Boochy Mama’s Probiotic Tonic – Locally Made Kombucha
Kombucha? Well, this sounds interesting? That was my thought the first time I came across Boochy Mama’s kombucha beverages at Zingo’s restaurant in Perrysburg. I’m adventurous when it comes to trying new foods and beverages, but I began hearing about kombucha in conversations usually followed by something like: “Oh yea…. my wife drinks that stuff.” Well, doesn’t that make you want to give it a sip? None-the-less, curiosity got the best of me and one evening while out to dinner with a friend I decided to give it a go. Woah! Not the “stuff” I was imagining! This was fruity, fizzy very good “stuff”! Kombucha is a pleasantly unique beverage usually served cold, made of tea, sugar, and water. Never tried kombucha, or a little unsure about it? May I suggest introducing it to your tastebuds at the sure to be fun and festive Grand Opening of Boochy Mama’s new location Friday May 6th? 130 10th Street, Toledo, Ohio beginning at 7pm there will be music and tastings, plus some highly recommended cocktails and beer on tap.
Boochy Mama’s is Toledo’s first commercially available kombucha maker, that is quickly spreading distribution across Ohio, Ann Arbor, and through Detroit. Stacy Jurich is the lovely mastermind and tonic maker of Boochy Mama. Her passion for teas, kombucha, and tonics is expressed by the quality product she makes. Creating a truly green company, Stacy uses organic ingredients, and cares for the environment she draws her business from through composting, transporting goods using biodiesel, even delivering bottles of kombucha to retailers by bike when at all possible. Each bottle of Boochy Mama Kombucha sold provides 5¢ to a local charity. Currently Boochy Mama directs these funds to Toledo Bikes!
A native of the Toledo area, Stacy moved about the country several times in her young adult life. Making kombucha was a hobby, turned into a small business as friends continued to enjoy her drink. As the process became more consistent, and the product became more desireable her Toledo roots took hold as she began to feel the pull our city has to offer. Connections, and affordability, as well as the populations growing awareness on health made the choice to stay in the area clear.
As stated previously, Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage usually served cold. Simply put, sweet tea is brewed, combined with a SCOBY, and some starter kombucha to sit and ferment over a two week period. Once the two weeks is complete the SCOBY is removed and the kombucha is bottled. Fermentation is a process that turns sugar to acids, gases or alcohol. It needs yeast and bacteria (the SCOBY); the SCOBY bacteria “eat” the sugar to release gases. When combined with the tea the result is a fizzy, slightly sweet drink with very little residual sugar. Kombucha is not an alcoholic beverage, and is not a “sugary” beverage like pop/soda. In fact, 16 oz of kombucha only has about 60 calories and only 1-2 grams of sugar. This makes a great alternative to pop/soda, sweetened lemonade, or sweet tea, while still giving its drinker a fruity sweet drink.
Many like the heath benefits of kombucha, most notably the benefits to the digestive system. Like yogurt, kombucha has live probiotic cultures that give the body good bacteria aiding in nutrient absorption. It has been said that diets that include fermented foods can help in regulate blood sugars and bad bacterias in the body, and can good for protein digestion relating to muscle health. One of the great things about Boochy Mama’s kombucha is that it is raw and fermented in open air. Unpasteurized kombucha has not been through the high heat process that kills many of the bacterial cultures, some of which contain the benefits noted above. Fermentation in open air allows the product to use environment to its benefit. Boochy Mama kombucha also creates such wonderfully unique flavors not found in the national, grocery store varieties. The blends of organic tea and juice are seasonally changing and evolving allowing for great variety in a growing kombucha market.
One thing I found fascinating about Stacy and her building of Great Lakes Tonics – the mother of Boochy Mama- was her continued individuality in growth. Whether it involves SCOBY, tea, or eventually indoor mushroom growth, Stacy is working steady with other entrepreneurs in the area to make Toledo more diverse. Local artists have lent their hand to the Boochy Mama bear artwork, and the lettering on her labels and storefront. She has even worked to extend the kombucha market into taprooms such as Black Cloister and the Attic. Having kombucha taps allows for growler fill up of kombucha, as well as the development of cocktails involving kombucha. Some alcoholic and other cocktails providing non-alcohol drinkers some options other than pop/soda.
Shopping local is expensive, especially if you want organic local food, and people in poverty can’t afford to eat well. I have heard variations of this before; between low availability in food deserts and the cost of fresh food, it’s next to impossible to eat healthy if you use food stamps. I’ve had people remark on how I eat such fancy food because I shop at the farmer’s market, and how it must be nice to have the income to do so. For a long time it has bothered me that I see frozen pizzas on sale for $1 apiece, yet a head of lettuce is $2.99 in the ad for our regional grocery store that is located in a more impoverished neighborhood. Why was lettuce so expensive? It’s lettuce for goodness sake; it carries very little nutritional value, and it comes from the ground, it’s one ingredient. Yet that mostly-chemical, fake-crap pizza is $1?
If you have a poverty level budget, could you still eat healthy? The upper end of government food assistance programs provide a two-adult, no children household with $347.00 per month to spend on food. The average American household spends nearly double that on monthly groceries for two adults. This got us thinking, could we walk in the shoes of others for a week, and eat our “normal” diet of chemical-free, organic, fresh food, while not going hungry?
Part 1 The Budget
After doing some research, and the Ohio Food Stamp benefit calculator, I found that a poverty level food budget is about $5.79 per person-per day; or $1.93 per meal not including any snacks. This gave us $57.90 for two people for five days to spend on food. We made the assumption that most people have salt, pepper, and some form of cooking oil in their home pantry, so these we would not have to buy, but everything else in our home was off limits. All spices, beverages, or other items of consumption had to be purchased with our budget, (including coffee).
Part 2 Location Food deserts greatly contribute to the issue of making healthy food choices. You can’t assume everyone has adequate transportation to the supermarkets. And you can’t buy what isn’t available. Downtown Toledo is one of the city’s well known food deserts. You have to drive 5 miles to the nearest chain grocery store from downtown Toledo. Attempting to make the best effort possible to understand the needs of people in this type of situation, we decided to limit our shopping to walking distance in the downtown area. This left us with about 3 mini-marts, the farmer’s market, and the newly opened Market on the Green; a small grocery store in downtown Toledo to meet the needs of this food desert community funded by our local healthcare system.
Part 3 Food Banks and Programs
Since we were just starting out with $57.90, salt, pepper, and a bottle of oil, we decided to see what assistance we could get from food banks or food assistance programs. We contacted the people at Food For Thought as they carry both shelf stable and fresh food items in their pantries. The assistance* we received from them provided us with some necessary items to get us started. Another underserved group is low-income senior citizens. Senior Citizens have very fixed incomes with little opportunity to earn extra income. There is also a large population in the food desert area we were focusing on. Therefore, upon contacting the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, we were provided information on the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a program intended to meet the nutritional needs of the elderly population whose monthly income is below the federal poverty guidelines. This was another resource to utilize* in order to eat as healthy possible when we didn’t have much to work with.
(*We were provided a list of items we could choose from the food pantry, we then purchased the listed items ourselves. We did not accept food items intended for those in true need)
Part 4 Planning
Planning was the vital step in the entire project. I sat down Friday night and made a grocery list of our “needs”; or at least what I thought our needs were. Then I made a menu. Starting with breakfast Monday through dinner Friday, we discussed what we would eat down to the spices we would use to season our food. We focused on optimizing our purchases so that we would have very little waste and be able to sustain enough food. For example: if I bought a whole chicken to make for dinner Monday evening, I could cook it up for meat Monday, plus have meat left for another meal or two, and have some chicken stock for rice, and soup! If I bought carrots and celery for the chicken stock I can also slice them up to eat with hummus for a snack, and chop the rest for soup. Beans = tacos, rice and beans, and again soup! Versatility and planning. Finally I made my real shopping list of what we actually needed and what I thought we could afford, keeping a few extras marked to the side if we could manage it. I took into account the food we received* from the food assistance programs, and hoped for the best.
With cash in hand, we went shopping Saturday morning because that is the day the farmers market is open. We started with the mini-marts as they were the most unfamiliar to us, and we had no idea what they would carry. Plus, before December 2015, mini-marts and the farmers market were the only options within walking distance of downtown. First stop, reality check. We would literally starve if this mini-mart was our only option. Not much selection in the way of real food, and the things that were on our list were marked up by three times! As a pretty savvy grocery shopper I knew that an off brand can of corn, not organic, packed with salt, should not cost $2.99, and the expiration date was…. a little past due. We bought a bottle of hot sauce for Andy to use for $1.07. Honestly, we were extremely open minded, but we couldn’t shop there with the aim of our project. It made us sad to think that to some, that is the grocery store; we couldn’t eat like that. Next mini-mart was closed.
We headed over to Market on the Green, calculator and list ready. It was a regular grocery store, but could we afford to shop there? Surprisingly, we could. Prices were very similar to our regular stores, and the selection wasn’t huge, but they had everything on our list. I wouldn’t say that we made sacrifices, but we did make well thought out decisions. Select organic greens were 50% off, so we bought spinach, and skipped kale. Medium eggs were $0.99, so we bought two dozen, which was a dozen more than we expected. I planned to buy an avocado but they were all too ripe, skipped that which was what covered the cost of the second dozen eggs. I typically don’t buy Kraft cheese because, last I checked, they still used rBST hormones in their cows, which is something we avoid, but the Kraft Chipotle Cheddar was 50% off. We intended to buy ham to make soup, and it was on sale, but the ham was full of preservatives, and fillers. The ingredients on the package must have had over a dozen things listed. Like earlier at the mini-mart, we couldn’t eat that. It went against how we feed ourselves, so ham was out, but select packages of hormone free, antibiotic free chicken was 50% off! We felt like we hit the jackpot! We bought double the chicken since we weren’t buying the ham and it was discounted. Our biggest deliberation was butter. Real, unsalted butter was $4.00, and that was nearly 7% of our budget, whereas the good margarine was $1.79 on sale. I probably put the butter back three times, but no, I stuck to my guns, no margarine, only real food.
We left having check off most everything on our list, and we had a great conversation with one of the employees. We spent $43.79. This left us with $13.04 left to spend at the market. My main goal for the market was to buy local raw honey for the many nutritional benefits it offers. I also wanted spray-free local apples, and dried herbs. Forking over $8.00 for honey was tough, but like the regular butter, it was the best choice to make. I also had $1.00 left and bought some radishes to go with my hummus. We went home with $0.04 left, but we did it, we got all we needed.
Monday involved a lot of prep work, and was the only night that involved more than 30 minutes of active cooking. I boiled all of the chicken, and added the veggies and spices needed to make chicken stock. That chicken produced 7 large jars of stock! It felt like a miracle! I took the opportunity to wash all of my fruits and vegetables for the week to make my life easier, and prepared the dry beans while I was at work. The chicken made several meals, the cumin, cinnamon, and dried Italian herbs I picked up at the farmers market seasoned all of our food well. We ate proper serving sizes, which allowed our food to last, but neither of us ever felt hungry. We had plenty of food and as you can see below, we had food left at the end of our week. I tracked all of our meals on MyFitnessPal as we went, so I could later review the nutritional value of our meals. Our meals were well balanced, and we never went over the recommended daily value for fat, or sugar. I maintained my normal athletic lifestyle, the downside being that I was a little under in calories. I could have eaten more to compensate for exercise, but I didn’t want to take away from Andy or short myself later in the week. We did eat boxed muffin/bread mix that we would not normally buy, but since it was offered by the food pantry we ate it, and we were sure thankful for the dessert everyday.
The Menu – What We Actually Ate
We had a surprisingly large amount of goods left over at the end of our week. These items would then become pantry items, allowing us to buy a different variety the next week. Eventually, there would be a point of maintaining our general stock. This was how it was when we first got married. We couldn’t buy everything we would like in one week, but we would plan out things like spices, and luxury goods like ice cream, alcohol, or other treats for the weeks we had a little extra. Needs over wants, and quality goods over the quantity of items.
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t say our week was full of sacrifices, but we did make choices, like with the boxed muffin mix. Bread for instance, we chose 100% Whole Wheat bread, it was the best choice we could make, but it was not organic, GMO-free bread, and it had high-fructose corn syrup in it. The eggs were not local, free range farm eggs like we normally buy. We did choose Oasis pita bread and hummus as they are a locally produced product. We typically buy wheat tortillas, and we don’t really like corn tortillas, but the price difference was significant, and they would be sufficient. We chose to use cloth napkins instead of paper, and we put away the paper towels, since they were not purchased this week (note: paper products cannot be purchased with food assistance dollars, but others in this type of situation would have to use this money for such goods). We made sure to eat proper serving sizes, our priority was quality not quantity.
My focus with food has been to try to “Be Local”, with the blog and in our everyday eating habits. I wanted to be sure that we did what we could to buy local, with the focus of our project being to eat as healthy as possible. Late winter/early spring does not provide Ohioans with a lot of local produce for the market or for the food pantry. We bought local where we could. I am truly convinced that if we bought food within our community from local grocers, and local farmers we would see a vast change in many aspects of your community. Did you know that many of the local farms provide food to area food banks or allow food bank employees to come collect produce after the main collections have been made? Also, the Toledo Farmers Market allows those with SNAP/Ohio Direction Cards to buy tokens to be used to purchase locally grown food. They even offer a Double Up Food Bucks program which offers a dollar for dollar match of up to $20 in tokens that you can spend on fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally. The dollars matched can only be used for local produce. Customers can exchange their EBT funds for tokens at the Customer Service Center at Westgate or Downtown Market. The goal is to get healthier food to local families while supporting local farmers.
We tried to get the best picture we could, but we do understand that this was for five days. Just a taste of what many families and individuals have to deal with. This food budget is commonly divided up by necessary medications, toiletries, pet food, and other needs. We were very thankful for the provisions of the food assistance programs, and we do understand that the intention of these is not for weekly shopping, but to provide help when it is needed. They are a great resource for more than just a few food items. The workers and volunteers can help with food education and guidance in many other need-based issues. I know that I will be contributing more often and contributing items I would want for myself, more organic, shelf stable goods, and more fresh vegetables at the Food For Thought contribution table at the Farmers Market.
Our take aways: food deserts are a terrible thing, had it not been for the new grocery store our options would have been far less. Planning, budgeting, and flexibility were crucial. Yes, choices have to be made, but you can eat healthy under poverty.
Our Budget $57.90 Spent $57.86
Market on the Green Maxwell House Coffee 11oz$4.79 Brown Rice Long Grain Organic $3.49 Cumin Ground Spice $1.49 Cinnamon Ground Spice $1.49 Popcorn Jolly Time 2lb $2.39 (Certified Non-GMO) Butter 1lb $3.99 Cheese Kraft Natural 8oz $1.74 Corn Tortilla Azteca 10ct $1.09 Hummus Oasis 10oz $2.49 (*Local) Pita Bread Oasis $1.49 (*Local) Bread 100% Whole Wheat Nichols $2.79 Medium Eggs 2 dozen $1.98 Carrots 1lb $0.79 Celery 1lb $1.79 Lemon $0.69 Garlic Whole $0.69 Onions 3lb bag $1.29 Bananas $1.65 Sweet Potatoes (2) 1lb$0.49 Baby Spinach Organic $1.89 Chicken Drumsticks $2.40 (No Fillers, Antibiotics or Hormones) Chicken Leg Quarters $2.89 (No Fillers, Antibiotics or Hormones) TOTAL $43.79
Mini-Mart Hot Sauce $1.07
Farmers Market Honey Raw Local $8.00 Apples Local $3.00 (Pesticide Free) Radishes $1.00 Herbs Italian Blend $1.00 (Locally grown organic)
Food For Thought Dried Cranberries Canned Peaches Canned Corn (2) Egg Noodles Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup Apples (2) Dry Pinto Beans Chocolate Chip Quick Bread Mix Milk
CSFP 15oz Diced Tomatoes No Salt Added 65oz Cranberry Juice Unsweetened 3lb Oats Rolled 18oz Peanut Butter Creamy 15oz Unsweetened Applesauce Dry Great Northern Beans Milk