There’s an organization in our area called “Food Not Bombs” that collects unwanted food from stores at the end of the day, and then gives it out for free. I have no idea what the origin of the name is, or what political leanings the name may refer to. I just know that it’s run entirely by volunteers, and it’s been a great way to stretch the food budget.
Last week, Leah went with some friends who had been going for months. She came home with 4 cloth bags LOADED with food- over-ripe produce, perfectly ripe produce, some dented boxes of instant organic oatmeal, cut flowers, even 2 potted herbs! We now have both basil and thyme growing on our kitchen window sill, entirely for free. They also got some fresh and some potted flowers.
Last week, I made two batches of apple/pear sauce plus one batch of tomato sauce. I hadn’t expected to make another batch of tomato sauce until next summer, when tomatoes were back in season. We also got some black garlic- a healthy food that I’d read about, but didn’t try because it was too expensive. Our friend also got black garlic and didn’t want it, so we got double. I’ll be enjoying that for several weeks. Plus each person is allowed one dairy item- Leah selected a small carton of pasteurized egg whites.
This week, our friends weren’t going and my daughters had plans with a different friend, so Jack and I went. We saw that it was supposed to be below freezing, so we bundled up. - though not quite enough. Next time I’m wearing TWO pairs of wool socks rather than just one!
This week they had a lot of bread- I could tell it was more than usual from the way the volunteers were encouraging everybody to take “as much as you want.” Most of it was the white flour stuff I literally can’t touch, but I also got a package of Trader Joe’s rice tortillas, a loaf of sprouted wheat bread, and some Udi’s bagels and sandwich bread. Since they contain corn starch, I can’t eat that safely, but the kids aren’t as sensitive so they can eat it.
I took a half gallon of milk from the dairy table, and Jack took a package of free-range eggs. At the time I wasn’t sure it was the wisest choice because some were already broken and another broke before we got it home, but the end result was 8 more eggs that Jack can eat. The rest of us can eat the inexpensive ones from Costco, but he doesn’t tolerate those. The eggs were probably the most useful thing he could have taken, as it saved me several dollars and was an immediate need.
When we were cold and our bags were full- Jack’s precariously with the eggs- I noticed the flowers arranged on a picnic blanket on the ground. I decided not to bother bending down to look at them. Leah was disappointed not to have fresh flowers in the house, so we’ll make sure to grab some next time. Or she’ll get them herself if she’s the one who goes.
All in all, it’s a wonderful opportunity, and something we plan to use regularly.
Years ago, I struggled with depression. I was even hospitalized for it a few times. Over the years, I found that supplements worked better for me than drugs, and later I discovered how various foods made me feel. It was easy to track nasal congestion to dairy consumption, but seeing that I got angry and short-tempered from wheat took longer to notice.
When I found the Blood Type Diet, I thought I’d left depression behind me forever. I’ll stay away from the foods that might trigger depression, and I won’t ever get depressed again. Simple, right? Wrong!
Diet cannot fix absolutely everything. It didn’t keep my ex-husband from getting cancer, and it’s not going to shield any of us from grief. My children are losing their father and I’m losing a friend. I also have to somehow support my children while they’re losing their father, even while I’m having a hard time holding myself together. That tendency to depression never really went away; I simply managed to keep it under control. I’m having a much harder time with that now.
I’ve had some really bad days lately. There were a few where I “forgot to eat” because I just didn’t have any appetite, or the energy to prepare food. The depression I already faced was multiplied by low blood sugar, and dehydration, plus I wasn’t taking my supplements regularly when I wasn’t eating. The end result was a feeling of being completely cut off from the world, barely able to keep going. I had a lot of days like that 15 and a half years ago, shortly before I wound up in the hospital.
I do NOT want to end up in the hospital again. I need to take better care of myself so that doesn’t happen. I started the process to get therapy, but that will take a few weeks before I have my first session. I’ve begun making sure I have a good breakfast in the mornings. Even if I’m not hungry, I’ll sauté up some onions and garlic, add frozen peas or spinach, then eggs. The first day I did that, the smell of the cooking vegetables nauseated me. I just WASN’T hungry. But then I managed to eat the entire thing and felt better afterwards. I took another look at my supplements. I increased the dose of one and started taking a couple that I’d stopped.
Another big help is Bach Flower Remedies. They work well, but it takes some time and focus to figure out which ones I currently need. While depressed, I found it hard to do that, and the old bottle I’d mixed up for myself was long since empty. I made the time to figure out which remedies I now need and prepared a new treatment bottle for myself. Remembering to take it a few times a day is the easy part.
All these little changes are starting to help. When I suddenly realized it would be Hanukkah in a few hours, I didn’t panic. Really, we’d put things away well enough last year, and it only took 15 or 20 minutes for Leah to set up all the menorahs nicely. Then I was able to sit and watch the candles burn down with a sense of peace.
Last Saturday, Jack had his Bar Mitzvah! This means that he’s an adult according to Jewish law. He’s old enough to count in a minion (prayer quorum) and read from the Torah. This is a pretty big deal in a Jewish boy’s life, and the custom is to have a large party to celebrate it. Specific customs regarding the party vary quite a bit from one place to another. I’ve been to Bar Mitzvah celebrations that were fancier than some weddings!
The party we had was modest by New York standards. We planned a Saturday afternoon service, rather than the traditional Saturday morning service, for a few reasons. Primarily, it’s because the Torah needs to be read on Shabbos, but Jewish law forbids us to do things like play music and take photographs during Shabbos. So we wanted the party Saturday night after dark, and having an afternoon Bar Mitzvah service means less time waiting around between the service and the party. The Torah is also read on Monday and Thursday mornings, but those days are inconvenient for family members we wanted to attend.
After Jack read from the Torah, we all shouted “Mazel Tov” and threw candy at him. We made sure to buy individually wrapped gummy candies- nothing too hard that might hurt! After the service, we had a small meal for the congregation. We had a variety of cold foods and salads, which included a few kinds of fish and egg salad. We also served challah bread. The party downstairs after Shabbos included both hot and cold foods and 3 kinds of meat- but there were still plenty of options for the vegetarian guests.
I’d had a long talk with the caterer about 2 months ago, talking about my dietary needs, and balancing that with having a nice spread that would please the most people. I told her to avoid gluten, corn, and potatoes in my food, but I didn’t worry about any other “avoids.” The chicken nuggets were made with regular wheat-based bread crumbs, but she used gluten-free crumbs in the meatballs and rice flour to thicken the gravy for the chicken Marsala. We had rice, but not pasta, as I’m too afraid of cross-contamination, and I knew I’d want to be able to eat the leftovers. Jack insisted on a minestrone soup with pasta, but we also had a split pea soup that I could eat.
Everything seemed perfect during the planning. I’d been unable to locate a specific product- Mary’s Gone Crackers “just the crumbs” so I ended up buying a box of the whole crackers, figuring she could crush them herself. But she managed to locate another brand of gluten-free crumbs that were 100% rice flour, so there was no need to crush the crackers. The crackers could be served at the cold meal instead.
When I arrived at shul on Saturday, half an hour before the service was scheduled to begin, I saw that she’d already started setting up the meal. Among other things, she’d put out two platters of challah- with the gluten-free crackers on the same dishes beside the sliced bread! With all the discussions of what I could and could not eat, somehow we’d never discussed bread crumbs on crackers being a problem? A single crumb could make me sick for weeks.
What I did was take a plate and carefully selected crackers from the edges of the platters, and put those crackers aside for myself. The plate was waiting for me after the service. When we brought the leftovers home, all those crackers were placed into a clean grocery bag. They’re still in that bag, now sitting on my kitchen table. My kids will finish them.
All in all the Bar Mitzvah was a huge success and we’re all very proud of Jack.
Yesterday, Hannah and I finally got some yard work done outside. She did a lot of weeding and bush trimming while I kept her company and helped with the bagging.
While we were out there, we realized that most of the mint growing in the front bed is already “past its prime.” Some of the plants in front were mostly dead sticks, with a few scraggly leaves left at the top. A few weeks ago, they were full of big, bright green leaves. Still, the plants in back looked very healthy, and there were still some leaves to be harvested from the scraggly stalks.
First she cut down the dying stalks and I salvaged what leaves I could from them. It was still enough to fill a 1 gallon food storage bag. If we’d done these weeks ago, I think we would have gotten 5 or 10 times as many leaves. After trimming away the ugly leaves in front, we realized it was probably wise to harvest the smaller plants in back too. They’re smaller, but shiny and green, and likely to die soon if it gets too cold at night. So we harvested all of those too, and got enough leaves to fill another bag.
I think that we would have gotten 1 or 2 bags of mint leaves in early November even if we had remembered to harvest the front plants in September. Most of the growth in the back plants happened after the front plants died off, providing more sunlight in the back. They might have grown even more than they did, had we cut the plants down a few weeks earlier than they thinned on their own.
All told, we've had a horribly stressful autumn and we still managed to get 2 gallons of fresh mint leaves. Last year we only harvested a few leaves, mostly for immediate use. I still have a windfall of fresh herbs I’m not quite sure what to do with.
I’d welcome any ideas anyone has for using these leaves up and for preserving them for later use.
Eggs are an inexpensive staple in my family’s diet. In a family of Os and Bs, we need lots of animal protein, and eggs tend to be less expensive than red meat, fish, or poultry. While I’m well aware of the nutritional and animal welfare concerns about eggs produced in factory farms, the “better eggs” are significantly more expensive. How can I pay $5 a dozen for eggs at the farmer’s market when I can get 3 dozen eggs at Costco for less money?
My son has never been a big eater of eggs because he gets headaches if he eats too many. I can make him one or two eggs, as long as he also eats something else with the meal, such as toast. Even then he gets a slight headache, but I still do that once in a while because his diet is so limited. It’s always a struggle to get him to eat enough protein, fruits, and vegetables- he’d live on grains and dairy if I let him.
Recently, I was in a local supermarket and Eggland’s Best eggs were on sale for $2 an 18 pack. Since that’s about the price I pay at Costco for the “cheap eggs” I picked up 2 packages. Then I made an amazing discovery- Jack can eat these eggs without getting headaches! He’s had 3 scrambled eggs and nothing else with the meal and feels perfectly fine afterwards!
I also found that these eggs were more satisfying. If I eat them with my usual vegetables for breakfast, I find that I won’t need to eat fish or leftover meat at lunch. So, even though these eggs are normally more expensive, it won’t necessarily add to the overall food budget.
I’m still trying to find them as cheaply as possible. They retail for $5 a package, but I can sometimes find them on sale for $2. The first time I found that sale, I bought 2 packages. The next time, I bought 4. I hope they’ll last me until the next sale.
I’m still trying to find other eggs that work well for Jack, so I can alternate based on what’s on sale that week. I’m also not sure about how well Eggland keeps its chickens. I was able to find lots of nutritional information on their website, but nothing about animal welfare.