Chicken Nuggets are not an actual food group...and Ketchup does not count as his veggie for the day.
*The photo is of Spicy Sweet Potato Soup using a dollop of plain non-fat yogurt in the place of sour cream...such a great fall recipe! Thanks Portlandia>