Shopping for your first non-processed meal

Here you are at a cross-roads. You want to eat “better’’, but you are not quite sure where to start. You have ventured a couple times into a store that offers organic non-processed foods, often found in self-serve bins,  but retreated overwhelmed with stress. What do I buy??? Where do I start??? How do I cook this thing that I can’t even recognize???

Quinoa? Bulgur?? Couscous??? Amaranth???? What is this stuff? I’ve seen some studies about it, but how on earth do I cook it? Can I just get it in vitamin form? 
Let's start with a small shopping list. So as to keep things simple, opt at the beginning for the cheapest available choices. That way, if you mess things up the first time you cook, you won’t feel so bad about it. I myself dumped a whole bottle of red wine into a pot of black beans the first time I cooked them, thinking it was a creative thing to do; it tasted so awful I had to throw the whole thing away, and call a relative to ask how to actually make black beans. Even if I am Brazilian and saw my mother make beans during my whole childhood, I had never made them myself, and certainly was not born knowing how to make them. Unless your parents make a point of teaching you how to cook, you leave home for college not even knowing how to boil an egg. 
Your first, inexpensive, shopping list:
  • 1 Lb organic brown rice, any kind: long, medium, or short grain; if you love the smell, Basmati is great also, but is is more costly, so watch your wallet
  • 1 Lb organic black beans, or... 1 Lb organic green lentils (lentils cook in 30 minutes and require no soaking, so if you are a true beginner, that might be the bean of choice for you) 
  • Cabbage, onions, carrots, celery, beets, collard, mustard or turnip greens... the cheapest vegetables you can find that are organic, or local and organic.
  • If you must include meat, buy only organic, preferably grass-fed and local. To keep it cheap, a good choice is ground beef, which always goes nicely in tacos, burritos and quesadillas.
  • If you like a little sour cream with your rice and beans, or want some cheddar cheese to make a bean quesadilla... just make sure to look for organic cheese, so that you avoid the hormones and antibiotics found in regular dairy products.
  • Garlic for flavoring the beans and collard greens 
  • Olive Oil for sauteing the garlic and/or collard greens, as well as for the salad dressing. It does not need to be organic, but it is a good idea to buy it in a glass bottle instead of plastic.
  • Sea Salt for your beans, salad, greens... sea salt is a better choice of salt than regular table salt; look for iodine, additive-free sea salt.
Optional items: 
  • Vinegar of choice, for your salad dressing. 
  • Bay leaves, to add flavor to the beans.
  • Bacon; use a little bit of chopped, sauteed bacon to add flavor to the beans. Use only bacon that is organic and nitrate-free. It is important not to use regular bacon, since all regular pork comes from factory-farmed animals that are fed hormones, antibiotics, and GMO-corn. The same goes for meat, poultry, dairy and eggs; opt for humanely treated, organic fed, growth-hormone free animals.
Now that you have your staples, what do you do? A good way to start is the all-famous Rice and Beans. They are a staple of Latin American countries, and have kept people in good health for hundreds of years. 
For an easy way to make brown rice, black beans, and collards, as well as other greens, check out the "how to" sections in this blog. Serve any vegetables that you like alongside your rice and beans; sauteed collards, grated cabbage salad, beet salad, or any salad of your choice- as long as it is organic (pesticide/herbicide/fungicide-free).
For other recipes, these are great sites to check out: 
If you like to get your recipes from books: 
For a more detailed staple list, please visit:
For where to find such items here in Jacksonville, go to:
Stay tuned for more, and please don’t hesitate to ask questions! 

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