On the surface, cooking from scratch and providing your family with real food can seem overwhelming.
Not only can it end up being more time-consuming than buying things premade, but if you’re new to this way of life, you’re probably learning about a lot of new things.
There are so many things you can learn:
- Bread baking
- Sourdough bread baking
- Making bone broth
- Making your own gravy
- Roasting veggies
- Making kombucha
- Making milk or water kefir
- Making yogurt
- Making homemade biscuits, crescent rolls, or cornbread
- Making homemade cookies, cakes, or cinnamon rolls
- Making your own seasoning mixes
- Making sauerkraut
- Lacto-fermenting vegetables
But here’s the thing. You don’t have to learn all of these things right now.
You don’t even have to learn all of them ever, just the ones you actually want to.
There’s no use in making something no one wants to eat just because you feel like making it makes you a real “crunchy mom”.
Really, being successful in providing real, nourishing foods to your family boils down to:
- Do the best you can with what you have
- Don’t try to be a superwoman
By focusing on these two points, you can simplify your kitchen so it best serve you and your family.
Do the best with what you have
Buy within your budget
Especially if you’re a one-income family, there might not be room in your budget to buy organic for everything. And that’s perfectly fine!
I never want this blog to come across as trying to tell you to do things like it’s “my way or the highway”. I want this blog to be a valuable resource to help you feed your family nourishing foods within your budget, whatever it is.
If that means you want to buy organic fruits and veggies and can afford to do so, great! If that means you’re going to focus on whole fruits and veggies instead of processed snack foods, also great!
If you’re in the second camp but still want to be mindful of the chemicals on your produce, the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists can help you figure out which types of produce are grown with the highest (or lowest) amounts of pesticides, etc. so you can focus on finding organic or local versions.
Make do with things you already have
If you start making a recipe and realize you don’t have one of the ingredients, see if you have something you could use as a substitute.
Likewise, if you want to make a recipe but you notice it includes an ingredient you don’t know if you’d use again (and you won’t use it up for the recipe), see if you have anything you can substitute.
By not buying extra things you don’t need, you can simplify your kitchen by not filling it up with things that just end up in the way.
Don’t try everything at once
If you want to experiment with making a gluten-free baked good, I wouldn’t go out and buy every type of gluten-free flour so you can experiment with every kind.
Instead, have a goal and find a recipe for what you want to make. Then, buy only the ingredients for that recipe.
If it works on your first try, great! If it doesn’t, you can find a different recipe or try a different ingredient.
This way, you can gradually buy ingredients and see if they work instead of buying a bunch and then not using some because one of your earlier attempts worked.
Similarly, don’t try to learn everything as once. Try one thing, and then once you get the hang of it, move on to something else.
Don’t try to be a superwoman
You can’t do everything, at least not by yourself. This applies in all areas of life, including the kitchen.
Cooking foods from scratch can take more time than sticking something premade in the oven or microwave. You might notice a shift in how you spend your time once you’re in the kitchen more for cooking.
While spending more time cooking means you have less time for other things, the time you spend on each thing follows your priorities.
Prioritizing nourishing your family with food doesn’t have to mean spending less time with them. See the next section for why that’s the case.
Get your family involved
Instead, get your whole family involved in the cooking, therefore increasing your family time and lessening the amount of work you as the mom have to do by yourself.
Kids of (almost) all ages can be involved in the cooking process.
Babies may be in a baby carrier or a bouncy seat and toddlers will most likely be playing by your feet as you cook.
Children 4 and up, however can be involved in many different age-appropriate steps to help get supper on the time.
Not only does giving them some of the steps save you some work, it can also help foster a love for cooking that will hopefully lead to your kids wanting to help more in the kitchen. Or hey, maybe they can even cook some meals themselves as they get older.
Pay for convenience
Another way to save time and simplify your kitchen (though this can be dependent on what your budget allows) is to pay more for things that will save you time.
Paying for convenience doesn’t have to mean processed, fake foods. It simply means that there are still real food “convenience foods” available that can make your life easier.
One of my favorite ways to save on time chopping fruits and veggies is to buy pre-chopped and/or frozen fruits and veggies. These go on sale often and sometimes are around the same price as fresh, without all the time needed to prep them.
Frozen produce is also a great way to get organic produce if you live somewhere where it isn’t easily accessible fresh year-round.
Other ways to pay for convenience (but make sure you’ll actually use them) are kitchen appliances that can make your life easier and give you some hands-free cooking help.
Some of my favorite kitchen appliances for a real food kitchen include:
- Instantpot (I don’t have one, but I know lots of people love theirs)
- Bread Machine
Don’t overcomplicate meals
Cooking whole meals from your family doesn’t have to mean you have a Thanksgiving-style assortment of dishes ready every evening.
There are lots of meals on Pinterest and blogs that involve one or two pans and that were created with moms in mind. These tend to be quick to put together, and hey, less dishes!
Just search “one pot (or pan) meals” on Pinterest or check our sites like 100 Days of Real Food for some awesome one dish meals that include multiple food groups in one.
Since many of these dishes include meat, veggies, and/or carbs already, you don’t even have to make any extra sides if you don’t want to!
Don’t try to do everything at once
You don’t have to make everything about your diet “perfect”, ever. And especially not right away.
The journey to healthy eating and living is just that, a journey. We all start someplace, and we all move forward (and yes, sometimes backward) at our own pace.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are lots of things you could do or make for your family starting today.
If you want to start on one (or more) things, go for it!
But if you only have the time or brain capacity to find a recipe and plan to make it after your next grocery trip, after you have a baby, or once you’re out of the newborn phase, you’re still doing your best. Even just learning about how to nourish your family is making progress.
As you go on your own journey of learning how to nourish your family well, remember: don’t compare yourself to someone else. Whether they’ve been at this healthy eating journey for years or for less time than you, you’ll all move at your own pace.
I hope these tips on how to simplify a real food kitchen can help take some of the stress away from your journey and make it more enjoyable.