Reevaluating Food Goals for the Year

Last week I got to spend some time with an old friend. Christina and I were both new moms when we met twelve years ago. We had toddlers. Today we have teenagers.

During our vacation we stopped a night to stay with Christina and her family. She fixed an amazing feast for us: wild Salmon, quinoa, roasted eggplant and zucchini, green salad, and fresh beets. It was wonderful to expose my children to some new flavors — especially when it was her reputation on the line, not mine!

We read a lot of the same food and nutrition blogs, so we were able to talk food all night long. Christina is way more knowledgeable than I, so I learned a ton. I quizzed her on her CSA, her food co-op, farmer’s market, and how she rarely hits the grocery store now that she is buying so many things locally and fresh.

I must confess that it was a little hard to come home and not change everything in one fell swoop. Honey, let’s join a food co-op! Honey, let’s buy a share in a local farm. Honey….

Goals, Priorities, and Baby Steps

Instead, I need to revisit our goals, reprioritize, and approach things little by little. Back in January, I identified a few goals that I had for feeding my family a little better this year,

we will be cutting processed sugars, fat, and cholesterol and increasing our whole grains, lean meats, and natural sweeteners. My grocery budget doesn’t really like this. The truth of the matter is that it’s cheaper to buy food that isn’t the healthiest. What a strange paradox! This doesn’t make healthy eating impossible. But, it does change the degree of my learning curve.

Hmm…. what an interesting ride it has been!

Fat

After doing some food reading and talking with friends who’ve researched more than I have, I don’t have the lipo-phobia I once did. Let’s say that I’m making peace with fat.

We’ve used more butter and experimented with coconut oil — and enjoyed the journey. Though I still have lots to learn, I feel okay with leaving “good fats” in our diet, including butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and some seed oils.

Sweeteners

I’ve bounced around on this point, sometimes buying sucanat (dehydrated sugar can juice that is minimally processed) and other times buying standard white sugar. Realizing how much my family’s cravings spike when I use only white sugar, I’ve decided to make a bigger effort to use unprocessed, or minimally processed sugars. This past weekend, I put together an order for Azure Standard, a health food co-op and am looking forward to a huge bag of sucanat at a much lower price than I pay at local stores.

I’ve also come to grips with the fact that my family loves honey. Blech. While I do not care for the taste of honey myself, every one else does. It’s a natural sweetener that I can make a bigger part of my pantry. And I’ll use maple syrup for myself. Heehee.

I’m hoping that I can work in honey, sucanat, and maple syrup into our fall and winter sweet treats in a way that suits our budget and our tastebuds.

Whole Grains

This year we’ve been trying to switch to whole grains being predominant in our diet. We’ve successfully moved from white rice over to brown. Not all the kids love it as much as they do white, but in another year, I think I’ll have them. We’ve had whole wheat bread more often than white, though I want to up that percentage a little more.

On vacation last week, Christina introduced us to quinoa. FishPapa and I both loved it, so we’re going to work that into the meal rotation as well. Just bought a big bag at Costco to try out.

And since I’ve been making homemade granola bars, homemade granola, and homemade instant oatmeal packets, I think we’ve got oats covered.

My next step is to find an affordable source of organic grains and to possibly invest in a grain mill so that I can grind my own pastry flour.


Food Allergies

The unexpected food “goal” thrust upon us recently has been to eliminate nuts and egg whites from our youngest daughter’s diet. We aren’t yet sure if she can have whole eggs in baked goods, but I’ve been researching alternatives and am hopeful that we can get this one worked out and still have good, cheap eats.

So, those are my goals, reevaluated. I could add many, many more, like joining a CSA and buying organic dairy. But for now, I think I need to get good at these things. The trick is not to feel bad when I don’t hit the mark perfectly and to take the incremental approach.

And my priorities?

Well, good cheap eats, of course. I want to work these four areas well, increasing our good fats, natural sugars, and whole grains while decreasing our processed foods and allergens. Those are herculean tasks in and of themselves, so I’m going to focus on those and try to do it in a budget friendly — and tasty — way.

What are YOUR current food goals?

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Comments

  1. One thing you can do with the good fats to stretch them since they are expensive is to use mashed banana and applesauce, depending on the recipe.

    The Healthy Home Economist has a post from August about white rice possibly being better than brown rice because it digests better. http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/search/label/white%20brown%20rice

    My goal this fall is to increase the amount of vegetables that we eat, even if it means hiding the veggies in other dishes. I also want my kids to eat less pasta. My really big goal is to get back into bread making, and experiment with types of bread like sourdough.

    • @Barb @ My Daily Round,

      i’ve just recently tried tt. i mixed yogurt into my usual muffin recipe n reduced the butter by the same amount n it worked great. i’m also hiding veggies a lot, into pasta sauce, meat patties, omelette. so long as it’s chopped/grated fine they gulp it down with no complaints. another great way is to make veggie soups that they’ll eat (in my case cream of mushroom) and i add in carrots, a bit of pumpkin and potatoes and blend it all up and they don’t know a thing.

      my breadmaker died some months back so after mourning it for quite a while, i’ve gotten over it n am looking into making no-knead bread. sourdough sounds interesting.

      and lastly, am learning how to make yogurt at home by myself.

      • @eelin, I love your ideas with the veggies!

        I use a crockpot and a yogurt maker to make my yogurt. I can make 32 oz. at a time, and it’s fool-proof. I even lost electricity for a period of time, and the yogurt in the yogurt maker still worked.

    • @Barb @ My Daily Round, the rice info is interesting. I guess I’d need to read some more research on it, though. Have you read those books she references?

      • @Jessica, I haven’t read either one, yet. Katie at Kitchen Stewardship was looking into whether it was worth soaking grains to get rid of the phytic acid, which is the same issue in brown rice. It seemed that there wasn’t much scientific evidence for soaking grains, but that wasn’t clear cut either. Personally, I am going back to white rice cooked in chicken stock. I make my stock from pastured chickens so I trust that I’m getting tons of nutrients. My family isn’t fond of brown rice; I’ll just focus my efforts elsewhere.

        • AllieZirkle says:

          @Barb @ My Daily Round, I skip soaking grains because of Alzheimer’s… It’s been found that phytic acid is linked to reducing Alzheimer’s. Because this is in my family (I lost my grandmother to the disease), we pass on soaking. Too much hype too quickly, I’m sticking with unsoaked grains…

          Funny how we all have our “thing” that we just won’t budge on

          :) Allie

  2. am so happy you’re doing this with good cheap eats. i am learning how to eat more healthily and trying to steer my family in tt way but you said it, it’s not the cheapest way to eat. so i’m definitely watching this space to see how you manage it. i need all the help/tips.

  3. We are also going to try to eat better this year, mainly upping our vegetable intake. My husband is diabetic, so I have already limited our white sugar levels. I have been hearing more about agave nectar instead of honey…did your friend have anything to say about it?

    • @Lori H, Agave isn’t a traditional sweetener. It has more fructose than high fructose corn syrup. It doesn’t affect the glycemic index because it’s processed by the liver. Quick answer to a big question.

    • @Lori H, we talked about it briefly, only to say that it is controversial. Some say it’s great, some not so much. I’ve not done a ton of research, so I don’t really know.

  4. I’m in a similar place to you with my food goals: desiring a healthier diet with more organic ingredients and local fresh foods, but hampered by special diets (food allergies and other issues), space and budget. I eat healthy fats (coconut oil, butter, whole milk, etc.), and whole grains (I usually agree with traditional food folks, but I separate with them on the whole grain issue), limited processed foods (although I want to limit those even more), and lots of fresh produce, organic when possible. I’d love to buy meat, eggs and dairy from a local organic farm but that’s cost prohibitive right now. Ditto with produce, although I buy locally at a farmer’s market whenever I can. Grinding grain myself is a goal for the future but not a possibility right now.

  5. I just learned you can substitute unflavored gelatin for eggs in baked goods. To replace each egg: Dissolve 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin in 1 tablespoon cold water, then add 2 tablespoons boiling water. Beat vigorously until frothy. I’ve never tried it, but it’s something to consider.

    • @Danielle,
      I think I’ll be trying this one. Especially since I tend to taste gelatin in other items I make, like homemade marshmallows, and stabilized whipped cream. I detest that flavor and GOODNESS the stink of it. I do have some to use up and I think it will be “masked” in baked goods. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have also been working hard on our food goals this year. Cutting back on meat (since organic isn’t always in the budget), eating more whole grains and less processed foods. I also have become lactose intolerant so that has put a huge dent in my cooking style. We are buying more things in bulk – organic seeds and nuts, unsalted blue corn chips, etc. I have found some good deals at tierrafarms.com, vitacost.com and amazon. I also have looked into Bread Beckers, which does co-op truck deliveries like Azure. Unfortunately, Azure Standard does not have a drop off in Florida and the UPS shipping costs cancel out the savings. I too am on the hunt for organic oats, flours and grains that I can buy in bulk. Sorry about the nut allergy – that is a hard one. We haven’t had much trouble cutting back on eggs. I highly recommend the book Vegan Brunch for some excellent egg free muffins, scones, pancakes and waffles. We have loved everything in the book. We do still eat eggs, but try to stick with organic and eat them when they are a stand alone or the “feature” in a dish.

  7. Michelle in West TN says:

    I like this blog post. I’ve been thinking along the same lines re: reevaluating goals.
    (food choices w/more easy home cooking, health _insulin issues_ , home schooling, organization, finances, fun, etc…)
    I’m curious as to how you’ll make recipe exchanges from “regular” sugar to the others. ie…honey, maple syurp, apple sauce, etc… So far, I’ve not been very successful at doing this & would like to learn how.

    • @Michelle in West TN, well, sucanat goes with most things. We shall see…. I may compromise on organic blond sugar. How’s that? ;)

      • @Jessica,
        I hope you are finding a better deal on the organic blonde sugar than I. At Winco where I live(So.Ca) about 99cents/lb (in bulk)these days. When I began buying it over a year ago it was about 76cents/lb. The price has slowly began creeping up to $1.09/lb. In a standard grocery store around here 12oz of C& H brand runs about$2.49- $2.69. Call me crazy, but I’m not happy about those prices. And you’re right sucanant goes with ‘most’ things’. We tried using it for fresh lemonade. It didn’t dissolve so well and turned the juice from yellow to brown. Didn’t taste bad, just brown lemonade isn’t too appealing.

        • @Nia, Now we dissolve the sucanant in a little boiling hot water before using it for drinks OR use the organic blonde sugar. Does anyone here know anything about the Mexican sugar? It looks similar to the organic sugar and less like the traditional white sugar?

        • @Nia, well, I was just thinking today that there are probably instances where I’m going to want to have the white sugar. So, I don’t think I’m going cold turkey. I guess the sucanat/maple/honey is the direction I’d like to go for everyday things. I won’t get my Azure Standard order until the end of the month, so just using what’s affordable from the store.

  8. I have been milling my own flour and making my own bread from whole grains, along with muffins, pizza, pancakes and waffles. Do you have a post on how you make your own instant oatmeal packets?
    Thanks!

  9. I love being able to mill my own flour. After reading about it, I don’t feel comfortable using commercial flour, except for the occasional all-purpose flour. We are on our 5th year with a CSA. It may seem like a big investment at first, but that is the bulk of our produce budget for the year. I freeze and can a ton so we are eating those tomatoes and corn and beans all year long. It forces you to eat seasonally and figure out ways to eat all those veggies. And we have a working membership. We work for 4 hours a week from June to October and get a discount. I highly encourage all of you to look into it. We get our meat there and have our own chickens for eggs.

    My food goals? Get back to making yogurt and baking bread weekly. Then again, those things always fall to the wayside in August and September when I’m canning so much.

    • @Noelle, I like making my own yogurt too. I recently bought a gallon of milk to do this very thing and after about 5 days in the fridge (before expiration) it began thickening like buttermilk. Have you had this experience? It was whole milk, as I haven’t enjoyed using skim and adding milk powder to thicken my yogurt so I just went with whole this time.

      • @Nia, I have had some milk get thick on me, but it was really just the cream that had come to the top. With a good shake, it was all mixed again. I only use whole milk for my yogurt, too. I only do whole milk for anything.

  10. I enjoyed this post. I always enjoy reading about what other people are doing in their kitchens. I am looking forward to cooking some yummy foods with the seasonal produce coming up…apples, pumpkins, butternut squash, etc.
    If you need a substitute for eggs in your recipes, you can use 1 T ground flaxseed + 3 T water for 1 egg.

  11. My son is also allergic to nuts and eggs. I found a fantastic baking cookbook that I use a recipe from just about everyday. It is called ‘Bakin’ Without Eggs’ by Rosemarie Emro. She has recipes for everyday baked goods to very fancy desserts,(even cheesecake!) and everything comes out perfect every time!

  12. I would LOVE to make over my family’s eating habits. First I have to commend you Jessica for achieving so much!! There is so much info out there I am overwelmed with where to start. I have tried to introduce whole grains into to our diet more regularly which has been somewhat successful but not as great as I would like. My children are 4, 2 and 5 months. My 4 year old is probably the pickiest eater I have ever met and would rather not eat than eat something he doesn’t like. Sounds mean but I am tired of meal planning around his likes…because they change all.the.time! I am going to stick with reading this blog (plus Lifeasmom) for all the info I can get. Would you share which food/nutrition blogs you read so I can get more info?? Also do you know much about making your baby own food? I have never done this before even though I have two older children. For some reason this time, I feel the need to be pure and delicious! I love all your new ideas and wish you the best in implementing them! Thanks for all you provide to us!

    • The best advice I ever got about feeding babies was to feed them a mashed up version of what we were eating…. and not until after 6 months old. My pickiest eater is the one I bought jarred food for.

      And, please, don’t take my word on nutrition advice. I am learning and making plenty of mistakes. There is lots of conflicting information out there. But, I think it’s safe to say, reduce sugary sweets and up the veggies. ;)

    • Hello,
      I know you didn’t ask for MY advice but I just wanted to share because I made my own baby food. In the beginning(when we first introduced food), we stuck with veggies blended with a little water the blender. His doctor told us to wait 3 days in between introducing new veggies so we could look for allergic reactions. After about 1 month of veggies and letting him get used to those, we introduced fruits and then mixed fruits. Sometimes when there were leftovers I’d freeze them in ice trays and just warm the cubes of food up when it was feeding time. I tried not to make a lot at once, just in case he was allergic to something he’d eaten. I hope you don’t mind that I shared my experience with you.

      • @Nia, so glad you shared! And yes, I wanted to add that it is important to watch for allergic reactions. Even though I fed our kids mostly what we ate, I avoided the high allergen items until they were past one year.

      • @Nia, Thank you very much for the expert advice! I am excited to get started slowly and carefully!
        Kelley

  13. Sounds like we are on the same healthy path. I love to serve my family only whole grains, healthy fats, and lots of fresh veggies. I know it’s harder on the wallet, but totally worth it in the long run!

  14. My husband and I have been successfully eating a whole foods based diet for our 2 1/2 year marriage on $25-$40/week. Yeah it’s hard, but it’s so worth it, and we’re still learning. Baby is 10 months old and eats almost anything except plain cooked chicken.
    Some goals: over on The Cheapskate Cook we had a discussion on grains and their health benefits, so I’ve been inspired to tring increase our protein & veggies and eat less bread – without increasing our grocery budget. Excited about the challenge. Also found a blog that features healthier decadent desserts, so I’d like to see if my husband is up for trying some of those.
    Thanks, Jessica, for inspiring us to reevaluate our goals and write them down!

  15. Hello Jessica,
    I am so glad to read this timely post. Yesterday I fell upon a recipe for homemade butter. I was wondering if you, any of your friends, here OR otherwise have info. on this. I want to know if homemade butter can be used for baked goods the same as the butter in the store? If you, or anyone here can help me I’d really appreciate any help. I researched as much as I could last night and couldn’t find anything but how to eat it on bread. As if nobody bakes with their homemade butter.
    Thanks in advance

    • AllieZirkle says:

      @Nia, For me, it’s MUCH cheaper to buy butter than it is to make butter. I purchase butter at Costco for under $2.00/lb. There are times when I whip up butter from heavy cream but those times are few and far between (i.e. when my grandparents are over and I’d like to serve honey butter with corn bread & chili, some comfort food from their past). If you are able to get whole milk with the cream layer for under $3/gallon, I could see making butter instead of buying it. Otherwise, the time commitment to make it just to bake with it, ugh, I’d pass. What’s your price point on butter and heavy cream?

      :) Allie

      • @AllieZirkle,
        I hadn’t really thought about my price point. The grocery store across the street from my home has whole milk for about $2.40 I think but we rarely buy except to make yogurt. Thank you so much for pointing out that I’d be adding more work to myself by making the butter just to bake it. Don’t have a costco membership or anyone close to me that does so I’ll keep looking for other ways to save on it. I’m keeping the holidays in mind so maybe I can stock up then.

  16. AllieZirkle says:

    It’s always great to see other’s goals! We went vegetarian this month to test it out and to continue to work on stripping the white products out. It’s amazing how things have worked out. I’ve lost another 7 pounds and B lost 14, in a month! The kids are still healthy and alive so we’ve decided to stick out another vegetarian month to see where the new plan takes us!

    (I’ve lost 57 since January with another 50 to go. I could totally relate to your LAM fitness post lol)

  17. It sounds like we’re at similar spots in our food journies. I get really nervous experimenting with recipes, so if you need a place to start, I’d be really interested in seeing a variation on your slab apple pie recipe =) I made a pan today & was thinking about the sucanant & whole wheat flour in my pantry. But I was just too nervous to change up the recipe =)

    • @Katy, umm, I think you’re heading into hallowed ground…..

      If I were game — and that’s a big IF — I would do 1/3 whole wheat PASTRY flour to sub for the unbleached and I would use 1/2 sucanat to start. I think I’ve done the topping with sucanat and whole wheat and that is fine. But, I think a slow approach is better. :)

  18. Coconut oil? This is the first time I’ve read anything other than it being terribly bad for you! Can I use coconut cream with a clear conscience, then? :)

    • There are different ways of processing coconut oil. Some are very bad for you — like the kind in most cheap candies. LOL. And some are actually good for you.

  19. Love reading your journey. Just starting mine. Have you heard about using Flax seed as an option to replace egg? I think it’s 1 Tb of flax to 3 Tb of water. Check it out.

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