Monday, April 4, 2011

Processed food: how much is too much?

I grew up on processed food. I can't tell you how many times a week I ate at McDonalds. Staples at my house were Kraft Mac & Cheese, Spaghetti-Os and Campbell's soup. I also grew up with a single mom. Looking back, I don't think it was that she didn't necessarily have time to cook (though it was limited), it was more that she had a very stubborn daughter who would rather eat the junk. I imagine she plain didn't have the energy to fight me on what we were having for dinner at the end of the day. So by the time I was living on my own, I didn't know how to cook. Every once in a while I tried, but I really didn't know where to start.

Fortunately I married a man who can cook. And he has supersonic taste buds. He can taste something at a restaurant & re-create it. This totally came in handy when we discovered our child had so many allergies. I couldn't have done it without him. He cooked everything from scratch, substituting things that I couldn't eat & it was all unbelievably good. He taught me to cook. Except, he tastes & tweaks, I read recipes & follow directions. Here's what I figured out in all this: it's not that hard. It's really more a matter of doing it. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become. Most things really don't take that long. And it's typically so good.  

Planning is key in cooking things from scratch. The thing that helps me most is that we sit down once a month & decide on the menu for the entire next month. Then we go to the store & buy everything (except some of the perishables). This saves money & it keeps me from having to think of what we're going to eat each night. If I had to decide what we were eating one day at a time, I wouldn't. Dinner would arrive & I'd be running to a fast food joint or grabbing a box of something pretending to be food. I love waking up & simply checking the list.

Back to the "how much is too much" processed what you can. I know some people who make a bunch of stuff on the weekends & eat it during the week. Also, don't be afraid to freeze things. I also previously had a fear of the freezer, but I've since learned that most things freeze fairly well. Make a bunch & freeze some of it for another time. A new trick I just figured out: freeze soups in single serving sizes. So easy to pull one out & stick it in the microwave! The point is, do what you can & make it work for you & your schedule. You won't be a good mom (or a fun person) if you make unreasonable demands on yourself & are stretched too thin.


  1. Would love to know some of your healthy, yummy recipes!!! Aundria

  2. Great points! I'd love to see a sample month (or even just a week) menu for your family. I have asked Dan to plan a monthly rotation for us, but we just haven't taken the time to sit down and do it.

    By the way, I found this link online today and it made me think of you and this blog:

  3. The concept works not just for families, but for single girls too. If I didn't plan ahead, I would eat tortilla chips or popcorn for every meal. I only plan a week in advance though - I plan the menu to make sure I cook more time-intensive stuff on the weekends, and nearly everything makes leftovers. Usually 2 or 3 good meals can last me a week. It's boring, but I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and for snacks every day during the week. I prep on Sunday nights. At least it keeps me away from Fast Food and unsatisfying frozen dinners.

  4. we are wanting to get one of those vacuum sealers -- $160.00 at Costco up here. Our neighbour says it keeps things in the freezer for months longer !! Do you have one of those ?

  5. I don't have one. Making things last longer in the freezer is not one of my issues :) I like to make enough to freeze, but it seems I'm often (& more lately as we're getting busier with activities) looking in the freezer for "what have I frozen that we can eat tonight?" There's never enough and my freezer space is lacking. :) Let me know if you get one. I'm sure it'll eliminate the freezer burn since that's caused by air & I'm curious how it works.