Friday, September 2, 2016

What I've Learned After 8 Years of Eating Real Food



Do you ever feel like real food is just exhausting?  I'll admit, I sometimes go to the grocery store and just want to pile random stuff in my cart that makes me happy, that I used to eat when I was a child!  Or I scan the grocery ads and think, "Man, I sure wish all the sales weren't for processed food."

Living a real food life in a processed-food world takes serious mental adjustment.


Wouldn't you think that after 8 years of a real food lifestyle, I would've gotten used to all this by now?  Well, maybe not.

  My family has, for a long time, enjoyed the benefits of raw milk.  We have had raw milk farm shares (what's a farm share?) with a few different family farms here in Oregon, and right now, we're loyal patrons of Helios Farms, which is "out Yoncalla," (rural Oregon slang for "in the Yoncalla zip code, but so far out of town you'd barely guess it.")

I really respect Theo's dedication to his farm, his family-friendly philosophy, and his quest for constant improvement.

However, I also...you know, like to actually drink milk.  And give it to my kids.

But sometimes, that doesn't happen as often as I would like.  So many little things can make small farm food production unpredictable: the sow goes on a rampage, and the farmers are up all night hunting it down, or the cow gets into the garden and everything tastes like tomatoes!

And the next thing I know, my 4-year-old is in the kitchen, tugging on my pant leg and crying because he can't have milk with his dinner!

This is the trade-off when you start pursuing real food:  You gain your health.  But you lose the convenience and predictability of the American food system that is based on speed and uniformity.

Is it a bad thing?

I don't know.  I think it's more of a hard transition, away from food being an afterthought.  Once upon a time, I could go through my whole day barely thinking about where my meal would come from.  No dinner plan?  No problem, we'll go through the drive through!  No lunch plan?  No biggie, I'll grab a granola bar from the vending machine.

But when, in the history of the world, has food been an afterthought?  Most people on earth even now spend much more of their time, income, and intention on feeding their families than the average American.

Here are a few of the main changes I've had to make in my thinking as we've adopted a slow-food lifestyle:

1. It's ok for food to make up a significant portion of our budget.

We are not trying to win an award for lowest grocery budget here.  Not that that's a bad goal!  We've been there!  Super-low prices have been very important to us in years past, but as our goals and priorities and opportunities have changed, so has our budget.  We are nourishing tiny bodies, bodies that are growing so fast, and literally laying down the foundation for a lifetime of health.  And did you know that Americans spend much less on food now than we used to?  My grocery budget gets put in perspective when I look at that graph and realize how much more my grandparents spent on food, comparatively!

I've had to become ok with food being more important to me than other things I could spend my money on.  Will we buy all new school clothes this year?  Nope.  Will the kids wear hand-me-downs and use their same tired backpacks from last year?  Yep.  Will they be able to participate in every activity they'd love to do?  Probably not.  But some things that used to be important to me have become more peripheral.  And good food has not.

2. It's ok for food to take up a significant part of my day.  

Making yogurt, sprouting beans, chopping veg, shaking the milk before pouring it into cups, washing so.many.dishes, these little things add up to make food prep more of a time commitment than it used to be.  I have to schedule time into my day to prep, eat, wash, repeat, and it can sometimes interfere with the other things I would like to be doing instead.  But it's worth it, both for the nutritional value of the food, and for the values it instills in my children and myself: patience as they wait for lunch to bake, diligence as they help me in the kitchen, and (let's be real here) independence when the control freak part of me is fed up with kids in the kitchen and tells them, "Just go play!  I need to finish in the kitchen by myself!"

3. It's ok for food to be an adventure.

Sometimes we have milk to drink.  Sometimes we don't.  You can't set your watch by it.  But isn't that what an adventure is?

Has eating real food been a big mental adjustment for you?  What are the hardest things about the change?  

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