Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Before I started my WW2 diet plan I had been testing my sugar levels once or twice a day at different times throughout the day. First thing in the morning, before meals, after meals, after exercise, before bedtime, etc. The up and down variety of readings only served to confuse me so I stopped doing it at all. I reasoned with myself that the only blood sugar count that mattered was the A1C to tell me how I was doing. Knowing what my sugar levels were throughout the day is supposed to show me how the food I ate was effecting me. Instead it was depressing me. In my opinion watching my diet was more important and would eliminate some of the stress from watching a sugar count bounce up and down.
I kept wondering how on earth was I going to eat the WW2 diet with very limited money and using only food bank food? I can’t afford to purchase fresh produce or fruit at those high prices. I had to come up with a plan. I kept repeating to myself, “sometimes free is not worth the cost” and “just because food is free doesn’t mean I have to eat it” and “free garbage is still garbage.” I wanted to get away from chemical laden food.
I’m probably telling the steps I took out of order because I can’t remember the order exactly. All I know is that I completely changed the way I looked at food and the ways I prepared it.
I stopped eating the factory made bread and sweets we often get at the food bank. I refused to drink soda or factory bottled juices that are loaded with sugar and chemicals. It was easy to trade my sweet items for someone else’s carrots or potatoes. For awhile I had become slightly vegetarian because it was easy to trade my package of meat for someone’s head of cauliflower or broccoli on the rare occasions when we did get those. I did eat meat but only as a flavoring in soups or stews. Actually, I wasn’t eating much at all. I was skipping breakfast and eating only two tiny meals a day with no snacks. I did loose some weight.
At the next doctor appointment my A1C was a big disappointment. Imagine my surprise and bewilderment when I was told it was higher. Ugh! How could that be? How could my sugar go up when I was barely eating anything at all? I wasn’t eating bread or sweets or drinking pop? I thought I was hopeless and doomed to be on medications for life. I believed this diet wasn’t going to work either. I was ready to give up and start eating regular processed food again. I really wanted to know the reason for the higher A1C so I did more research. This is what I’ve learned.
Our bodies are designed to protect our brain which is what keeps our heart beating. You know how when we are out in freezing weather that our fingers and toes get cold first? That’s the body sending blood from our extremities to protect the brain to keep it functioning and our hearts beating. Our brain operates on insulin created by the pancreas. When we don’t eat enough food, the right food, in the right amounts, and at regular intervals the pancreas creates extra insulin to send as protection for our brains.
When we eat erratically our pancreas doesn’t know when the next meal is going to arrive or how much it will be so it stores food as fat to be used as fuel later during the next famine. If we don’t exercise the fat is never used. Our bodies simply hold onto the fat and the pancreas makes more insulin to store more fat when the food does arrive. When we sleep at night our bodies are fasting. Insulin is created during the night to keep the brain functioning so that we keep breathing and our hearts keeps beating.
Insulin creation is the changing of food into fuel which is used throughout our body so it operates. When we wake after a night of fasting our pancreas must make insulin to help wake our brain and get us active for the day. That’s why breakfast is the most important meal of the day; to break the night’s fast and help the pancreas get us moving.
People don’t get fat exclusively from lack of exercise. Lack of exercise and feeling “lazy” or “sluggish” is only a symptom of the problem. Not the cause. When the pancreas is withholding insulin from our body while protecting our brain it means our body doesn’t have enough fuel to be active. The pancreas doesn’t know if the next meal we eat is going to be real nutrition or just more junk food. Highly processed chemical laden food is not good fuel for an overworked pancreas. Our eyes may see food and our mouths may taste food but the pancreas can’t use highly processed chemicals. The lack of good food nutrition gets our pancreas and our body out of balance and very confused.
Ah ha! So thats the reason I was getting higher insulin levels without eating. Now I understand. I hope I explained that well enough so you readers understand too. With this new knowledge it was time for me to analyze further into my eating habits and diet.
I’ve never been much for eating breakfast. As a child we had to do our chores while Grandma Mama cooked our breakfast. The farm animals were always fed and attended to before we ate. My stomach would be shaky at the smell of food early in the morning even though it was her delicious food. Grandma Mama would make me eat but I ate very little. As an adult my breakfast became cups of coffee. I rarely ate before noon. I’m still trying to eat early morning although its not exactly working for me. My doctor suggested I at least drink a glass of juice, milk, or one of those instant breakfast things until my stomach gets used to accepting food early mornings.
An A1C test is always done while fasting so I started testing my sugar every morning as soon as I woke up. I wanted to see for myself if what I had learned was true. It is. On days when I don’t eat as well or as often as I should my sugar level is higher the next morning. On days when I eat regular meals but also indulge in a sweet treat my sugar levels are lower. Which told me eating regular meals, even if its processed food, keeps the pancreas operating on an even level and not working in a spike and then relax mode. Now that I knew this information I had to ask myself how can I apply it to the food from a discount bin or from the food bank? I’m talking about the mobile food bank not the emergency food bank.
The mobile food bank provides potatoes, onions, carrots, and cabbage every week. I was pretty sure I’d get very tired of eating those all the time. Occasionally we get sweet potatoes and packages of chopped lettuce. During abundance season we may get a dozen eggs, a couple of apples, a couple of oranges, or a tomato. Very rarely do we get other fresh vegetables or fruit. We used to get dry beans a couple times a year but not anymore.
In my research about WW2 food I found out people ate lots of potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, beans, and sweet potatoes in those days. Then I remembered we ate lots of those foods too when I was a child at Grandma Mama’s house. Why? Why was there so much of those six foods eaten during the rationing years? Its because they are easy to grow in a garden. Another Ah ha! moment. The mobile food bank is giving out food very much like what people had during the WW2 rationing years. Then I began to wonder how people ate those foods constantly without it seeming boring and monotonous.
I kept thinking the women back then must have had plenty of recipes for using those vegetables plus beans. I pulled out some of my oldest cookbooks and visited the library for really old cookbooks in search of recipes. Yes! I found many different variations of recipes using those six food items. Some of the recipes I found date back to the depression and earlier. What I realized when reading was… hmm…. how to explain….
Ok, there is cabbage and there is cabbage. Boiled cabbage, cole slaw, and sauerkraut taste different but is still just cabbage. Potato soup, baked potatoes, and french fries all taste different but are still just potatoes. Sliced onions, onion jam, baked onions, and fried onion rings taste different but are just onions. Carrots are still carrots but can be a soup, a vegetable dish, a desert, and even an ice cream pop all tasting different. Yes, I believed I could survive on just food bank food without monotony by using a variety of recipes. My parents, grand parents, and great grand parents did and so could I.
I would supplement my diet with produce found in discount bins but mainly it would be mobile food bank staples. Little by little I started relearning my skills in the kitchen. I baked my own bread and biscuits. I started canning and freezing the extra produce I found in discount bins or got from the mobile food bank. I bought a pressure canner and later added a dehydrator. I’m longing for a garden at my new house.
Each time I did something old as new again the memories of Grandma Mama came flooding back strong in my mind. I remembered walking barefoot through the garden full of vegetables. I remembered my little biscuit bowl and board given to me for practice. I really thought I was sum’pin when I made tiny doll biscuits. I remembered foraging for wild onions, dandelion, and polk greens in the spring as well as wild blackberries and gooseberries in the summer. In the fall there were hickory nuts and walnuts to be gathered. Grandma Mama also gathered strange named things like cat’s ear, creasy greens, skunk cabbage, rabbit carrots, and Sheppard’s purse. I have no idea what those are anymore its been so long. I now have many memories of Grandma Mama and the food I ate as a child living at that farm.
Eating healthy without chemicals no longer seemed to be impossible. Instead it became my goal. Working with my diet was rather pleasant as I continued to remember Grandma Mama and the old ways. Getting my sugar level lower is important but not as daunting anymore.
TO BE CONTINUED AGAIN
If you would like to read a post I wrote several months ago about the food I will not eat this is the link. Be sure to read the last paragraph. Would Great Grandma eat it?