Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our Real Food Journey

For the past year and a half our family has been on a real food journey. What is real food? It may mean different things to different people but to me it means no processed, boxed food. It means fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables, homemade baked goods (including our sandwich bread) and cooking from scratch with whole wheat flours, unbleached all-purpose flour and little to no white sugar (instead we use local, raw honey and real maple syrup). Y'all it's challenging to cook everything from scratch! So, I don't. I'm learning to live without Ritz crackers and Goldfish crackers, two foods I really relied on 2 years ago for lunches and snacks for the girls.

Homemade sandwich bread. After at least a dozen different recipes I think this is my bread. And the pans are important, too. This isn't the standard 9 x 5 inch bread pan. It's roughly a 12 x 3 inch pan, creating more of the store bought sandwich bread I'm used to seeing and eating.

Homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. This is a fairly new recipe and a keeper!

I think what's one of the hardest issues with a real food diet is finding the time to get it done. I have 3 little girls and they are busy and need my attention and the baby is still nursing every 2 hours. Where do I even find the time? I decided that what we put into our mouths is very important to me, so I make the time. We aren't a TV watching family, instead we cook. Now, Daniel not so much, but the girls do love to get into the kitchen with me and I welcome it, even if it slows me down a little. It is worth it and I know it'll be worth it in the long run. 

I also try and do a little something each morning. Whether it's getting bread going or some sort of snack or prepping something for dinner, I try and get a jump on things. This absolutely doesn't happen everyday. Some days the laundry is 2 feet high and that needs my attention. And it is what it is. But, that's where my freezer cooking pays off for me. When I make something first thing in the morning I don't make 1 batch of something, I make 4 or more. For instance, we all like muffins for breakfast. My go-to recipe only makes only 12 muffins. I don't know how much y'all eat but we could eat 12 in one sitting. Instead of just making 1 dozen muffins I make 8 dozen. I'm dirtying up my bowls, spatulas and muffin pans with 1 dozen muffins, why not keep going and make 8 dozen muffins? This is one of my keys to continuing to eat well, especially on our busy mornings. 

One of our favorite snacks... stovetop popcorn with butter and salt.

A lunch I made a couple weeks ago. Homemade chicken nuggets with panko bread crumbs, mashed potatoes and carrots. And high fructose corn syrup free ketchup. We love our ketchup around here. :)

Now, I find I'm in a good routine with our real food journey but I still get derailed from it. Hey, life happens and I'm okay with convenience foods from time to time. That's why I try and feed our family real foods at home and eat real food 80% of the time and give ourselves grace 20% of the time. We like to eat out, we like Cokes from time to time and chips. It's known as "junk food" in our home but we still enjoy it occasionally. :)

Homemade banana bread... from the freezer! 

If you looked in my pantry right now you would find a few processed foods. I'm still weaning out the boxed stuff from when I bought when I was expecting Natalie. Hey, I'm not throwing it away, it did cost us money. That hasn't always been my mindset though.

About two years ago when I started researching what we ate and how to change things I got rid of everything that was processed. This was a mistake. Don't do this. You'll overwhelm yourself even more. You'll look in your pantry and it'll look like you have nothing in there except lasagna noodles and flour. And that really may be all you have. Again, don't do this! Slowly wean it out. Eat it and don't buy it again. Learn how to make your own. I have a running list of foods I want to make and master. I mark things off as I find my recipe and I feel like I don't need to work on it anymore. And if I can't make it I'm trying to live without it. Yes, that's hard but it probably doesn't belong in my pantry anyways. 

My mother-in-law got us a waffle iron for Christmas, the one I've been starting at for the past 2 years. I love it! I can cook 16 waffles in no time. It takes maybe 2 minutes per waffle to bake up. That's great news to this busy momma!!!

Dark chocolate peanut butter cups

Where do I shop? Aldi, of course. And Kroger. And Whole Foods. And Azure Standard. And Costco. I don't shop at every one of these places each time I shop, just when I need something particular and I feel like that particular place has the best price (yes, I do have prices of foods floating around in my head). Every shopping trip I go to Aldi. I do most of my shopping there. I'm not overwhelmed there, it's a small place and I like what's there. You can still shop at Aldi and eat well. It is possible. 

Aldi is also getting a lot of organic items, which is fantastic. And they really are cheaper than other store brands. A quick word (and opinion) about organic foods. Yes, it's great to be able to buy them but it can still be highly processed. It's probably still loaded with sugar. Read ingredient labels. If I can't pronounce the ingredients I tend not to buy that food. I look for an easy recipe and learn to make it on my own. Daniel likes pop tarts. I don't like the ingredients list. I have a recipe to make my own but they are a little involved so I don't make them often. And yes, occasionally I will splurge for him and buy a box of pop tarts. :) See, it's all about compromise. 

And that's our real food journey. It's a process, a continual process. We still hit speed bumps, we still eat "junk" food on occasion. We aren't perfect. Our real food journey isn't perfect. It's messy but it's delicious. I'm still learning how to utilize all that's available. I'm still learning how to be a better cook. 

What are you learning about food? Anything you'd change in how you cook and bake?

My favorite resources for continuing my real food journey:

Heavenly Homemakers (She has two fabulous books (she has way more than this but these two are my favorites) I'd recommend to help you get started... Oh, For Real (it's a hard copy that she sends to you) and her newest ebook 227 Healthy Snack Ideas and Recipes (I struggle with healthy snacks!)

Nourishing Traditions (Daniel calls me "crunchy" and this book is super crunchy)

100 Days of Real Food (this is another great cookbook to help you get started)

Trina Holden (she also has a couple cookbooks; I recently added them to my cookbook collection)

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