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Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?


By MARK BITTMAN from the New York Times

THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli ...” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”

This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)

In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Besides, that argument, even if we all needed to gain weight, is not always true. A meal of real food cooked at home can easily contain more calories, most of them of the “healthy” variety. (Olive oil accounts for many of the calories in the roast chicken meal, for example.)In comparing prices of real food and junk food, I used supermarket ingredients, not the pricier organic or local food that many people would consider ideal. But food choices are not black and white; the alternative to fast food is not necessarily organic food, any more than the alternative to soda is Bordeaux.

The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The making of our VEGETABLE GARDEN

The photos below illustrate the steps in making our Vegetable Garden in our backyard (it is facing east - sun in the morning until about 4 pm in summer).

Note: we decided to make a Garden when friends gave us 7 plants of tomatoes and 3 plants of peppers in small planters.  We already had collard greens we seeded a month ago in a large container.

DAY 1: Select the size of the garden
and shave the grass.

Here 105 inches x 45 inches.
(the tomato, pepper planters and the container
with the collard greens are under the porch)
DAY 1: Unroll the plastic borders under
the sun to make them softer and straight.
DAY 1: Top soil (20 bags),
Garden soil (6 bags) and Mulch (1 bag).
DAY 1: Cut the plastic border pieces to size.
DAY 1: Mark with stakes and twine
the exact size of the garden.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

15 Food Companies That Serve You 'Wood'

From The Street

Are you getting what you pay for on your plate?
or
are you getting wood?



Chief among those concerns is the use of cellulose (read: wood pulp), an extender whose use in a roster of food products, from crackers and ice creams to puddings and baked goods, is now being exposed. What you're actually paying for -- and consuming -- may be surprising.

Perhaps most important to food processors is that cellulose is cheaper because the fiber and water combination is less expensive than most other ingredients in the [food] product.

Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry 

Find out if your favorite foods contain the wood pulp... Read here to read the complete article. 

From an article in the Wall Street Journal:

Here’s the low-down on cellulose:
  • “Powdered cellulose is made by cooking raw plant fiber—usually wood—in various chemicals to separate the cellulose, and then purified. Modified versions go through extra processing, such as exposing them to acid to further break down the fiber.”
  • “Cellulose additives belong to a family of substances known as hydrocolloids that act in various ways with water, such as creating gels.”
  • “The rising cost of raw materials like flour, sugar and oil is helping boost the popularity of these additives.”