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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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organic living journey perspective and a few tips

The following is part of an Organic Guest Post Series written by Amy, a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.

As we get weeks into this journey I’m realizing how much I find myself talking about food!  I spend at least 3 hours a week researching and even more time outside of that just thinking about food.  Plus, I’m starting to get a reputation among my friends as the gal who knows all about healthy eating (which I have to admit is more than a little humorous to me!)  Because I am immersed in this, I find myself getting uber discouraged on a few levels.

First, I get discouraged with what I am eating.  Dinners are great because I eat whatever I fix for the family which is going to be healthy, but my breakfasts are non-existent, and I am lucky to grab some form of protein for lunch.  If I eat one serving of fruit and one serving of veggies I day, I feel like I have accomplished something.  So while my kiddos are eating fabulously, I struggle to find time and energy after I am done taking care of them to feed myself well and to conquer my own eating idiosyncrasies.

My second level of discouragement is a bit deeper and potentially more universal.  As I research, I am blown away by just how messed up our world is.  Bees are dying out, non-GMO’d sources of corn are almost impossible to find, our chickens are being fed arsenic routinely and the list goes on and on.  When I am writing, I want to shine a light on what’s going on with our food, but I fear that the light sometimes shows just how dark the darkness is.  So today, I want to do two things.  One, I want to take a moment and gain some perspective (because after all this research on meat, I need it.  How about you?)  After that, I want to give you a peek into how I am making this work for us.  Eating whole foods is expensive, but one way we are working it out in our home is that I am cooking much more from scratch than I ever have.  One dear friend told me this week, “I don’t know how you do it.  I don’t have the time to cook like this.”  I’d like to answer that with some tips on how we are making it work.  So perspective first.

When we look at how our conventional food sources are both deceiving and failing us, it can be a bit discouraging.  When we see the price tag of eating the food that is better for us, we can go into sticker shock.  I don’t know about you, but when I start reading some blogs I am even more discouraged.  One mom I read said that they try to eat out only 1-2 times a year.  She doesn’t want to put all of that junk into her children.  She’s not the only one.  I have read people who say they will never eat a hot dog.  Never eat anything other than grass fed meat.  Never drink any milk other than raw milk.  Now, let me say loud and clear that if you are one of those people, I am not judging you.  Not at all.  But sometimes that feels a bit overwhelming to me and a tad insurmountable.  So, my same friend that shared her struggle to find time to cook also shared this idea.  She said that she strives to feed her family the good stuff 70-80% of the time.  The other 20-30% of the time, she doesn’t worry about it.  If they are at somebody’s house, she doesn’t stress out about what they will eat.  She simply enjoys the hospitality.  I love this idea!  It seems like a breath of fresh air to give yourself the freedom to not eat perfectly all the time.  Maybe you are at a point where you are shooting more for 60/40, that’s fine.  The freedom not to stress about food is good though, don’t you think?  Because really, at the end of the day, we are all going to die from something.  Does this negate our need to be good stewards?  No, but I think it helps keep me in check by remembering what is important.  Even if you eat perfectly there are no guarantees that you aren’t going to get cancer or heart disease or have a stroke.  I’m not trying to be overly dramatic.  Promise.  I just needed to take a step back and remember that if I eat a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s while I’m writing about how messed up our conventional chicken is, I’m not a hypocrite or failure.  I’m human, and there is freedom to enjoy food and not always stress about it.

Now that I’ve unwound, I’d love to share some tips that have helped in my cooking more things from scratch.  For those that are new here, some background info.  I’m a homeschooling momma who is teaching two girls, wrangling a nearly 2 year old boy, and working part-time from home.  Life is good and life is full.  Here’s how we’re doing it now.

Don’t introduce too many new foods into your menu at once.
There are several reasons that I don’t introduce too many new foods at once.  First off, have you ever noticed how much longer it takes to prepare a recipe for the first time?  I tried a new muffin recipe this weekend, and it took me probably 30 minutes to make the first time.  Because the recipe was a hit (and because we were out of muffins and had an abundance of milk that was about to go bad), I repeated the recipe twice more that day with different variations.  On Monday, I made the muffins again.  It took me under 15 minutes to make them.  The more often you make something, the faster you are going to get at preparing it.  That, in and of itself, will save you time.

Another perk of not trying too many new meal ideas at once is that it will save you money.  New recipes often require new ingredients that you aren’t going to have on hand.  Expanding your healthy food choices a little at a time will be less of a hit to your wallet as you can incorporate your stockpiling techniques to the recipes that are keepers.

A third perk is that you won’t face the discouragement of trying several new dishes only to have your children not appreciate it. There is nothing worse to me than working hard to make a meal and having one (or more) of my children act ugly about it.  When I plan a menu, I know which meals are favorites and which meals aren’t so loved.  I can stick the not so loved meals in between well loved meals so that every night isn’t challenging and while still exposing good foods to those with developing palates.

Simplify
If you are cooking three meals a day plus healthy snacks, you can feel like your life is a never ending cycle of cook, clean kitchen, repeat.  I have chosen some areas to simplify.  Breakfast in my house is one of three pre-made options:  yogurt, granola or a muffin with protein powder baked in.  If someone is exceedingly hungry, I might add some fruit or cheese, but I’m well aware that my kiddos are going to want a piece of fruit at 10:00 am.  So, I’m not too worried about a well-rounded breakfast.  Snacks are another area we have simplified.  I have a snack drawer with different options that the older two can pilfer with permission, and fruit is always an option.  We also have simplified our dinner menus with the same 10-15 meals.  We have breakfast for dinner once a week because everyone loves it (and it is the meal my husband makes, giving me a night off; he’s a saint).  Keeping what we eat simple has helped to keep me sane.

Maximize the small moments.  
For me, breakfast and sometimes lunch provide a small window of opportunity to get some cooking done.  Making granola takes 5 minutes of hands on time, and if I get started after I get the littlest in the high chair, I can get it made and in the oven before he’s done eating.  Major score.  This is the time when I most often will find myself prepping fruit or veggies too.  I won’t normally tackle everything at once.  Maybe during breakfast, I cut up a cantaloupe and rinse and pick grapes off of the stem.  Then during lunch, if I’m cutting carrots for lunch, I’ll go ahead and chop up more for the rest of the week.  A few minutes here and there doesn’t feel so burdensome, and all the little work will add up.

Make in bulk and freeze.
In the past 3 days, I made 144 muffins.  It took me 2-3 hours.  I have breakfast prep done for the next month.  The two most time consuming parts of cooking for me are pulling out all of the ingredients and cleaning up.  When you cook in bulk, you are saving tons of time in both areas.  We will brown 10-15 pounds of ground beef at once and freeze it in one pound packages (making dinner prep for so many meals faster!)  If I’m cutting up celery and notice that I have way more than I need for a recipe, it doesn’t take that much more time to cut it all and freeze it.  The same goes for onions.  I don’t always do this, but this concept of freezer cooking keeps me sane more often than not.

Find a routine that works.
If you have set times to make specific things it becomes habit; and then you don’t have to plan it or think about it.  Granola is made in the mornings during breakfast.  Baking bread happens on Thursdays (most of the time), pizza dough is normally prepared on Tuesdays.  This rhythm to cooking keeps me going even when I don’t feel like cooking.

Get the right tools and organize your kitchen!
I can’t say this enough, having the right tools can save you soooo much time and they don’t have to cost a ton or take up a lot of space.  For instance, do you have a potato peeler that you hate?  For five dollars, you could get a new one that would make peeling potatoes and fruit so much less frustrating.  Make a wish list of things that would save you time, money, and energy.  Then evaluate if it is worth the cost.  The USA muffin pans I got for Christmas were the best gift ever because they eliminated my least favorite parts of making muffins, greasing the pans and cleaning them.  Right now we have been thinking about getting a high powered blender.  The more we thought about it, the less excited we got.  Evaluate those tools that might make life easier and then move on or move forward.

Also as I cook and bake more, I am constantly reorganizing my kitchen to make it more efficient for me.  I don’t live in a huge house; we work with what we’ve got.  I try to keep my counters relatively clear since I need every inch when I’m cooking.  Having what I need easily accessible when cooking  helps a ton.  Clean out your kitchen.  Get rid of those pans that you never use.  Make your kitchen serve you.  And, if you are organizationally challenged, invite a friend over that can help you organize your kitchen.  You can pay her in the goodness that you will now have time to bake.

Roll with it.
For all the cooking that I do there are still weeks when we run out of granola or browned ground beef or some other essential item.  I keep a list on my fridge of things that I need to cook outside of our normal menu.  When we are getting low or have run out, the food to be prepared goes on the list.  I then try to fit that into one of those maximized moments.  If all else fails, I’ll tackle it on Saturday when Jon is home and I have an extra set of hands.

Have a backup plan.
It’s dinner time and you don’t have any veggies to go with the meal.  What to do?  Momma’s got a migraine, and there is no way she’s going to be cooking.  What’s for dinner?  You’re out and about and need a quick bite to eat.  What do you grab?  The munchkins are sick and clingy (or just having a bad day).  Who has the energy to prepare dinner, much less something healthy?  You are standing in the grocery store and organic apples are too expensive.  What do you buy?  This is where having a back-up plan will help.  Embrace frozen veggies.  They are better than nothing.  When life isn’t in crisis, take some time to figure out the frozen pizza or meal that meets your families’ eating goals the best.  Have a meal or two that are your go-to easy fixes when life is stressful, and make sure that you always have the ingredients on hand.  Discover the best fast food options where you live.  Remember that eating a pesticide laden apple is better than not eating any fruit at all.  I am seeing the need to think through some of these areas and come up with a back-up plan because when life gets crazy, if you haven’t thought things through, you’ll go for the default every time.  Which is why we eat at Wendy’s far more than we ought.  (Don’t judge.)

Those are a few of my tips and tricks.  How about you?  How do you making cooking whole foods less of a chore and more doable?  Or do you have a problem that just frustrates you to no end?  Can we help?

    • Heather Cross

      Thanks for a sane, honest article on healthy eating. I’m to the point that cooking from scratch works (and my husband cooks every other night; he likes to and I’m SO thankful) but buying so much of our stuff locally while others go for rock bottom prices is hard to sort through mentally sometimes. No judgement here! Just glad to know others are working it out, too. :-)

      • amysanders

        it is always good to know that we aren’t alone, isn’t it?

    • I love what you are doing, here. The main reason I now coupon our toiletries is to save money toward more expensive healthy wants for my family. Sometimes it is so discouraging to see what our government allows in our food supply… and the sickness that might be, at the very least, lowered a smidgen if they would take out a few ingredients. That being said, I also struggle sometimes with buying those grocery items that are on sale – because they tend to be worse for you… thank you for the idea about the percentages to keep me going in those situations!! It was really very helpful.

      I would also love to have your granola recipe; and how you freeze baked muffins so they are still tasty.

      • amysanders

        i use this recipe from chow: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30062-basic-granola and change the vegetable oil to olive oil and the brown sugar to sucanat.
        and for the muffins, i make sure they are totally cooled before i put them in freezer safe containers. no problems!

    • amelia

      Thank you for your practical perspectives and insights. I enjoy your column. I’ve been (slowly, very slowly) moving my family to a plant based diet over the past 4 months. One thing I’ve noticed is that you need a lot more food storage containers when you do not buy processed foods. We are constantly juggling containers in the fridge while the freezer has a lot of room. All the fruits and veggies take up a lot of space as well. I try to wash and trim them when I bring them home so everything is ready to go for meal prep or snack.

      We roast a lot of vegetables at once (usually peppers, onion, garlic, zucchini, squash, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots and use them throughout the week to add to pasta/rice dishes or to throw on top of a homemade pizza. Roasting is very easy to do and tastes delicious.

      To keep costs down, I only buy organic produce when the price is close to non-organic produce (thank you Trader Joes!) and we eat a lot of beans. There is always 3 bean salad in the fridge for quick protein snacks or to use as a side for dinner.

      • amysanders

        i need to learn to roast veggies. it would be a nice change of pace for us! and don’t you just love TJ’s??

        • TheChapLeigh

          I roasted so many pans of garden tomatoes the last two summers…. and then made spag sauce that was sooooo yummy…. & then canned or froze it. It’s really not hard at all, and not time consuming, if you are hanging out in the kitchen anyway. I also roasted sweet potatoes & then vacuum sealed & froze for later-use, on days when I didn’t have time to do all that prep work for sweet potatoes. If you hadn’t guessed, we’ve been blessed with a ton of garden sweet potatoes – I was putting them into everything I could imagine…. rice (really, quinoa) pudding, muffins, you name it… because we HAD them. I get really creative with what we’ve got an abundance of, be it from the garden or store sales. After all, fresh produce only lasts so long.

          • Dawn

            For some reason I’m scared to try to make my own spaghetti sauce. Do you have a good recipe to share?

            • TheChapLeigh

              You know, you are NOT the first person to say that to me, that it’s hard to find just the right recipe. I wish I could help you out on a specific recipe, but I seem to make it differently each time, depending how I start out. For instance, in the summer I’ve got tons of tomatoes, and how I make it truly depends upon how much time & energy have in the kitchen (since I”m spending so much time in the garden). If I’ve got a lot of tomatoes, I roast them, to bring out the natural sugars. Then I dump them into a big wide stockpot with tomato puree, OR tomato paste with water, OR canned diced tomatoes (either from home-canning or grocery sales). I’ve kinda learned the consistency purely from experience, so that’s something you would have to work out. But if it’s too watery, add more paste… or let it cook down. I then add minced garlic, diced onion & whatever other veggies I have that need to be used. A fun one is roasted red peppers, they add great flavor. Then I grab a handful of fresh basil & oregano from out back (or a few TBSP from dried cannister), a tiny bit of parsley, a bay leave, and perhaps add some red wine if I’ve got a bottle open. Occasionally I add sugar to “cut” the acidity — if anyone has any better ideas on that one, I’m all ears. Let it simmer for the right consistency, and you are good to go! ***I will freeze this when cooled, as I just don’t have the patience for canning lately*** Oh, one more thing, if you do have a ton of tomatoes & you want to can them, I recommend a Food Mill of some sort, then cook it a bit with watever spices you want, & then can. I will really flavor it up later, upon opening the jars, as I’ve not found success with actually canning spaghetti sauce — my flavors haven’t come out right yet.

        • TheChapLeigh

          I roasted so many pans of garden tomatoes the last two summers…. and then made spag sauce that was sooooo yummy…. & then canned or froze it. It’s really not hard at all, and not time consuming, if you are hanging out in the kitchen anyway. I also roasted sweet potatoes & then vacuum sealed & froze for later-use, on days when I didn’t have time to do all that prep work for sweet potatoes. If you hadn’t guessed, we’ve been blessed with a ton of garden sweet potatoes – I was putting them into everything I could imagine…. rice (really, quinoa) pudding, muffins, you name it… because we HAD them. I get really creative with what we’ve got an abundance of, be it from the garden or store sales. After all, fresh produce only lasts so long.

    • katkoupon

      I am guilty of stressing too much about food. It isn’t hard when you are learning “the darkness of the dark”. I mean really, we could probably find something wrong with every food. That’s where I was headed…But you’re absolutely right, we have to try and keep things in perspective. We were probably eating a 95% clean/whole foods lifestyle. I kept trying to get it cleaner and cleaner. One day my husband told me that we were probably stressing too much over food, and it was starting to become un-enjoyable. We just had to take a big step back, a huge breath, and say ok…we have to got to relax a little bit. So now we’re around an 80/20. We eat great, keeping junk out of the house, but, if we really want something, healthy or not, we try to hold out til the weekend and we go get it. And we enjoy it. For example, I’ve been trying to create a super-healthy homemade pizza for months and months, and we just decided it wasn’t worth it (the hard work and sometimes disappointment). When we really want a good pizza, we go to a locally-owned pizza place and enjoy. No regrets. I think we had gotten to the point where stressing over trying to eat perfectly was probably causing more harm than good. I think stress causes more damage than the occasional few slices of great pizza does! We just keep plenty of good choices in the house, and that makes it easy for us to eat healthy day to day. With our large family, there are plenty enough holidays and birthday parties to indulge, so no need to keep those things in the house for us. I’ve read that if the produce we eat isn’t local, there’s a good chance that frozen may be a better option. So I’ve been started keeping a few different frozen options for something easy and quick, and I am getting spoiled. Kroger has a great “key largo” blend that we’ve fallen in love with, comes in a 2 lb bag and is very colorful. It fits perfectly on my awesome new half sheet baking pan I ordered from amazon (yes, great kitchen gadgets, etc can make a world of difference!). I toss with olive oil, s&p, and roast on 400° (I think 30-40 minutes). We deserve easy sometimes!

      I’ve also thought how great it would be to get some kind of whole food/organic list going, where people can post weekly sale finds. Like some Applegate products were on sale at Kroger last week (hot dogs and turkey bacon). I mean $1 off is a great sale on these products! I know you and Jenny have enough on your plates. Maybe someone else has an idea. We could possibly do it as a collective effort. Just a thought.

      Thanks so much for the tips, Amy! Love taking this journey with so many of you! I really feel like we consumers vote with every dollar we spend. Supply and demand. The government is gonna have to step up at some point. We aren’t gonna stand for sick food!

      • BD

        I have started an Organic Price List and will be happy to share….if I can figure out how to post it on here. Alternatively, send me your email address and I’ll send it. scarletttango@aol.com

        • amysanders

          what’s on your list? like a best prices available kind of deal?

          • BD

            I’ve started something similar to her Buy Price list with items organized by category, and a price comparison of best prices found at Costco, Whole Foods, Publix, Farmer’s Market.

            • amysanders

              Oooooo, I want to see, can you email it to Jenny and ask her to forward it to me?? Thanks!!

      • TheChapLeigh

        Kat — I have yet to figure out how to make a good homemade pizza — with or without the pizza stone — I just can’t get the dough right, it remains soggy, and its just plain gross. What’s your secret?

        I also like the idea of a good organic price list. I may just have to come up with my own though, as I don’t have Earthfare or WholeFoods handy. I’ve got Lowes Foods, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Walmart (though I don’t shop there if I can help it), and i order through Vitacost. Most of my grainy stuff (flours, oatmeal, quinoa), coconut oil & apple cider vinegar comes from Vitacost; produce & chicken that’s on sale or markdown, raisins, PB, & cereals/bars come from HT. I hear great things about Costco but don’t have one locally.

        I think Amy posted something along these lines awhile back, though, so I may need to go digging….

        • katkoupon

          I was trying to make a grain-free and dairy-free crust. I had two successful ones made with riced cauliflower and broccoli. (Not trying to promote my blog, it’s just easier to tell you the link than type the recipe here: questforabutterlife(dot)blogspot(dot)com. It’s the Dec 13th post.) The 3rd and 4th did not turn out as well (slightly soggy centers). I suspect I either didn’t dry my veggies well enough, or I didn’t make the crust thin enough. OR, it could be that I got pregnant and my tastes changed quite a bit for the first couple of months, lol. It was a lot of work. I do plan on giving it another try, later. I don’t have a pizza stone, hubby said he thinks that would work better.

          As for the price list, I have Kroger, Food Lion, Costco, Walmart (I don’t shop there either, not planning to, no matter the prices!) and Vitacost as well. I have a natural food store that is about 30 minutes away, they carry raw milk and have a 15% sale day once a month. It is very expensive, so I try to go on the sale day and get the things not available anywhere else. I was buying my almond meal online through Honeyville when discount codes are available, but now I make my own. I also find it helpful to go up and down the aisles of the natural food section at Kroger. Seems like every few weeks, they have closeouts due to resets. Can find some good deals that way sometimes. Kroger had Bragg’s acv on closeout, but I was well stocked from vitacost. I just thought people could post when a good brand was on sale at their store, may help us save some money!

          • TheChapLeigh

            Kathy — you are gorgeous!! LOVE your blog — I bookmarked & plan to go back when I can read some more (I’m multi-tasking kitchen stuff right now;) You are so inspiring — love the before & after pics & story, as well as the medical tests that provide the objective data behind your journey of better health!! You go girl!!

            • Guest

              Thank you so much! I started that to share some recipes with my family and friends. I haven’t done much with it recently. We’ve just been keeping it simple these days and been busy trying to get ready for a new addition. Thanks again!

            • TheChapLeigh

              i tell you what, people keep saying I should start my own blog, and I just say that it’s not necessary… because there are so many great bloggers out there who are doing it SOOOOO much better than I ever could!!! Keep up the inspiration to others!! And best wishes to you as you grow your little one ;) Simple is good…. and stop to put your feet up… rest is a GOOD thing!!!

          • amysanders

            so fun to actually put a face with your username! :) and i’ll toss out the organic list to jenny. it’s a good idea, and honestly, i don’t think it would be too hard to do.

        • amelia

          My go-to pizza dough recipe is on the Better Homes and Gardens Recipe web site. Scroll down until you see “All-Purpose Pizza Dough”. I mix it up in my 30 year old Cuisinart with a dough blade. It’s so easy, my kids can make it. I get 5 smallish pizzas out of each recipe. I roll the dough using a non-stick rolling pin on a silicone rolling mat. I then carefully pull the rolled-out dough off the mat and place it on a pizza “peel” that is generously coated with corn meal. Next I add toppings and then slide the pizza off the peel onto a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven. I have the Epicurean peel and it works well because it has a thin, tapered edge. You can get these at Bed, Bath & Beyond (using a coupon, of course!).

          • TheChapLeigh

            Thanks so much!! It seems that most of my problem has come in trying to BAKE the pizza…. I’m just not doing something right. I can try this out next time I’m feeling a pizza-craving!! Question — is the stone already hot?

            • amelia

              Yes, the stone is in your oven when it is preheating. This pizza recipe calls for a 500 degree oven. Since it’s so hot, I usually take over from the kids at this point.

    • Stephanie

      After becoming unemployed 2 years ago.. it has been very hard to eat healthy! I have learned to cook from scratch and I use Pinterest ALOT to find DIY recipes. Sometimes they are ALOT cheaper, sometimes not. I started gardening 2 years ago and this year I am going all out and growing extra stuff just for seasoning blends, cleaners, and just to try new things. I find that by making my own cleaners and spice blends, I do save a ton of $ and can splurge on the healthy stuff more. I am a huge couponer and stockpile the bad stuff, but we dont eat it often. Its just there for darker days that may be yet to come.
      My husband is very very very picky about veggies so it does make it hard for me to cook healthy for everyone else. His veggie diet consists of green beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, and thats IT!!! Also, he doesnt like his veggies mixed.. what a goob huh?
      Regardless, I try to do healthy snacks for our kids and I have found that is pretty cheap. I have started canning recently and also dehydrating. Flash freezing is the next thing I want to conquer. Thanks for the tips in this article. It does make me realize everybody is human. None of us are perfect, but its good to know that there are so many people out there that are aware of the food issues our country has. Thank you and God Bless!

      • katkoupon

        Can you recommend a dehydrator or do you use your oven?

        • amysanders

          i love my excalibur. :)

          • TheChapLeigh

            Amy — now that the “newness” of your dehydrator has worn off (I assume), are you still using it like you did initially? And what are you dehydrating? Anything on a consistent basis, or is it more seasonal?

            • amysanders

              more seasonal. when there is a fruit or veggie that is in season and i can get a bunch for next to nothing, that’s when i use it. it is too much trouble to pull it out all the time. i mostly got it as an alternative to canning tomatoes, but we’ve loved it for fruit leathers, dried apples and dried peaches even. :)

      • amysanders

        hang in there! and remember that your hubbie will get there too! four veggies are better than none!

    • Rebecca

      Thanks for the great article. Out of necessity, I’ve been trying recently to move to whole foods and away from any artificial preservatives. My family actually eats less when they eat “real” food. I found a great bread baker in my area that uses only whole ingredients with unbromated flour. It’s amazing how filling a real piece of bread is! I would be interested in any recipes and freezing/storing techniques that you have come up with.
      Keep sharing…you’re not alone. :)

    • TheChapLeigh

      oh, Amy, I was sooooo there in a BIG way last year, feeling utterly condemned at choosing things that I knew were ‘bad’ after learning about better foods. And I’m a work in progress. Just yesterday I sat on my friend’s couch constantly thinking over how much i was craving a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A. I don’t go there often, but sometimes out of convenience, it’s necessary. When I DO go there, I consider how I’m helping a fellow Christian out, buying what they have to offer, LOL!

      I’ve learned some perspective. I’ve gone through my seasons (like when I chucked everything that I no longer could stand having in my house — mainly condiments with icky stuff in them). I”ve nearly given up on coupons (because I can’t spend time on those AND everything else i’ve got going on with healthy eating)… and because it just made me sick to think how much more I was spending on the healthier food. I found that scouring the ads was NOT helpful… instead, I gather the organic coupons that I know are out & am sure to have those on hand when going into Harris Teeter when looking for produce & organic chicken markdowns. I will always walk the aisles that I know I would buy if there were a sale of some sort, preferably with the Qs I have on-hand…. like organic raisins, granola, cereal & bars, & the coffee that I must have…. then I leave the store quickly. Gone are the days of spending forever looking over the sales. Thankfully, that time is freed up for me to now spend on cooking.

      It’s hard to read other blogs & realize that you are really not “hard-core” even though your friends may beg to differ. You can begin to feel you are never going to make a difference & then feel completely overwhelmed “by the darkness” as you mentioned. But you can’t give in! You just gotta remind yourself that EACH good decision is a choice to NOT give in…. one step forward is one worth congratulating!!!

      I agree, we need a routine of what happens naturally within our day, in order to be able to keep up with this lifestyle. i, too, do much of my prep work & crock-potting in the mornings when it’s just a little saner. I’ve also utilized the freezer, as you mentioned. I have lots of soups & stocks & spaghetti sauces on-hand in the freezer for my go-to meals when life is crazy. I also prep & freeze BBQ sauces, sloppy joe sauces… you get the picture… so it makes the homemade meals done on the fly so much more tastey. I even froze mashed potatoes when the garden harvest was huge, so that I could add that to thicken soups. shortcuts like those are great.

      I would love to hear how you make granola. I know, I know, i can’t believe I haven’t made that before now… I’ve just been too busy with everything else to be able to consider granola or bread. That’s where I”m at ;)

      • amysanders

        i use the basic granola recipe from chow (on-line). if i post the link (which i did further down in the post) it takes a while to show up. :) and amen to all you said! i find myself couponing less and less for food and being really okay with it. (but girl, i’m not afraid to stock up on a good deal. you don’t want to know how many chickens the hubs bought today at whole foods!!)

        • TheChapLeigh

          hahahaha — I saw that chicken deal on Jenny’s post, and i was SO ENVIOUS of those who have Whole Foods nearby!! Seriously, I was doing some hard-core coveting!!!!

          And I’ve been known to buy out the organic raisin shelf when it’s on B1G1(no one get offended, I did leave one or two boxes, lol!) I am not afraid to stock up — and bananas — when those are on manager’s special, I buy like 6 bags…. and you have no idea how many comments I’ve gotten from the cashiers! But, they freeze really well, and can be thawed for banana chocolate muffins (hey, we all need some sweetness!!) or smoothies… I’m so glad i’ve got all those bananas! But, with all my “monkeys” running amuck over here, they generally don’t last too long… but there WAS this horrendous fruit fly situation going down at my house last summer… but that’s a story for another day…

          • amysanders

            yeah, we don’t live super close, but jon was working near a WF. he took a cooler and went when they opened. love that man!! and fruit flies…well, they are evil!

        • TheChapLeigh

          Thanks for the info on granola — never had heard of the chow site beforehand, so thanks!Looks like there are lots of variations possible, so I think I”ll be trying this out real soon. And, it sure beats trying to find good sales on granola, that’s for sure!! I add granola to our homemade raw yogurt, since the boys need some “body” to breakfast (my under-10 year old boys will easily eat two cups-worth of oatmeal (with PB and fruits added in), and 1-2 eggs, in addition to yogurt — it’s nuts how much they eat — and that’s only the boys!!! I will need some good tips, in the future, on how to keep growing, hungry tummies filled!!!

          • amysanders

            my foodie friend said that chef’s go to chow like the rest of us go to pinterest and allrecipes :) (and you are scaring me about how much your boys eat. good grief!!!) oh, and the granola recipe doubles well. just cook it 15 minutes, stir and then another 15 minutes. :)

    • TheChapLeigh

      One more thing… homemade food, from scratch, just tastes better!! However, I feel like quite the food snob now…. and my husband agrees, that we are spoiled now with all the good food we’ve been eating! We just can’t go to any “average American cuisine” restaurant anymore!! Just sayin’,,,,

      • amysanders

        i feel this way too sometimes when we eat out! everything just seems soooo salty. :)

      • Dawn

        This is such the Truth! We are so disappointed when we go out to eat! I always joke that I cooked us into a corner! You really can tell the difference.

    • kim w

      Thank you for writing this.

    • Rachel Mae Campbell

      Thank you for this!

    • Hope

      I really appreciated this article, particularly the perspective piece. Sometimes I get so discouraged because I work full time, so I don’t have any control over the things that they eat at preschool, many of which I don’t like them having. I strive to have them eat healthy when they are home and/or with me, but it has made me feel very defeated that despite my best efforts, my kids are still getting junk. I am REALLY looking forward to the day when they move to their “big” school and I can pack them lunch.

      But someone recently said two things to me that have really helped me when I am getting down about this: “Do you think God is as concerned with what your children are eating as you are?” and “Guilt-this kind of guilt, or mommy guilt- is not from God.” These statements are slowly transforming my thought life. There is nowhere in the Bible that says that we are supposed to feel constantly guilty and like we don’t measure up. Don’t get me wrong-I do feel that God wants us to do the best for our children….but I don’t think He is less pleased with me when they are eating in a less-than-ideal way. And I think He would rather me concentrate on their spiritual disciplines than beating myself up for not serving them more than one vegetable in a given day.

      To those who are eating a completely organic whole food diet, you have my utmost admiration. I hope that I will continue to do the best I can to feed my children wholesome foods and move closer to that goal.

      • TheChapLeigh

        I like what you said about the guilt — that produces nothing but condemnation, and that’s just not the heart of God. And you are so right about the priorities — anything can become an idol, and I can admit that it’s easy to get things out of order. Amy had a post a few months back that described her “baby steps” idea, to keep herself encouraged and focused on the direction she is going — rather than compare to where others currently are at. And that’s one reason why I try to stay off most blogs about this kind of living. I go to the blogs with good info, and stay clear now of those spouting lots of opinion. We certainly do NOT need to feel anyone has judged or torn down those who are in the earlier stages of the process.

        And YOU have my utmost respect, to juggle full-time outside-the-home work and young children. That has got to be tough, and to implement better eating habits within those time constraints is highly admirable :)

        • Hope

          Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

      • amysanders

        i wholeheartedly agree with thechapleigh’s response!

    • Alissabeth

      Excellent post! Thanks!

    • CyndiMac

      Can not LOVE this article enough! You hit the nail on the head with this one! Giving myself and my family some grace with all this healthy eating is just the mental and emotional relief I need :)

      • amysanders

        so glad my tossing and turning at night and coming to this point of relief for myself can give you some as well!! much grace to you and your family!

    • BD

      Thank you for allowing God to use you in writing this article! I just started moving our diet to organic about 3-4 weeks ago, so we are brand new to this. We decided to cope with the sticker shock by reminding ourselves that we can “pay (for healthy) now or pay (doctors & meds) later”. With Obamacare looming, we opted for pay now. However, I’ve been incredibly stressed lately at how much time it consumes: searching for organic coupons, organic sales, organic recipes, and extra time in the kitchen cooking. Along with going organic, we are also going wheat-free (Wheat Free Belly cookbook), which means having to bake all your own bread, and not being able to make granola with oats. Costco has been a great find in helping with the prices, but I’m still having trouble coming up with a few menus. Most menu-planning services have too much wheat or oats in their meals (for us). Does anyone have any fairly simple menu plans they’d be willing to share to help us get going? I really don’t want to go back to all the unhealthy junk, but this is so overwhelming.

    • Such an amazing article Amy! Love it! Thank you for the perspective and the easy, simple, ‘do-able’ tips. I fee like I can do this healthy eating thing! :-) I will judge you on one thing though-you should be eating spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A….not Wendy’s. Ha, ha! ;-) Just kidding. You’re awesome girl! Thank you again for all of your hard work and research, and allowing us to reap those benefits.

      • amysanders

        chick-fil-a is too spicy for me. ha ha!!

    • Jacketfan24

      Thank you for this…I’m just getting started in the whole foods journey and this helped. I have a child who was raised on McDonald’s and is somewhat resistant to this new lifestyle, so I’m having to take baby steps. The worst processed foods I donated to a food bank and the rest I’m using and not replacing. It’s the cooking from scratch part that is more difficult for me, as I’m one of the world’s worst cooks (why he was raised on McDonald’s). But I’m committed to making this work and learning how to be a passable, if not good, cook. I’m going to try the chow website for granola and muffin recipes and am hoping there are sauce recipes on there as well. Anyone with any advice, it would be welcome! Roasting veggies sounds great. I do not have the option to plant a garden (I did consider it but the soil preparation would be too expensive in my yard and it would be very small; it will be cheaper in the long run to just hit the farmer’s market) but as I’m in Greenville, SC, we have a Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe’s nearby, so I’m good there.

      If anyone has any links to the better blogs or recipe sites on this topic, I would appreciate it! I have considered getting one of the Food Saver vaccuum things to seal meats and veggies for freezing. Does anyone else have these and are they worth the money?

      • TheChapLeigh

        I would recommend you use a recipe search engine and start with looking up ONE recipe that you know the fam will like. Read the comments on what others have to say about that recipe — adaptations made, etc. Then, consider how YOU want to adapt the recipe, for your nutritional preferences (there are so many different “diets” out there **paleo, primal, GAPS, traditional, vegetarian, etc**, so you need to determine what kind of health YOU are shooting for & make those ingredient adaptations.) Build your confidence with one recipe at a time.

        For me, I have a lot of homemade stocks on hand (in the freezer, in vacuum-sealed bags), and make a lot of soups. I can slip a lot of veggies in there, and also give the soups more body with quinoa, rice, mashed potatoes, orzo/pastas, etc. My soups need body, because I have big eaters who literally come back to the table every 2 hours, regardless of the amount of proteins I’ve packed into what they eat — breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. My philosophy is to make whatever they are eating really COUNT nutritionally. There’s very little empty calories in our house. So, if they eat grains, they are grains that COUNT. If it’s meat of any sort, I strive for free-range/grass-fed, organic so they are getting proteins without contaminants & with better levels of Omega-3’s vs an overload of Omega-6’s found in feed-lot meats. Dairy is locally purchased & raw, for the purposes of probiotics. We raise & grow what we can, because these are our goals & we enjoy it.

        I’d ask you, what are your goals? Start from there, in baby-steps, and tackle it one ingredient adaptation/one recipe at a time, and really congratulate yourself on a job well done with each accomplishment!

        And whatever you do, don’t watch “Food Inc.”, “Fresh” or “Food Matters” on Netflix unless you really want some insight into the mainstream American food supply, LOL!

        • Jacketfan24

          Thanks! My overall goal is health, but my first goal is to eliminate bad processed foods and cook from scratch as much as possible. My budget is very small, which is why I’ve been using Southernsavers, so it’s going to be a challenge to do this in the same budget. I may have to give a little on some organics as I don’t think that I can afford to go all out. But I figure some is better than none and I’ll go from there.
          LOL, I did watch Food Matters but didn’t find it helpful at all!

          • amysanders

            I like the advice to find one good recipe and slowly build up. that is a good word. I would encourage you too to eliminate one bad thing at a time. Maybe you start with high fructose corn syrup or MSG or something like that, Baby steps are soooo important so that you stay encouraged and moving forward. take heart 10 years ago, my daily breakfast was an oatmeal cream pie and mt. dew. Gourmet dinner was deluxe Mac n cheese instead of just the normal blue box….and veggies?? Who ate those? There is hope for you and your family!

      • Dawn

        I just recently started this journey of whole foods Nov of last year. I used the new year as a goal in getting rid of the “junk” in my pantry. What we didn’t use, I too donated to a food bank with the resolution not to allow anymore in the house. I’m concentrating on no processed food, eating fresh “real” food and using natural sugars-honey and maple syrup. I’m trying to add as much organic as possible but I’m not 100% due to cost and difficulty in finding it. I have three children and sometimes struggle getting everything homecooked. I can easily get overwhelmed with all the information and idea that things have to be perfect. What I’ve done is embrace the basics and try new things. We don’t have to immediately be gourmet chefs. I always have fresh veggies ready to eat… cherry tomatoes just need to washed, sliced cucumber, celery, carrot all cut and in a container I just open for meals and snacks. I look for simply recipes that taste good. I like 100daysofeatingrealfood and kitchensimplicity. I use 100days crock pot chicken recipe-easy and tasty. At the end of the meal the bones go back in the pot add celery and carrot and simmered over night then you have broth. One cooking/cleanup and I get several meals out of it. The pork carnitas recipe is good too, another crock pot recipe. I just make the meat and put whatever we want on it-salsa, lettuce, cheese. I’ve found a great wheat bread recipe that makes three loaves at once and I freeze two. I use frozen steam veggies for a quick side vegetables. I also make “milkshake” for the kids with frozen strawberries, banana, milk, plain yogurt, ground flax seed, spinach (they don’t even taste the spinach) and a spot of honey. We make a game with trying new foods (like counting in a silly voice as they eat each bite) and make it a requirement to try at least one bite. Kitchensimplicity has a great homemade baking mix that I use for biscuits and pancakes. She has great desserts. Another thought for you is if you don’t have room for a garden maybe just one plant in a container like tomatoes. This would give you one less thing to buy at the store. I’m trying basil with the kids. They fight over who gets to water it. Most of my recipes I search in google and then choose something with lots of reviews and a high rating. Most have been from allrecipe.com and I read the review and tweak it as I feel needed. Start little goals (like only buying whole wheat bread) introduce it to your family in a way they can accept and then once they are on board… add more…. What amazes me is once you start cooking/baking you realize it’s not so difficult and is fun and reassuring to know what you are feeding your family. I try to make large batches so I can freeze extra so I’m not cooking everything every week. Hope this helps! Good luck

    • Morgan

      This was a wonderful article! I get so overwhelmed about trying to eat healthy foods and all of the terrible food practices in our country. It’s nice to hear that others feel the same way and also to be reminded to put it all in perspective and do the best we can!

    • tori729

      Thanks for this. Even reading it makes me overwhelmed but baby steps, right? It’s SO hard to buy the good stuff when other things are so much cheaper. But I’ve been buying some more natural things lately that I can justify – unbleached sugar, organic milk (when I can), and checking the ingredients on things all of the time.
      Speaking of which, I’d love a post on ingredients and what they mean and which ones are huge no-nos.

      • amysanders

        are there specific ingredients that you are curious about? and hang in there. baby steps add up. my life is proof of that!

        • tori729

          Erm… all of them? I guess just the really bad ones to look out for. I know high fructose corn syrup but what about just “fructose” or “corn syrup”. Or just things that are in stuff with fancy names. I guess I just want to know – what is really really harmful over time. (like msg and hfcs and aspartame, etc.) Maybe a post on alternative sweeteners would be great too!

          • amysanders

            tori, that’s a great idea. for now, i would just encourage you to look for labels with ingredients that you recognize (in that they are real foods). the less processed something is, the better our bodies can process it. so fructose or corn syrup aren’t as good for you as maple syrup or honey as sweeteners. does that make sense? the more refined it is, the harder time our bodies have recognizing at as real food and thus knowing what to do with it. (sorry i haven’t replied sooner. stomach bug has hit our house with a fury!)