When we first got married, we were pretty poor. (I say “were.” Still are, but it doesn’t matter!) We didn’t know any better, of course, and we were so twitterpated and happy that the lack of money made no difference. Between our small paychecks and lack of knowledge, we ate a LOT of what I would now call “fake food.” Ramen, bullion soups, Doritos, pre-packaged everything, even (gasp!) margarine.
However, it didn’t stay that way for us. Over the years, we underwent several major changes in our diet as we learned more about what we were putting into our bodies. It’s our goal now to try to use as much, real, whole food as possible in our diets while still allowing ourselves a little flexibility here and there.
Real food has been a catch phrase in the past couple years… I have to admit that I feel a little sheepish embracing any major health trend, but this is one that I feel strongly about. What’s more, I feel strongly about eating well on a very tight budget!
So how did we go from a diet of Ramen and spaghetti to a diet of (mostly) homegrown veggies, (mostly) well-sourced meat and eggs, and (mostly) non-processed food?
The answer is: not all at once, and not all the time.
Eating well has been passed down to me. My great-grandparents grew and prepared their own food out of necessity. My grandparents kept up the gardening/canning tradition, and ate well-balanced meals for as long as I can remember (always including dessert, of course!). My mother always kept a garden and made just about everything from scratch, with packed dinner plates always preceded by a colorful salad.
When Tim and I got our first apartment, however, we were fresh off the college-clueless bus, and most of our meal preparation in school involved pushing a button on the microwave. While we both had lots of kitchen and cooking experience, it just wasn’t in our mindset to do it intentionally for ourselves yet.
What cooking attempts I did make left something to be desired. My first batch of homemade bread was lumpy and dense and I decided that it was a skill I would never pick up. My first roast chicken and accompanying sides weren’t done until 10:30 p.m. because of my poor planning. (And nothing tasted like my mother’s did!)
After moving to a rented house, I had gotten a little better at cooking, plus we tried container gardening. My mom came over and taught me how to can my tomatoes. I tried to do better with nourishing choices, but convenience still trumped calculated preparation most of the time.
Then we moved to a tiny trailer where our landlord told us to go ahead and garden if we wanted to. We dug up a 10 x 10 plot. I bought canning jars, and with the help of my mom and good friends, preserved a lot more of our own food. And one of those friends lent me two books that were largely responsible for a major shift in our eating habits.
The first? Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I approached this book cautiously, not wanting to turn into one of those health nut lunatics who preached to everyone about the evils of McDonald’s. (Yeah, you know the ones I mean.) But as I turned page after page, I became more and more horrified by the intricate problems of industrialized food supply, packaged food, and the lack of nutrients in most of what we consume in the conventional American diet. I also became much more fascinated with the ideas of knowing your food’s source, eating whole foods, and eating nutrient-dense meals. I clearly remember finishing the book and telling my husband, “Wow. This book is making me seriously consider trying to grow all of our own food and stop going to the grocery store.” Two years later, that is exactly what we are in the process of trying to accomplish. (Trying is the key word here.)
(Thanks, Simple Truth, for the image.)
The second book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The author detailed her family’s experience of returning to solely local or homegrown food for an entire year. Yes, you read that right. The family vowed to grow their food or raise it themselves, buy it from a neighbor, or do without it. The Amazon book description puts it this way: “Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.” While I didn’t manage to make it all the way through this book because of some other things on my plate at the time, what I did read was monumentally inspiring to put good food as a priority in our family’s life.
For just over two years now, we have been trying to be (mostly) consistent with eating whole foods, growing progressively more of our own food, and sourcing more of our food from local farmers with quality practices that will nourish both their products and our bodies. Are we perfect? No. Emphatically, NO!!! Did I eat a white-sugar cookie while I typed this post? Yes. Case in point.
Besides, I still have a long way to go. Aside from sourdough baking, I know essentially nothing about fermented foods. I don’t usually keep raw milk. (I’ll pause a minute while all you raw dairy enthusiasts take a moment to collect yourselves.) I don’t get why certain fats are good for certain things and not others, and how to get more nutrition from your food into your body. What exactly do enzymes do, anyway???
Enter Trina Holden’s newest book, Your Real Food Journey. Trina kindly gave me a free copy of her book to read and review on my blog, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it and I am super excited to share some of what I learned with you! Trina’s book was exactly what I needed for the next step in my own journey, and I will be back on Friday with a full review of this real-foodie gem.
Where are you at in your food journey? I love hearing from you!
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