How We Homestead Series - Part 3: Real Food

beans fresh from the garden

This is part 3 of a 5-part series on how 5 different bloggers homestead.  Please join us each Wednesday for a new post in the series.  To read parts 1 & 2 {How It All Began & Living Simply}, click {here}.

I guess the first thing I should establish is some sort of definition of "real food".  I'm going to use Nina Planck's very open definition from her book, Real Food - What To Eat & Why:  Real foods are old - foods we've been eating for a long time such as meat, fish, veggies, fruit, whole grains, butter {not margarine}, soybeans {not processed soy foods}, etc.  Real foods are also traditional - local, seasonal, unrefined and without excessive processing.

Up until about 10 years ago, I never really gave much thought to food.  I went to the store, loaded up the cart with the typical things we purchase, went home and cooked.  Then, little by little, I began to read and see things that started me thinking.  Is a carrot just a carrot?  Is ground beef just ground beef?  What could be wrong with a jar of peanut butter?  Next, I saw a news story where some potato farmers were interviewed.  Three of the four of them admitted they don't let their own family members eat the potatoes they grow that are sold in our supermarkets because of the high amount of pesticides used in them.  These families grew organic potatoes for their consumption. Hmmm......that's not good!  That opened my eyes to spending a little more money to buy organic foods.  Then came the famous documentary Food, Inc.

If you've never seen the documentary Food, Inc. you really should see it.  It's shocking but it's reality and you should know how the food you consume is raised/grown and processed.  Just my opinion.  After putting all the information together in my head I decided things needed to be changed.  I needed to pay attention to labels, buy organic produce when possible and either go back to being a vegetarian or look into local meat sources.

In addition to wanting to take more control over our own food, we also wanted to support local farmers as much as possible.  Not only would we get a better product but we would be taking part in helping them sustain their lifestyle and making an effort to ensure local farmers stayed in business.

our garden and garden shed

As mentioned previously, my first attempt at gardening was just throwing seeds in and hoping for the best.  Since we could purchase produce at our year-round farmer's market I didn't have so much pressure.  The next year, however, I made a true attempt at gardening and have been very successful that year and years since.


I began reading labels and discarding the items that included high fructose corn syrup, dyes, etc.  Most things have been fairly easy but my husband still struggles with some of it so I have his chips, soda and cereal on hand until I can slowly move him away from these things as well.

home-canned tomatoes

Last year I looked at my grocery list and in my cupboards and decided to challenge myself to try and find recipes for homemade items to replace as many cans and jars as possible.  I wanted to avoid cans for BPA concerns but also to make sure I was getting fresh, wholesome items without added chemicals and preservatives.

The only thing I didn't replace was canned beans which I have on hand in the event I don't have time to make beans from scratch. {I freeze them as well, but I don't always have freezer space} Once I got canning and freezing it wasn't hard at all.  I devoted a weekend here and there, as veggies or fruits were in season, to processing and before I knew it we were stocked up for the year.

there's nothing better than home-baked bread!

I make an enormous amount of our food from scratch.  Yes, it takes time and a little organization but once you've got a system down it's not too bad at all.  I'll talk more about this in next week's post where I give a break-down of how my day/week/month works.  Many things can be made either fully ahead or partially ahead and frozen for up to 3 months making it possible to have items on hand throughout the month with little prep involved.

The biggest challenge I have right now is switching us over completely to whole grains and cutting out more sugars.  I'm going to share something with you but you must swear not to repeat this to my husband.  Yup - I have a secret.  

First, I use white whole-wheat flour so he doesn't know his bread is made with whole grains and second, I substitute 2 Tablespoons of the liquid with fresh squeezed orange juice in whole wheat bread recipe so it takes away some of the whole wheat taste.  {you can't taste the orange at all - it just counteracts the whole wheat flavoring}  He doesn't even know.  He will swear to you he does not like whole wheat bread.  He just doesn't know he actually loves it.  I will let him in on the secret someday.....


We still go out to dinner occasionally, and from time-to-time order Chinese food or stop by Subway or Chipotle for lunch but for the most part, we make a conscious effort to ensure we are consuming food that is good for us and is minimally processed.

If you haven't yet made this leap, yes, it's difficult in the beginning.  It's hard to know where to start and how to get your family on board but it is possible and it's easy to take baby steps and make changes as you can.  A great online resource is Lisa Leake's 100 Days of Real Food Challenge.  She does a great job breaking it down for you.  Is it more expensive to live this way?  Yes and no.  Yes, definitely, if you're purchasing everything and making/growing nothing yourself but if you make a meal plan {breakfast, lunch and dinner} and a grocery list to go with that, you can stay within your budget.  

I'll have more about our breakdown  - meal plan, cost and recipes, in June.  I'll share what a typical week looks like for us and costs us, along with recipes and instructions to recreate everything I share.  I am by no means an expert in this area, but rather, learning each and every day.


Our Neck of the Woods said...

Food, Inc. really is an eye opener, isn't it?! I bet a lot of people changed their habits after seeing that film. I love the labels on your home canned tomatoes! I hope to be able to do this with our tomatoes this year since I do buy canned tomatoes at the store quite often and want to get away from that. I'm really interested in your system for making food from scratch. I want to be better at this, so I can't wait to read your tips and tricks!

Nancy said...

I love the part about disguising the wheat bread. We provide my daughter and her family with fresh goat milk. One of my grandsons told me he never drinks it, he only drinks milk from Walmart. Ha, she hasn't bought Walmart milk in months. ;) I am a cheese lover and have learned to make goat milk hard cheese. It is sooooo good. We know that bought food is terrible for you and try to do what we can to grow our own, etc but we still have a long way to go.

Unknown said...

I need to watch Food, Inc. Everyone has been talking about it. I love this series! I've been keeping up with all the blogs and just love to hear the stories! Great job on the series!!

daisy g said...

Food Inc is definitely a game changer.
That bread is making me drool! Shhhh, our lil' secret!

Your garden is lovely and the shed next to it just makes me wanna come up there and visit!
You are so far ahead of us in terms of homesteading, and I truly admire your pioneer spirit!

Meg said...

It is so funny how Food Inc. made such a big impact for all of us ladies. It certainly strengthened my convictions, although I don't generally think of it as my big changing moment. But whenever I start feeling like I could slip back into pre-made and processed I just watch that documentary! I need to try that orange juice trick with the bread! I've never heard of it. I can't wait to see your break down for groceries in June.

Tracy said...

Food Inc is a great documentary especially for people who haven't an inkling about what is going on.
I think that most people are swayed away from real food by the convenience factor of less real food. I actually find it fulfilling to feed my family good things prepared with care and love.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Nancy - I love that about the goats milk. Too funny. You will laugh about that for years to come.

Tammy - home canned tomatoes are SUPER easy. I canned them for the first time last year.

Mary - thank you. I'm so happy you and others are enjoying this series as much as we are.

Daisy - I truly wish you could come for a visit. I think we'd have a wonderful time. :)

Meg - let me know what you think of the orange juice. I do feel like it takes away some of the wheaty taste.

Tracy - I think you're right that people stay with processed food for convenience. Real food does take some time and organization but it is do-able.

Leslie Kimel said...

I love the labels on your home-canned tomatoes. How perfect! We have a garden, but I've never tried to do any canning or freezing. I hope to get to that point soon! You are definitely inspiring me!

Misty Pines Homestead said...

One question how in the heck do you get your bread so big? I've tried and mine won't even come over the edges like that MMMM.

Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Leslie - thank you. I just began canning last year and I'm so happy I did.

Amanda - I don't know if it's the yeast or the actual bread recipe that makes such a high rise, but the bread in the photo is Oatmeal Sandwich Bread {} and whether I use all white flour or substitute part with whole-wheat flour, it's always a high riser. :)

Cori said...

My husband and I have been homesteading for 30 years. We both work full time and in the summer sell at farmers markets. We have seen a movement of people buying local because of the news. Everyday a recall of some sort of food or finding out that a foreign country has just purchased a major food company. We have a great life. I love working on the land and I love having a full pantry.