Some days do you wish you could pack a suitcase and go hide somewhere…like ALL alone? When 4:00 pm hits and it’s time to start prepping for dinner, do you want to curl up in the fetal position in your bedroom closet? Has the transition into a Real Food lifestyle got you stressed, anxious, or just plain wishing you could rip open a bag of Pizza Rolls and call it a meal?
Does there seem to be just too many changes that you need to make and you’re not sure which ones are the most important? Are you limited by a budget, or maybe you don’t have enough Whole food resources close to where you live? Do you feel like you’re 10 years old, and you’re sitting in the middle of your VERY messy bedroom with threats from your parents to “Not come out until it’s spotless” and you have no idea where to begin, and the simple act of starting seems to paralyze you from doing anything at all? If you answered *YES* to any of these questions, this article is for you. And guess what? You my friend are NOT alone.
TSM (The Stud Muffin) and I started our Real Food journey around the middle of December of 2012. I was dealing with another bought of insomnia, so I thought I’d watch a food documentary to help usher in The Sandman. I chose to watch a film titled Genetic Roulette. I was mortified, shocked, and quite frankly, ticked off by what I learned by watching that film.
That film made such an impact on me that the very next day, we started shopping for organic, Real, local foods and we began eliminating highly processed foods from our diets and we began eliminating GMOs from our diets as best we could. I say as best we could because with all the cross pollination going on out there, it may not be possible to be 100% GMO-Free, but TSM and I are doing our best to make sure we’re educated about where and who our food comes from, how it’s grown and raised and how it’s processed so that it becomes ready for us to purchase and bring home.
Over the past month or so, I’ve noticed that I have become a bit overwhelmed with everything surrounding Real Food. I know I’m not alone.
A well-meaning person could just simply ask me a question, like “Are you growing your own Hemp yet?” or I’ll read another article or blog post while doing research and find 3 more things I didn’t already know about the Real Food Movement, I’ll add those items to my “to-do” list and then just sit there. Paralyzed. Unable to process or absorb any more information, unable to even process why I would want to grow hemp and unable to figure out what my answer should be, and which item on my to-do list I will tackle next. And with that, I’m done. Burnt out. Overwhelmed. Not cut-out-to-be Ma Ingalls: Sustainable Woman Extraordinaire.
I start to doubt my ability to make this lifestyle a reality and start to question if robbing a bank to fund this journey might not be such a bad idea. Of course it’s a bad idea. But seriously, could someone invent coupons for the Real Food people? I mean would it kill ya to help a girl out?
“Help Me!” Series
This post marks the beginning of my “Help Me” Series. I came up with this idea after seeing a comment a friend of mine made on another blog where she asked for ideas on how to make implementing Real Food into her home and budget easier for her, as well as asking how was she supposed to do all this with two young kids, and not rip into a Stouffer’s Family Sized Lasagna out of sheer frustration and exhaustion from spending too much time in the kitchen. It got me thinking, if my friend feels this way, how many other (house)wives and mothers feel this way? So I started snooping around Facebook to find out.
It seems quite a bit of you feel this way and not enough of you are receiving answers when you reach out for help. One mother felt guilty for giving her children a PB & J sandwich made from store bought non-organic peanut butter, but she was so exhausted from trying to take on too much too soon, that she had already fallen into shaming herself for giving into convenience for one.small.meal for her kids. Really?!? Has it come to that? Sadness! Someone please rush to that mother and give her a strong drink, and tell her it’s going to be okay!
I’d read enough. It was time to take a proactive approach to this perfectionist epidemic that is sweeping our Nation and is condemning mothers if they don’t do things “exactly like the pro’s do”. Pooh on the pro’s. I mean, don’t get me wrong, but the pros have been “Real Fooding” it for YEARS and YEARS and many of us are just starting out. We have to cut ourselves some slack, take things slow, celebrate the successes, embrace the mistakes and failures, learn from them, share what we know, take a newbie under our wing when we’re able to pay it forward and last but not least. We need to B-R-E-A-T-H-E!
I have a desire to want my friends to feel that they can come to me with questions, advice or help instead of going to a blogger they don’t know, and so that feeling of wanting to be a resource for my friends as well as help the poor woman who hates herself for feeding her kids a non-organic sandwich motivated me to come up with this series.
My goal is to tackle a new issue/topic/concern each month. I will be writing to help you all along your Real Food Journey. Today we’ll discuss just a few ways to make this journey a little easier and I’ll give some ideas on ways to save time in the kitchen.
Prioritize For the Needs of YOUR Family
The most important piece of information that I can give to you is this: Don’t compare where you are on your journey with where others are on their journey. Further more you need to focus on prioritizing your Real Food To-Do list in a way that fits and works with you and your family. It makes no sense for you to start growing a ginormous garden if you aren’t even remotely interested in gardening OR if you seriously do not have the time. What works for one person and their family may not work for you. Use what you learn as a guideline for your journey, not a map of hard and fast rules. Does that make sense?
Easy as 1-2-3, or 12 and 15
Let’s say you’re new to this Real Food Journey and you have no idea where to start and maybe your budget is really limited. Maybe your shopping options are limited too. Whatever the case may be the easiest place to start is the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list. This is a list that shows, which produce items, are treated with higher amounts of pesticides. When using this list, keep in mind that you still need to look out for the top 4 GMO crops, which are soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. So even though Sweet Corn is on the Clean 15 list, I’d buy it organic or LOCAL.
If you were to simply start out by implementing this list while shopping you’d be making huge strides in not only improving your health, but in avoiding excessive chemicals and GMOs in your produce. This is an easy step to follow and perfect. Once you perfect this and can shop for produce with your eyes closed, work on something new, like avoiding one or more of the ingredients from my Real Food Guidelines.
Where should you start with the Real Food Guidelines? My personal opinion would be to start by eliminating ALL High Fructose Corn Syrup and MSG in your diets. That will require reading food labels. MSG goes by about 50 different names. The most popular aliases that MSG go by are: Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Yeast, Autolyzed Yeast, Natural Flavors, Vegetable Protein Extract, Yeast Extract, Glutamate, Glutamic Acid, Sodium Caseinate, Textured Protein, Soy Protein Isolates, Barley Malt, Calcium Caseinate, Malt Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Oat Flour, celery juice/extract, and Autolyzed Protein. You can also find more MSG aliases here. Another point to consider is that just because it says on the package that it is MSG free does not mean it doesn’t contain one or more of the hidden MSG sources listed above and in the hyper-links I provided.
When we started on our Real Food journey I eliminated HFCS, Aspartame and MSG from our cabinets and fridge. Then I focused on the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 list. Then I moved to avoiding as many GMO’s as is realistically possible. Did you read that? I said “AS IS REALISTICALLY POSSIBLE” This means there may be times you just crave a bakery doughnut even though you know it’s loaded with a chemical shit storm of crap. Other times, you may just want a frozen dinner. In those times, just read the labels and decide ahead of time which ingredients you will put up with on a rare occasion and which ones you’re not willing to have cross your lips ever. For us, it’s MSG, Aspartame and HFCS. Boxed/canned stocks and broths by the way are the biggest sources of MSG (even the brands that claim to be MSG free).
So step back and take a breath. Sit down and figure out what works for your budget, your schedule and your family. If you can simply implement a couple of changes at a time you will have success and you won’t be overwhelmed or feel like throwing in the towel.
Dammit Jim, I’m a Doctor , not a Sous Chef!
I enjoy spending hours in the kitchen. For a recipe that takes most people 30-60 minutes to make, I’ll take twice that amount of time. Why? Because I savor every knife stroke, and every taste after every pinch of salt or seasonings are sprinkled into a dish. So I take my time. Not everyone has that time, so let me share with you a few easy steps that can shave off minutes of prep time in the kitchen. Here are some ideas that can help make the time you spend in the kitchen more efficient and less stressful:
- When you get home from the grocery store, wash dry, prep and store all produce. What I mean by that is I will prep carrots, celery, lettuces, fruits, etc. Some get diced; others just get washed, dried and stored properly. Celery will last for weeks (and I do mean weeks) if you store it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil! I store all prepped veggies and fruits in airtight containers or zip top bags marked with the date using a permanent marker. If I know my menu plan for the week, I’ll prep the veggies that can be prepped while putting groceries away. Some can be frozen; others keep nicely in the fridge.
- When you purchase meat, it’s best to remove it from its original packaging and portion it out, store in freezer safe containers and mark the date with a permanent marker. With everything portioned out, you can really stretch all your ingredients and save money as a result!
- Write out your list of dinner ideas on a notepad and stick it to your fridge. I often forget what I’ve planned to make with the groceries I’ve brought home, so seeing them on a large Post-it note on my fridge helps. Especially if I’m lacking motivation or creativity on any given day.
- Make a universal grocery list for all the meals, and go to the supermarket to get everything you’ll need for the week. Not only does this remove the stress of “what am I going to make for dinner tonight,” but you won’t have to take time out of each day to swing by the grocery store. It also makes putting your shopping lists together much easier and more efficient.
- When getting ready to make dinner, Mise en Place (Meez en Plah) your ingredients. It’s the secret we professional chefs use to keep our kitchens running smoothly. It is French for “everything in place.” It’s a fancy phrase for a very simple idea. In a restaurant kitchen, all the ingredients and tools a chef needs to prepare a dish are organized within reach before he or she starts to cook. So before you begin to cook, read through your recipes, gather all the required ingredients, utensils, and pans, and organize them in an easy-to-reach area. I utilize little prep bowls in varying sizes and put everything on a sheet pan. It really makes putting a dish together much easier! And clean up is a breeze.
- Clean as you go. This is another tip you can take from us professional chefs. Professional kitchens are usually very small, which means there isn’t a lot of space for dirty pots, pans, and dishes. Fill your sink full of soapy water so it is ready when something gets dirty. Not only does this help you keep your kitchen clean while you’re cooking (which is a big stress reducer), but it also makes the cleanup after dinner that much easier.
- Double your recipe, and freeze the extras. There is something to be said for freezer meals. The relief I’ve felt when I know I have some meals in the freezer has been priceless! I can’t recommend this step enough. About once every two weeks I spend a day in the kitchen (4-6 hours) and I make about 4 different meals (at least) and about two thirds get frozen the rest stay in the fridge for our weekly meals.
- Delegate! Do you have an older child who loves to help in the kitchen? Or who could help in other ways, like keeping the younger kids occupied while you’re in the kitchen? What about giving dish duty to the kids old enough to help? Even recruiting your hubby. We have a rule in my house. Whoever makes dinner does NOT do dishes. Everyone needs to take part in the meal making process whether it is helping with prep, or cleaning, or dishes. Everyone! No excuses.
Hopefully you’ve found this to be helpful. My wish is that I’ve given you an arsenal of ideas so that your journey and your time in the kitchen won’t seem so daunting. Remember- we’re in this journey together.
If there is any part of your journey that you are having trouble with, that you’d like discussed in a future post please leave a comment below. I’m here to help and I’ve love to hear from you on which topics you’d like covered in this series!
NOTE- This post was actually published in early 2013, but I updated the publish date to August of 2015 so that this post would show up in my recent posts menu. It’s an oldie but a goodie that deserved to be up “near the top”.PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.
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