We all go through times of change. Whether that change comes in the form of a big remodeling project, a new baby, a move, or the beginning of a new journey such as homeschooling or a new career, change is inevitable. Although we can't avoid it, we can welcome change as an opportunity for growth in ourselves and our families.
The great thing about change is that it is simply a season. No change lasts forever! Once the boxes are unpacked and life goes back to a predictable routine, the change of a move is over. When the books are ordered and homeschooling begins, a natural routine forms into the “new normal”. And, I promise, the new baby will eventually sleep through the night!
When Life Happens … You Still Have to Eat
It's true. No matter what change you're facing, one thing's for certain: everyone in the family still has to eat! For every change our family has gone through, both big and small, food seems to be my biggest challenge. I desire to feed myself and my family whole, nutrient-dense foods all the time, not just when it's convenient for me.
On a normal day, it's hard enough to remember to soak the beans, feed the sourdough starter, make the stock, brew the kombucha, and dehydrate the 20 pounds of beets from the CSA. Put that day in the middle of nursing a newborn, unpacking the boxes, and/or remodeling the bathroom, and suddenly the pizza delivery guy is your new best friend.
Our family recently went through a move and a pretty large remodel of our new home. We had a lot of painting, trim work, and floor refinishing to do before we could even move in the first box, not to mention we had a major master bedroom and closet renovation to undertake so that we could stop sleeping in our attic/schoolroom/office.
So, yes, our family was going through a lot of change. Yet, it was very important to me that we maintain the lifestyle of Real Food to which we were accustomed because it keeps us well, gives us energy, and helps us all have better attitudes — all crucial in the midst of a major life change.
Most of the time (though not always), we know when change is coming and we try to plan for it as best as we can. I knew our move was approaching, and I'm so thankful I had that time to prepare my mind, heart, and pantry for what was ahead.
I want to share six practical and easy steps I took to keep the pizza delivery guy from ringing my doorbell. In the comments below, please share yours!
#1 — Keep It Simple
A time of change is difficult enough without trying to be a gourmet cook, but you don't have to resort to Hamburger Helper for dinner either. While all those beautiful recipes on your Pinterest boards may have to be put on hold for a season, eating simply will save your sanity.
Our season of change began in March, and organic lettuce was abundant at my local store. It was so cheap at $1/head that I bought 3 to 4 heads at a time. I used them throughout the week to feed my family a variety of salad meals.
One day, I thawed one sirloin steak from my stockpile in the freezer, marinated it, and we had the most wonderful steak salads with homemade guacamole, lacto-fermented salsa, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and raw cheddar on top.
This meal was perfect for the season of life we were in: fast, easy, inexpensive, nourishing, and delicious. In fact, we all enjoyed that meal so much that it has made it into our regular meal rotation for summer, even though our season of change has drawn to an end.
When I saw how nearly effortless this meal was, the wheels started turning in my mind. I could switch the steak for chicken, swap the guac and salsa for homemade dressing, and add some bacon for another easy salad meal. Oh, the possibilities!
While trying to keep it simple, think about the meals you made when you first began cooking: tacos, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, baked chicken. These are no-fuss meals that can be very healthy if you use your knowledge of Real Food to make them so. Make your own taco seasoning, use sprouted or sourdough tortillas and pastured beef, make your own spaghetti sauce and use whole wheat or brown rice pasta, use organic potatoes and grass-fed butter and cream in your mashed potatoes, use pastured or organic chicken and fresh herbs for your baked chicken.
See? Those meals can be put together in almost no time, especially if you use my next principle to get a head start.
#2 — Stock Up and Rest Easy
There's something so comforting about having a well-stocked pantry and freezer. In the middle of change and chaos, you can be sure this is true. If you know change is lurking ahead of you, use what time you have before to plan.
Stock your freezer with a couple months' worth of pastured meats, frozen fruit, berries, and stock. Make some soups or casseroles and freeze them in Mason jars, freezer bags, and disposable containers, if you can.
Days before we moved, I purchased a 3-month supply of grass-fed beef from our favorite rancher. There were many evenings when we had grilled beef patties with a side of grilled onions and baked potatoes. Definitely not the most gourmet meal, but at least I knew where our food was from, what was in it, and that it was nourishing my family.
Likewise, fill your pantry with some “easy staples” — brown rice and brown rice pasta, crispy nuts and seeds, canned coconut milk, canned salmon, and dried fruits. Anything you can do beforehand to make the season of change less stressful or chaotic for yourself and your family will be well worth the investment of time and resources.
Here are some ideas to get you started on stocking your freezer:
- Favorite soups or stews, such as Nourishing Traditions' All Day Beef Stew or this Tomato Basil Soup
- Several pounds of taco meat, pre-portioned for the size of your family
- Quarts of Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Pre-made Pizza Crusts
- Grated Cheese
- Whole Chickens
- Chicken and Beef Stock
Some of the items I made sure to have ready to go included: crispy almonds, cashews, and walnuts, several jars of homemade apple butter, bulk cheeses, raisins, dried coconut, homemade bouillon cubes, and crushed tomatoes in BPA-free cans. I am thankful for the weeks and months I had to plan ahead and stock up. It really made the days of painting, sanding, and unpacking much less stressful.
#3 — Make Friends with Your Crock Pot
You can change diapers, pack or unpack boxes, paint the living room, or even go to work while the crock pot does the work for you. Bake potatoes, cook a roast with veggies, slowly heat the frozen soup or taco meat — the possibilities are endless!
If you haven't made friends with your crock pot before the baby comes or the new career takes off, now is the time! In fact, a few weeks before we started our remodeling, I came across a garage sale, where I bought an almost-new crock pot for $15, just so I would have two! You might consider investing in a second (or third) crock pot for yourself. There have been many days that I have both crock pots going — perpetual stock in one, dinner in the other.
Speaking of Wardee's perpetual stock, I am absolutely sold on this method for making nourishing stocks and broth! Nothing could be easier or less time-consuming. Rather than having to wait for your stock to finish on the stove or wait for it to thaw, you simply ladle out the amount you need, for example, to cook brown rice or make soup, and replace the stock you took out with the same amount of fresh water. Now that the major part of our chaotic change is behind us, I'm still using the perpetual stock method weekly in my kitchen.
Your crock pot is an efficient tool that you can put to work for you daily. Do you know you have another sleepless night ahead with the baby? Prepare breakfast in the crock pot and sleep in the next morning! Going to be away from home all day on a homeschool field trip or at your new job? Throw dinner in the crock pot before you leave the house and come home to a stress-free meal time! Moving or remodeling and just don't have time or energy to cook? The crock pot comes to the rescue again!
I recommend a great little cookbook book by our friend Stacy Myers from Stacy Makes Cents. It's called, appropriately enough, Crock On! and it costs just $5.
#4 — Some Convenience Foods Are OK in This Season
In a season of change, anything that makes our lives easier is a welcome thing. For example, cloth-diapering mommas might switch to disposables during a rough season because they just don't have time or energy to keep up with cloth-diapering. There's nothing wrong with this!
Don't let anything or anyone (including yourself!) guilt you into thinking that it's wrong to get a little help during these times.
During our move and remodel, I found a few packaged foods that I could count on as we pushed through the long days of installing bathroom flooring and making endless trips to the hardware store. After all, as I said before, remodeling, being a brand new momma, moving, starting a new job, or any other change doesn't last forever, and neither does reliance on convenience foods (we hope!).
Some of the packaged foods I can recommend:
- Applegate Farms Organic Beef Hot Dogs and Chicken Sausage Links
- Applegate Farms Lunch Meats and Pepperoni
- Ezekiel Bread (with the red label; it's the only one that doesn't contain soy)
- Organic, store-bought yogurt
- Nut Thins
- Bubbies Pickles
#5 — Ask for Help
Oh boy, I could write an entire post on my aversions to asking for help. I have loads of excuses! People are already busy enough without me adding one more thing to their lives. I don't want to be seen as a mooch. What if someone makes something we can't have? Or my favorite, Come on, Lindsey, just stay up an hour later and prepare food.
Seriously, asking for help is more about my pride than it is anything else. We all have good friends who are busy, but who would drop anything to come to our aid if we just asked them. Maybe you don't need help with meals, but you could really use someone to take the children to a movie or the park for an afternoon. Or you can handle the cooking, but if your friend could take your grocery list with her the next time she goes to the store, it would save your sanity.
My good friend Michelle texted me one afternoon in the thick of our moving process and asked me how things were going. I have a hard time faking my feelings, so I honestly told her that I was overwhelmed, tired, and totally stressed. In true friend form, she immediately asked if she needed to come over to help pack or if she could babysit my kids one day soon. I replied that if she could just make dinner for me, I would be so grateful. Guess what? She did! The next day, she showed up on my doorstep with baked chicken, rice, and sweet potatoes.
She didn't mind that I told her the meal needed to be free of artificial dyes, MSG, and refined sugars; Michelle gave me her gift of love and selflessness in the form of that meal. She genuinely wanted to help; I just had to reach out. Chances are, your good friends already know how you prefer to eat and will happily do what they can to provide you with a meal, if only you ask them.
#6 — Focus on What You CAN Do
In times of change, chaos, or crisis, it's too easy to focus on what we CAN'T do. For the purposes of this post, I'm talking about what we can and can't do in the kitchen, but this point reaches into so many other aspects of our lives.
This will look differently for each family, but for me, dehydrating, making yogurt, and cooking every single thing from scratch were things I just could not do. For a while, I felt so guilty about this. I want to give my family the best, but I also wanted to get moved and settled into our new home.
I felt caught between a rock and a hard place, knowing if I gave my time and energy to food, the moving wouldn't get done as quickly and the children wouldn't have my time; but if I gave my time to moving and remodeling and kids, then the drive-thru was our only option. I am only one person, there are just 24 hours in a day, and our lives were turned upside down as we lived out of paint cans and boxes.
Once I began to shift my focus to what I could do, my perspective on our situation changed. I didn't have time for making yogurt, but I was still getting fermented foods into my kids via Bubbies Pickles and kombucha. I couldn't make everything from scratch like before, but I was able to teach my children a few simple things they could make for themselves, saving me time and energy that, in the moment, was better spent elsewhere in our home.
Maybe for you, the sourdough starter and kefir grains need to hibernate in the fridge for a while or perhaps you put fermenting veggies on hold for a bit. That doesn't mean you can't provide other nourishing foods for your family; they simply take on a slightly different form. And I know I keep saying this, but remember, it's a season!
#7 — Give Yourself Grace
If I told you we never ordered pizza or ate out during this season of change, I would be lying! Even the best of us get overwhelmed, throw up our hands, and opt for the really easy way out. That's OK! Sometimes, it was even necessary for us to eat out because we had floors drying and absolutely could not be in the house or because we were about to pull our hair out if we had to paint one more wall.
This will happen, and the only thing you can do is to give yourself grace and try to enjoy someone else cooking and cleaning up for you.
Don't feel guilty for ordering pizza or going through the drive-thru once or twice. Only you know if the members of your family will be able to tolerate these foods, and you certainly will find alternatives if you have serious allergies or sensitivities. Our daughter is severely allergic to food coloring, so even if we're relying on the convenience of a packaged food or a restaurant to cook our meal for us, we are still vigilant about keeping dyes out of her little body.
We moved to a small town (population 13,000), and the restaurant choices are less than desirable. There's quite a bit of fast food, mom-and-pop grease pits, and one pretty good Mexican food place. There are NO healthy-ish options like Chipotle, Jason's Deli, or Panera. We have to make due with what we have available … and pray that everyone's tummies cooperate!
Whether you're expecting a baby, moving to a new home or city, starting an exciting new journey, or going through any other change in your life, I hope you have found inspiration and useful ideas here today. I pray you make it through the chaos quickly and that you learn new lessons along the way. Remember, it's just a season and more than likely will be over before you know it.
And just so you know, we are happily moved into our new home and enjoying our lives in our new (small) town! There are still some honey-do projects here and there, but at least my hubby and I have our own bedroom and closet. I am thankful for the process — like all hard work, it's been worth it!
Tell us, what changes have you been through and how did you keep Real Food a part of your life during those times?
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