Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Intuitive (Curry) Eating

Happiness is a warm bowl of Paneer Makhani over Basmati rice.

The Indian grocery that just opened up in town is giving me a renewed determination to rein in my finances by making time to prepare food on a regular basis instead of my current trend of "oh crap I hit the snooze, now I'll have to buy something on the way to work and get take-out for lunch again."

I'm a complete neophyte to Intuitive Eating as yet, but I'm just starting to get past the place where I crave everything I denied myself while dieting. My body is finally catching on that I can eat anything I want (budget willing) whenever I want, and that there's really no value judgement on food. I can feel it starting to trust me that this isn't just another breather between diets, so I don't have to hurry up and eat everything "while I still can." It will be there when I actually want it, whether that's the next day, or sometime next month. For those of you who've been doing this for a while, bear with me and try not to smirk, it's still quite a groundbreaking experiment for my personal perspective :-)

Anyway, I found these great little meals at the Indian grocery. They're foil pouches full of preservative-free vegetarian curry dishes (mostly paneer or lentil-based). I can keep a bunch in my desk drawer, bring in a bowl of rice, and have whatever I feel like for lunch as determined at lunchtime instead of the day or weekend before. Since Indian food runs the gamut of sweet, spicy, hot, mild, etc., there's a good chance that I won't be driven screaming from the office by the thought of yet another slightly soppy sandwich packed two days beforehand when I happened to have actual free time at home. I'm not somebody who can stick to a steady routine without going a little insane, so the whole "make up a bunch of meals on the weekend and split into servings" thing has never worked for me. I'll cook up something I'm craving on Sunday (provided I actually have free hours to cook on a weekend) only to be nauseatingly sick of it by Wednesday. At which point I'll throw it away and go get Chinese, blowing my restaurant budget for the week instead of saving it for when I get together with friends on the weekend.

I want to do some landscaping this summer, but the cost can only come from what I can save out of my grocery budget and whatever I can e-bay. I went cautiously crazy in this new store today and bought a week's worth of meals for about $30. They keep their prices surprisingly reasonable, which means they're actually catering to the (quite large) Hindu population in the area, rather than the yuppies. Sure, you can get pre-packaged curry lunches at Sawall's super-elitist eco store for eight bucks. I'd rather pay $1.99 and not have to cover the cost of their entire aisle of trendy exotic bottled waters. I mean, what's up with an eco-store selling plastic bottled water anyway? Even at $5 a pint? Freakin hypocrites.

(Their bulk spices are pretty good, I'll grudgingly admit. It's not like I can find mugwort at Wal-mart.)

It's strange how much easier it is to tackle my budget woes without having a diet on my plate (so to speak) at the same time. It also helps that I quit smoking before I concentrated all my energy on my spending habits. It's interesting to see how the different forms of consumption interact. I used to find that out of the three (diet, spending, smoking) I had about enough mental focus to really tackle one at a time. Which meant I could always use running out of money as a handy excuse for why my diets ultimately failed. Once I take dieting and smoking out of the picture, I might actually get my spending under control and start chipping at the credit cards.

And I didn't even think to look at calories on anything. Not by force of will, but it never even occurred to me. I went by "that looks good" and a brief scan of ingredients to eliminate anything with too much anise (yech.) How much simpler it is to not have to work to get the most bulk for a set amount of calories, but instead just think "garlic and green chilis...yep, that's perfect for the office; I won't have to talk to anyone for hours after lunch." There's the perk also of no one giving me grief for not eating in the breakroom (i.e. bumping elbows with a crowd of people going into gory details of their childrens' pooping habits and whatever sports team currently sucks.) After one sniff of green curry fresh from the microwave they might just beg me to be anti-social :-)


Piffle said...

Lucky you having good curry for lunches!

I like to garden and have a few suggestions.

First, try going to, they have all sorts of forums devoted to particular regions of the country, many of those forums have plant swaps set up where gardeners trade interesting plants. You can put up a list of plants you are interested in and a list of ones you have for trade for individual trades as well. If you are just getting started and don't have anything to trade, take a batch of brownies or something to the swap (curry packets?).

Second, seeds are a very inexpensive way to get plants, usually lots of them. The Thompson and Morgan catalogue has wonderful information on growing many kinds of seeds, but they are expensive, though very good in my experience. In general avoid grocery store packets, they are often not high quality, and like spices from the grocery, tend to be aged beyond best use.

Third, look in your local papers and on the net to see if there's a local garden club. Spring is the time for garden clubs to have their plant sales. The only caveat is be a bit careful, often the plants that they have are the real spreaders that can get out of control. Go in knowing what you want to avoid as well as what you want to get, so you don't impulsively get something you later regret.

Hope this helps, this is a tangent, but I feel for gardeners on a budget because they are me.

JoGeek said...

piffle: thanks for the tips! I'll definitely look for swaps in the area. Most stores don't carry the kind of seeds I'm looking for like Rue, Mugwort, Cinquefoil, Lemon Balm, etc. I plan to build raised beds out of scrap lumber to help control the ones that spread, that way I don't have to fuss with them. Also, I've found a lot of stuff I want to grow actually growing wild in vacant lots, or as weeds in friends' yards (like cinquefoil, lilac, wintergreen, catnip, etc., even tiger lillies grow wild in roadside ditches in this part of Michigan) I'd throw a suggestion back in trade and suggest picking up a book on wild plant/weed identification, because some of them make great decorative or herbal garden plants for the cost of a few minutes with a shovel.

And no, because someone will eventually wonder, I don't steal plants from private property without permission, or take anything from state/national parks. There's a difference between scrounging and stealing!

beck said...

Jo, be careful with your raised beds. Sometimes they aren't enough to stop the spread of some of those plants. Those from the mint family in particular. They need to be in separate containers or they'll take over every available bit of earth. (Speaking from experience!!)

JoGeek said...

Beck: Maybe wooden crates set in a woodchip border (to prevent re-seeding outside the crates)? I wonder if I can get used crates for free or cheap from some industrial source.

Piffle said...

Wood crates probably won't work, as the mints in particular spread via their roots and stems too, and they'd worm their way through the inevitable soft spots in the wood that will form as it rots. A ceramic or plastic pot is your best bet. My local recycling center has a bunch of the larger black nursery pots (2-5 gallon) for some reason, perhaps yours might too?

Also, lots of plants will happily reseed in wood chips, gravel, and basically any other mulch you can think of. My favorite strategy to deal with this is to use a soft mulch like the chips or compost and hoe between the plants when the seedlings are little babies. Well, that and letting them grow big then pretending that's where I really wanted them after all.

You should be able to find even unusual seeds online, if you can't find them along the roadside :).