Start with a Prayer
Regardless of what we’re setting out to do, it’s a good idea to begin with prayer. We pray to give thanks. We pray to ask God to satisfy our needs. We pray to ask God for help. Why not pray for God to help us in buying food, and preparing our meals as well? After all, He is our provider. Below are a few verses from the Bible that have inspired me.
Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.Matthew 4:4 NLT
“Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”Mark 7:18-23 NLT
So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?Ecclesiastes 2:24-25NLT
These verses helped me to stop idolizing food, realize that regardless of what I ate it’s what comes from my heart that is poison (not really the food I take in), and that food is a gift—from God—for us to enjoy.
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a complete drain on your finances. Obviously, it’s a big chunk of money, but there are ways to help your bottom line by being smart about one of the biggest lines in your budget.
Budgeting. Prioritize what’s important and don’t buy cheap items just because they’ll stretch your paycheck further. Flour and rice might stretch your dollars but they won’t improve your health. Spend your money only where it matters.
Stores. Specialty shops, discount stores, bulk distribution centers, etc. Take a look at what you frequently buy and hunt down where you can get it most economically. Don’t be afraid of discount stores! Location matters too, if the cheapest place you find a necessity is across town, plan to shop there when you’re otherwise headed in that direction to save on gas and travel time.
Discounts. Military, AAA, Employee, etc. Find out if the places you frequent offer discounts for any particular groups you’re a member of. Alternately, research your favorite stores and see what groups they offer discounts to and when, maybe signing up for a membership in one place can help you out in others.
Sales. Get familiar with your favorite store’s inventory movement and sales schedules—when produce and meat deliveries come in and when sales begin and end. For example, it might be a good idea to shop on Friday evenings if deliveries are coming in first thing every Saturday.
Also, a lot of restaurants offer regularly rotating specials, i.e. family nights where kids eat free with an adult, etc.—it’s not the same as buying groceries, but it’ll save you money and give you a break!
Loyalty Programs. Sign up to save money everywhere you can!
Seasonal. As much as possible, buy what’s in season. Refrigeration, transportation, etc., all cost money. Blueberries are the perfect example. Buy local and freeze for a fraction of what you’d pay otherwise.
Garden. You can’t get any more seasonal and local than your own garden. If you have the space, use it. If you don’t have the space, see if a neighbor or co-worker does. Also, do you know or live near someone that has a garden? Folks that garden often have extras they’re looking to unload, if you’ve got a friend or neighbor that gardens, let them know you’re interested in their extras.
Clip Coupons. Whether you prefer going online or clipping paper coupons, they’re a great option to save on your grocery and household budget. Keep an eye out for good deals, but make sure not to purchase impulsively just because you’ve got a coupon—some products aren’t worth the discount the coupon offers.
Organics. Often time buying locally at a farmers market or direct from a farm will get you produce that is organic quality, it’s just that farmers don’t register their farms as organic because government regulations are cost prohibitive. Ask local sellers how they grow their crops before heading to a store, they might pleasantly surprise you. If you can’t find what you need locally, spend on organic products in the store mostly on items with skins you eat (berries, apples, radishes, etc). Spending on organics where the skins get removed before eating (bananas, oranges, onions, etc) doesn’t need to be a top priority.
Ever hear if the KISS method? Keep It Simple Sweetie! Butter and salt—they’re all that’s needed to get started.
Recipes with layered flavors and multiple herbs and spices are impressive, but if you’re in a hurry, on a budget, and aren’t hosting lavish dinner parties, they’re not required. Long story short, keep it simple.
Butter. From broiled scallops to pan fried chicken or steak, butter is an easy way to flavor and prepare all kinds of meats. Butter is saturated fat. Saturated fat is stable, which means it won’t change its makeup at high temps, such as in the oven or frying pan. For those concerned about consuming saturated fats, there’s more info below.
Salt. Salt can turn bland food into an exceptional meal. Meat, veggies, etc. They all come to life with a little bit of salt. While salt is an awesome all around ingredient beware of the two different types; sea salt vs. iodized table salt. If you’re using salt while cooking, use sea salt; iodized table salt changes properties when heated, so it’s best left on the table to sprinkle on a meal that’s already been prepared.
Avoiding recipes with a lot of ingredients will cut out time necessary to find, prep, and include lots of ingredients to your meal prep routines, and it’ll shave some money off your grocery budget. You’ll also save space in your kitchen cupboards! If you’re already accustomed to using more higher ingredient count recipes, by all means, go ahead. Just keep in mind that it is possible to make great tasting hearty meals with less.
Veggie & Meat Stocks. Another great way to save money and time is to use leftovers to prepare soup stocks. When you buy meat, buy bone-in cuts. After using the meat for a main course, use the leftovers—including the bone!—to prepare broth that you can use right away (or freeze for later). Same goes for veggies. If you’ve got veggies in the fridge that are on their way out, add them to a stock pot to use them up instead of throwing them away. To flavor meat or veggie stock… again… there’s no need to get complicated. Add some salt.
Budgeting is usually a financial thing, but consider budgeting what goes onto your plate as well. The three lines in your plate budget are listen below.
How much protein we need depends on our body composition. About .7 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, slightly more if we’re super active. Lean body mass is what you’d weigh without any fat (think bones, muscles, and organs). Here’s a link to a lean body mass calculator if you want to figure out where you stand.
The proteins we eat help build, repair, and heal the structures in our bodies. Cells, tissues, organs—they’re all built on proteins. Children need protein to grow and adults need protein to maintain our good health and heal from injuries and illnesses. Proteins contribute to the above processes by offering us the vitamins and minerals we use in our growth, maintenance, and healing processes.
Consume fat until you’re not hungry any more. It’s as simple as that. At some point you’ll likely hit a brick wall and know you’ve had enough. When we eat fat regularly, the result of getting used to using it for energy (instead of relying on carbs), is that when what we take in enough calories (from fat) to support our energy needs, we’re no longer hungry. We crave what we need, and nothing more. If you’ve struggled with diets and hunger cravings in the past, try adding fat to your diet—you’ll feel full longer after eating and be hungry less overall.
Fat plays a huge role in many of our body’s functions. It helps stave off hunger (a hormone response) and absorb the essential vitamins available in the proteins we eat. It’s also a more efficient energy source (more calories per gram) compared to carbohydrates. And conveniently, once we’re used to using fat for energy, if we don’t eat enough of it, we easily pull it from what’s stored on our bodies.
Concerned about consuming saturated fat and being ‘Heart-healthy?’
Take a look at the research milestones of the Framingham Heart Study. Since 1948, this study has been working toward, “… identifying the common factors or characteristics that contribute to cardiovascular disease (CVD).” No where in the research milestones is it documented that consuming saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease. The study has documented that high blood pressure and high cholesterol lead to heart disease, but over the past 70 years this study—associated with Boston University and the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute—hasn’t found a link between eating saturated fat and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Aim for saturated animal based fats. Why? Saturated fats are stable when heated and a lot of the fat we consume in our meals is after high-heat cooking—pan frying, baking, etc.
Plant based oils and fats are better for room temp use only—an olive oil based salad dressing is a good example. When plant based oils—olive, safflower, peanut, etc.—encounter high heat, they have a tendency to oxidize. Picture oxidation like rust inside a metal pipe. Instead of a cotton ball tumbling smoothly through the pipe, rust snags the cotton ball.
Carbohydrates. An alternative energy source. There’s a reason restaurants use carbs as fillers and have them as staples in main meals—they’re cheap and filling, and your health is not their responsibility. Our bodies can use carbohydrates for energy, but there are key differences in how carbs are processed within our bodies as compared to using fat for energy. Arguably, frequent hunger cravings may be the gateway issue. From there, the down side of carbohydrates mushrooms.
Our bodies have trouble regulating the glucose spikes and dips associated with the frequent meals characteristic of carbohydrate-focused diets. After a carb-heavy meal, we’re often hungry again 20 minutes later. At that point we begin craving carbohydrates again, we eat, and the cycle continues. We often over-eat as a result.
Our bodies are so incredibly efficient that, when we over-eat, we immediately recognize the excess energy flowing in and move the budget-surplus to our energy savings bank—body fat. Energy currency is in calories and when we’re taking in more calories than we need to keep up with our level of physical activity our bodies store the surplus. There’s only one method of storage, and it’s via body fat. You might be wondering, “Why are we more inclined to over-eat carbs and not fat?” Because fat consumption triggers the appropriate hormone response—one that results in a decrease in the hormone that triggers hunger. When we’ve eaten enough calories from fat (or used enough of our own body fat) to sustain our physical activity, we’re simply not hungry. Simply put, carbohydrates don’t trigger the same hormone response.
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. The frequent insulin response demanded by a consistently high blood glucose level, as well as other various hormone interactions, stresses out our bodies. Some stress is good, but chronic stress is bad. When we maintain an elevated blood glucose level, by eating frequent carb-y meals, we’re adding to our chronic stress load. Chronic stress-hormone elevation is detrimental to our health over time, and may lead to inflammation.
Remember the smooth vs. the rusty metal pipe described above? The rust on the inside of the pipe was from oxidation. Now picture the pipe as a blood vessel. What happens when substances in the blood stream like cholesterol (the cotton ball) ‘stick’ to the oxidization (rust)? This pipe and cotton ball example is the beginning of heart disease. The analogy also helps us understand why half of heart attack victims have ‘normal’ cholesterol levels (the rust is still there even when there are a normal amount of cotton balls), and why high cholesterol may not be unhealthy for some (the number of cotton balls is irrelevant because they won’t stick to the smooth pipe). Often health issues arise when oxidation and inflammation occur together. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Unchecked, the immune system prompts white blood cells to attack nearby healthy tissues and organs, setting up a chronic inflammatory process that plays a central role in some of the most challenging diseases of our time, including rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and even Alzheimer’s.”
To recap, know that carbohydrates are the part of your food budget where the majority of health liabilities reside. Pay attention to how many grams of carbs you take in on average and aim for 100 grams per day or less. To keep carb-loads low, stay away from grains as a general rule, and keep in mind that underground veggies are higher in carbs than above ground veggies. For example, a potato has a much higher carb load than a bowl of salad. When it comes to sugar, consume only occasionally.
For optimal physical and spiritual health, evaluate your priorities. God is first—always—so, start each meal from the very beginning with a prayer, then focus on budgeting money (by shopping smart), time (by Keeping Things Simple Sweetie!), and plate space (by prioritizing foods that promote health).
All that said, the Bible tells us to enjoy the gifts God has given us. Meals are often a gift and food alone isn’t what poisons us when we’ve got an eternal mindset. So, don’t feel guilty about the occasional piece of cake, bowl of fruit, or bag of chips—just make sure that if you indulge every once in a while you give the glory to God, and get back on track after the moment has passed.
Lord, thank you so much for the ladies that are a part of the MOPS group that participated in this discussion this past Monday evening. Thank you for Jen and her being okay with my giving the discussion a shot. I’m so thankful for the open conversation and the women that were there. I hope that at least a small bit of the discussion or conversation resonated with each one of them.
Please Lord, help us all to keep you in our hearts and remember you and give thanks to you for each meal. Lord, you are our provider, you give us the money, the food, the recipes, the families around the table—all of it. Thank you for all these blessings here and now, and Lord… what a joy it will be to eat around your table some day.
I love you. In Jesus name I pray.