Are you overwhelmed with trying to feed yourself and family whole, healthy foods? I know I was! Overwhelm was the first emotion I felt after sadness when I realized I had to completely change everything I knew about what to eat and how to cook. Going from standard American fare (the S.A.D. standard) to whole food is not necessarily an easy task when it’s completely new to you.
You’re allowed to feel frustrated.
For me, tears came first.
I couldn’t make food fast enough to feed us (we were a family of 7 at the time).
I was drowning in the overwhelm of never getting ahead of the curve. By the time I got the kitchen cleaned up from the first meal, it was time to start the next. To make matters worse, now that I had changed my eating I couldn’t even eat “regular” (S.A.D.) food if I wanted. My symptoms had diminished and returning to old habits only created a flare.
Truth be told, after tears, there was some anger.
I was angry that I was in a position of having to really learn how to cook in my mid 30s with the added pressure of being both chronically ill and a mom of five YOUNG, precious kiddos.
Kids who very much needed their mom to be well AND able to function physically.
And I was angry that I’d felt like I’d been sold a bill of goods about food and convenience. Turns out, convenience and optimized health weren’t working together for me; that was a hard pill to swallow.
What I’d tried:
Yes, I had experimented with monthly batch cooking and freezer cooking and menu planning before illness set in and after. But ALL OF IT was completely overwhelming to me for so many reasons. Not only did my family want to eat everything while I was trying to “batch cook,” I’d be so exhausted from cooking all afternoon that if I wanted to freeze the food for future use, we’d just end up popping pizzas in the oven for dinner. Pizzas I couldn’t eat.
It was just ALL TOO MUCH. It was too much to grasp and plan and do, especially under the struggle of trying to regain my health while functioning within the constraints of chronic illness.
So here’s what I did.
I learned to keep it simple.
I let go of the notions that dinner had to be from a recipe or look like a Pinterest worthy smorgasboard of casseroles and souffles and quiches. Gone were my days of trying recipe after recipe that was bland, lifeless, or didn’t turn out.
Our food, and my mindset, needed to go back to the very basics.
I learned to create staples, or “dish foundations.” Staples that could turn into a variety of meals and be used across a number of dishes.
I had been so stuck in this expectation of what dinners needed to look like or had been like growing up or what others might be expecting. How on earth is it ok to serve a meal without numerous side dishes, heaping loads of mashed potatoes, and rolls piled high?
Making it practical
To keep my sanity and still feed my family meals we could ALL eat, I learned to develop what I call “meal foundations.” Blocks I could build upon such as:
Ground chicken/ground turkey or combination
This is my personal favorite. Season with garlic or garlic powder, salt, rosemary, sage, and thyme and use as a base for rice casseroles, pizza topping, salad topping, etc. Throw in fennel seed if you desire a sausage flavor and use as part of a hash or toss into your eggs (omelet, anyone?). You can also vary the seasonings to change the flavor profile and that alone gives you even more options.
Ground beef with diced onions and garlic
Ground beef can easily be made ahead and hands free when using the crock pot. If you season with only garlic, onion, and salt, or any combination of the above, you can use the ground beef as a base for chili, sloppy joe’s, tacos, casseroles, etc. Make a large batch and freeze in one pound portions for future use.
Put in the crock pot, salt or season to your liking and these serve as is or shred and use as a base for BBQ chicken, Buffalo chicken, soups, enchiladas, etc. You can also dice and use in casseroles, as a topping for salad, and in chicken salad.
Beef roasts (various cuts–baked slow in the over or crockpot)
Slice into portions or shred to become part of an enchilada dish or other entre.
Serve as the main course or pull apart to use in a separate dish. Save the skin and bones (if it’s an organic chicken) to make bone stock.
Grill, bake, or fry in advance, then slice in half to use on sandwiches. You can also slice into smaller pieces for use in wraps, on salads, or dice to use in chicken salad.
Simplicity doesn’t have to negate flavor.
It’s easy, it’s whole food, and it’s nourishing.
Cook as needed or in a larger batches if you’re able.
If histamines are a concern for you or someone in your family, aim to freeze what won’t be eaten within 24 hours in order to reduce histamine development. Thaw overnight in the fridge or safe-thaw method of your choosing.
The most important thing?
The mindset of building meal foundations. Let go of expectations and old tapes telling you what meals SHOULD look like.
Keep it simple. Straightforward. Uncomplicated.
You’re on a new journey now, and it’s going to take you to better places.
Do you use meal foundations in your house? I’d love to hear about your techniques for moving toward simplicity in your kitchen.
To your wellness,