For many Americans missing even one day of work can mean financial disaster. It can mean not being able to pay the phone bill or buy enough groceries. With so many financial worries, it can be easy to forget about maintaining health. All of us need to stay as healthy and as strong as possible on the least amount of money.
Families, Children, Food Ideas
I hear many families talk about eating nothing but rice and beans, but there are many other choices for healthy, inexpensive meals. When you do eat rice and beans, add a few vegetables, tomatoes, cooked potato or egg. In fact, eggs and potatoes can be used inexpensively in many dishes. An omelet filled with sautéed potatoes, onions and fragrant herbs is delicious.
Grow your own vegetables and herbs such as spinach, chard, kale, arugula, lettuces, sweet basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley and cilantro. Then add vegetables and herbs to everything you cook.
One of our favorite salads is a baby green salad with chopped papaya, salmon and avocado. Top with a few walnuts. Another favorite is a tuna salad made with mayonnaise, salt and lots of chopped sweet basil. Place the tuna salad on a bed of greens and top with chopped tomatoes, red peppers, salt and pepper.
Several dinners can be made from one roast chicken. First have chicken and potatoes with vegetables. On the second day, strip the bones to make chicken curry with rice. Lastly boil the bones for broth. Add chopped ginger root, red pepper flakes and any vegetables you like for a spicy, healthy chicken soup.
For a Mexican style dish, cook chicken tenders with olive oil, salt and Tabasco sauce. Serve the chicken with simple quesadillas, sliced avocado or guacamole and beans.
For an easy and inexpensive dish, bake sliced potatoes in a casserole layered with a little chopped, soft-cooked bacon and sliced leeks or onions. Top with black pepper.
For a Japanese-style meal, try baked salmon cooked with chunks of ginger root and teriyaki sauce thinned with a little water. Yoshida’s Sauce is best. Simple fried rice with egg, onion and vegetables is an inexpensive meal. Add a little chopped ham, if you have it. You can flavor the fried rice with just salt and pepper or add soy sauce and a little sesame oil to taste at the end of cooking.
Make a simple marinara sauce by sautéing onions, garlic and herbs from your garden. Add chopped, canned tomatoes, tomato paste and a pinch of brown sugar. Serve with pasta and vegetables or use the sauce for Parmesan chicken. Freeze what you don’t need for another time.
Avoid throwing any food away. Have a leftover eighth of an onion or a little grated cheese? Wrap it well and save it for the next dish you prepare.
I always serve fruit for dessert because it is sweet and far healthier than desserts baked with sugar. There’s only one downside to this. That became clear to me when my five-year-old daughter had dinner at a friend’s house only to return home and yell at me, “They had cake for dessert! I always thought dessert was fruit!” I can attest to the fact that there is no fury like a child who feels they have been deprived of cake for five years.
But the story has a happy ending. My daughter is grown up now and grateful for our fruit-filled desserts. This combined with a moratorium on soda, most breakfast cereals and all high-fructose corn syrup and my daughter has never had a cavity. One of our favorite desserts is sliced apples, bananas and pineapple sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. Papaya with a little lime juice or a bowl of mixed berries decorated with orange slices are also favorites. Luckily, where we live avocados, bananas and papayas are often free for the picking.
At every meal, make sure your children have plenty of healthy food to eat. If you are trying to control your weight, eat only half as much as you want. If not, eat as much as you need to stay healthy, but no more. Save what’s left over for another meal or for tomorrow’s lunch.
Cut back on junk food, sugar and anything that provides little nutrition. Give up on purchases that are nonessential so that you can buy the healthiest food you can afford. Eliminate old habits like smoking, drinking and drugs, as well as over-eating. It’s much more important to stay healthy. Many of us can’t afford unhealthy habits. Give up fast food. You can make cheaper, healthy meals at home. What you gain in health, you will also save in money!
Exercise, Entertainment, Socializing and Voting
Exercise when you have time, even if it is only stretches and a walk. Go on walks with your kids. Enjoy nature. It’s free!
Find free entertainment and free socializing. Join a book club at the library or make crafts you can sell with a craft group. Invite friends over to pool DVDs. Enjoy the hobbies you love and if you can, turn them into a money making venture.
Mental health is paramount for those of us who are overworked and overstressed. If you need help, get it. Help each other. There is strength in community. Stay healthy so you don’t need to spend money on over the counter medicine and supplements. The money you save can be used to buy nutrient-rich foods for you and your family. Congratulate yourself on how well you are doing. Your family needs you and they need you to stay healthy.
Lastly don’t forget to vote. Politicians who actually pass legislation will give us a stronger economy and that in turn, will help us all.
All Americans deserve to be healthy, strong and happy. Eat as well as you possibly can. Stay as healthy as you can. Above all, live to fight another day towards a better life for you and your children.
Summer vacation when I was a child meant three months with nothing to do. My family always retreated to our old home in the mountains where there were no TVs, no computers, no cell phones and few people. At first it was boring and the slower pace of life was as difficult to adjust to as jet lag. But it was also a relief to have no looming deadlines, no to-do lists and no expectations other than the ones I placed on myself.
Soon I filled my time with hiking, swimming, reading, writing, art, music and the most inspiring thing of all, just doing nothing. When older relatives visited, we sat around the campfire. They told stories while I asked questions. We played scrabble and cards and so many simple games that I can’t even remember. Sometimes we tried to outdo each other by making up off-the-cuff stories and poems. There was only one downside to my leisurely summers. When I returned to school in the fall, I hadn’t spent my days watching movies and drinking soda, so I was seriously behind on my movie watching and sugar intake.
Sometimes when my daughter and I are overwhelmed with commitments, endless to-do lists, the internet, phones and gadgets, I find myself wishing that the electricity would go out. Then we would have an excuse to do nothing but tell stories, play games and shape animals out of softened candle wax.
I do try to create times when we have nothing to do, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes we go camping or hiking or we just sit in the backyard and look at the stars. Sometimes we talk. Other times we are silent. At least for a little while, we have nothing to do and in that moment, we have everything.
My ancestors hail from eight different countries and three separate continents, yet my Irish ties have always held a special fascination. Maybe it’s because my Irish relatives are so colorful and they tell such good stories. Whatever the reason, I’d always imagined that my Irish ancestors were somehow bigger than life. On my first trip to Ireland, I’m hoping to find out if this is true.
Upon arriving in Dublin, the first thing I am aware of is that I am the foreigner here and I’m not comfortable with that. I wanted to feel at home, to be welcomed by the somehow familiar faces of ghosts. Instead, I see retired Americans fulfilling a life-long dream and young parents proudly herding their red-headed offspring through museums and castles. I’m surprised to discover that they have come for much the same reason I have. They are all a little sheepish and apologetic about it. They have no explanation for the strong pull that Ireland has always had on them. Seems my journey is not so unusual after all.
I drive across Ireland alone, something which is viewed as not only strange here, but downright shocking. In the countryside, the dominant colors are the emerald green of the rolling hills and the comforting blue of the Irish sky. My eyes ache from straining to catch sight of every thatch-covered cottage and meandering stone wall. I pass ring forts and round towers, monasteries and castles.
Contrary to all predictions, it does not rain. The whole country has a clean, smoky smell from the peat fires. It reminds me of my Irish grandmother’s house. Am I making this trip for her, I wonder.
I stop to visit the crumbling stone walls of a “famine village.” A man in a tweed coat and cap explains to me that everyone in this village perished during the great famine. Even though the potato famine occurred more than 150 years ago, he makes it sound like a current event.
“Many also died on the coffin ships trying to cross the seas,” he recalls. He pauses, then adds, “We keep their blackened cooking pots, out of respect for those who died.”
I thank him for the information and travel on to the next hotel. The woman behind the desk seems more curious than most. She asks me the usual questions: “Why are you in Ireland…and why are you alone?”
She immediately begins talking about the living relatives I must have somewhere in Ireland. I had not been thinking about the possibility of relatives in the present; all this time, I had only been searching for my past. She asks question after question but I have few answers.
“Don’t you have any old letters? Don’t you know what county your family came from?”
“No,” I admit, mumbling something about some letters that may exist with some distant relatives back east. How can I explain to her that we were the transient ones who moved west and then west again and again, each time leaving behind little trace of ourselves?
“You must find out,” she says. Finally, she pauses and then continues, “I didn’t want to say anything at first, but you are the spitting image of my great-great aunt. You even have the same name. It’s even spelled the same way. And she had three brothers who emigrated to America. We may be cousins!”
We exchange addresses and she promises to send me a photograph of my twin who she claims even had similar interests, mannerisms and gestures. “Your voice sounds just like hers and you even walk the same way,” she says. I have to wonder, Is this the ghost I’ve been looking for: a mirror image of myself?
With my trip nearing its end, I reach the Cliffs of Moher. I stand on the precipice and stare out across the Atlantic. I think of my ancestors leaving the land they loved, saying goodbye to families they would never see again. I think of their dreams and their promises to return one day. In that instant, the reason for my trip becomes clear to me. Along with my Irish hair and Irish eyes, I have also inherited my ancestors’ unfulfilled promises. This is a journey I have made for them.
I return to Dublin and spend one final night. Then on my final taxi ride to the airport, the driver asks me about my trip. I tell him that I drove around Ireland by myself.
“You must be mad! A woman shouldn’t drive around Ireland by herself” He ignores the whizzing lanes of traffic in front of him to turn around and look at me. “You must be mad,” he says again.
When he’s recovered from the shock, he tells me about all the places I missed, places that do not seem to be in any guidebook.
“You’ll just have to come back,” he says and he doesn’t let the matter rest until I have promised to return.