Monday Mission: Finding Real Food Heroes

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Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to acknowledge that real food takes time. And then some.

Real Food Isn't EasyI was going to write a Monday Mission about stevia, really I was – I had pictures taken for it and everything.

But I’m not inspired to write about stevia anymore (I sort of was when I wrote the idea down on my editorial calendar, but that was a long time ago). Today I want to just write from my heart.

I want to say that I’m proud of you, real food moms (and dads and spouses and grandparents and others). I hear you. I’m there with you. I know it’s not easy.

It’s a Monday Mission because it’s Monday, but it’s something we should all simply keep in mind all the time.

How Much Time do You Have?

mount dishes (475x356)

I’ve often thought of a post called “Nothing Takes Zero Minutes.”

It’s for all the people who tell others that real food doesn’t take any more time than the Standard American Diet of convenience food and fast food, that cloth diapers won’t be any more difficult than disposables, that we can just “eat a banana – that’s fast.”

I’m here to say that even though I try to make things simpler, even though I often tell you Kitchen Stewards how something won’t take very long – NOTHING takes zero minutes. Homemade yogurt is my easiest real food habit, and it is really fast. It only takes about 20 minutes total, in a few 5-minute stints (unless something goes wrong, of course).

But even that – even those 5 minutes here and there, plus the fact that we then have to do what we call “make yogurts” for lunch, doling it out into containers and adding fruit – even those simple steps most certainly take longer than grabbing a pre-fab cup of sugared yogurt and tossing it into a lunch box, or sending money to school for hot lunch.

Who am I to say if you have the 30 extra minutes per week that homemade yogurt will take? I know I do – but just barely sometimes. And if I’m just keeping my head above water, what of the working single mom of four kids? I can’t even fathom what sort of “extra time” that mom does or doesn’t have.

How Fast is an Apple?

Opal Apple (10) (475x356)

Someone told me on Facebook this week when I was chatting about time in the kitchen: “Real food is fresh food. Grab an apple.”

I know this person wasn’t trying to be confrontational and most likely just offering a helpful word of encouragement, but I decided to deconstruct the idea that an apple is fast.

First, let’s compare work needed to serve compared to, say, a single-serve package of junk food of any sort.

Mom with Apple: Retrieves apple from refrigerator or cold storage, washes apple (possibly using produce wash first, adding another minute to the process), and either hands it to the child or slices it first, especially if said child is a toddler and can’t handle skins very well. After the eating experience, Mom certainly has to wash the sticky hands of the child and dispose of the apple core in a garbage that will be taken out in the next few days (i.e. not the van garbage, Katie says from experience). She might also have a knife, cutting board and plate to wash.

Mom with Junk Food: Retrieves package from cupboard (unless child is already holding it out to her), tears open package, hands to child. After the eating experience, Mom checks for crumbs and throws away the wrapper (but if they’re out and about, she can stuff it in her pocket temporarily).

It wasn’t much longer, but wouldn’t you agree that Mom Number One had to do more work? Now multiply that by a family of 8, or bring a snack to a classroom of 27. Bag of pretzels vs. 27 washed apples. I’ve done the latter, and I can guarantee that it doesn’t take zero minutes.

Next, let’s consider storage.

The processed junk food can sit in storage for months, likely years before it’s needed. Mom Two can purchase her snacks in major bulk, do no prep to them, and have them ready any time.

Mom One, with the apple, either needs refrigerator space, which limits her purchasing power, or a cold garage, which will keep fresh apples around for a few months at best.

Finally, let’s move on to cost. Two bags of cheap pretzels are just that – cheap. Two bucks, on sale. You can feed a snack to an entire class of kids for two lousy dollars.

Out of season, you could spend two dollars on just  a handful of apples priced at a dollar per pound (and we’re not even going into organic here). I buy apples at an amazing price, $6/half bushel, or about 25c/pound. I could potentially feed an entire class of children for two dollars, but it would be close.

My conclusion: Sure, I love apples. Yes, we use them often for easy snacks. No, they do not take zero minutes to serve, and no, I cannot serve apples five times a day for meals and snacks – therefore, apples (or other fresh food that doesn’t need to be cut) cannot be the be-all end-all solution to the time that real food takes.

Is Real Food More Expensive?

grocery shopping receipts (2) (475x316)

The last category with the apple brings us to another one of my pet peeves: People who tell others they should have no problem affording real food, when they mean organic, non-GMO, grassfed, free range food.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think you have to spend an arm and a leg to eat healthy food, and I do believe that anyone should be able to afford to eat mostly whole foods on any budget. That just may entail a lot of dry beans, rice, and frozen vegetables, and it cannot expect organics or even non-conventionally raised animal products.

YES, a real food diet, even an organic one, is often less expensive than folks who are impulse buying food, eating out, running to the store for one thing, buying lots of pre-packaged snacks, and not watching their budget.

But NO it is not true that one can shave enough off an already balanced budget to go 100% organic from 0%, even if the family cut all meat and processed foods. I just don’t believe it.

There are too many families in this country with good spending habits, keeping to their food budgets, watching the sales, buying in bulk, making some things from scratch and never eating out – it’s unfair to that entire group of people to say that it’s easy to switch to an organic, farm-raised, local diet.

Again – YES sometimes buying local is less expensive. Fall squash is a great example – it’s incredibly inexpensive in Michigan this time of year and likely five times as much in a grocery store in the winter.

But sometimes buying local is only for those with disposable income. For example, the “no spray” carrots I bought at the market Friday were about $3/pound, whereas I can get organic carrots at Costco for far less than a dollar a pound and baby carrots at Aldi for about that as well. We can go through almost a pound of carrots, raw, in a day, and that doesn’t count carrots that go in soups and such. Three times the price is insane to ask someone on a tight budget to pay, just for local foods.

There’s another group of people the “real (organic) food isn’t expensive” comment is completely unfair to, and that’s the folks who are barely putting any food on the table as it is. There are countless American families who, like Erin wrote about in this heartfelt post, are living with “too much money” to qualify for assistance yet have only about half as much in their food budgets as they would receive in food stamps if they only made slightly less income each month.

You’re reading that right – federal assistance is $147 per person per month, so that’s almost $600 for a family of four people. Many, many families have food budgets hovering around $300 or even up to $400 – but those people truly cannot afford many organic options, even though they are hard-working, smart, and deserve the best.

Finding the Balance

You see, there’s a reason the mission of Kitchen Stewardship is and always has been grounded in balancing the four pillars of stewardship: a family’s nutrition, budget, time and money. It’s not easy to do it all, so I try to help you find the strategies and techniques that will pack the greatest punch in the most areas at once.

That’s why my top 10 steps to Kitchen Stewardship are truly the best tips I have for saving money while switching to totally nourishing foods and eco-friendly habits. It doesn’t get any better than homemade yogurt, homemade chicken stock, using dry beans, and making homemade cleaners. If you really want to enter into the frugal, natural, real food life – you have to start there.

Beyond the basics, things start to get more complicated.

I can teach you how to find nuts for less expensive prices, but I can’t tell you that a pound of nuts is going to cost less than that pound bag of pretzels. I can show you how to make gluten-free baked goods from scratch, but I can’t make GF flours cost less than whole wheat flour or cheap white bread.

I can show you how to cut corners in the kitchen and be as efficient as possible, how to make simpler meals, how to streamline tasks, but real food will always take longer than opening a package. Just look at all the hard work people are doing in their kitchens to feed their families real food!

Don’t tell those ladies that real food should be easy. That undermines and devalues all their efforts, and it’s simply unjust.

Real food is hard work.

Real food takes time – as anything that is worthwhile does!

And when comparing apples to apples – the organic ones always cost more.

I want to shake the hands of (or give hugs to) all those women who feel like they’re spending more time in the kitchen than out. The average American may spend 27 minutes preparing food and 4 minutes cleaning up, and you are most definitely above average.

I want to encourage you:

It’s worth it.

It really is.

I can’t compare my life, my finances, my personality, my abilities, my stress levels, or my schedule to anyone but myself. No one can say blanket statements like “less expensive” or “easier” when we don’t know another person’s capital, what they have left to give at the end of the day.

To those of you whose feet are exhausted from putting up seasonal produce…

To those who extended their abilities today and tried something new from scratch…

To those who prioritize real food in the face of ridicule from family and friends…

To those who stay up late baking so their family has a homemade breakfast…

To those who scrimp and save and cut other areas of the budget to put more toward fresh produce and healthy meats…

And to those who are wondering if they can find enough change in the seats of the car to buy a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread…

I commend you, mamas (and others too!).

You deserve to be applauded.

You deserve a pat on the back (and more).

You who spend far, far longer than 27 minutes in the kitchen – whether you manage to source organics or not, whether you make everything from scratch or just find time for a few important ones, you demonstrate real food heroism.

Wear your capes with joy, good Kitchen Stewards.

I’m proud of you.

Share with other heroes you know:

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78 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Elizabeth says

    Thank YOU, Katie!! I needed to hear this. And hats off to you for being a real food mama as well as a blogger — I really appreciate you :)

  2. Stephanie says

    Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed this. My husband understands real food and agrees that’s what we need to be eating but he doesn’t understand. I Love him, but he doesn’t understand. He says I make things too complicated. That food should be ready in 15 minutes. That food needs to be fast. Trying to help him have the fast food he feels is necessary, I’ve cooked ground beef, shredded chicken and dry beans for the freezer. I’ve assembled casseroles, crockpot meals, soups, and breakfast muffins for the freezer. I’ve canned and dried fruits and stocked the pantry with rice and pasta. I’m hoping now, if I remember in the morning, I can pull from the freezer or pantry for a quick dinner and at night, for a quick breakfast. Now, if only I can keep them stocked with three boys constantly saying, “Mommy I’m hungry.” Thank you for understanding.

  3. Jacqueline says

    I always love your realism, practicality, and eye for simplifying things. Sometimes I sigh about the extra work real food and sustainable packaging brings. Because (unless I skim-read too fast) you didn’t even mention the washing of the yogurt container when it comes back home from school. And every so often, I just do have to cut a corner or two. On the other hand, there are lots of ways to simplify and make it work, one step at a time. I only buy organic, grass-fed, etc. nowadays. Along the way, I’ve had to learn to make different choices: no more chicken breasts- I use wings to make stock, and glean the meat from that for chicken dishes. Right now I’m eating lots of pumpkin products, since that’s what’s available cheaply at the moment. Another biggie for me is freezer cooking/baking. Saves time and makes it much easier to have healthy real food stuff all ready to go.

  4. says

    I commend you for this post. Real food is so good. The Real Food movement is important, but my experience of it has been that it generally lacks compassion, empathy, or any awareness of the privilege that many Real Food choices require. It is most often a stick used to beat up other families and that is really sad. I’ve had the privilege of receiving meals for the last 6 months from many generous families as I went through Chemotherapy, pregnancy, and a child in the NICU and the number of women who felt they had to write little notes apologizing for something included in the meals they sent breaks my heart for them and enrages me at what food has become among a certain set of families. These generous hardworking women felt the need to apologize in advance for helping me because so many Real Food families are out there making them feel “less than”. This post is so refreshing and so needed. Thank you.

      • says

        No. No capes for me. Those go to my husband, family and friends. They have been my heroes. Precious generous heroes. I’m happy to report I’m in remission and finished chemo last week and that our little girl is home from the NICU being loved within an inch of her life by her 2 big brothers and 3 big sisters. Seriously though Katie, this post was great.

    • says

      Wow, Nella….you hit the nail on the head. I’ve wavered in and out of uprooting the way I do everything in the kitchen (on and off and in spurts, struggling with it all) and always feel “less” in the eyes of most of my friends who eat all organic, non GMO, everything homemade, etc. Struggling financially, emotionally, and physically when everything is a monumental effort and then being too intimidated by your “lousy” food to bring it to a gathering or give in a meal train is like pouring lemon juice on a papercut (or worse). I’ve actually not bothered to try taking food to moms in a meal train because I’m too afraid my ingredients aren’t good enough. I feel like they’re looking at me like I’m poisoning my family and so on. It is NOT easy to revamp the way you do everything, especially when life is far from calm. Thank you Katie – for this article! And I’m happy for you and your family, Nella :)

  5. Cheri says

    Thank you so much for the encouragement. It does take a lot of time and there are many times I get tired and wonder if it is really worth it. I know it is, so I keep working at it, adding to what we already do when I can. I love being in the kitchen and am able to do much of my cooking while the kids are doing their
    (home) schoolwork at the kitchen table.
    We’ve done lots of canning this year. I didn’t have a big enough garden, but we have an Amish market near here. I was able to get almost all organically grown produce for a fraction of the cost of other places. Again, thanks for the encouragement! It was just what I needed today. :)

  6. Lenetta says

    K, thanks for this! I had been doing pretty well in my real food journey and then that whole forced gluten free while pregnant thing just destroyed all that. I’m still sorting out the emotional fallout a year an a half later. (Food issues much? :)) I’m working on getting back to that real food happy place, I miss it. [it helps that after one year and eleven days of getting up to feed E at night, I’ve not had to get up with him the last THREE nights! Yay! Now to work on the little fusses… :)]

  7. Lanise says

    You have hit all of my real food pet peeves on the head. How it bugs me when people say “just cut out cable and stop eating out and you’ll be able to afford grass-fed beef and buying all your produce at the farmers market”. Ummm, we cut those things out a long time ago. Or when they say “just stop watching TV, then you’ll have all the time in the world to make real food”. Time to watch TV? That’s laughable with 5 kids an a busy life. We are not perfect when it comes to real food, but we manage to do what we can do with what we have. I believe that is what Christ is for. We do our best with what we have and he makes up the rest. Maybe those non-organic apples will be a little less toxic. Maybe that grain-fed beef will have a little more nutrients. Some may say that’s naive thinking, but I don’t think it is.

  8. AshleyB says

    Katie–what a loving, encouraging note! Right now, I’m only responsible for feeding myself, but even that is challenging at times! Real food *does* take work even when it’s ‘simple’. Yet I wouldn’t give up my real food for anything! I know how beneficial it is to my whole being. I just pray that I’ll be fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom when that time comes that I may have the time to feed my family the high level of nutrition I’m accustomed to!

  9. Scott MacLean says

    Perfect timing on this post! I’ve spent my morning picking produce for tonight’s dinner from the garden while my sourdough bread rises SLOWLY on the counter. I saw in the sale adds that white rolls are on sale for .99 at the store. .99 cents! I feel good about my food choices but it is NOT cheaper in time or money.

  10. Trina says

    I love this post. Thank you. I really felt your understanding and compassion. Sometimes I feel like I must be doing something wrong because it is A LOT of work to keep my family fed making everything from scratch– and not breaking the bank. Right now I have $0 in my bank account until the next check hits. I have two kids under the age of 3 years old and an apple is not a fast snack! This was so nice to read today. Thank you.

  11. Lisa H. says

    Thank you for this post. I appreciate your realism.
    Wow! I never realized federal assistance was $147/mo/person! We do it on $100/mo/person… and there are 10 of us! It takes time and creativity to make the food budget ends meet, but this is our job as homemakers…. we either make or break our homes, and the sacrifices are worth it all in the long run.
    I love a good challenge, and God is faithful to see His children win in the end!

  12. Jeannie says

    Wow! Right on! Thank you for your honesty ESPECIALLY that picture of your sink full of pans. There is just my husband & I but my sink can look like that. I feed us 3 meals a day plus snacks. That’s a lot of cooking & cleaning, planing & shopping, and the constant balance of perishable foods. Thank you for your comments, it helps us everyday folks feel kinda heroic.

  13. Kathy Hutton says

    Yes! I agree, as I try to see the key board. Sometimes I feel like I live in the kitchen… any one say “kitchen drudge” I love my family and want them to eat good. But I feel so much like it is not understood or appreciated. Thanks for the pat on the back! I really needed it! I spent all day yesterday picking apples (free) and making sauce. I am tired and they eat it in minutes. I get the thanks but it doesn’t hold all I need for the work I put in. So again Thanks for understanding!

  14. says

    You are so right. THANK YOU for acknowledging that real food is hard work, expensive and time consuming. I have given up more of it than I’d like b/c I simply do not have the energy for it. I feel like a failure in many ways but I just can’t keep up. Or if I do, I have to give up other things that I enjoy so much more. So I’m hanging in there, but I’m picking and choosing what I am willing to do and hoping we all make it out okay in the end! :-) THanks for your encouragement today.

  15. Amanda says

    Thank you so much. I can tell that I spend way more time in the kitchen than many people I know, and it makes me wonder if I’m slow or inept sometimes. It can be discouraging. But you’re right. All those little things add up. Taco night isn’t “quick and easy” when you make the tortillas, mix your own seasoning, shred the cheese, make your own salsa, chop the tomatoes, etc, etc. And it took time even if I didn’t do it all that evening. My husband reminds me of this when I’m bummed out (nice guy!), but it’s good to hear it again.

    I often wonder aloud how I would do this if I worked full-time. Or if I hated cooking.

  16. mayra says

    WOW!! Thank you, so I am not crazy. I thought I was doing something wrong, so many sights make it seem it should be so easy. It is a lot of work, but I love it and thankfully I have a 12 yr old that loves to help.

    Thank you again I needed this!

  17. Anonymous says

    I am a person who loves to feed my family real foods, however, my family is very low income and I struggle on a regular basis to keep food on the table. We receive food stamps, but it’s not enough to make it to the end of the month. I support local farmers and grocery stores, but real food that is local, organic, and non-gmo does cost more. I don’t mind paying a bit more for wholesome foods, but I sometimes have to resort to processed foods on occasion just to have something to feed my family.

    At first, I felt guilty about having to resort to fake foods to feed my family, but I don’t have disposable income where I can go out and pay for a full CSA, or to purchase meat by the share like other people. I do the best I can and I will no longer beat myself up about my financial situation.

    Cooking real food can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it in the long run to cook healthy foods from scratch.

  18. BreeAnn says

    This is my first time commenting on your website, though I have been following for well over two years. This post was inspired. As a new mom of one (soon to be two), wife to an almost grad student, and someone who is trying her hardest to make sure her family eats the best they can, I NEEDED TO HEAR THIS. It touched me deeply and I thank you for speaking from your heart today.

  19. Christi says

    I just got this post in my email inbox as I was sitting down from a long hard day in the kitchen washing some canning jars a friend gave me, canning pear sauce, and cooking homemade pizza. Thanks for the pat on the back… it was well timed. :) Same sentiments back at ya!

  20. Lindsey says

    Thank you, this was a nice read. I was just talking to my husband about this… it would be so much easier to just give them Fruit Loops, but I can’t do it in good conscience. My extended family thinks I’m weird, but luckily my husband is very supportive.

  21. Davina says

    Thank you so much for this post! I try and cook real food, and am constantly trying to improve on this. But, sometimes I feel like all I do is prep food, then cook, then clean, and then do it all over again for the next meal!! By the way, I recently discovered your granola bar recipe and have since stopped buying the bars I was getting at Trader Joes. My family loves them. I just made a batch this morning. Thank you!!

  22. Audrey says

    I love this!! We are a family of five (almost 6) who have hit hard times. We are, unfortunately, on food stamps (although we only get $330/month for a family of 5, so the “$147/person/month” figure you cited must be an average or something? Because it is certainly not the standard) at the moment, and we have no extra room to add to that right now. We are also gluten-free (well, 3/5 of us are), which is more expensive, and we are a homeschooling family and my husband and I are youth pastors, meaning we have less time to be in the kitchen. I make what I can from scratch, but I just don’t have time to do it all! And on $330/month, it is a challenge. I’m so tired of real foodies making me and everyone else feel like if we aren’t eating perfectly, we are failures. Like if my butter isn’t perfectly sourced grass fed, I might as well use margarine. Or if my veggies are from the super market instead of from a CSA or my own garden, I might as well just have potato chips. Every little bit counts, and we don’t all have the luxury of affording amazing food (or the time to prepare everything). I’m just so sick of the righteous attitude among some real foodies. It’s a huge turn off and very discouraging for those of us who are doing our best with what we have available to us! So thank you for this very real post!

    • Audrey says

      Oh, and I forgot to mention that the youth pastor position is in addition to my husband’s full time job, and it is VERY small income (I mean, it may be enough to cover a tank of gas for now), and he will be getting another job for the winter to supplement our income… So he has less time to spend on food prep than I do!

    • says

      Keep doing your best! My veggies are from the supermarket all winter long…

      The $147 is from the SNAP challenge site: and I have known people who got more than you are receiving with just a single mom and two toddlers. Apparently it’s not a black and white format. You’re doing great, and of course butter is always better than margarine. :) Katie

      • caroline says

        I think the amount depends on the state and maybe the city/county that you live in. One of the local tv stations here did a story recently about the varying amounts of food assistance in different parts of the country. For example, in Hawaii the average amount per person is higher than the average salary of teachers there. I don’t recall exact numbers though.

      • Barb S says

        The ‘food stamp’ amount is offset against household cash income, so the more actual income you have, the less your food stamp benefit is. If a family is totally on cash assistance, then the food stamp assistance would be more. If you have employment or other income such as Social Security, but have huge bills, the only bills counted are shelter, utilities and child support, not school loans or credit cards, for example.

  23. Lorie says

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words, you put a bright spot in my day! I’m working on getting past a sugar addiction that has had me in bondage for a long time. My sweet husband has digestive issues, but doesn’t make the connection between his food choices and his digestive problems. My son is sensitive as well, and his well meaning grandparents believe boxed chicken nuggets are a daily staple. Working outside the home full time leaves me tired, and I certainly hate the face the kitchen when I get home. But thanks to you and other blogs about whole foods, I have started over the past two years to rid our home of toxic chemicals and make changes in our diets to better our health. I’ve come to love sprouted flour, natural sweeteners, and essential oils. I pray every day for the grace to do what I can to help my family build a healthier lifestyle, and your post reminds me to forgive myself when I’ve done what I can but still feel like it isn’t enough. Thanks!!

  24. Vanessa says

    And this Katie is why you are one of my absolute FAVORITE bloggers! Over the past few years (since starting our real food journey) we have been constantly making small changes, beginning with making my own yogurt :) Recently we have been buying the bulk of our food organic, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, and eggs from a farmer local to us. However, my grocery budget has expanded faster than our income has and I need to make a few changes. I may just need to make some cheaper meals, but just facing this dilemma has caused me to be a lot more sympathetic to many families. I am now of the mind that every little thing we can do (be it making homemade stock to simply increasing our fruit and veggie intake by using frozen) is beneficial and should be applauded! Thank you for publicly recognizing all those families out there who are trying so very hard! You are wonderful!

  25. caroline says

    Right now food is not my biggest priority. I am single and don’t have kids so it’s only myself I am ‘messing up’. I don’t worry too much about buying organic but I am trying to cut out processed food, and my intake has gone down a lot in the last few months. I’ve lost about 20 pounds w/o really trying just by cutting out a lot of ‘junk food’. Since I only have one income and a lot of debt, plus normal bills and mortgage, I have to really watch where my money goes. I’ve cut back on food expenses by not eating out as much but probably 2 or 3 times a week I end up doing that even if it is just an iced tea at the drive thru.
    One of the reasons I really like this blog is becasue of posts like this, we are all just trying to do what we can to keep ourselves and our families happy and healthy and everyone has different priorites. I get so frustrated and intimidated when people ‘tell’ me that I am not doing something right whether it is a coworker making a comment about my frappucino or someone telling me I should cut out cable to save money. Katie is not ‘judgy’ like that and although sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the info presented here I know I just have to take it one step at a time.
    I had a greyhound that passed away recently. A few years ago after reading a lot of information about the negative effects of grain in dog food, I switched him to a grain-free food and his health improved a lot. Now I am doing this research for myself and it is kind of scary but like Katie says it’s ‘baby steps’.

  26. Megan says

    You made me cry. Thank you. I was REALLY NEEDING to hear this. It really is hard sometimes and I think, “Is it worth it?” But I just can’t stop. I want the best for my family. Thank you so much for this post. I really appreciate it.

  27. says

    This was great! I love the straight out honesty. It helps me to be careful of making false blanket statements. You’re so right. Real food is hard, hard work. Health is hard, hard work. I spend sooo much time in the kitchen making food for my family, so I love knowing that I’m sooo not alone!

  28. Jenny says

    Thanks so much for this. I have almost commented on many blogs just to say ” you really, really don’t get it or……live in a perfect place.” I am trying, very hard, to raise food on 5 acres for myself, husband, daughter, son in law, 19 month old g daughter, newborn g son, son, daughter in law, mom sister, brother and very good friends. But, I can’t get free feed. I can’t do it all perfect. I’ve law into an acre of heritage corn last year that should last us another year. I have milk goats, hogs, layers and raise approx 400 broilers a year. We but the rest is on my husband and I. Our garden is huge. My kitchen is Always a mess. Dishes are never ever done. Something always needs done and forgotten half the time. I have just said how easy it would be to chuck it all and just go back to the way it was years ago.before I got sick and seemed to be able to help me. Gluten caused several problems and am autoimmune disease. I won’t, can’t go back but seriously it is tempting. I read.and reread.ur posts. They r great and spot on.

  29. Tina says

    Add picking apples to the time cost too…but we try to do it as a family event, and when the children see the process of taking the apple off the tree, talking with the farmer there and the farmers at the market, they have a better sense of the value of food. I also wanted to comment on the cost of flour vs gluten free flour. We are gluten free, but we don’t use gf flour, we just don’t eat those foods any longer. Sometimes when people are converting from a SAD diet to a better food protocol, they try switching from SAD foods to the organic versions of the same things they used to eat. Those “organic convenience foods” are very expensive, and usually really not that nutritious. We find that we keep our food dollars down by buying real food, and cooking it. We don’t watch TV, and we’ve had to cut back on some of the after school sports events etc, but when food is a priority it all falls into place, just takes some habit changing.

  30. Cindi says

    Thank you! Yes, it takes more time but it is worth every minute. Our meals/foods are not where I want them to be (yet) but they are much better than they were. Baby steps!

  31. Samantha says

    So much to take in….I have a bit of a split personality on the entire Real Food issue. First of all, I put a lot of blame on our gov’t (fed and state) for allowing even “real” food to become less nutritious….seriously…outlawing raw milk…and don’t get me started on GMO labeling. 😉 And, unfortunately, as a society–despite the popularity of Food Network–we have forgotten about basic cooking skills. When I leave the cyber world of real food blogs and simple living and go into real people’s homes and realize that many of them have no idea that you CAN cook a meal without opening a can or a box, I am shocked. My next comments are in NO WAY meant to suggest that every person that receives food assistance acts like this. OKAY? But I avoid food shopping at the beginning of the month, because I live in an area where a large % of the people get some sort of assistance. The beginning of the month is a crazy busy time for the grocery stores (especially WalMart and Aldi), because those on assistance are stockpiling after what I imagine is a very lean end of the month. I AM one of those nosy types that checks out others’ carts. I just love seeing the range of things people buy. This isn’t real food snobbery. I was like that LONG before I knew about the real food movement. It is just pure NOSINESS! While I obviously do not know the payment method of every person, I have seen those that I KNOW are using food stamps (usually because of problems at the register) whose carts have NO fresh foods in them. Seriously, I once got behind a couple in Aldis that had TWO carts flowing over with chips, crackers, cookies, and canned items like ravioli. I had to really talk down those judgmental voices in my head…..but it all came down to my wondering: have people forgotten how to take simple ingredients like dried beans, root veggies (that usually store better), and small amounts of meat and make a meal? And I believe that too often that is the case. I do not begrudge ANYONE the occasional (or even weekly) “junk” food purchase—just snoop around in MY shopping cart—but how many of these “choices” are made because people do not know what to do with real food? Thank God for sites like yours that teach the basics for those that didn’t grow up in the kitchen with their mothers or grandmothers. However, poor among us don’t always have access to this type of resource. Which always leaves me wondering: what should *I* be doing to help the “real” people around me, WITHOUT shaming them….knowing that I do NOT know it all. Okay…moving on…personally, I moved from an area of the country where I could get a LARGE variety of organic produce and other items (although not raw milk) to an area where the selection is VERY limited (although I can buy raw milk for $4.75 gal) So even an unlimited grocery budget would not help my real food journey. I have to make tough choices EVERY time I walk into the store. If I only bought the things that the hardcore real foodies would buy, my family and I would starve. And with all that said….how fortunate are we that we live in a time and country where food is abundant? While a complete boxed meal may not be ideal, it will keep us alive!

    • Anonymous says

      I can understand your points about people on food stamps who buy junk food, but not all of us eat that way. I know that you stated that not every person on food assistance programs eat this way, but I see comments like this all the time on the internet and it is very frustrating for people such as myself who do the best they can to feed their families wholesome foods.

      I go out of my way to feed my family the best foods and most times it’s still not enough. I have to go to several stores in my town just to find real food and it get’s discouraging. There are a lot of people who are on food stamps who are buying fake and processed foods, and they make it seem as if everyone is eating like that. It’s just not true.

      • says

        Of course you’re right, Anon, and kudos to you for going the extra mile to find real food! I love that Samantha specifically wondered how to reach out to the large portion of the population – and it really could be well-off or not, although she focused on those on assistance – who don’t know how to cook. It’s great to brainstorm how to share the real food love! :) Katie

        • Anonymous says

          @ Katie, I realize that Samantha wasn’t taking personal shots at people who receive food stamps, but I felt the need to voice my opinion on a topic that is hot right now. I fully understood her post, but felt the need to mention how a lot of people online feel that most people on food stamps eat poorly.

          I’ve seen people at the grocery stores with carts full of processed foods and it’s obvious to me that a lot of people don’t get it. I’ve also been ridiculed by an aunt of mine who felt the need to make fun of the fact that GMO’s are in foods. There are so many people who are disconnected to what real foods are. However, there are many people who would love to be able to buy fresh produce and grass-fed meats, but can’t due to bills that have to be paid. I’ve encountered one real food blogger who was snobby and self-righteous, and I can see how people can get turned off to real foods. I enjoy your blog from time to time and have to say that I like the fact that you’re not putting people down for not being able to afford real foods on a regular basis.

          • Samantha says

            No…I wasn’t picking on those on assistance….(I avoid commenting for this reason…so hard to get the tone of your message across…and trying to edit…Seriously, it looks like I started a book) However, my focus on those getting assistance was because they have such tight grocery budgets. I imagine that MOST of them would buy better food–that is often more economical–IF they knew what to do with it. (On here, we are basically “preaching to the choir”, but not everyone has access to sites like this one) AND coming from an area of the country where there was “plenty” (million $ homes were common…and NO I did not come anywhere near to living in one of them) to an area where there are many more struggling families….well, it is just something that I probably notice more…and it weighs on my mind. I guess the bigger point is: as a general rule, as a society, we have gotten away from teaching basic skills like cooking from scratch…and while we ALL could benefit from those skills, I think that those with the smallest grocery budgets could benefit the most. I say this as a person who has had to walk thru the grocery store with calculator in hand, praying that I didn’t go over my bank balance. Anyway…I apologize for coming across like I was singling out those on food assistance as the only ones that eat poorly.

            • Samantha says

              Wow…shouldn’t try to respond while cooking …:-) Last sentence made it sound like I think everyone on assistance eats poorly. Geez! Hopefully, you got what I meant. :-)

            • Anonymous says

              @ Samantha, although I appreciate your apology, I didn’t take offense to what you said. I was simply mentioning the fact that a lot of people online attack people on food stamps because they feel that we are all lazy. I didn’t feel that was the case with your post. Coming from someone living in extreme poverty, I can honestly say that I agree with you. I see so many reality food shows about silly cupcake wars and other nonsense, but I don’t see any shows that teach basic cooking skills like they did in the past. What frustrates me the most is that the food stamps that are given to families aren’t enough to make it to the end of the month with enough food to put on the table.

              Most parents just want to be able to feed their kids wholesome foods without having to choose between not paying their electric bill and sitting in the dark with their eyes bugged out, or buying food so that they can feed their families. I wish that I was able to go to the grocery store and farmer’s market with cash and shop whenever and wherever I choose to, but sadly that is not a reality for me or most people.

              I feel that it’s time to get back to the basics and eat what our grandparents ate.

  32. Laura says

    Thank you for the words of encouragement! I was actually unsubscribing to several food blogs today because I was so frustrated with the gap between what they said I needed to feed my family and what I could afford to feed my family. My husband and I have four children at home and live on one income. According to what you stated, we spend as much in one month, for six people, as a family of four would get from food stamps in a month. In other words, we can’t afford to do what’s “best” for our family nutritionally. Thank you so much for acknowledging that this is a real issue. We do the very best we can, and I spend great amounts of time researching and preparing whole foods for my family – I just can’t do it all. You have encouraged me to keep it up, though, and I truly appreciate it!

  33. says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Sometimes being the one that provides all the lovely “real food” for the family is a lonely job. My family appreciates it, but certainly doesn’t feel the same urgency or commitment as I do. Most of the time I’m happy to put in the extra time and effort it takes to make a meal from scratch and require no special pat on the back (although a simple thank you is a must).

    But there are times when those extra five minutes here and ten minutes there feel like too much. Sometimes I want to opt out. And I can start to feel resentful that there’s no one to step in and do what I do when I can’t. I wrote about this recently after I caught a cold and couldn’t carry on as usual: If only I had had your post to inspire and pull me through sooner!

    I do think it’s important for us to build in a margin (or buffer), for those times when we can’t or just don’t want to go the extra mile, but don’t want to compromise what our family eats either. I realize now that the real benefit (for me) of having homemade convenience foods at the ready is that they represent not having to give up my ideals even when I can’t put in the time to live up to them.

    Thanks again for this post. It’s a great resource. I think I’ll attach excerpts from it to the inside of my kitchen cabinet. Your words will give me the boost I need when I’m flagging.

  34. Melissa says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! We still have 6 kids at home, homeschool and live off of one income. Right now we are receiving about $60 a month per person on SNAP. I wish we got the $147!
    I always beat myself up for not doing better for my family. Thank you for understanding, encouraging and helping to remember that as long as I’m doing the best that I can that’s the best I can do!

  35. Kim A. says

    Thank you SO much! This is the reality. I am doing all I can but it is HARD. 147$ per person a month?? That would be paradise! I tell people all the time that I have been told I make too much. Me and my son(15 now), under 30k a year, how is that too much? The only assistance I get is fuel. grateful beyond words but it does not cover a typical NE winter(especially in old homes which is all I can afford to rent), I just finished paying off last years heat bill last month! I received 10$ a month, total. No that is not a typo. Then they took it away at 5 months in and said I could reapply but I would receive the same amount. I went without so my son wouldn’t. You do what you can, many have it much worse but to say I make too much is insane. especially when you live in a very expensive state and the government will not up the poverty level which is the base for all other income labels. I have been saving up all my receipts for past 2 months to calculate what in spend in store vs local. Local meats are $$$ omg, more than in stores like WF’s! But it looks like I found one with a share that I can afford because it has ended up being less actually per month than I spend now. local, humanely raised and grass fed…I am grateful for that and the local organic farms I have recently found. I am learning to eat seasonally as well as local and this meat share ensures we will not over consume and keep more plant based. Its been over a year of research, following awesome blogs like yours and getting to know my local farmers in person to get to this point and it will probably take another year to get into a regular way of life. I have it tough but others have it so much worse. Love and hugs to everyone who is struggling and knowing what it is like to go hungry. <3

  36. Shauna says

    Thank you for that pat on the back. As a homeschooling mom of 6 at home (7 when I started trying your ideas), it is unreal how much time I can spend in the kitchen. I have really rolled back and am not doing as much of it at the moment, but thank you for the acknowledgment. We all need it!

  37. Allie Zirkle says

    Today was the day I needed to hear this. I needed a reminder that it’s worth it. Every day. Every meal.

    Yesterday I received a call from my son’s teacher. “We are having cupcakes for a party. Are you sure your son can’t join? I know you know the parent who brought the cupcakes. She would like to know if your son can have one.” No. No. NO! “Just once” is no longer an option. Especially when I work so hard. So thank you Katie for the reminder to KEEP IT UP!


  38. Nicole says

    I had this post sitting in my inbox for weeks and hadn’t gotten around to it. I happened to read it today and WOW it was perfect timing, just what I needed to hear. Last night after dinner and putting the toddler to bed, I stared at my disaster of a kitchen, the dinner leftovers that needed to be put away, the lunches that needed to be made, teared up and just went to bed. My husband said “You’re the one who chooses to cook the way you do.” Er, thanks for that support. I fell asleep crunching the numbers in my head on how much extra I spend for pastured eggs than just plain organic.

    Real food is a challenge, but it’s a good challenge, and I’m so glad we can encourage each other! Today is a new day and we can tackle those “baby steps”!

  39. Kristin says

    I also needed to hear this today. Thank you. It is blogs like yours that are inspiring and encouraging that are getting me to where I want my family to be!

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