real food

Peanut Butter (and Jelly!) Granola Bars

 

If you’ve ever had a picky eater in your household, you know the angst of trying to get them to branch out. Our picky eater would eat the same meal for lunch and dinner every.single.day. if we let him: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Seriously, this kid LOVES his PB&Js. I’m constantly working to get him to try new foods or even a new way to eat a food he likes. You mamas of picky eaters know how hard this is! So for a healthy and fun twist on his daily PB&J, I’ve been making these super yummy peanut butter and jelly granola bars for lunch or snack time instead!

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I’m pretty choosy about what foods we put into our bodies, so I really enjoy cooking and baking from scratch whenever I can. I’ve made these granola bars for years, and they’re always a big hit. I feel good about my family eating them, because I know exactly what’s inside. Homemade granola bars are always better than packaged and processed! They are also really easy and quick to make, which is a necessity in this season of my life.

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Because we put Jif Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter inside the bars, they pair absolutely perfectly with our favorite Smucker’s Fruit Spread!

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We have used Smucker’s Fruit Spreads in our house for as long as I can remember. I absolutely love their “Simply Fruit” line – no added sugars! I’m a big fan of short ingredient lists. :) And the Fruit and Honey Triple Berry spread… oh my, I could eat it on its own, it’s so yummy.

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We spread the jelly and peanut butter on top, and then – to make it more like a true PB&J – we put another granola bar on top.

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This “sandwich” is easy to pack in a lunchbox, or put some jelly in a reusable container for dipping your granola bar. Pickiest eater approved!

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If you follow me on Instagram, you won’t be surprised that one of my favorite places to shop is Target. We go through a loaf of bread in like five minutes, so the fact that I can pick up our PB&J supplies and this adorable basket and PINK rolling pin, all while drinking coffee (bonus points if I’m alone!)… well, I’m sold. ;)

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And I love love LOVE the Cartwheel app! Last month, I forgot my login password, and seriously spent an extra 20 minutes in the store trying every password I could possibly have used, then reseting my password, just so I could use my coupons. Ha!! Right now, both Smucker’s Fruit Spreads and Jif Peanut Butter Spreads have Cartwheel savings – which I totally used. Because seriously, five kids is kind of a lot and any little bit I can save makes me a happy mama!

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Ready to make your own??

Peanut Butter (and Jelly!) Granola Bars

3 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ground flax
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 – 1 cup raisins/chocolate chips/chopped nuts *optional

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
generous 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

optional toppings:

jelly
creamy peanut butter
bananas
chia seeds

Directions:

1. Combine all dry ingredients.
2. Combine all wet ingredients.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until evenly moistened.
4. Spoon onto 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper – press evenly into the pan.
5. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes, until the edges begin to brown (27 minutes is the sweet spot for me!)
6. Let cool completely before cutting into pieces. If you don’t, they will be crumbly and not stay formed into bars. They will still be yummy, but they may be more like granola instead of bars. :)
7. Top with Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Fruit Spread, and maybe some bananas or chia seeds too!

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My kids could NOT wait for this batch to cool, so we ended up with a lot of bite-sized pieces. Luckily, small pieces make the perfect snack.

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How do you combat the boring lunch blues??

Delicious and Easy Veggie-Packed Spaghetti your Kids Will Love!

With baby on his way in the next few weeks, I’m all about keeping meals as easy as possible. But I don’t want to rely on chicken nuggets and tater tots, because eating real foods and lots of veggies is important to me! This delicious and veggie-packed spaghetti recipe is perfect for nights when I want to feed them something healthy, but I don’t have the time or energy to spend in the kitchen.delicious-easy-and-veggie-packed-spaghetti

 

Spaghetti doesn’t have to be from a jar to be easy! In the amount of time it takes you to boil noodles, you can give your family a nutritious meal that everyone will love. My kids GOBBLE this up. And these frozen herbs from Dorot help to make this meal seriously easy!

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The ingredients you use can vary based on what you have on-hand. Here’s what I used:

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  • whole wheat spaghetti noodles
  • two carrots
  • one onion
  • one green pepper
  • about three cups of kale, chopped
  • 5-6 mushrooms
  • ground beef (optional, of course, if your family goes meatless)
  • 2tsp oregano
  • 2tsp thyme
  • frozen garlic and basil from Dorot
  • two cans of tomato sauce
  • one can of tomato paste (DON’T skip the tomato paste! It’s key to thickening up the sauce!)

Other veggies you could use:

  • zucchini
  • spinach
  • parsnip
  • swiss chard
  • diced tomatoes

Before I get into the recipe, I have to tell you about these frozen herbs from Dorot. We found them at Trader Joe’s (you can find all locations to purchase here), and I have to tell you that they are SO convenient.

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I’ll admit, I was a little bit skeptical about them. Why buy frozen herbs when you can just get them fresh? The kids were so intrigued by them as well!

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But as I used them, I realized – this.is.GENIUS. I almost never keep fresh basil in the house. So when I want to use it, I have to buy it especially for a recipe. And that requires a little planning and forethought… and in this season of my life, both of those things are lacking. ;) It’s so perfect to have these teaspoon sized squares to pop into a dish and get the flavor of fresh without having to go out and buy it!

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1. While your noodles are boiling, brown your ground beef. When it’s nearly cooked, toss in your green peppers, onions, and kale.

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2. Shred your carrots and toss them in, along with three cubes of Dorot garlic (equal to three tsp of garlic) – you can add less if you’re not quite the garlic fans we are. ;)

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3. Let those cook for a few minutes before adding the cans of tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, thyme, and two cubes of basil from Dorot (equal to two tsp of basil). Cook until the sauce is hot.

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Serve the sauce over noodles and eat.it.up!

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This recipe makes a generous amount – it’s perfect for my family of six, with a little bit leftover. If you have a smaller family, divide the recipe in half or make the whole thing and freeze some for later!

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These are super reasonably priced, but you can get a $1.00 off coupon to sweeten the deal.

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I can’t wait to try out some of the other herbs! Having them on-hand to make yummy, nutritious dinners easier before and after baby is something I can get on board with. A few less things to chop = dinner comes a few minutes faster. And in my busy house, every minute counts!

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Happy healthy eating!

20 Minute Creamy Garlic Spinach Pasta

Everything I do these days is done in short spurts of time. Sewing, cooking, cleaning… and if I have a longer stretch of time, obviously I’m going to spend it sewing. So I’m digging meals that are quick and easy, but also super yummy and still real food.20 Minute Creamy Garlic Spinach PastaThis meal was born out of a “uh oh, it’s 5:00 and I have no idea what I’m making for dinner” moment. It’s super easy to modify with whatever you have in the house. [and like most of my recipes, the amounts are approximate… I just can’t work with exacts when it comes to cooking!]

Ingredients

  • whole wheat pasta – spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine – any of these would work well [you could certainly make this with regular or even wheat-free pasta as well]
  • spinach
  • garlic
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • flour [i use whole wheat flour, but regular flour is fine too]
  • butter
  • milk
  • sea salt
  • mozzarella or fresh parmesan cheese [optional, but super yummy]
  • other possible add-ins: broccoli, peas, swiss chard, shrimp, chicken

1. Boil water for pasta. Get the pasta going before you start cooking the rest of the meal.DSC_00782. Chop garlic. I use about four cloves, because I love garlic. You could use two if you don’t want it to be quite as flavorful.DSC_00803. Sauté garlic in olive oil – add sea salt. Garlic burns quickly, so do this on a low-medium heat and watch it carefully. As soon as you add the spinach, it will be much less likely to burn.DSC_00824. Chop and add spinach [this is fresh from our CSA… so yummy]. I usually use at least double this amount. If you are using any other fresh veggies [swiss chard, broccoli], chop and add those at this time as well. Add a little more sea salt and sauté.

5. Make a roux – if you’ve never done this before, it’s super easy. You use equal parts butter and flour, and mix together in the pan to form kind of a paste. I usually use a large sauté pan and just push my veggies to the side and make the roux right in the pan. You could also use a separate pan. I then add a little milk to the roux to make a cream sauce.DSC_01086. Then add the cooked pasta to the pan. Mix it up with the cream sauce and then stir the veggies together with the pasta. [you can see I added some swiss chard to my spinach here] Totally optional, but I like to add some shredded mozzarella or fresh parmesan and mix it in.DSC_0111If you have some pre-cooked shrimp or frozen peas, toss them in for a few minutes to heat them up. This recipe is also perfect for adding a little leftover chicken. [you could also sauté the chicken while you’re making it, but that will add a few minutes to your cooking time] My almost two-year-old absolutely devours this meal – last time I made it, he had four helpings. This boy can eat.

And now I’m hungry..

What’s your favorite quick real food meal to make? I’d love some of your ideas too!

Curry Squash Apple Soup

I truly adore soup season. There’s something about a bowl of soup that just makes me want to cozy up beside a fire. [of course, I’d need to have a fireplace first…]

The other thing I love about soup? My kids eat it. And love it. It’s one of the few ways my two-year-old willingly eats vegetables. Not that he knows the veggies are there… but it’s a meal without a fight, which is a big win for mama.

When it comes to favorites, it’s a toss up between my Potato Leek Soup and this one – Curry Squash Apple Soup. Both are super easy and very customizable to what you and your family like. And since I’ve already shared one recipe, here’s the other, so you can pick your fave!

Curry Squash Apple Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 apples
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • curry powder
  • sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • red pepper flakes *optional

Chop up the garlic cloves and throw them into your stockpot with some olive oil, sea salt, and curry powder. You don’t want the garlic to be in there too long by itself, or it will burn – just enough to start to release those yummy garlic flavors!

Chop up the squash and apples – I don’t peel the apples, just wash them.  There are so many good nutrients in the skin that you don’t want to miss out on.  Throw them in the pot, plus salt and curry powder, to taste. If you want to add red pepper flakes, do this now. It will add some spice to your soup, but you won’t need much.

Saute until the squash and apples begin to cook a bit, then add your broth.

Note: You could easily cook this in a slow cooker, you could cook it all day on low, or 4 hours on high.  If you are doing this on the stove, it usually takes about 45 minutes.

After everything is all cooked, add the sour cream and blend with an immersion blender. I usually add a big spoonful or two. The sour cream gives it a good creaminess, though I’m sure you could make the soup without it if you are a dairy-free family. You could also sub plain greek yogurt – I do that quite often.

We usually serve this with quinoa [just like with the potato leek soup!]. My two-year-old and my fifteen-month-old both eat their soup served right over the quinoa. It makes it a little easier to eat for them. The quinoa makes the meal a little heartier, which is important for some of my bottomless pit boys!

Let me know if you try out the recipe! Do you have a favorite soup recipe? Please share a link in the comments! And check out Delia’s Soup of the Day series going on this month… YUM!

Healthy Living eBook Bundle – AKA super awesome books for super cheap!

As many of you oh-so-loyal readers know, one of the things that I’m pretty passionate about [read: passionate, not perfect!] and have blogged about numerous times is living a healthy and natural lifestyle. This is a journey that I’ve been on for awhile now, with a huge focus in my house on wasting less and paying attention to what goes in and on our bodies [fewer toxins and less processed junk].

Well today I have the opportunity to share with you an aMAYzing deal on some resources that could help YOU in your healthy/natural living journey as well. I’m so super excited about this!

*The sale has been extended through the weekend!*

For 5 days only, 27 prominent Healthy Living authors have joined together to bundle 34 of their most popular eBooks, valued at just over $300, for the incredibly low price of $29.

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Real Food Meals for the Whole Family

Have Your Fruits… and Veggies, Too! by Laura Coppinger @ Heavenly Homemakers ($5.95)

Real {Fast} Food by Trina Holden @ Trina Holden ($6)

20 Minute Meals by Leigh Ann Dutton @ Intentional by Grace ($4.99)

Real Food… Real Easy by various bloggers @ The Humbled Homemaker ($9.95)

Baking, Snacks and Desserts

Smart Sweets by Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship ($8.95)

Healthy Snacks To Go by Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship ($8.95)

Sourdough A to Z by Wardee Harmon @ GNOWFGLINS ($20)

Homemade “Everything” (Condiments, Pantry Basics, etc.)

Restocking the Pantry by Kresha Faber @ Nourishing Joy ($7.99)

Easy. Homemade. by Mandi Ehman @ Life Your Way ($3.99)

Grain Free and Paleo/Primal Eating

Grain Free Meal Plan Cookbook by Cara Faus @ Health, Home & Happiness ($18)

Toadally Primal Smoothies by Todd @ Primal Toad ($9.95)

Simple Food {for spring} by Shannon @ Nourishing Days ($10)

Simple Food {for winter} by Shannon @ Nourishing Days ($10)

Well Fed (Paleo Recipes) by Melissa Joulwan @ The Clothes Make The Girl ($14.95)

Saving Money on Real Food

Real Food on a Real Budget by Stephanie Langford @ Keeper of the Home ($18.99)

Plan It, Don’t Panic by Stephanie Langford @ Keeper of the Home ($4.99)

Don’t Compost It, Cook It by April Patel @ An Apple a Day Wisdom ($2.99)

Skincare and Beauty

My Buttered Life (Baby edition) by Renee Harris @ Hard Lotion ($5)

My Buttered Life (Gift edition) by Renee Harris @ Hard Lotion ($5)

My Buttered Life (Summer edition) by Renee Harris @ Hard Lotion ($5)

Simple Scrubs to Make and Give by Stacy Karen @ A Delightful Home ($3.99)

Food on Your Face for Acne and Oily Skin by Leslie @ Crunchy Betty ($7.99)

Holistic Mama’s Guide to Homemade Skincare by Roxanne King @ The Holistic Mama ($19)

Homesteading, Gardening and Preserving

Your Custom Homestead by Jill Winger @ The Prairie Homestead ($4.99)

Guide to Gardening and Preserving by Laura Coppinger @ Heavenly Homemakers ($7.95)

Apartment Gardening by Jami Leigh @ Young Wife’s Guide ($2.99)

Healthy Lifestyle

Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott @ Loving Simple Living ($2.99)

Herbal Nurturing by Michele Augur @ Frugal Granola ($8.95)

Simple Natural Health by Nina Nelson @ Shalom Mama ($17)

Healthy Homemaking by Stephanie Langford @ Keeper of the Home ($12.95)

Music: An Essential Ingredient for Life by Resound School of Music ($6.99)

Pregnancy and Babies

Breast to Bib by Kate Tietje @ Modern Alternative Pregnancy ($8.95)

Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods by Kate Tietje @ Modern Alternative Pregnancy ($8.95)

Unbound Birth by Jenny Yarborough @ The Southern Institute ($4.99)

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Your choice of a FREE sourdough starter, or a FREE traditional buttermilk starter from Cultures for Health ($12.99 value)


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This collection is only available from 8 a.m. EST on October 29th to 8 a.m. EST on November 2nd. There will be no late sales offered.The sale has been extended through the weekend!

Haven’t purchased an eBook Bundle, but still want to be entered into the draw?  No problem.  You can enter here.

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I am so excited to scoop up this bundle at this amazing price. Seriously! I mean, y’all know how cheap thrifty I am. I know some of these authors and bloggers personally and even own a couple of these e-books already. You will NOT be sorry after purchasing. Eeek! Go get it!

*Disclaimer: This post uses affiliate links. I receive a percentage of the sales if you purchase through these links, but I didn’t receive anything for posting about this. I just super love this deal and wanted to share with you!

Real Food Meal Planning: a free printable!

Back at the beginning of 2012, I made some not-resolutions. I had a lot of goals for all areas of life. One of those was meal planning.

I’ve never been very good at meal planning. I don’t enjoy following recipes, and I don’t like to follow rigid schedules. I like to fly by the seat of my pants. But I knew that I needed to give meal planning a shot – partly for financial reasons, to help us to stick to our grocery budget. Also to eliminate those moldy bowls in the back of the fridge filled with unrecognizable leftovers. [not that you’d ever find those in my fridge… ahem.]

There are many printables out there, but I could never find one that I liked. I usually ended up using an index card. Which, honestly, is just fine. But I decided to make something that would work perfectly for me.

meal planning + coffee

This template is for meal planning and grocery shopping. Since those two go hand-in-hand, it made sense for me to have the two in the same place. It’s pretty simple – just a space to write what we’re having for dinner each night. Since I don’t plan our other meals [because my littles want to eat PB&J every.single.day.] a dinner-only template is all I need. The grocery shopping list is then broken up into real food categories: produce, protein, dairy, grains, and other – with the majority of space reserved for produce.

Download the Weekly Dinner Menu Planning and Grocery Template.

After my meal is planned, I simply cut off the bottom, take my list with me to the store, and keep my menu plan in my binder. I’ve tried writing my lists on my phone to reduce paper waste, but I’m just a paper and pen list kinda girl. Can’t get around it. So my kiddos color on the back of the paper when I’m done, then the paper is recycled.

Okay, so here’s the honest truth: I used this template pretty consistently in January and February and was a huge slacker in March. Meals were a little bit more stressful, we were over on our food budget, and we didn’t use up all our leftovers. So this month, I’m back on the meal planning bandwagon.

And here’s the other thing… I’m boring. When it comes to meals, I make the same things over and over again. Even though my Pinterest recipes board is filled with recipes, I find things I like to make, and then don’t branch out that often. And I have one of the pickiest eaters in.the.world. So I keep it pretty simple – but good [I hope]. But we always eat dinner together, and it’s mostly unprocessed and from scratch. That’s more important than fancy schmancy meals, in my opinion. Meal planning has really helped to keep that as low-stress as making-dinner-for-five-while-three-kids-are-vying-for-my attention-and-Daddy-isn’t-home-yet can be.

a little dinner making serenade

Do you meal plan? What helps you to stick to it? I’m going to share a few of our staple meals, then it’s back to some sewing posts for awhile. I’ve gotten my sewing mojo back – woot!

It’s Not Health Food… It’s Just Food.

A couple weeks ago, I was waiting in line at the grocery store check out. It was a busy time of the day [please remind me never to go on a Saturday afternoon… yikes], and every lane was at least three carts deep.

As I skimmed through my instagram feed [I’m iftheywouldnap if you want to find me there], I could see the two women behind me peeking into my cart out of the corner of my eye. One of them said to the other, “She must eat a lot of health food.”

I wanted to laugh, because as I looked in my cart, I didn’t see anything that I would describe as “health food.” Lots of vegetables and fruit, eggs, yogurt, milk, peanut butter… no, not health food. Just food.

While I held my tongue and didn’t say anything to the women behind me, it got me thinking. How did real food become health food? Have we gotten so used to finding our food in boxes and packages that we’ve forgotten how to just eat real food, the way God made it?

By sharing a thing or two about my real food journey here in this normally fabric-dominated space, my hope is that you and your family can take steps toward eating food that leaves you feeling good and nourishes your body.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert. I don’t have a degree in nutrition, and I don’t have all the answers. But drawing from my own experience, I have learned a thing or two. That said, I certainly wouldn’t say that “I’ve arrived,” and I do it all perfectly – believe me, I don’t. And please don’t take this as medical advice. Consult a doctor for that.

My real food journey has been just that – a journey. It isn’t something that happened overnight. I still feel that I have many areas where I could change and improve, but when I look back at where I was even five years ago, I can see a huge difference in my not just my eating habits, but in the way I view food.

Things that I used to crave [like potato chips] no longer appeal to me. The few times they do make it into my cart, and my belly, I wind up feeling icky. When I’m eating food that nourishes my body, I have energy [well, minus my sleepless baby nights…], I’ve seen improvements in my skin, I’ve lost weight, and I just feel good.

So, I’ve compiled a little list of my advice – baby steps to eating real foods that your body will love. [These are not rocket science, and I’m not re-inventing the wheel here. But everybody starts somewhere, and this is where I started.]

  • Don’t tackle everything at once. If you throw out all the foods you’ve been eating and drastically change your diet in one day, you’re most likely setting yourself up for failure. Baby steps means baby steps. Try changing how you eat, one meal at a time.
  • Increase your veggie intake – double or even triple it. Seriously. Fresh vegetables pack a serious nutrition punch, and they aren’t processed. Find veggies that you like to eat without covering them in sauces or cream of whatever soups. Join a CSA, so you’re forced to try new vegetables that you’ve maybe never even heard of before. Shop at a farmer’s market and talk to the farmers about how they like to prepare their veggies.
  • Drink less soda or juice… or none at all. Unless you have a juicer. [But even fresh juice has sugar, so don’t overdo it]
  • Drink water – a lot of water.

  • Shop along the outside of the grocery store – produce, dairy, fresh meats. By avoiding the inner aisles as much as possible, your meals will be fresher and contain less junk. Ninety percent of my grocery shopping time is spent in these outer aisles.

  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Please.

  • Keep easy snacks handy, so you are less likely to eat the junky ones. Veggies and hummus, nuts, air popped popcorn, or homemade granola bars are personal faves.
  • Plant something that you can eat – I have the least green thumb of anyone I know. Gardening is not my thing, even though I try really hard and really enjoy it. But every year, I grow something. Even if it doesn’t yield much or grow as well as someone else’s [Do you grow zucchini that’s bigger than two inches? Come to my house and teach me, because I don’t…] But my kids are learning that food should come from the ground and go to our bellies. I love that.
  • Choose organic produce for those that tend to have a higher pesticide count – you’ve probably heard of the “dirty dozen.” When making the leap to buy organic, that’s a great place to start.

  • Read labels. When I was younger, I used to look at calories, but now I’m much more concerned with the ingredients. Look for food items that have the fewest ingredients, with words you understand. If you don’t know what the words mean, your body won’t either. If they have high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners, just put it down and walk away. Please.

  • Use herbs and spices instead of heavy sauces or cream of whatever soups.
  • Make it instead of buying it. This tends to be my motto all around – for sewing and for eating. If I can make it, I should. I have so much more control [and seriously, I l.o.v.e. to be in control… just ask my hubby] I know exactly what went into it, so I can feel good about giving it to my family.

The thing that I’ve found about eating real food – about taking baby steps to eating well – is that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You don’t have to clear out your whole pantry and start from scratch, regardless of what you’ve seen on TV. When you start making changes, you will want to keep going. Your habits will change, and you won’t want to eat those foods in your pantry anymore.

But that being said, give yourself some grace. I will never claim to be perfect. We don’t eat a completely unprocessed diet. I don’t make every single meal from scratch. Not all of our veggies are organic. I let my kids eat [gasp!] chicken nuggets. But every day is a conscious choice to think about what we put in our bodies, and I take that choice – for myself and my family – very seriously.

Here are a few resources that I love:

Kitchen Stewardship
Simple Homemade
Simple Bites
101 Cookbooks

Are you on this journey too? What are some things you have done that have helped you to get started making baby steps toward eating real food?

Next week, I’m going to share a simple meal planning tool that I’ve been using, and what eating real food really looks like on a weekly basis in our house.

[And there will be more sewing to come too… with a newly crawling, still not sleeping through the night baby, sewing has taken a back seat to life. But I’ve been working on a few things that I’ll show you soon!]