Today’s reader story is by JoAnn Shull, a working mom of two young boys (Luke who is 2 ½ and Isaac who just turned 1). She is originally from St. Louis but now lives two hours east in Columbia, Missouri, working her dream job in Catholic campus ministry and raising her family with her husband, Kyle. If you’d like to submit your own real food story, you can do so here.
Baby Steps (Pun Intended)
Our journey started in 2012 when my oldest son was getting ready to start solid food. The more I read up on our choices, the more it seemed so easy to make baby food and such a waste of money to purchase those tiny jars that often had more additives than actual food. So we started exclusively feeding our son food that was made in our home.
Our next hurdle came once he started to wean off the pureed stuff. The food we ate certainly didn’t match up to what we fed our son. What kind of example were we setting with our food choices? And I was certainly not going to become a short-order cook making multiple dinners every night!
Back to Basics
With new recipes came A LOT of education…
How can you cook a casserole without a cream-of-whatever soup?
Can you eat Mexican without pre-shredded cheese from a bag?
Each recipe taught me something new. I learned how to cook with new foods I had never used before. I learned how to make a roux and that garlic comes in bulbs, not jars. I learned that not all ingredients are created equal.
It took SO MUCH work – at first. It did get easier as we figured out what worked for us. Some of the biggest surprises to me have now become the cornerstones of our real food life.
What I’ve Learned
- Find a meal planning routine that fits YOUR schedule
I had to learn how to meal plan, shop in season, plan for leftover ingredients, and prep during down times, so we could eat healthy, regardless of our busy schedules. I meal plan on Fridays with my trusty white board and grocery list. Then I hit up the Farmer’s Market and grocery store on Saturdays and prep on Sundays. I lay out our family schedule and my work schedule so I know if we need to have leftovers on a particular evening. Planning lets me have the freedom to enjoy my family while knowing that meals will be on the table for the week.
- You will need to modify your budget
Changing how we ate was a huge overhaul to our budget. But as our grocery bills increased, money spent dining out and medical expenses went down dramatically. We learned to travel smarter and spend in ways that were tasty, healthy, and filling. It took a while to level out, but our overall budget has not dramatically changed while allowing us to lead a real food lifestyle.
- Your tastebuds will change
As we cut out the extra sugar and additives in virtually everything we ate, food that we used to flavor or sweeten heavily didn’t need that anymore. It’s been so surprising to find food that I love (ginger, for example) that never had a chance to shine in processed foods.
- This transformation doesn’t stop at food
We now compost our food waste. We’re also in the process of changing out our cleaning and personal care products to ones that are better for us and the environment. And, most importantly, we’re teaching our two boys about where food comes from and to be thankful for the people that grew and raised what we eat.
Anyone else inspired by their child to clean up their diet? Please share with us in the comments!