In this final regularly scheduled Face-Off, we meet two mamas trying to live out their vocations in the home and in the kitchen. Lisa at Mama Says and Shelley of MAHM (Make a Home Mom) both balance motherhood and preparing real food on a tight budget, and somehow they have time to write about it, too. I’m sad to see the series coming to an end, although it will be a very fine end indeed!
Teaser: Coming Thursday and next Tuesday there are now TWO famous book author real food finishers! This week you’ll meet a Real Food celebrity whose book may have overwhelmed you but whose face-off answers are surprisingly simple and doable. Any guesses?
Visit the Real Food Face-Off Introduction page for a full list of all the participants and the complete list of possible questions. Each week, only a handful of the contenders’ answers will be posted here.
Final Week: Lisa vs. Shelley
|Lisa at Mama Says lives in Texas, where real food is a real priority for her eight homeschooled kids, many of whom have special dietary needs. Mother Teresa and Michael Pollan grace her sidebar, where she lists her family’s “Food Rules” and her many recipes and homeschool tips.||Shelley of MAHM is proud of her at-home-mom status in the Northwest. Like me, she came to traditional foods by way of her blog instead of blogging about traditional foods first. She covers all things home-related, from cooking and organizing to frugality and eco-consciousness.|
Below are the answers to some real food questions, in the bloggers’ own words:
How do you describe the way you eat when someone asks you to define your food?
I tell them it’s real food. It’s not full of bad fats, fillers, and multiple chemicals. We still eat processed foods and convenience foods occasionally, but see them as treats, not staples. We eat food that doesn’t taste like packaging. We eat a traditional down-home diet.
People who know me know I’ve always been a foodie, but also that I’m really into good health. I have much more trouble describing my food to people who don’t know me, although I think the thing easiest to understand is that I want my food to be close to the source. And remember that people in times past usually knew best- " target=_blank>treat your food the way it used to be treated.
What was/is your major incentive for living a real food lifestyle? (How did you come to eat the way you do?)
Health. Fake chemicals, colors, etc. have a very immediate and detrimental effect on one of my children’s health; I worry about the effect of GMO crops, HFCS, etc. on long term health. Also, finances. It’s cheaper to eat unprocessed foods. A bag of apples is the same price or cheaper than a bag of Oreos. Hamburger Helper made from plain noodles, a little milk, and spices from the cupboard is cheaper (and tastier) than the boxed version.
|I’ve always been interested in nutrition, and have studied it since I was a kid, really. But feeling like I had to move away from my Nan’s hot bacon dressing and my mom’s everything (she’s kind of like Paula Deen with the butter!) was really difficult. Just since I started my blog have I discovered the traditional real-foods approach and I’m enjoying the path of learning and making these foods for my family.|
If you only had energy for ONE make-from-scratch food, what would it be? Is your preference for taste or health?
Salad dressing. It is impossible to find a bottled dressing that doesn’t have MSG, soybean oil, and/or food coloring. A good friend shared her salad dressing recipe and it is sooo much better than anything I’ve ever had out of a bottle! (I happen to know our secret famous finisher agrees with you, Lisa!)
If I could only make one thing from scratch, it would definitely be stock- for the taste and health benefits- but also because it’s so frugal. I don’t think that takes a whole lot of energy, though, so if it’s one thing that is actually work that would be homemade sourdough bread. This also isn’t hard but can be time consuming, and is also about health, but taste plays a much bigger role- I love sourdough bread!
What food was your favorite that you no longer eat (or shouldn’t eat)?
M&M cookies – I LOVE them. I don’t let the kids have them because of the colors, though… I eat them after they go to bed, LOL! Also, coffee. I’ve cut back on coffee but I doubt I’ll give it up altogether. For me it’s more than just the caffeine – it’s the taste, experience, routine that all go together. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was a little girl – my mom used to give us what was basically coffee flavored sweetened milk in a sippee cup! Now I drink it black or with a little cream.
I was (and still am, really) a complete choco-holic, and I really love all desserts. I have such a sweet tooth! I have cut out refined sugar, and am trying my hardest to lessen the natural ones as much as possible, and alter recipes so I don’t have to give everything up!
What’s your favorite real/traditional food?
Yogurt. I’ve been making it long before I ever heard of the real food movement! I’m the pickiest eater in my family. The rest of them love fermented foods. My husband loves pickled everything – kimchi, sauerkraut, vegetables, even pickled eggs and he’s actually the sourdough maker in our family.
Butter, or bacon grease. Versatile and delicious.
What was the hardest transition to make to real food?
I don’t like the taste of butter! I grew up on Country Crock margarine and real butter just has too much flavor for me.
Probably , " target=_blank>the cost of real food; we are on a tight budget. Foodwise, maybe the sugar? I did find it difficult to not eat sweets, though increasing my fat content helps a lot.
What’s next on your list of changes to make?
As I said, I am still learning the ropes of the real food/WAPF diet. However, we’ve taken baby steps for health for the last few years. After I eliminated artificial colors, sweeteners, lard substitutes, and MSG from our diet, I worked to eliminate trans fats. This year I am working on high fructose corn syrup, and I’m paying more attention to GMO derived ingredients, including canola, soy, and corn derivatives such as caramel coloring and maltodextrin.
|This is easy- more local foods. This was one of my resolutions- especially to find more local meats. I already eat completely natural, grass-fed whenever possible but cost has kept me from buying locally farmed meat, which I am really working towards|
List your top 3 baby steps to move from a Standard American Diet to Real Food.
Personalize it, prioritize it, put it into action.
1. Personalize it – think carefully about your goals in regard to eating real food and improving your family’s health through nutrition. What does your family need? What do they like to eat? What is the most important? For my family, eliminating neurotoxic foods (yellow #5, red #40, MSG) was a top priority.
2. Prioritize it – I don’t think most people can go from making hamburger helper from a box, eating Chips Ahoy! and serving chicken nuggets to the real food lifestyle overnight. Baby steps are key, especially when other people (spouse, children) are along for the ride. [more…]
3. Put it into action – jump in and get started! [more…]
1. No white sugar /white flour
2. Switch to good grass-fed meats/ eat more sustainable low mercury seafood
3. Eat more good fats (butter-yummy!)and good grass-fed dairy products
If you had only $20 to spend in a week on real food, what would you buy and what would you make?
This actually has happened recently, after my husband lost his job and we were waiting for over 2 months for our food stamp application to be approved. With $20, I would buy dried chickpeas, pintos, brown rice, garlic, onions (an onion makes everything taste better!), whole wheat flour, corn tortillas, palm kernel oil shortening (for frying), oatmeal, plain yogurt, milk, and spend the rest on produce, including tomatoes and peppers. I wouldn’t buy organic produce at that point, going for quantity over quality. Assuming I could use spices already in my cupboard, we’d have curried chickpeas and rice, falafels on pitas, pintos and rice, bean burritos with salsa, tostadas, and chickpea salad (cooked chickpeas with a tomato/cucumber/onion chopped salad). Breakfasts would be oatmeal, and lunches would be beans and rice. Snacks would be apples or other fruit. Yogurt would be used as a condiment for falafels and burritos, and I’d make a spread for pitas with yogurt cheese and garlic.
Pastured eggs $2.29 Lentils(½ bag costing $0.99) $0.45, pastured chicken $12, cabbage (one head) $0.59, raw milk $4.25. With the chicken, I would cut it: breasts off, pounded out for a dinner (maybe piccata- my favorite!); legs off, roasted and use the meat for sandwiches, chicken salad; the rest boiled for stock, taking it out after a bit to reserve the meat left for soup. Using the stock, make soup with lentils and some of the cabbage, the rest for coleslaw (with homemade mayo of course!) and to make sauerkraut. Milk separated, making butter with the cream and yogurt and buttermilk with the milk (for smoothies, and for soaking grains.) and the eggs for frittata, or poached/hard boiled over green salads.
What does “eating healthy” mean to you?
Eating real food, stuff that my great grandmother would know how to cook and that you don’t have to read directions on a box for; buying ingredients and making them into a meal, instead of buying a “meal” some factory has put together for me.
Eating as close as possible to the way the food originally came.
Name the top food scoring highest on both the nutritional and budget scale? (i.e., best health benefits for the lowest cost)
Dried beans. They have way more protein than tofu, are super cheap, store forever, can be made into anything (appetizer, dips, main dish, side dish, casserole, soup, even dessert!) and the variety is amazing.
Homemade stock (bone broth) for sure- it’s super healthy and basically costs nothing since you’re making it with scraps.
Biggest drawback of real food lifestyle?
You have to plan ahead, which is not my strong suit.
Probably the cost issue, although this can be negated with time (to make food yourself, search out the best prices.) I have the time to do this since I stay home, but for people who work outside the house the time is probably a bigger drawback.
What’s the most creative thing you do to make life easier in the kitchen?
I’m teaching my kids how to cook for themselves. Even my 7 year old can fry an egg, which is helpful when I’m around but not available. He can make himself breakfast while I feed the baby, help the littles get their food, or do other kitchen work.
I soak, and prep lots of things at once. It makes my kitchen look crazy-disastrous but only once every two weeks or so. All my grains and beans get soaked or sprouted, and I usually have sourdough and something fermented going too.
How important is organic food?
I think some organic foods are more important than others. I try to buy things on the “dirty dozen” list organic. [more…]
My next step is to buy organic dairy products, especially butter. My reading has lead me to believe that this is important because butter is basically a concentration of milkfat, and also concentrates any impurities or chemicals the milk may have had.
Depending, local and humane (for meats) is more important, though I try to get produce from the high-pesticides list (dirty dozen) organic. And both the babies had only organics for the first year, and almost all for the first two years, since children are still developing and the pesticides are worse for them.
Best book recommendations?
Get a cookbook that tells you HOW to cook with ingredients. For me, it was a slightly older version of Joy of Cooking (1931). I get frustrated with my other cookbooks, like Better Homes and Gardens, etc. because often they’ll throw in convenience foods that I don’t use. I need to know how to make cream of mushroom soup, not recipes calling for it out of a can. My Joy of Cooking also has lots of info about the foods, how to store it, how to cook it, how to keep it as leftovers, and more.
Other books that influenced my real food journey: Eating Well for Optimal Health, Why Your Child Is Hyperactive, Food As Medicine, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma [more…] Some meditations on Lenten fasting also had a profound influence on me.
There’s so many, but one really good one is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taube. It has a lot of the scientific background information on why real fat is okay (butter, etc.) and the truth behind the new fats and refined carbohydrates.
Now it’s your turn! I’d highly recommend honoring my real food guests with a visit over to their blogs, Lisa at Mama Says and Shelley of MAHM. Hopefully they’ll post the rest of their answers for you!
Be sure to come back on Tuesday for the next installment of the Real Food Face-Off…celebrity edition! Sign up for a free email subscription or grab my reader feed to make sure you catch them all. You can also follow me on Twitter.
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