A “Real Food” Thanksgiving Challenge

Crunchy Nana's "Real Food" Thanksgiving 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 with my three daughters (and one of my four grandchildren)

When I was a young mom, I had visions of “Little House on the Prairie” when it came to raising our family and keeping our home. I cloth diapered all our babies (at a time when disposables were the new and popular thing to do), breastfed those babies, sewed almost all of our clothing, knit sweaters, tended a garden, canned the harvest—well, you get the idea. The years passed quickly and I found myself juggling the demands of three busy little girls and their activities, church duties, PTA meetings, a sewing and alteration business, raising pug puppies, and running an in-home day care for anywhere from 1-5 preschoolers. I started falling into the habit of using a fair amount of processed foods just to speed things along in the kitchen. It didn’t seem like a big deal; I still made most of our meals at home.

I Saw the “Real Food” Light

Fast forward to 2011. All of our children were grown, but I was still in the habit of using convenience foods in my kitchen. One of my daughters found a blog that she thought I would enjoy, so I started following 100 Days of Real Food.

I couldn’t read about this “real food” thing fast enough! I quickly began to clean out the processed foods from my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. The more I read, the more I wanted to make a lot of changes to the way we were eating, and it felt almost overwhelming.

I had so many things to learn about which products to buy, which cooking techniques are best, and which new kitchen tools would be helpful. In my typical way, I wanted all those things to be accomplished yesterday! (I tend to be a little OCD sometimes – or CDO if you prefer the letters in alphabetical order!)

Encouragement for Your Healthy Eating Changes

Since I began cutting processed foods two years ago, I’ve lost 40 pounds. This happened gradually with no change to my regular exercise routine.

Crunchy Nana lost 40 pounds by cutting out processed foods!

Over the last several years, I’ve done some things “wrong”, but many more things right. My biggest mistake was feeling guilty when I didn’t do everything perfectly- which defeats the whole purpose of adopting a healthy lifestyle. It’s okay to strive for perfection, but realize that you will have fallbacks and triumphs. Most importantly, enjoy your journey and keep it going!

If you’ve recently begun your own journey to eat in a more healthy way and use safer products in your home, take a little something from me: It’s ok to take it one step at a time! Any change you’re making for the better is a good one!

Following the 80/20 rule is a good way for me to stay in balance. I try to “eat real” 80% of the time, and other times, when I eat at restaurants or  with friends, I don’t worry or feel guilty. The important thing is that you are making changes that will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Tools I Recommend

After I cleared my kitchen of processed foods, I slowly began to collect tools that would make cooking from scratch easier and more efficient. I now regularly use my Kitchenaid Mixer for making homemade bread, pasta, or pizza dough. I also have a Crock Pot and pressure cooker to save time on days when I’m going to be gone most of the day.

To save money, I invested in a FoodSaver. Most of the time I am cooking only for my husband and myself, but I still like to purchase food in bulk and make food in large batches. When I come home from my farm co-op or Costco, I spend a little time packing up smaller amounts of food for storage in the freezer or pantry. I am able to get the food at a great price and reduce waste—win/win!

Last week I added one another fun item to my “stash”, a Nutrimill Grain Mill. It makes grinding my own flour a breeze and I feel good about using organic wheat berries that I buy in bulk. Now I’m looking forward to playing around with some other types of whole grains!

Crunchy Nana’s Thanksgiving Challenge

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, why not try to incorporate some “real food” into your traditional meal?  I know this is a busy time of year, but these changes don’t have to be big or time consuming.

Try buying an organic turkey, making a simple dish of fresh fruit, or incorporating organic canned pumpkin (from a BPA-free can) into your pumpkin pie. You could also make this homemade cream of mushroom soup recipe for those green bean casserole that show up on so many tables this time of year. (We had it last year, and it is delicious!)

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How do you keep it real and what are some of your favorite resources? Crunchy Nana would love to chat with you in the comments section below!


  1. Abby Powell says:

    Way to go, Crunchy Nana! I always thought you looked fabulous and healthy. We had a similar experience and I lost 50lbs in less than a year with a balanced, healthy diet where I didn’t starve myself at all. I still have about 20lbs to go post-baby but I’ve only quit nursing 3 months ago (I did NOT lose while nursing). My favorite book is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. We are big bulk food buyers. Small freezers aren’t too much if you scout out places like Bargain Hunt. I should show you pictures of how we manage to make it all fit. Some of my dining room is decorated with 5gal buckets of grain, but that’s okay. Our favorite bulk ordering company is http://www.azurestandard.com (which I know you use also) for all the folks who aren’t in on that already. We also have very little to work with and do well with “one-pot” meals. I think 80% of my meals are in a bowl and that helps stretch high-quality ingredients we are unwilling to budge on.

    • Thanks Abby! Sounds like you are doing really well! I also have Nourishing Traditions and have tried several of the recipes–I love just sitting down to read it–it’s so packed with great information. Keep up the good work and have a wonderful “real” Thanksgiving!

      • Abby Powell says:

        Most of it was born out of necessity, but it’s put me in a good place to inform others. Real Thanksgiving is underway. Brined organic turkey, cranberry compote, sourdough stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, a kale and carrot side (so yummy- seasoned with honey, ginger, pepper, soy sauce), sourdough bread. My mom is bringing a not-sugar-laden sweet potato something, and my dad’s getting good wine. Should be fun :)

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