"Just pick me up . . . I'm a pretty little box . . . you need me . . ." it calls.
"Just put me in your cart . . . My chemicals make me deceivingly delicious . . . you want me . . ."
"I'm waiting for you on the endless shelves of the inner aisles . . . I'll take less than 30 minutes
of your time . . ." it purrs.
of your time . . ." it purrs.
For a brief moment I agree, "Oh yes. I do need you. I do want you!"
And then I look at my children and understand that they trust me to provide the best for them that I possible can. They trust me to provide the best for myself, as well. And so I do.
Why do many Americans not eat a real food diet? I have an opinion or two about this. First, many people don't understand what real food is or why it's important. It's simply a lack of knowledge. Fortunately, information is pretty easy to find. Lastly, Americans are busy! I don't know how other real foodies do it, but I make most of our meals and snacks from scratch. I can do that only because I do not have to get up and go to work every day*.
Wait. I do have to get up and go to work, but I only have to move from the bed to my office space in my dining room. While I work I can simmer a pot of beans, bake a loaf of bread and coordinate the clean-up from it all. Still, there are often weeks at a time in which I'm away from home more than I'm here and it's during those weeks that industrial food sings sweetly in my ear. In addition, my current budget doesn't allow for many convenient, prepared real food items.
So, how do I prepare real food from scratch when busy?
Here are some real food tips for busy people on a budget.
1. Planning is everything. When you are busy, it's easy to forget about dinner until it's dinner time. When you are a real food cook, you sometimes have to think about dinner (and all of the other meals) a day or two in advance. It is important to have a menu. Plan a week or even a month in advance. Having a meal plan for the week or month also allows you to spend less money when you shop because you only buy what you already know you'll need.
2. Practice once-a-week or once-a-month cooking. I soak most of my grain dishes. This means that I have to remember to soak the grain 12-24 hours in advance and then cook or bake it after soaking. I don't particularly enjoy cooking breakfast and that's the meal for which we have the majority of our soaked grains. Instead of getting up several mornings each week and cooking pancakes, waffles or muffins, I like to either bake extra each time I make a batch or (this is where meal planning is important!) I make all of my grain recipes on one day (doesn't really take me any longer as I can make pancakes, waffles and muffins at the same time using different equipment), freeze them and (after reheating in my counter top toaster/convection oven) serve them on the day for which they are planned. I usually make double, triple or quadruple batches. I'm working up to once-a-month grain cooking. Once-a-month cooking also works well for soups, stews, shredded chicken, chili, meatballs, meatloaf and many other dinner dishes.
3. Keep some convenient real food on hand. I'll be brief here, because I know that budget-conscious real foodies may struggle with this tip. I find that it helps to keep snacks like Lara bars or maple chocolate fudge on hand. Those are special, sweet treats for us that break up the monotony of our usual menu.
4. Remember the 80/20 rule. Now, I'm not suggesting that you run out and buy dinner-in-a-bag and a boxed cake mix for dessert--you need to chose your 20% carefully--but sometimes a meal from the health food chain store is in order. At least you know what their standards are and that they are usually higher standards than other chain restaurants.
5. Ask for help. If I worked outside of the home*, my sons and my husband would have to cook if they wanted to eat. Even though I'm home most of the time, I still enlist in their help--my oldest wants to be a real-food chef someday and my youngest, a farmer--and each of the boys does dishes once per day. Real food planning, preparation and cooking can be a lot for one person to handle. I'm taking to you, moms who do it all!
6. Use your tools. In a recent conversation with a fellow real-foodie, she mentioned that it would be nice to not feel like Ma Ingalls every time she prepared a meal. Oh boy, did that resonate with me! I'm one step closer to a bonnet and a covered wagon every day, I think. I've got your pioneer woman right here, yo! So to avoid the feeling of every meal being a giant production, use your tools. Got a lead-free slow cooker? Use it! Have you ditched the microwave? Get a counter top toaster/convection oven . I just recently realized that I should be using my mixer to combine thick and sticky soaked doughs that were building arm muscles I never asked for. Doh! We may be eating the old-fashioned way, but that doesn't mean we should forget those modern conveniences that are safe and save time and effort.
Don't give up, even when life gets busy. Keep reminding yourself that the health benefits of eating a traditionally-prepared, real-food diet is worth it!
Do you have tips that I didn't list? Share your story in the Time for Real Food Series.
* Since writing this post, I have taken a full-time job outside of the home. I am using my own tips daily to continue to provide a real food diet for my family.
This post was shared at Kelly The Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday, The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania, The Morris Tribe's Homesteader Blog Carnival and Real Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday.