Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Did I tell you I'm a great starter?

Last week, my husband and I had our periodic budget discussion. It's not pleasant -- he's the type of person who analyzes a Target receipt to figure out how much (including taxes) was spent on the separate categories of groceries, the children, the household; I'm the type of person who loses the Target receipt. But, one thing we both agreed on was the disgusting amount of money we spend on food -- eating out, buying groceries, and throwing leftovers away.

Our discussion (okay, argument) came during the last fifteen minutes of the latest episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution . The fact that it became an argument probably has to do with the sorry fact that I could really identify with Denny, the father of two who feeds his kids out of fast food joints. Although we don't frequent McDonald's and the like eight times a week, we do eat out A LOT more than I would like. And we don't eat out at McDonald's either. On Monday, we went to Black Market Bistro in Garrett Park out for my husband's birthday -- 60 dollars down the drain. Oh, and we got pizza from Mamma Lucia's for the kids and my parents -- delivered -- 40 dollars down the drain. One hundred dollars -- in one two hour period. On food. If you add in the spontaneous, "Let's go to dinner" on a Sunday afternoon, the "I don't really like what you made for dinner, honey, I'm just going to get carryout from Ruan Thai), and the "Mommy, can we stop at Wendy's for a fruit punch?" after school occasions, it starts to add up... and up... and up.

As we discussed our horrendous habits, my husband said something to me that really stuck -- he said, "Look, I know you. I've seen how you operate. You planned our wedding like it was a commando operation -- every detail was perfect. If you decide to do something, you decide to do it well. You just haven't decided to do this (the eating properly thing) well." Wow. That hurt. What the hell have I been doing all these months?

Truthfully, spending a lot of money and not a whole heck of a lot else.

  • Yes, I'm tracking points almost every day and giving WW membership money.
  • Am I drinking the recommended 64 ounces of water a day? No, I drink SOME water and lots of hot tea. But I do sometimes drink Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, to excess.
  • Am I eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Some days yes, some days no. Okay, most days I get close, but no cigar.
  • Am I weighing and measuring each morsel of food or drink that passes my lips? No. I had been guesstimating. Did you know that a serving of protein is the no bigger than the size of a deck of cards (in all three dimensions) -- compare THAT to the size of the average chicken breast.
  • Am I having the recommended servings of dairy? Yes. (Whew -- finally got one!)
  • Am I having the recommended servings of healthy oils per day? Does using only olive oil in cooking count?
  • Am I taking my multi-vitamin? No. I can't get past the fact that I choke on those horse pills.
After going through that mental inventory and coming up so much the loser, I proposed the radical notion to my husband that we are both pretty intelligent people, that we both agree that our eating habits are problematic for a variety of reasons, and that we should surely be able to come up with a solution that we could live with, instead of coming back to the same stupid discussion time after time. He agreed and we started to brainstorm. Here's what we came up with:

Be Ready--
  • I won't run errands in the late morning (my preferred time), but instead do things either right after breakfast or right after lunch. And no more acquiescing to "Can we get a treat, Mom?" Instead, I will start carrying healthy treats with me. If errands at mealtimes are unavoidable, we'll pack a picnic, as we did yesterday -- I had an 11 am doctor's appointment in DC, so the kids and I brought sandwiches, veggie chips, and fruit and had a picnic in a nearby park, followed by a stint at the playground.
  • We will do weekend cooking for my husband's lunches - making 8 serving batches of gluten free food he likes, then freezing it. In two weekends, we'll have 32 potential lunch dishes waiting to be grabbed as he walks out the door (he is a "I don't want to think about it" kind of eater -- very hard when you have celiac disease).
Be Realistic --
  • Recognize that my middle name should be Entropy. I want to go with the flow, especially when I'm stressed (all the time) and overtaxed (ditto). Resolve to swim against the tide of entropy.
  • Don't make meals my family won't eat -- even if they are "good" in some gourmet and/or nutritional sense -- I'm a pretty good cook, and I like to try new things. My husband is not adventurous (he described not knowing what to expect for dinner as "one more stressful thing I have to deal with" and my kids are just like him.
Be Ruthless --
  • So you don't like veggies, family? Too bad. So sad. Guess you will go hungry tonight.
  • I said to my husband, "Just so you know, if we do this, our lives are going to change. Completely. So be prepared." I proposed getting microwavable freezer containers this past weekend so we could start pre-packing his lunches. I think he's scared -- he wants to "think about how we are going to do this" first. My take-- what's to think about? Just do it, okay? My idea is to get these, paired with these, so he can grab one as he walks out the door. But we'll have to relocate the chest freezer to the front entry for that to work, I guess.
  • The WW scale is now resident on my dining room table. Chickadee #1 asked me last night, "Mommy, why are you weighing everything now?" as I weighed (8 oz), then cut (3.8 oz) my chicken breast (marinated in rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice, cook at 350 for 20 minutes, turn on broiler then top with 1 oz feta cheese. Serve with Greek salad and homemade dressing. Yummy.)
Educate the children --

  • We printed out information from USDA's new Choose My Plate website and have it posted on our fridge. You can tailor the plate based upon your age, sex, weight, and goals. It's a much better mnemonic than the food pyramid it replaced and the kids really seemed to get it. When we looked at it, we concluded that we are pretty much a protein and carbohydrate family. We need to become a fruit and veggie family.
  • We need to start buying better food -- for example, my husband likes only Red Delicious apples. Since I'm not picky when it comes to apples (they're not my favorite fruit), I don't really care what kind we buy. But face it, Red Delicious are the least tasty of all the apples available. Yesterday, I bought Pink Lady apples from a local fruit stand. Chickadee #1 (who didn't much like the Greek delight dinner I'd made) ate 3 for dessert. She said they were the best apples she'd ever had. Sad thing is, she is probably right!
  • We need to go for resources and support to sites like Jamie Oliver's foundation and Rachel Ray's Yum-O.
Now it's a challenge. I don't think my family knows what's about to hit them.