Making it work: Using ingredients you can get

I keep saying not everyone has a Whole Foods. So many times we see recipes with fancy ingredients or things we just don’t have on hand, and we give up or don’t want to make it.  Even more frequently we see ingredients that we simply can’t afford. I call this the “take your breath away” factor of health food. The New York Times just published a blog about the challenges of going vegan (read it here). For those of us living in what I like to call the land of Wal Mart, those challenges can seem magnified. My husband said, “Well there may be some things you just have to order online.” My response is–that defeats the purpose! I want to show that you can do this, you can be a Vegan, no matter where you live! So here is what you can expect from the blog in the next few weeks: Some reviews of products that you can buy locally at major stores. I don’t mean health food stores or Whole Foods or even fancy pants expensive stores like Publix (for those of you in the south) or Fresh (for those of you in Texas). I mean normal stores like Target and yes, even Wal Mart.

(Here is the picture of my Haul earlier this week. Sorry about the picture quality, but it was taken with my phone. I bought all of these items at Target. Tomorrow I am going to detail why I chose these products, their cost, what they are).

As I use the products, I plan to write some reviews of them. I even plan to have my 10 year old serve as a guest blogger to share her input about the products and to give you so input from her sisters.

Back to the main part of my story. The key is to use what you can find. You need to look at recipes and try to figure out what changes you can make to suit your lifestyle. I know, I know. Easier said than done, right? Let me give you my Rice Krispies example.

I wanted to make bars for the kids’ lunches. I like to pack something a little sweet. We normally pack a Kids’ Cliff’s Z Bar (check them out here). But to be honest, my kids were eating one in their lunch, and then they wanted one after school, and the cost was killing me! So I wanted to make some bars at home because it would be cheaper. The recipe called for whole grain, organic puffed rice. Yeah right. Try to find a box of that in my town for less than $6 for the smallest box. The closest thing I could find was Rice Krispies.

This box of cereal cost me $2.99 for the entire box. Here is why I like it: If we buy items like these Rice Krispies, then we send a clear message that there is a market for items like this.

Here is the ingredient list:

Whole grain brown rice, sugar, contains 2% or less of salt. BHT added to packaging for freshness.

Vitamins and Minerals: Iron, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate), niacinamide, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.

 Not bad, right? So this is what I used because it is what I had access to, and I actually feel pretty good about it because I feel like I’m encouraging a big company to be more Vegan friendly (even if that is wishful thinking).
So here is my BIG confession–I shopped at Wal Mart this week. I found some gift cards that we received for Christmas. I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. As  you know, we try to buy from local shops and farmer’s markets, etc. We do our grocery shopping at Kroger and if we need “big box” items, we normally go to Target (although I avoid it as much as possible). But then after really thinking about it, I realized I needed to consider what it is really like across America.
Before moving to Texas, we lived in Georgia. Where we lived in Georgia there was no farmer’s market and if you wanted to shop and save money, Wal Mart was pretty much the only game in town. So, I decided I should try to see what I could do at Wal Mart.  I was pretty happy with what I found.
I was able to get those delicious Rice Krispies. The Almond Milk cost the same as it cost at Kroger. They had some interesting items like coconut oil. However, they were lacking in dried fruit and in seeds. They had a pretty good selection of fruits and vegetables that were reasonably priced. The best part is they clearly labeled all the produce that was grown in Texas!!! That was awesome. That gave me the choice to buy things that were grown in Texas when possible. I really appreciated that.
More than that, it really gave me inspiration that even if you only have a Wal Mart, you can buy local, you can buy healthy. There are inexpensive choices that are available no matter where you live.
Now prepare yourself in the coming days (and hopefully with a repaired camera) for some awesome product reviews and some even awesome(r) recipes! I even spoke with the kiddos last night, and they have enthusiastically signed up to be blog “interns” and give some product and recipe feedback of their own!
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