Sometimes my “I’m-not-going-to-buy-this-anymore” decisions hit a nerve.
When I said I thought I should stop buying pop (soda, for those of you not in Michigan!), my husband definitively stated that he would have to buy his own. He even tapped my frugal sensitivity by highlighting how much the pop in his office machine costs. Foiled!
I couldn’t let him spend an arm and a leg on junk, so I buy his junk only on super sale. I’m his dealer, so to speak. At least it’s not a matter of faith and morals, so I don’t think I’ll have any extra Purgatory time for it!
Hamburger Helper. I know this is bad stuff: MSGs, trans fats, HFCS, white pasta, ETC. There’s not much in the ingredient list that grows in the soil or eats things that grow in the soil. It is not real food. In spite of the intellectual knowledge, I’ve had quite an emotional journey with Hamburger Helper, unfortunately:
- As newlyweds we consumed Hamburger Helper almost once a week.
- I graduated to keeping it on hand because it was the only way I could get hubby to cook for a night.
- I decided it was no good for us, then was totally tempted by an “almost-free” sale — and I caused a bunch of boxes to be thrown away! (Gasp! Wasted food! If you have followed me for a while you know that’s a terrible pet peeve of mine. I you have missed this old post, it’s one of my favorites: The Fate of Returned Food in Grocery Stores.)
- I finally committed to never buying it again. We had a decent stock stored up for the occasional “boys’ nights” that my husband and son have. Their tradition is to make HH together. TRADITION. We finally ran completely out, and let me tell you, I received some nasty glares from hubby as I offered alternate ideas for a boys’ night menu.
Men and Their “Traditions”
You must understand this about my husband: tradition is vital to his survival. This is the man who loves the very act of putting together a fake Christmas tree because he has fond memories of helping his dad every year as a child. He is the type who wears the same socks (or whatever!) for every sporting event as long as the team is winning. (If you change anything, you’ll cause the team to lose, you see – even if the team is on TV. Do any other husbands think they affect the world like this?)
He’s got a Labor Day weekend camping trip that’s almost 10 years running with his friends, same spot, same menu, same activities.
We had to walk across campus in the snow for every basketball game at MSU wearing only our Izzone T-shirts for 4 years, because that’s how we walked to the first game, and they were on a massive win streak. Seriously.
He and my son make Hamburger Helper when they have a boys’ night. How am I supposed to buck this system by suggesting they make spaghetti!!??
I thought I was going to be in the doghouse big-time.
I mentioned this dilemma at the Sneaky Trans Fats post, and many kind readers offered their “homemade hamburger helper” remedies. Husband was, naturally, very skeptical. More glaring. Katie shrinks into her computer chair and says a silent prayer for a miracle.
Want to know what a miracle sounds like?
“Mmmmmm, this is GOOD! Really, really good!”
*sigh of relief*
Enduring all the skepticism was worth it! My husband, to his credit, really stepped up to the plate (wearing the proper socks, I am sure) and had a great attitude in front of my son about trying a “new” hamburger helper. I made it as easy as possible by actually getting out all the ingredients for him. It really wasn’t any harder than the box.
I didn’t decide on which recipe was first to walk the plank until the night of its big debut, but I had to go with John Mastro’s Classic Cheeseburger Macaroni recipe, mostly because he’s a dad, too, and he quips “a tall, cold one for the dads” at the end of the recipe. I was banking on some manly camaraderie there!
I was even willing to allow the 1/2 cup of ketchup that the recipe calls for, high-fructose corn syrup and all, but I had already opened a big can of tomato sauce two days before because I was originally planning on using this recipe from the comments at the trans fat post. Time to improvise (more hasty prayers)! The recipe they made that night is still the same one we use today, now with more kids:
My kids had a bunch of fun helping brown the beef and measuring the spices when they were younger. There were times I overheard him coaching Daddy on how he holds the measuring spoon and the adult pours the spice into it, and then he gets to dump it in the pan. Too cute! He loves the fact that Dad lets him get right up to the stove and help cook, which I didn’t do often at that age because I was juggling the toddler at the same time. He’s so responsible about the hot food (and going to make a wonderful husband someday, I might add!). In the years since we developed this recipe my kids and I have created an eCourse to teach kids everywhere to cook – check out Kids Cook Real Food!Print
Note: Ingredients often use affiliate links to Tropical Traditions, but obviously you should shop for the best price and try to keep your dollars local when you can.
- Brown and drain beef.
- Stir in pepper, onion powder, garlic, tomato sauce, and mustard.
- Pour in water and pasta.
- Bring to a boil and reduce heat;
- Cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed and the pasta is cooked.
- Turn the heat off and stir in the cheese.
We have successfully used gluten-free pasta (brown rice), and cut a 1/4 c. of water from the recipe to avoid mushiness.
2 Tools for Real Food Success:
It’s never easy to keep up with real food goals! If my meal isn’t planned ahead and/or I don’t have the right food on hand, it’s SO tempting to give up and grab convenience food!
I have to almost trick myself into getting it right sometimes…like this:
I love my raw milk farm, and they usually have beef for me too – but not all the cuts. And chicken is hard to come by. And pork is hit or miss.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same sourcing frustrations!
That’s why I’m always grateful that there’s an online source of incredibly high quality meat that I can always count on. A box from Butcher Box is guaranteed to be grassfed/organic/pastured/free range = all the labels important to your family’s health!
If you live in an area (like my mom) where organic local farms are nowhere to be found or have trouble sourcing certain meats or cuts, Butcher Box has you covered.
(free shipping too!)
But if I forget to plan ahead, all that amazing meat just sits in the freezer! Enter Real Plans, an online meal planning software that is probably smarter than I am.
I can enter that cut of meat along with my food restrictions and find the perfect meal, then generate a shopping list, multiply it by 4 if we have company, and enter my own fav recipes too.
Real Plans takes the stress out of meal planning and puts the nourishing food BACK on your table. There’s a plan for every diet type:
Every real food cook needs some basic resources that everyone recognizes.
If you have a desire to cook real food more fluently or gain confidence in remaking some of your own processed style recipes using only whole foods, you’ll love the bestselling eBook Better Than a Box.
With 60 ready-to-go recipes and 100 pages of kitchen tutorials, your family will be singing your real food praises in no time. Click HERE for more info on the premium package, including the Kindle version.
Here’s a free preview of this real food style Hamburger Helper recipe in Better Than A Box
If you can’t see the preview above, click HERE to view it in a separate window or print.
Baby Steps and Future Goals
Would this be more healthy with real onion, some colored peppers thrown in, fresh garlic, and whole wheat pasta? Of course. Do I know how to pick my battles? One must, if one is to survive in a family. It’s okay to cheat a little, especially when you’re taking a baby step away from something even more unhealthy. This is a good forward momentum move for us.
My next task is figuring out how to reverse engineer hubby’s FAVorite Hamburger Helper, Double Cheesy Enchiladas. It’s rice based, so it’s an entirely different ballgame (but it’s GOT to be doable, especially if I wear the same underwear I had on last week with this win!).
And how do I know my husband is finally on board with this? He’s ready to call the recipe his own: “I think it would be even better with bacon.”
I agree with him completely.