When shopping for groceries, I can get overwhelmed by the many health claims that I find on packaged food. It’s tricky to navigate which grains are the good ones, and which ones are so processed that they have little nutritional value. Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food posted a great summary to help people understand grains. Click here to see if your breakfast cereal or “wheat bread” would pass her real food test.
I wish we had Earth Fare stores here in the northeast. I’ve been hearing great things about them. If you’re lucky enough to live near an Earth Fare, don’t miss out on your chance to get free eggs this week. Click here to sign up and you’ll get a coupon for a free carton of eggs with a $5 purchase. Just in time for Easter!
Move over, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I have a homemade recipe for a chocolate peanut butter treat, and this one is actually good for you! When my family did 10 days of real food, I knew I’d need some real food treats to get my children through the process. I was happy to discover a no-bake chocolate coconut fudge recipe, which my whole family enjoyed. I adapted it to highlight the nuttiness of this decadent-tasting dessert. The result is a high protein bark that also takes advantage of the benefits of coconut oil and coconut flakes.
¼ cup chopped walnuts or cashews
¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ tsp. sea salt
¾ cup chunky peanut butter or other nut butter
¼ cup melted coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup or honey
2 tsp. vanilla
- Mix together all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and spread the mixture out to a thickness of ¼ -1/3 inch. I use my fingers to spread it out. It’s a sticky mess at this point, but I promise you it will be worth it.
- Place it in the freezer for 30 minutes. Lick the bowl and try to be patient while you wait for the bark to set in the freezer.
- After 30 minutes, break the bark into pieces and serve immediately or put it in an airtight container in the freezer until ready to serve. Don’t leave it sitting out at room temperature or it will melt.
Kind Bars are among my favorite grab and go snacks. They are minimally processed and they’re primarily made of fruit and nuts. The apricot almond bars are my personal favorite. The Kind Bar company has a “Kinding Mission,” and this month they are asking people to send a note of thanks to an educator. If you accept this mission, you can fill out the email addresses of two friends who will each receive a free Kind Bar. If 5,000 people accept the mission, the Kind Bar company will work with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital to provide new text books to hospitalized patients who are not well enough to attend school with their peers.
Thanks, Growing Up Natural
When I was in my mid-twenties and living on my own for the first time, I wasn’t much of a cook. But I came across a cookbook that intrigued me, and it opened my eyes to the idea of good, healthy food. It’s called, “Great Good Food: Luscious Lower-fat Cooking,” by Julee Rosso. I must have been hungry when I first leafed through it because so many of the recipes sounded amazing to me. In retrospect, this was my first “favorite” cookbook. I’ve had many since then, but this started the ball rolling.
This recipe is a gluten-free, dairy-free adaptation of Julee Rosso’s Chicken Madeira. I accidentally bought Marsala wine to make this recipe one time, and it was so delicious that I never went back to Madeira.
2 ½ – 3 pounds chicken breast
Salt and pepper
1 ½ tbs. olive oil
2 pounds sliced mushrooms
1 cup sliced onion
½ cup Marsala wine
½ cup plain coconut yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 glass pan with olive oil.
- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and place it in the glass pan.
- Sauté the mushrooms in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for a few minutes in 1 tbs. olive oil, and then place the mushrooms on top of the chicken.
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet and cook the onions for a few minutes, until tender. Remove the onions from the pan and place them on top of the chicken.
- Stir together the Marsala and the yogurt in a small bowl and pour them on the chicken.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Use a slotted spoon to serve.
People who are focused on eating a minimally processed, real food diet often pay a high price at the grocery store checkout counter. Some of the basic ingredients for a real food diet are much more expensive than their heavily processed counterparts, and a full cart at Whole Foods or Earth Fare can easily cost over $200. Fortunately, there are ways to significantly cut grocery bills. If you’re interested in trying your hand at couponing, here are some basic rules of thumb to get you started.
- Get coupons for the things you want. You can get coupons from several sources, including the Sunday newspaper, the internet, coupon booklets sent home in the mail, store coupon booklets, product packaging, peelies (peel-off coupons found on the product as it sits on the store shelf), and blinkies (the little machines sticking out from the shelving in the grocery store aisle). If you can get several versions of the same coupon, this will allow you to stock up when you see a good deal. In Massachusetts, you can get a free set of weekly coupons from the Boston Globe by signing up for Savings Central.
- Save your coupon inserts. One thing I didn’t know about when I first started couponing was that an item often goes on sale at stores a few weeks after the coupon runs in the newspaper inserts (e.g. Smart Source, Red Plum, and P&G). I save all my inserts for several months until the coupons expire, and I only cut out the coupons that I absolutely plan to use. If I see a coupon that I might want to use, I typically leave it in the insert until I see that it’s on sale somewhere, and then I cut it out.
- Match coupons with sale items. When you get a good coupon, it’s tempting to use it right away. However, if you give it a few weeks you may find that item on sale, which will get you an even better deal.
- Check coupon blogs and match-ups. There are thousands upon thousands of blogs dedicated to coupons and grocery deals. Two of my favorites are Hip2Save and Maven of Savin, and I also like store-specific blogs like Totally Target and Iheartcvs. On these blogs, you will find listings of what is on sale at various stores and what coupons are available to use with these sale items. Before I go shopping, I often consult a coupon match-up on one of these blogs to see if there are coupons available for some of the things on my shopping list. I can often print out or cut out a few extra coupons that I wasn’t aware of and save more money on my shopping trip.
- Organize your coupons. When I started couponing, I kept all my coupons in a little pouch in my purse. This was not a good system for me, because I never knew what coupons were buried in there and I didn’t go through them often enough to take advantage of their potential. Now I have a much better system. I keep all my coupons in baseball card holders in a three-ring binder, and I can quickly flip through it to see what I have. I organize them according to category and I go through the binder about once a month to purge the expired coupons.
- Familiarize yourself with your stores’ coupon policies. Coupon policies vary quite a bit from store to store, so take the time to find out how coupons can be used at the stores where you shop. Some grocery stores, including Stop and Shop and Shaws, will double coupons up to 99 cents, and this can make for some great deals. Many stores will allow you to “stack” a store coupon on top of a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item, which can double the savings. Local chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid are all great places to get free and cheap grocery and household items, but their coupon policies all differ.
- Don’t buy junk just because you can get a good deal on it! This probably goes without saying, but it can be very tempting to buy something just because it’s a great deal even though you don’t need it. If you are trying to focus on a healthy diet, there are many great bargains out there that you’ll want to avoid. Stay focused on the fact that you are trying to save money on high-quality items, and this will help guide you through the many shopping decisions that you face every day.
This shrimp and broccoli stir fry is a simple, flavorful dish. It’s very flexible, so you can swap out different vegetables according to what you have on hand. Also, if you’d like a little more spice in your sauce, add some ginger, garlic, and/or crushed red pepper.
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. honey
2 tsp. tapioca (or other) starch
1 tbs. peanut oil
1/2 pound shrimp
2 cups broccoli florets
1 lb. sliced mushrooms
1 large daikon radish, peeled and sliced diagonally
1 bunch scallions, chopped
- Stir together the first four ingredients to make the sauce. Set aside.
- Heat half the peanut oil in a wok over medium high heat. Cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes (until opaque) and remove them from the wok.
- Heat the remaining peanut oil and add the vegetables, cooking for 2 minutes (until crisp tender). Remove the vegetables and set aside.
- Add the sauce to the wok and cook for a minute to thicken, stirring constantly. Then add the shrimp and the vegetable mixture to the wok and heat through for a minute, stirring to cover with the sauce. Serve over brown rice.
The total cost of this recipe is $8.47, or $1.41 per serving. This affordable, flavorful stir fry is a delicious way to get lots of veggies on your plate.
Vegetarian Times Magazine is one of my favorite sources for new recipes. They have so many unique and creative ideas for how to eat well without meat. And if you want to save money on a real food diet, you won’t end up eating much meat because it’s one of the most expensive food sources. Right now, you can get a great deal on Vegetarian Times at DiscountMags.com. They are offering a year of this magazine for $4.99, which is almost 90 percent off the cover price!
Thanks, Growing Up Natural!
•Increased Energy•Food Tastes Better•Empathy•Positive Moods•Expanded Food Repertoire•
My husband and I, along with our two elementary school aged children, successfully went 10 days eating nothing but real food – no chemicals, preservatives, white sugar, or white flour. The only grains we ate were whole grains, and we survived without grocery store bread, crackers, or squeezable yogurt. We very much enjoyed the benefits of a real food diet.
This experience was both easy and challenging for me. It was easy from an eating perspective because I generally don’t eat many processed foods and I’m used to reading food labels because of my dairy and gluten sensitivities. My biggest food dilemma was baking without white rice flour or white sugar, which had been the basis of a lot of my gluten-free baking. I did have success baking with brown rice flour and almond flour, and I found maple syrup and honey to be great substitutes for processed white sugar.
The part that was hard for me was the constant workload of cooking and baking, and there were a LOT of dirty dishes along the way. Before these 10 days, I would typically collapse in front of the television or a book after the kids went to bed because I’d be out of energy. But during these last 10 days, I ended up preparing food for the next day almost every evening. The good news is that I actually had more energy and I didn’t mind doing it. Ten days off white sugar did have a positive impact on my body.
My husband has felt better since starting the real food challenge, although he had already given up sugar for Lent before we started this. His secret weapon has been dates, which he thinks taste like candy. Dried fruit really is a great alternative to processed sweets, as I found myself grabbing a few dried apricots on more than one occasion to get me through the afternoon. My husband was eating a salad with dinner the other night, and he couldn’t get over how great it tasted. Our taste buds seem to be appreciating good, real food more now that we’ve gotten rid of the processed food.
The children have been nothing short of inspiring during this process. They were excited about it from the beginning, and they’ve stuck with it even when it started to lose its appeal. They’ve tolerated a few experiences of sugar deprivation as well as could be expected. There have been a half dozen occasions over the past 10 days when I’ve had to shield them from processed foods that were presented to them outside our home. As a result, they have become more empathetic to their peers who have food allergies because they now know what it feels like to see friends eating something that they are not allowed to eat. I’m wondering if their positive attitude about all this has anything to do with the fact that their bodies aren’t filled with processed foods anymore.
Looking to the future, we definitely plan to follow a primarily real food diet. I will be making bread at home (which is so easy!) and leaning on Great Harvest for their fabulous, freshly made whole grain breads. I will continue to focus on fruits, vegetables, muffins, popcorn, popsicles, and other homemade treats for snack time. The key to eating well is meal planning, which isn’t my strongest area but it really makes life so much less stressful when there is a plan in place. And I will fight against the tide of junk food that crosses my children’s path in the hope that processed treats become an occasional thing rather than an everyday occurrence.
We have a room in our house called the “fun room.” It’s where all things art and crafts belong in the house, and it’s usually a disaster of a mess. My daughter is especially fond of crafts, but she’s not so fond of cleaning up after herself. No matter how carefully I organize it, the closet in the fun room needs to be emptied out and reorganized every six months or so because it is a very well-loved and well-used space. It’s nice to have it clean again – for now, anyway.