Monday, June 22, 2009

Frugality Essay I- What We Eat and Public Health

You want to save money? Then take care of yourself. There is a relationship between private health, and private wealth. Given this reality, there is a relationship between public health and wealth as well. We as a country spend an enormous amount of money on medical care. Can we as a country reduce this cost? What is our role as individuals? This is an enormously broad subject, but the implications are significant enough where I think we should at least begin the conversation. There are a few ideas that I would like to explore and discuss regarding frugality and health, but this essay will focus on frugal eating and personal health.

Some people erroneously believe that eating healthy means eating expensive. I would like to challenge that notion and give some examples of frugal and healthy eating choices.

1- On Obi’s frugal list of healthy foods are whole grains. As a recovering Mormon, I remember well people with cans of wheat in their basement (two years supply). You want to save money and improve your health, open the cans and use them as a surprisingly inexpensive and filling food. But don’t think wheat is all there is. I’ve come to really appreciate rye, barley, oats, triticale, spelt and other grains. And you would be surprised how adaptable whole grains are for inclusion in your diet.

Everyone knows that oatmeal is a healthy breakfast alternative. There are a wide range of choices that are relatively inexpensive. This morning, I had rolled rye that I purchased at Whole Foods. I estimate the cost of a good sized serving, including soymilk and berries, at $.1.05. Compare this to something from the drive-thru at McDonalds. Another favorite of mine is 7-grain mix either from Whole Food’s bulk bin or Bob’s Red mill. You save money if you can find it at Whole Foods.

I boil whole grains and use it in yogurt, as a substitute for hamburger, and as a filling addition to canned soups. I also make whole grain bread. For a Democrat in Utah, pounding whole wheat bread dough can be very therapeutic. And the smell you get from home made whole grain bread is well worth the effort.

2- Anyone who has read my blogs know I’m full of beans. And that, is a good thing. Yeah, I’ve been known to rattle the neighbor’s windows a time or two, but in so doing, I’ve got sound nutrition in an inexpensive package. Beans are extremely adaptable and you can add all kinds of home grown veggies into them, such as tomatoes, spinach, corn, peppers, onion, etc. Also, add some boiled rye or barley (see item 1) and you’ll get a very complete protein without the addition of expensive and fatty meat products.

As a Mormon missionary, I had $250/month to live off of. That included rent. A favorite we came up with was “slumgraten”, which was beans mixed with anything else you had left in the kitchen. It was filling, nutritious, and cheap. You want to save money, stay full, and eat healthy, open a can of beans, whether black, pinto, garbanzo, etc.

3- Don’t read the leaves, drink them, and tea-leave me, you won’t be sorry (pretty weak, I know). I admit, this is an uncomfortable subject to bring up with the Mormon crowd, but if D & C 89 were to be re-written today, it would probably say, drink tea, and ban the soda. Tea is loaded with anti-oxidants and both black and green tea are rightly viewed as healthy drinks. Add a little fresh citrus, and it is even better for you. But let’s do some comparison shopping.

Obi wan loves his diet coke. However, when times are tough, an area I can save a lot of money is by shunning the cola for tea. Here is how it plays out. I can get a 44 oz. refill at Maverik for $.95 or get a 12 oz. bottle for $1.25. Let’s compare to tea. I recently bought 100 Lipton tea bags on sale for $2.50. So a cup of tea costs a whopping $.025. Well, since I like my tea strong, I steep two bags for a whopping $.05. Now admittedly, I got a good price, and you might prefer one of the premium teas. Let’s say you found a really expensive tea with 20 bags for $4. That is still only $.20/cup. That is still over six cups for the price of one bottle of soda. Now admittedly, you may want to sweeten your tea, but even so, the cost of the sweetener is insignificant compared to what you would pay for soda.

Green tea, arguably the most healthy tea, is a bit more. I paid $3.45 for a box of 40 tea bags. That is still much more inexpensive than soda. Just remember, that steeping your own tea is the only way to save money here. Bottled teas will cost you as much or more than soda. But making tea is not rocket science. A cup of water and a microwave is all you need.

4- My last suggestion for now, is to rethink your landscape. Many edible plants are also quite attractive and can be used in your yard. Herbs such as basil, oregano, chives, and many others both add flavors to dishes while looking good mixed with flowers. Fruit trees are a great idea (excepts out on your curb or near paved areas) and often look very attractive in the spring. Apricot, peach, cherry, as well as less common trees and shrubs like serviceberry, look good while also providing fruit. In the right location, grapes also provide an adaptable and edible vine.

Teach your kids early and often which plants are edible and which ones are not. Some flower’s leaves actually taste good and are edible like agastache foeniculum and other members of the mint family. Asparagus is an attractive plant when it isn’t producing succulent spears. Experiment with different edible plants and give your children space and opportunity to grow their own food.

I hope this is a good start on our journey towards practical frugality. Eating healthy won’t eliminate trips to the doctor’s office, but will reduce the risks associated with chronic ailments. Medical costs are the leading cause of bankruptcy in our economy. Let’s take care of ourselves and teach our children good principles in nutrition as well as frugal living.


Urban Koda said...

Well put!!

Just wanted you to know that you are responsible for the Pinto Beans on my salad today, and the mug of Green tea where my Rockstar used to sit.


Obi wan liberali said...

Hey Urban, good to hear from you. Salad and green tea beats a #2 from McDonalds. BTW, why would anyone order a #2?

Best regards.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I obviously disagree with the "replace soda with tea" suggestion (I would have said "replace soda with water" - it's been a nice upgrade to my wallet and my health) but everything else is absolutely true. What's the point (for all us still-Mormons) of storing 2 years worth of wheat (or even a mixture of grains) until it rots and then replacing it. That storage should be integrated into our diets.

Obi wan liberali said...


Agreed on the using the storage. I remember as a youth my friend's basement had cans of wheat. However, they bought wonder bread at the store and I never saw them actually eat the wheat.

As for tea, it provides alot of antioxidants (and a bit of caffeine if you like that sort of thing).

BTW, I hope you enjoyed your vacation.

Best regards.