How To Make Any Recipe Health(ier)

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This post is part of our series: Crafting a Healthy Kitchen!  Follow along via email as we share practical tips for creating a healthy, real food kitchen, and pick up a copy of our cookbook, on sale for 31% off!

As I shared last week, learning how to craft a healthy kitchen has been a long journey for me. As I started realizing that the things I thought were “healthy” really weren’t and that a lot of my old recipes were full of junk items I no longer bought, I felt a little lost knowing what to cook.

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But as I’ve become more comfortable using healthy ingredients (like know which fats are actually healthy, how to make my own dried beans, ect), it’s been easier to look at old cookbooks and know what ingredients to substitute to make them healthy meals!

Sometimes, you still need to indulge in an ooey gooey cinnamon roll made with lots of sugar, but usually I try and cook healthy meals eat healthy snacks. Jaimie Ramsey has also been on a similar journey and shares some fantastic tips on how to convert any recipe into a real food, healthy meal! 

Read the full post by Jaimie HEREHow to Convert Any Recipe to Real Food

More in this series:

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

Real Food for the Real Homemaker Spring SALE!

An Easy Guide to Healthy Hospitality

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This post is part of our series: Crafting a Healthy Kitchen!  Follow along via email as we share practical tips for creating a healthy, real food kitchen, and pick up a copy of our cookbook, on sale for 31% off!

In an effort to craft a healthy kitchen, I’ve had many friends who are curious about what we eat since we ditched processed foods and others you think our eating habits are a bit strange. But my favorite thing to do is to invite them over for a meal so they can see that cooking healthy foods from scratch isn’t that hard and can actually be really delicious!

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But I know that inviting others into your home and practicing hospitality can be hard, especially when you are not in the habit of it. The idea of actually inviting people over, getting your home all cleaned, getting a meal (and dessert??) on the table and coming up with interesting conversation all night can seem completely overwhelming.

Trust me, I’ve been there. I know that hospitality isn’t always easy and can seem so overwhelming. Elsie from Richly Rooted is sharing some of her favorite tips and advice for having people over – even when it’s a little out of her comfort zone!

Read the full post by Elsie HEREPractical Ways to Practice Real Food Hospitality

More in this series:

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

Real Food for the Real Homemaker Spring SALE!

The Benefits of Meal Planning

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By Katie, Contributing Writer

When I was growing up, my friend’s mom always planned her meals in advance. She always had a meal plan written out on the refrigerator and from that point I always thought I would try to do that when I was running my household. When I got married, I didn’t realize just how important this little tactic actually was. It’s taken me several years but I feel like I have finally hit my groove when it comes to planning meals.

The benefits of meal planning...and some resources for helping you do it!

We used to eat out a lot

Over the course of our marriage our diet has changed significantly. We started out by eating out a lot. Like, a lot. At least one meal every day. That makes me cringe thinking about that. *Shudder*

Then we tried the whole cooking at home thing, sort of. Spaghetti, boxed mac and cheese, Rice-A-Roni, coco puffs and lucky charms, frozen french fries and tater tots, store brand sodas, bagged salad with ranch dressing, canned fruit cocktail, American cheese slices, frozen pizzas, and instant oatmeal packets.

It was the basic, inexpensive diet for a young couple first starting out. Low income type of meals. I didn’t really know how to cook. I had no confidence in the kitchen. I didn’t want anyone to watch me cook.

After I had my first child, things didn’t change much. We still ate out quite often and we still bought pre-made foods. Now, there’s nothing wrong with all of that, but for us, these weren’t wise choices. For our health, for our budget, these choices were detrimental.

Transitioning to cooking more at home…

After a few years of practice in the kitchen and a few financial slaps in the face, we finally realized the importance of cooking at home and how simple cooking from scratch can actually be.

We decided on a bi-weekly grocery run so we were buying canned soups, frozen meat, and frozen produce to get us through two weeks.

Then, following some health issues such as thyroid issues and also gestational diabetes during my third pregnancy, I knew we needed to change something. We decided to go the whole/traditional foods route. Just real, wholesome, nourishing food. It was almost as if I had to learn how to cook and what to cook all over again.

…and then to cooking real food.

This is when I really began to embrace the idea of planning my meals. It simplified everything. We started buying bulk and basics. Oats, sucanat, flour, baking powder & soda, beans, nuts, rice. We started buying these dry goods in bulk so we always had them on hand. We started budgeting for farm fresh, free range eggs, maple syrup, and honey. We stopped buying canned soups and started making soups, stocks and broth from scratch. Just those changes made something in my mind just switch. I had good food in my home that was versatile and nourishing.

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How I prepare healthy meals on a budget

Over time, I have learned better ways to plan and budget for meals for our family. Specifically, there are two ways I prepare healthy meals and stay at or under budget ($100-$115/week for our family of 5):

1) I go to the market in the beginning of the week and only shop for the week to come.

I find when I go shopping for food on Saturday or Monday and prepare for the week ahead, I am able to afford more fresh food such as produce and fresh meat that I normally wouldn’t be able to buy if I were planning meals for two weeks or more at a time. It does take more time out of my week because now I am planning more and going to the store more often, but it’s worth it to have fresh food in the house.

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2) I try to prepare simple, basic meals that are nourishing and delicious.

These meals don’t have to be fancy. As long as they are healthy and good for your family, that’s all that matters, right? That’s not to say you can’t make an effort to make your food look pretty. Take pride in what you’re eating and serving!

I can usually get by only making two or three main dishes and squeezing other meals out of those leftovers or adding other types of meals such as breakfast for dinner (substituting eggs for meat), or utilizing one whole chicken for broth in my chicken soup and using the meat for three or four other meals.

I have found that it’s ok to repeat meals each week. It makes life simpler. If you have a handful of delicious recipes that the family enjoys, make them more often rather than fancy, new recipes that might cost a little more to buy ingredients for. I am not saying don’t try new recipes. I love trying new recipes. But as a whole, I try to make the same favorite meals every week or every other week and then throw in something new occasionally.

More often than not, we try to eat what we know. It helps us save money and time. It also helps if you have the basics around like flour, honey, oats, etc. These items can help you in a bind and provide the opportunity to add variety to regular meals such as homemade tortillas, biscuits and honey, cornbread, muffins, cookies, etc. Adding a yummy baked good to most meals enhances them! Also by being able to buy more fresh produce, adding a fruit salad, a fresh garnish, or a yummy side salad and veggies would be something different to add to your basic main dishes.

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A sample weekly menu looks a little something like this at our house:

Monday: B- Oatmeal with cinnamon and milk. L-Tuna & Crackers. D-Chicken soup (homemade broth from whole chicken) with rice and veggies.

Tuesday: B- Eggs and toast. L-Leftover soup. D-Chicken tacos (with leftover chicken from yesterday) & homemade guacamole.

Wednesday: B-Oatmeal with cinnamon and milk. L-BBQ chicken sandwiches (again, with more left over chicken). D-Taco soup.

Thursday: B-Eggs or smoothies. L-Leftover taco soup. D-Homemade pizza

Friday: B- Toast, yogurt+fruit, or oatmeal. L-Left over pizza or taco soup. D-Chicken salad

Saturday: B-Pancakes. L-Leftovers. D- BLTs

Sunday: B-Fend for yourself (AKA something quick before church like fruit, toast, or yogurt. Lunch-Chili from the crockpot. D-Meal at our church for the kids, date night/take out for Mom & Dad.

Overall, the benefits of meal planning I’ve found are:

-Spend less money at the grocery store.

-Stay within budget more easily.

- The ability to purchase fresher foods more often.

-You actually might eat your leftovers!

-Spend less time on meals over all.

-Remove the struggle of “what’s for dinner?”

There are several resources that helped/help me meal plan. Some I use and some I have only looked at for examples.

Some good resources:

*I have not been compensated for mentioning/linking these websites. These do not include affiliate links.*

How do you plan meals for your family? Do you have any tips for busy moms who don’t think they have time to meal plan? Share your thoughts and meal plan tips in the comments below!

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

Real Food for the Real Homemaker Spring SALE!

 

My 10 Favorite Kitchen Tools (for Healthier Homemaking)

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This post is part of our series: Crafting a Healthy Kitchen!  Follow along via email as we share practical tips for creating a healthy, real food kitchen, and pick up a copy of our cookbook, on sale for 31% off!

As a soon to be wife and homemaker in training, I was overwhelmed as I sat in the kitchen section of Target with a list and a scanner trying to make my wedding registry. My future hubby was no help beyond knowing he wanted a coffee pot and waffle maker (and an a Wii).

My Top 10 Favorite Kitchen Tools

As I shared earlier this week, I came into marriage with very little cooking or kitchen knowledge (beyond knowing how to make spaghetti with a jar of Ragu). I felt lost standing in aisle 11 of Target, looking at all these expensive kitchen appliances. How was I supposed to know what to register for and what I was going to need?

While I made some good choices such as registering for a steamer, I also forgot to add a crock pot and for some reason decided to get a full wine glass set…even though we don’t drink wine! Now five years later, I still have a long way to go before I’m an “expert” chef, but I have learned a lot about what is essential in my kitchen!

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Pssst: I am only listing my top 10 kitchen tools here but if you want to check out my book, Real Food for the Real Homemaker, I list more of my favorite kitchen tools, all kinds of different models and price ranges, and yummy hands on recipes for trying it all out (75+ recipes to be exact). And my book is on sale this week ONLY! Find out more HERE.

Please note: Some of these links are affiliate links. But I just wanted to provide some real examples of how you can stock a kitchen for healthy cooking without breaking the bank!

My Top 10 Favorite Kitchen Tools

Crock pot

I didn’t register for a crock pot or slow cooker when I got married. I have no idea why but it wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t get a crock pot until our second year of marriage and now I have two! Now I use my crock pots weekly and sometimes daily. Currently I have the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6 Quart Slow Cooker that’s $30 on Amazon right now. It has been perfect for what I need and wasn’t a huge financial investment.I got my Slow cookersecond one from my mom that is similar to this model: Hamilton Beach Set’n Forget 6 Quart Slow Cooker.

What to look for: Since I didn’t know how often I would use my crock pot, the first one I got was a simple and easy one that just has three settings: warm, low, and hot. But when I was searching for my second one, I knew that I wanted one where I could program a time so that if I was out of the house, the crock pot would automatically turn off or switch to the warm setting. But as far as crock pots go, it’s hard to buy a bad one!

Food Processor

I am still relatively new to my food processor but I use it for everything! I have been wanting one forever but didn’t want to spend the $150 price tag on most nice ones. So 41e+XNcUHlLwhen I found a cheap one on Amazon I thought I would give it a try – and I LOVE it! I make all my homemade nut butters (like peanut butter), salsa, guacamole, butter, and more. I use it in almost every meal.

I have the Hamilton Beach 10 Cup Food Processor from Amazon for $40 {although it was $30 when I purchased it}. One day I hope to invest in one of the ultra nice fancy ones, but my Hamilton Beach has been working well for over a year without the hefty price tag.

What do look for: There are some really fancy and pricey food processors on the market (I hope to have one one day). But a basic food processor was all I needed to try it out. A big thing to look for is how many cups the food processor will hold, especially if it seems to be a really good price. Food processors range from about 3 – 12 cup capacity. Mine is 10 cups and it’s perfect! Also check to see if the food processor comes with any accessories. Many come with different blades and accessories for cutting slices of cucumber, shredding cheese, and more.

Immersion Hand Blender

412uEM8BvLL._SL1500_I’ve seen bloggers talk about these from time to time but never saw the use in them. But when I got one from my mom, I couldn’t believe I’ve been cooking this long without it! I rarely get my big mixer out anymore, my hand blender is perfect and all I need. I’ve seen some really pricey ones but for around $30-60 you can get a really good blender that has a whisk attachment and also a blade attachment. This is a similar model to the one I have: Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender.

What to look for: As with the food processor, make sure to find out what accessories the hand blender comes with. I use the whisk attachment almost every time with mine but the wisk doesn’t always come with the blender.

Popcorn Maker

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Yes, I only use this for one thing: Making delicious homemade popcorn! I have it on this list because we use it at least four times a week. We will never go back to buying bagged popcorn again. Not only is air popped popcorn better for you (it doesn’t have any of the icky chemicals) but it tastes sooo much better!

This model is very similar to the one we have: Presto PopLite Hot Air Popper from Amazon for $20. You can also pick one up from Target for around the same price; that’s where we got ours.

Bread Machine

While you can cook an entire loaf of bread in a bread maker, I use mine most often for making dough! Instead of having to hand knead dough and let it rise, I just throw all my ingredients into the machine, turn it on, and an hour and  a half later, I have perfect dough ready! I use it a couple times a month to make homemade pizza dough and I also love making homemade bread sticks like these. I love making dough for pizza, breadsticks, rolls, cinnamon rolls, and more!

41QPPRRDDGLI found my bread machine at a thrift store for $10 and found one for my sister for $6! I see them at thrift stores all the time, I don’t think people care to make their own bread anymore. Oh well, their loss is our gain! Check around at local thrift stores, on Craiglists, or ask friends and family if they have an old one they no longer want. This is the one that I have that I love: Sunbeam 2 Pound Programmable Breadmaker

What to look for: Especially when hunting for a used bread machine, check that it has an instruction manual with lots of yummy recipes tailor made for your machine! This is a great way to get started since you know those recipes will work for you. Also make sure to check the size of the loaf that it will make. Some bread machine’s are tiny and the loaves and dough it makes are very small. I searched to find a really decent size canister (but don’t be fooled by how big the entire bread machine is, check inside to see how big the actual bread canister is).

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Garlic Press

Not only is garlic super healthy for you (it’s excellent for your heart and circulatory system among other things), it also adds robust natural flavoring to your meals! My husband loves fresh garlic and requests that I add it to everything. My first garlic press was a cheapy one I found at Walmart. It was a pain to use and the handle snapped in two one day when I was pressing a clove of garlic. So I did a little research and purchased one that came highly recommended and I love it  - Kuhn Rikon Easy Squeeze Garlic Press.

What to look for: Read the reviews of the garlic press before buying. Quality does count when it comes to a garlic press because a cheap one just won’t work (or will break on you when using it).

Ice Cream Maker

This is actually something I put on my wedding registry and I am so happy that I did! Ice cream is our family’s number one favorite dessert. And nothing beats the taste of homemade ice cream! If you are interested in learning how to make healthy and delicious homemade ice cream, then I highly suggest you check out the book Just Making Ice Cream eBook. It’s one of our favorite cookbooks and has seventy real food ice cream, frozen yogurt, and other frozen treat recipes!

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What to look for: There are many different types and varieties of ice cream makers. For the first few years of our marriage, I had  a $20 ice cream maker from Target that simply had a turning motor and you added ice and rocksalt around the canister. It worked well for the time and once we realized that making homemade ice cream was a regular occurrence in our household we invested in a nice one that makes ice cream in about 30 minutes (we found it at Costco for $40) - Cuisinart Pure Indulgence 2 Quart Automatic Ice Cream Maker.

Steamer

I use my steamer almost every night for dinner, although if you are on a really tight budget then you can certainly make do without it. While I’ve got dinner in the oven or on the stove top, I throw my veggies into my steamer for ten to twenty minutes. They cook perfectly and don’t overcook them and lose many of the nutrients as can happen with boiling. Works great for frozen and fresh veggies! My favorite vegetables to do are broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and my ultimate favorite: artichokes.

This is another kitchen tool I was smart enough to register for at our wedding. This model is similar to the one we have: Oster 5 Quart Food Steamer from Amazon for $25. You don’t really need anything fancy when it comes to a steamer. My sister recently picked up a great steamer at a thrift store for $6, so hunt around!

Pyrex Containers

Slowly I am trying to weed out all the plastic from my kitchen, and one of the biggest culprits is our tupperware. So over the years I have been hunting for good quality glass containers to store leftovers, pack hubby’s lunch in, ect. My favorite by far have been pyrex containers. They are glass and have silicone lids that are very durable, stackable, and dish washer safe. They also have glass baking dishes with silicone lids that are perfect for freezer cooking!

41QQYXPRA0LIf you can wait, Black Friday always has fantastic deals on Pyrex (at places like Sears, Walmart, and Target). My Pyrex sets have always been purchased on Black Friday. Amazon also has good prices and don’t forget to check your local Costco. I own this 10 piece set and also this mixing bowl set. Next I have this 14 piece set on my wish list that’s perfect for packing breakfast and lunch for my husband!

Blender

A good blender is essential in our house! Almost daily I make smoothies, frappachinos, or other blended drinks. I also used to use my blender every other day to make homemade formula for my babies. And then there are the weekly occurrences of making soup, guacamole, salsa, pudding, and more. For years I have had a cheap blender from Target that couldn’t crush ice and barely did the basics. 71gB6wVm8aL._SL1500_

Last year my husband surprised me for our anniversary with a Vitamix blender (if you are interested in a Vitamix, check out the pricing at your local Costco, it can’t be beat!) and I’ve been head over heels in love with it! For an economical version try the Hamilton Beach Power Elite Blender for $25 from Amazon or the Oster Counterforms 6 Cup Blender for $60 from Amazon.

More in this series:

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

Real Food for the Real Homemaker Spring SALE!

Feeling discouraged while you try to eat healthy? You’re not alone.

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This post is part of our series: Crafting a Healthy Kitchen!  Follow along via email as we share practical tips for creating a healthy, real food kitchen, and pick up a copy of our cookbook, on sale for 31% off!

As I shared earlier this week, one of my homemaking struggles has been in consistently crafting a healthy kitchen. While there are some things to help make our healthy journey easier, like meal planning, sometimes it can still be hard and it’s so easy to compare ourselves to other homemakers and feel like a failure! 

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I think that crafting a healthy kitchen begins with a lot of little baby steps, that slowly over time, will transform your kitchen and your lifestyle. But dear sweet Homemakers, we can’t do it all! Sometimes, asking hubby to pick up a pizza on his way home from work is how we get through the day!

I try to make the majority of our food from scratch and try to avoid processed junk food full of additives, chemicals, and toxins. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables are near the top of my “to-buy” list each week. But can I share something with you? Sometimes I’m just too tired to cook from scratch. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with this asparagus for dinner again. 

Sometimes I get overwhelmed with trying to run a household, be a good mom, be a loving wife, and craft a healthy kitchen! And you know what? That’s okay! I don’t have to be super mom all the time! My good friend Jaimie from JaimieRamsey.com has shared this same struggle and how she has come to realize that food is not a moral issue.

Read the full post by Jaimie HEREWherever you are in your real food journey, you’re not alone

More in this series:

And, for two weeks only, you can get our cookbook designed for women who want to create a healthy kitchen, Real Food for the Real Homemaker for over 30% OFF! Get our entire eBook jam packed with practical advice, how to’s, and over 175 real food, healthy recipes! Plus as a bonus, get the Kindle version of our book, printable recipe cards, and meal planning software to make your healthy journey an easy one! Get all this for $8.95 this week only! Find out more HERE!

Real Food for the Real Homemaker Spring SALE!