Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Challenges of Feeding a Family in our New Reality

OK - I always feel really badly for the people who end up on this site while looking for official sardine information. So if you have ended up on this *&*!@ Mommy Blog by accident - do not despair! I have taken pity on you. Below are the answers to the most "googled" sardine questions.

1. Sardine recipes. Believe it or not - there are too many to list! And I just thought people ate sardines on crackers while camping....anyway - there is also a sardine diet! Go to

2. Do Sardines have hair? With the exception of Jeff, all the sardines in this can have hair.

3. How long do sardines in a can keep? Well, we stayed in a tiny can for 3 weeks on the way to California. I'm not sure what you mean by "keep". Ellie didn't seem to keep as well as the rest of us.

4. What are the mating/spawning habits of sardines? Excuse me? None of your business.

Now that that is taken care of I can really blog. We are still enjoying a deliciously laid back summer. I am only filling up my tank every two weeks as opposed to every 5 or 6 days during the "school year". I am really considering simplifying my life to the point where I can keep this slower pace for good. We are also looking into buying a diesel vehicle and altering it to take vegetable oil. Would have sounded nuts to me several months ago, but not anymore. We currently drive a big old 12 passenger van. What a waste! Half of the time I am driving it around with only 2 kids in it anyway. However, here is the catch on buying a smaller vehicle. A smaller vehicle won't tow our travel trailer. And while I believe travel trailers to be part of a now distant past of cheap fuel - I am not quite ready to give ours up, yet. But doesn't it sound ridiculously selfish? We have to drive our gigantic gas guzzling van so that it can pull our gigantic travel trailer (reducing our gas mileage while in tow) to far away places where we can drive around and waste more gas. Anyone want to comment on veggie oil vehicles? I do not think it is a feasible alternative for everybody - but it can be an immediate solution for us, as an individual family, to reduce our carbon footprint while waiting for something else to turn up.

The other thing I am dealing with right now is rising food costs. Has anyone else noticed the rising food costs? Unbelievable! And it seems that the healthier you eat, the more expensive the food is. People living in our country at or below the poverty line (and even many who are above it) are really feeling the pinch in a very serious way. If you want to compare the cost of a turkey/Swiss cheese sandwich loaded with veggies (avocados, sprouts, etc - just the way I like it) on wheat bread, with a bologna/ processed cheese sandwich on white bread (with a coupon for free soda thrown in with the white bread) - it is no wonder why the disadvantaged are fighting off obesity and Type II diabetes.

I used to be able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy and my bill would be very low. The expense of the grocery bill seemed to be tied directly to how much convenience and processed foods I bought. Now I am not seeing that so much. The fruits and vegetables are very expensive. If you want to buy organic, forget it! For a family our size, it isn't feasible.
And while I'm talking food - they say that much of what is driving food costs up is, of course, the cost of gas to transport it. Then why, might I ask, are we buying New Zealand apples when we grow apples right here in Texas? Why are we exporting apples and importing apples at the same time? My dad just bought shrimp today from Taiwan. Why? We are 2 hours from the Gulf of Mexico. He said it was all they had at our local HEB grocery store.

So people say we need to start buying locally. Where I live, that isn't so easy. I can go to a farmer's market and get tomatoes and cucumbers - often that is all there is. I am so spoiled by my year-around food availability - I have forgotten how to eat seasonally (if I ever knew in the first place). So I am really in the process of re-evaluating food right now. We had a garden and it produced a ton of tomatoes and corn, but that was pretty much it. And with the exception of the tomatoes I dried, they are pretty much gone. The corn was eaten the day it was harvested :). Our tomatoes are dormant and will hopefully produce again when the temps go down a bit. We just planted more corn. But truly, how much food would you have to grow to sustain yourself? How did people used to accomplish this? And how, in South Texas where it reaches 100 degrees, am I supposed to afford to water all of this? Just thinking out loud, here. These are the sorts of things I have been contemplating. And I still want a milk cow!

We do have 24 chickens on the way so we will be having natural fresh eggs again soon - yay! We are also going to order some for eating. But again, I've been thinking about that. I am so used to eating chicken breasts and nothing else - is that realistic when you butcher your own? Of course not. And how will all of these changes I'm contemplating fit into my crazy/active life? I want to slow down but my kids don't.

I want to hear from you vegetable growers out there! And any of you who are making big changes or little changes in your lives as we adapt to this new world of ours. I am interested in food co-ops, etc. I checked into but we're talking about $1.79 for ONE APPLE. Joel eats about 5 apples a day. No way!

Here is a list of the food items you should buy organic, if at all possible.

1. Peaches!! We just bought a bag today - no organic peaches available at my grocery store (local HEB). I would have to drive over 35 miles to get to Whole Foods where organic peaches would probably be available. Peaches are one of THE WORST foods for pesticides.

2. Strawberries! Another favorite and also not available organic where I live.

3. Raspberries

4. Grapes (don't kids love grapes???)

5. Apples. Also one of the worst! Again, organic isn't available where I live.

6. nectarines

7. apricots

8. pears

9. cherries - honestly, who can afford cherries priced such as they are in S. Texas?

NONE of the above are available organic here. Today in my store, only bananas were offered up as organic, and they have recently been removed from the danger list.

10. tomatoes (we've all had our scare of tomatoes recently, no?)

11. corn - much of our corn is genetically modified - did you know that?

12. potatoes - so this goes for fries and all other potato products

13. celery - is available in my store as an organic product

14. cucumbers

15. spinach (another recent scare) organic salad greens and spinach are available in my store.

16. Green and red bell peppers

17. Green beans - we're talking acephate, benomyl, chlorathalanil, methamidophos,

18. Carrots - a new addition to the list!

19. rice

20. oats

21. milk (organic here is over $5 a gallon - but thanks to little old me - they do carry it!)

So this is basically, you know, everything we eat! OK - let me hear from everybody. I really want to know how you are handling feeding your families. I would suggest the sardine diet, but apparently we're not supposed to eat anything that is currently coming out of our oceans, either! A little mercury with that tuna, anyone?

Sorry so serious today!

Sardine Mama


  1. Next time you see Chris ask him about the shrimp. He used to import it (and tuna) when we lived in CT.

    He can give you a lot of the low down on what you are wondering about since his job is to find suppliers for HEB. Many are in the US but quite a few are overseas too (mushrooms, pickles, mandarin oranges etc...)

  2. If you haven't read it yet - but sounds like you might have - is "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". Really great book! We buy locally as much as possibly. Our community has a local food co-op with raw milk, local veggies, eggs, bacon and honey being delivery weekly, bi-weekly or monthly depending on which food we order. So we start there and then add to it as needed at the weekly farmer's market. We have a big family too so we always add to it! lol I also shop Costco for berries - great prices on blueberries, strawberries & raspberries. Other Costco items are spinach (organic), lettuces, tortillas, chicken (breast or whole and I've found we like the boneless thighs as well). The thing with Costco is you have to avoid those impulse purchases! ;) I do all the paper products there now too. In fact, I only shop HEB for flour (because they have unbleached), condiments and more speciality items now. It's tough and you are so right that it is more expensive now with healthier foods - but then again I don't ever buy the frozen items so it might still be more if we purchased those. Good luck! I'm right there with you!

  3. Texan - why are we importing pickles? Are cucumbers rare? Wasn't that an adorable pic of Emma on the haybails, by the way?

    Lisa - I checked your blog and see that you are in New Braunfels. I think that area is ahead of mine in being organic and earth-friendly. I am having a very hard time locating a co-op here - even in San Antonio. And I'm looking for a 1-stop shop since I am out in the middle of nowhere and driving here and there is just such a waste of gas....I'm wondering, though, if I got several families together who would be willing to share in the trips - could we join your co-op? There is a co-op here that deals in raw milk only- but that is one trip for raw milk...then a trip to a Farmer's Market where I can usually only find tomatoes and the before-mentioned rare cucumbers,and so therefore, it becomes a wasted trip, you know? Then the additional 30-40 miles to Costco...I am almost 9 miles from the nearest HEB. Anyway - your co-op sounds great (just what I'm looking for). How much is the raw milk? How much does your family consume? Thanks for answering all of my questions!

  4. Well, I guess I'm lucky that my good friend started this co-op, but it has been passed on and grown a lot! The lady who does the raw milk (costs $7.oo a gallon by the way) really opened up her doors to allowing us to pick up other things at her house. The CSA produce is through Braune Farms in Seguin. It just sort of grew from milk and now we get local veggies (my bag today had tomatoes, onions, squash and peppers), bacon, etc. I try not to waste too much time running around and with gas so high we kill as many birds with one stone as possible. Costco is a bi-monthly trip, but the Farmer's Market is great here in NB so it's weekly. Too bad there isn't one closer to you with more variety. We are able to get peaches and many veggies at ours and the one in San Marcos. Here's a good resource for finding local food: This is a Braune Farm listing and you would need to check with them about adding more members to the CSA. We don't drink a whole lot of milk but I do cook with it alot and make homemade ice cream - yum! Having all girls, I started down this road with raw milk after I found how important it was for them to not be exposed to extra hormones as they grow. So we get a gallon of milk every two weeks with a quart of cream. Eggs we get 3 dozen every two weeks as well. SOunds like you will have plenty of eggs soon though! How exciting to have chickens! One day I hope we'll have some too - have to get out of neighborhood living first though. :)

  5. The largest pickle producer in the world is in India. All HEB and HCF brand pickles are from India, same with jarred and canned mushrooms. All from India. <---is the company that produces the mushrooms.

    I would LOVE if Costco would build a store on the south side. It really is too far, even to the new one up by 10, to make any savings worth the gas and I'm never in that area for any other reason.

  6. That's it! We're making our own pickles. Not that I have anything at all against India (our good friend Gillian is there) - but I just think about the energy wasted shipping pickles from India...we made pickles one year and they were delicioso. Ooh! I said a Spanish word! I was trying to do that on purpose recently because the Hernandezes are checking the blog from Mexico - and I couldn't think of anything!