Lowdown on the Dirty Dozen

I have insomnia. The type that causes me to lay awake for hours thinking and obsessing about all the horrible things that ever have happened to me, are currently happening, or what could happen if I were to go on vacation to the Amazon and fall off a small canoe while traveling down the Nile and there were hippos and leeches and piranhas and even worse, giant man-eating crocodiles, and one of them decided I looked tasty and I was frantically swimming swimming swimming trying to get away and I turn around and all I see in the murky water is a gaping pink maw coming at me AND THEN IT’S 2 A.M. AND I’M LAYING IN BED WITH MY HEART POUNDING AND I’M SWEATING AND GENERALLY NEVER GOING TO FALL ASLEEP EVER AGAIN. True story.

Freaking. Terrifying.

My point is, I do not have the talent that my husband has for easy and blissful sleep anywhere, any time. I know, because I spend a goodly amount of time laying next to him listening to him breathe as I contemplate his demise. Night time is an opportune time for me to explore all my shortcomings and ways that I can do better for my family. One way that I pacify these voices without either making myself crazy or completely breaking the bank is to follow the guidelines of the Dirty Dozen.

As much as I would love to only buy free range, organic, non-GMO, fair trade foods grown and produced by tree-loving hippies and farmers who sing their flocks to sleep each night, I just can’t justify the cost. I want to eat healthy, but even more than that I want to spare my children and their rapidly growing bodies the hazards of constant pesticide and herbicide exposure. Things like this are seared into my psyche, and I agree with it wholeheartedly:

I get around this by choosing my battles, and spending extra money for organic when it comes to the things in my fridge and pantry that pack the most poison. The dirty dozen outlines the top 12 contenders in order from the highest pesticide concentration to the lowest. The things on this list we simply do without if we cannot get them organic.

Dirty Dozen
1. Apples (Trader Joe’s is my favorite place for organic apples)
2. Strawberries (I’ve lost hours of my life thinking about how many I’ve picked and eaten pregnant with Ayden. He’s so smart now, he probably could have cured cancer if I hadn’t marinated him in pesticides for 9 months.)
3. Blueberries (Costco has a big bag of organic frozen mixed berries that are my toddler’s favorite dessert)
4. Celery (good riddance)
5. Peaches (I haven’t had a fresh peach in years. *sob*)
6. Spinach (Costco has 1 lb. organic baby spinach for $4.53!)
7. Bell Peppers
8. Nectarines
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry Tomatoes
11. Snap Peas
12. Potatoes (This tuber sucks up all the pesticides in the soil)

We’ve found making informed choices about organic produce an easier undertaking when its boiled down into a nice tidy list like this. Even better, there’s yet another list out there of produce that has the least amount of pesticide contamination, but I will cover that in another post. I try not to sweat the occasional lapse when eating out, but I figure our day-to-day intake is minimal so we can take a hit.

In addition to following these lists fairly closely in our home, we also buy only organic milk (Trader Joe’s is one of the cheapest places I’ve found). We are in high hopes that this will spare our pre-teen son from sprouting breasts or our (hopefully) future daughter from starting her period at 9 years old from all the hormones most dairy cows are given. We also avoid canned goods and bottled drinks as much as possible, due to the often high BPA contents of these items. I thought I was being completely paranoid until I discovered that the university hospital where I work is currently undertaking a fetal BPA and phthalate exposure study and measuring babies’ genatalia after birth. Greeeeeeeeat. I’m not a total nazi about this, as we’ve been known to use the occassional can of refried beans, and I’m not going to stop my thirsty child from drinking a bottle of water when he’s running around in our 90 degree weather if that’s the only thing available. But, I’m certainly not going to buy him bottled water to drink at home when we have a wonderful water filter at the kitchen sink.

Not a big fan of this look in a fetus.

Five years ago we started this process by making the commitment to buy only organic milk, which felt huge and unbearably expensive at the time. Over the years we have slowly adopted other lifestyle modifications, and I can only imagine that ten years from now we might well be living like naked recluses in the rain forest in an attempt to escape the chemical exposures of everyday life. Each family has to decide for themselves what is important to them, and taking that first little step is by far the most important one.

Us 10 years from now…scared of everything!

Last but not least….

Name: Rachael

Family: Married mother with a two-year old, and a baby on the way. I also have two very quirky labs, who are convinced they are humans. 

Background: I am the oldest of four children. I grew up in Georgia. After graduating high school, I moved to South Carolina for college. I have a degree in Psychology. My senior year, I was involved in a little accident, and burnt most of my right arm. I decided to change career paths, and just over a year later found myself in North Carolina in nursing school. Hubby & I got married during the middle of my nursing schooling, and moved back to S.C. once I graduated. A few years, a few new jobs, a house, and a baby later, we packed it all up and moved to G.A.

Food: After reading the other ladies bio, I’m a little embarrassed to fill this out! We love food in our house. Hubby & I are big foodies. The little man is going through a picky phase, but generally eats everything, and almost adult portions. My meal planning strategy has been a work in progress since nursing school. During school, we transitioned to a lot of “freezer” meals, and I downsized some OAMC (once-a-month-cooking) meals to fit our life styles. I also fell in love with my crock pot. This same trend somewhat continued off-and-on over the next few years, as life got busier and we became more budget savvy. We don’t follow a strict diet, though we eat much better than we used to thanks to the little man. We are always up for trying new meals. I’m a foodgawker and pinterest addict!

Greatest food challenge: (1) Veggies. I’m always looking for a way to incorporate more of them. I know we don’t eat enough. Honestly, I don’t really love veggies. With the exception of green beans, and sweet potatoes, I find them a necessary evil. They are growing on me though. (2) Carbs. I really love carbs. Paula Deen (pre-diabetes) & I could be good friends. (3) Pregnancy Cravings. I have a problem – I am obsessed with pumpkin. Like pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin bread muffins obsessed. 

Hobbies & Interests: I love to bake. I never get the time anymore, but I am hoping to change that. I’m a huge reader also, and a pretty big computer nerd. 

Favorite Recipes: I’m going to have to leave this one blank. My idea of favorite foods, change quickly with my pregnancy cravings. Currently, you can bet on just about anything with pumpkin.

Kayte’s Bio

Name: Kayte

Family:  I am a married mother of two stinky little boys, ages 10 years and 19 months. I have been married for 11 years and still rather like my husband, so I think I’ll keep him around at least another 11.

Augustine, Kayte, and Ayden
Yes, it has been nearly a year since a decent picture of us was taken.

Background: I grew up as number 9 of 10 children, with the age range spaced out about 36 years. It was interesting, to say the least. We traveled the U.S. and Mexico for a good part of my childhood, and finally settled down in a small town in Wyoming when I was 10. My parents figured it was time to put down some roots, considering I was about to go through puberty and my little brother could read and write Spanish but not English. Before you ask, no, my father was not in the military. He was 18 years older than my mom and liked to fish, so we traveled from fishing hole to fishing hole, winding up in Mexico when word on the street was there was great large mouth bass and crappie fishing there. Wyoming sucked. For 9 years. Then I moved around like a vagrant after high school, from Kansas City to a mid-sized city in South Carolina. By the time I met my husband at 21, I’d moved residences 17 times since graduating high school, burnt down an apartment, and was homeless twice (once briefly, once for 3 months). After baby #1 and an awesome natural birthing experience, I became inspired to be a nurse and did so in 2010. I’ve worked in Labor & Delivery, ambulatory surgery, antepartum, postpartum, and newborn nursery for 3 years before getting up the nerve to go to grad school to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. So here I am now, juggling 2 jobs, 2 kids, a needy toddler, a surly 10 year old, and full-time graduate school. I’m thinking I might as well have another baby and seal the misery deal.

Food: Unlike my mom (Mary), I seldom have the time or forethought to meal plan. We eat mostly low-carb or paleo home-cooked meals, organic as much as possible, fairly strictly following the concepts of the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen in order to maximize our food budget. Currently I make it to the grocery store about once per week, and each day am faced with the “Dear God what am I going to make for dinner” dilemma and subsequent emergency grocery store run by hubby on the way home from work. But that is about to change as of this weekend! I start my clinical rotations in a month, and am anticipating life as I know it to come to a bloody and screeching halt, so having a freezer full of ready made meals is a must. This next 12 months until graduation will be a grueling marathon run, and I’m trying to keep the hysterics to a minimum.

Greatest food challenge: Figuring out what to make for dinner every day. Shopping with a toddler. FINDING ORGANIC PEAS!!! Not eating too many carbs because they make me fat, and since losing 40 lbs of baby weight a year ago I’d really like to stay this size. Getting my toddler to eat dinner (thank goodness he’s cute).

Favorite quote:  Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” -Mark Twain

Hobbies & interests: I am a huge reader, which is a horrible thing when I should be “enjoying” my assigned reading for school, yet there I am night after night devouring Gone Girl or the like. I am rather crafty, as I love to paint, sew, make jewelry, and have dabbled in just about every craft at some point. Unfortunately, school is seriously stifling my inner creative genius at the moment. I am on a bellydance troupe, and we perform 1-2 times per month at local venues. This, too, will have to take a backseat for the next year as well.

Ancient Echoes Bellydance Troupe

A favorite recipe: Hmm. Its tough to choose, but I have a bit of a crush on Alton Brown as well as his meatloaf recipe. Its. Amazing. Here is the link. We try to eat mostly low-carb/paleo, and the next time we make this plan to substitute the BBQ chips with BBQ pork rinds to make it lower-carb.

Photo courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com

Welcome to our Cubbard!

Welcome to our blog.  This is written by a team of three people with a variety of life experiences and viewpoints.  We will be blogging about a range of subjects, heavy on healthy eating and cooking, and budgeting.  The subjects and opinions we write about are what works for us and are in no way a mandate for or a judgment of what you are doing or should do.  We welcome disagreements and other viewpoints as long as they are presented respectfully and politely.  Our lives are a work in progress and our opinions may change over time.

I will start out by introducing myself (the other two will follow with their introductions on separate posts).

Name: Mary

Family:  I am single, the mother of six grown children and grandmother of 14.  I will be a great-grandmother in January.  I live with one dog, two cats and six chickens (chickens are outside only).  I am currently living on the outskirts of a good-sized city in South Carolina and have the advantage of lots of stores such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Earthfare, and a large Asian market in addition to the normal grocery store options.

Grandbabies #13 & #14

Background: I grew up as the second child of eight, living on a farm in Wyoming where we grew and preserved the majority of our food.  I milked cows (by hand) before and after school, gathered eggs, plucked and processed chickens for the freezer, and spent many a summer day weeding the garden, picking produce and shucking corn, snapping green beans, etc. and helping my mother  can and later freeze all the veggies we needed to get through the winter.  Mom baked most of her own bread when I was small, and we considered store-bought bread a real treat.  Money was always tight, but we never went hungry or without shoes or clothes (lots of hand-me-downs).  I got married and left home right after graduating from high school.  My husband joined the army and we spent 3 years in Germany, then in various places in the US. We had four children together, one girl and three boys. We were later divorced and I remarried, and we had two children, one girl and one boy.  My second husband died 12 years ago after an extended illness.  I have had a lot of titles – stay-at-home mom, silk screen technician, production manager, business owner, home health CNA, real estate agent, closing coordinator for a national builder, and administrative assistant in a civil engineering company.  Money was always scarce and it was difficult to feed six kids and 2 parents a reasonably healthy diet.  I learned to do the best I could with what I had, and not agonize over what better things I should be doing.

Food: I practice menu planning, cooking (and eating) real, whole food. I do best when I plan out my meals at least a week in advance, being sure to plan for leftovers. I am currently halfway through my second Whole 30, a diet and metabolism reset program.  I did it once before about a year ago, and was very pleased with the results.  Unfortunately, over time I slipped back into some less than perfect eating patterns so need another reset.

Greatest food challenge: Cooking for one and not wasting leftovers.  I don’t like to eat the same thing over and over, so I cut recipes in half where possible, freeze individual portions for later meals, plan on using leftovers for lunches, and when I still have leftovers I don’t want, I pass them along to someone I know with a limited food budget (he is very appreciative!)

Favorite quote:  “Eat anything you want as long as you make it yourself.” – Michael Pollan, from his book Cooked

Hobbies & interests: I like to read and am fairly involved in my church.  I sit on the Board of a non-profit called Maia Moms, an organization that helps single moms get onto a path out of poverty and despair.  I am retired and am enjoying spending time with my grandchildren, something I didn’t have time to do when I was working.

A favorite recipe: Carnitas (or pulled pork) made in the slow cooker.  Super easy and delicious.  It can be served several different ways – in a tortilla as a taco, in a bun as a sandwich, or as the filling for enchiladas or taquitos.  Be sure and save the broth and use as a base for soup or rice. Here is the link to the original recipe (and be sure and read the comments as they often have lots of great additional ideas).

Photo courtesy of http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

That about wraps up what I have to share about who I am (and may be more than some of you want to know!).  I am looking forward to continuing to chat with you over the upcoming weeks.  We also have a Facebook page and will post there anytime a new post goes up.  Feel free to chat with us there, also.