When talking with others about feeding their family well, I often hear the same mantra: ”Well that’s fine for you, but it would not work for me; I could never do that!” What do people think I am, Super Woman? Married to an independently wealthy man? Hmm.
People by and large buy into two false notions: that good food is too expensive, and too time consuming to prepare.
First, preparing nutritious, tasty food does not necessarily require endless hours in the kitchen. It just takes planning.
To be succesful, you must plan to have a variety of basic foods on hand at all times. Ingredients such as bones to make stock; unprocessed whole milk, ground meats and quality cheeses from grass-based farms; onions, garlic, celery and herbs; a few fresh vegetables, in season. Add to that butter, quality extra virgin olive oil, lard or tallow, and coconut oil. And don’t forget unrefined salt such as Celtic or Himalayan Sea Salts. With these basic ingredients much can be accomplished!
My family’s meals are usually fairly simple and made in quantity. For instance, last weekend I made a huge stock pot full of chili (heavy on the meat, light on beans, btw). I had started with 5# of pinto beans which were soaked for 24 hours with vinegar and water before being rinsed and cooked. I removed several quarts of beans to the freezer for future meals, and added 5# of ground beef which was browned and added to the pot along with lots of my favorite tomatoes (Muir Glen Fire Roasted Crushed) and spices (chipotle pepper flakes, chili powder, ground cumin). That one pot of delicious chili fed our large family for several meals, with the added benefit of a few single portions in the freezer for my husband when he’s away from home. The frozen beans will make quick work of quesadillas with the addition of seasoned meat, shredded raw milk cheddar cheese, and my fermented salsa.
Last week I made chicken stock, again a whole stock pot full, from which I have made 4 separate meals (various soups, and some of the meat went into a Mexican-style chicken dish).
Broth is a constant at our house. It is nearly always available from our freezer for spontaneous, and easy, soups, casseroles or rice dishes. It adds great flavor and excellent nutrition to vegetables and roasts as well. Just simmer up a pot full for a wide variety of options! We may make meat loaf, or casserole, or any number of other things. But all is made in large quantity with several meals put away in the freezer for another day, or to be consumed as “leftovers” the next. Easy!
Also, I like to chop onions and garlic in the food processor for spontaneous use during the week. A quart will last in the fridge for at least that long, if not used up. You may also choose to brown ground meat, with or without seasoning, to be frozen and thawed for more quick meals. Add to that frozen or chopped and dehydrated summer vegetables, along with some of that broth from the freezer, and you’ve got a delicious meal in minutes!
Breakfast for us is as easy as a frozen berry smoothy made with berries from our own orchard, and homemade raw milk yogurt. Add an egg or two, fresh cream, a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of stevia, and you’ve a crowd pleaser! Oatmeal or fried potatoes are quick to make up (soak the oats overnight before cooking) and will add real staying power for your kids and husband to get through the morning!
We often just make a pan of scrambled eggs with loads of cheese and butter, and perhaps a piece of hot buttered toast for everyone’s morning meal. This is a delicious, nutritious, and filling way to start the day!
If possible, making your main meal of the day early, rather than later, can also help free up some time. If you can get the food prep and dishes out of the way at lunch time, dinner can be light and easy-and more healthful too! It is easier on the body to handle a larger meal earlier in the day, allowing the digestive system a much needed rest. Likely you’ll sleep better too!
One last tip for easing your kitchen time is to enlist the help of your family. Even the youngest of children can “help” in the kitchen, as long as they are able to sit on a stool at the counter. Our youngest, now 3, loves to help by adding ingredients, pre-measured in ingredient cups, to the pot or bowl. She also peels my garlic and helps to stir batters. Is she messy? For sure! Efficient? Not yet, but give her another year or two of practice and she’ll be a fantastic help! Our other children are all able to prepare (and clean up) breakfast, make bread, and even prepare dinner on their own if needed or wanted. All of the children have been brought up at Mama’s elbows in the kitchen, frying eggs or whatever is needing to be done. I train them when they are young so that they become proficient cooks who enjoy, and are comfortable in, the kitchen. What a blessing to me they are!
Now as to the cost factor, while it is true that boxed, packaged, processed food is definitely easy to prepare, is it also really cheap? Really? Consider the high cost of cheap food.
First, our tax dollars go to pay massive subsidies to the “food” industry. To processors, factories, and promoters of “cheap” food. The farmers also receive subsidies to help defray their costs, as do other middle men along the way. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that those dollars could be put to much better use- in my own household!
Then think about the cost of being sick due to the weakened state of our bodies as a result of consuming all of that fake food; indeed, the cost is great! Cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, weakened immune responses, genetic disorders, and more-all due to the toxins and lack of nutrients in our “food”! Is it really cheaper to eat cheaply? I don’t think so!
But it is also possible to eat well on almost any budget; you don’t need to be wealthy to afford good food! But how do we afford this good, nutritious, real food, when money is tight?
To begin with, when shopping at a grocery store, shop only the perimeter. This would include fresh produce, meats, cheeses, butter, etc; but not processed food. If at all possible, however, I would recommend you avoid the grocery store!
Our family’s food comes primarily from local farmers, direct. We go to the farm. We see how they are raising and handling the food they put on their own tables, and which we are considering for ours. We even witness the health of their own families, as well as their fields and livestock. These are real indicators as to the nutrient value and safety! of the foods these farmers produce. As an added bonus, great flavor accompanies nutrient dense foods!
Everything we buy, we buy in quantity. Cheese by the 5lb. block. Beef by the half or whole. Vegetables by the bushel. We are even able to get our fresh, raw milk in 5 gallon buckets! When buying in quantity everything is cheaper, and this extends beyond the farm. I pick up salt in bulk bags, grain by the 25-50lb. sack, even tea and herbs by the pound (www.mountainroseherbs.com); it always saves us money to purchase this way, with the added benefit that I rarely run out of things (and “not running out of things” means we are not running out to get those same items, at a higher cost).
We keep things simple, for the most part. While I love preparing wonderful meals for family and friends, I save the extravagant meals for special times. And I delight in preparing delicious, simple foods and presenting them to guests; they are often wowed by real food alone, and don’t need all the frills! Nutritious, real food tastes fantastic, when prepared thoughtfully and well.
Most people can supplement their family’s food budget by growing their own. Many urban families are keeping chickens now for eggs and meat. They also act as recyclers and composters, taking scraps from the family’s table and turning it into wonderful compost, eggs, and meat. (See www.themodernhomestead.us) And container gardening is such a simple way to make use of even limited space; much can be grown in containers from your own little deck or patio, and fresh herbs and greens can be available year round from a sunny window. If you’ve at least an acre, perhaps you can even keep a couple of dairy goats, or a family cow? Our family has done this very thing off and on over the years, with the added benefits of meat from the offspring, and fertilizer for our garden and orchard!
So shop frugally and wisely, buying only real food-direct from the farm when possible; do everything in quantity; keep things simple; and grow your own if you can. You’ll be amazed at how well your family can eat, be blessed by the resulting vitality, and still be able to keep your food budget within reason by following these simple tips!
Maureen of Mama's Follies, where this article first appeared, is first and foremost wife to a wonderful man and mom to 9 beautiful children. She is also a Weston A Price Foundation chapter leader and educator, Real Food Foodie, and lover of all things good. Especially butter. And cream. More butter. More Cream. And did I mention, butter?!