Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Real Food Convenience Foods and Compromises

Given unlimited time and energy, everything my family eats would be homemade and prepared in the most nourishing ways.  In the real world of time constraints and competing priorities, though, I have to make some compromises.  These store-bought compromises and convenience foods give me a little break from the kitchen, without sacrificing our health.  

Frozen Veggies and Fruits

Of course, fresh seasonal veggies and fruits are the best option.  I buy lots of veggies and fruits fresh, but I also buy some frozen.  Frozen veggies and fruits are great because they require no prep work, such as washing and chopping.  They also don't spoil quickly as fresh produce often does.  While some fruits and veggies do not freeze well, I find that the texture and taste of the following are not hurt by freezing:
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • peas
  • spinach
  • hash browns
  • green beans
  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries
I should note that, with frozen veggies, I always cook them anyway. I'm sure that frozen veggies will not stand in for fresh ones when they will be consumed raw. My favorite way to prepare frozen veggies is Simple Buttered Veggies. I cook hash browns in butter on the stovetop.  As for frozen fruit, I top frozen berries with yogurt or use them in muffins, smoothies or ice cream.

Luncheon Meats and Sausages

While they are not easy on the budget, organic nitrate-free lunch meats and sausages are a great meal helper when we are in a time-crunch.  My family usually eats lunch meats or sausages once or twice a week.

I have to watch out for so-called "nitrate-free" meats that contain celery juice, because I react to the nitrates in the celery juice by getting extremely lethargic after eating them. This pretty much rules out any commercially available beef or pork hot dogs, but I have found that I can eat Shelton's chicken or turkey dogs with no adverse effects.

I prefer to buy Organic Prairie brand lunch meats because most of them don't contain celery juice (which is often used to replace nitrates in meats, but in the long run results in consumption of even more nitrates). 

The following are my preferred lunch meats and sausages.  None of these cause me to have a nitrate reaction.
  • Organic Prairie Roast Turkey Breast
  • Organic Prairie Smoked Turkey Breast
  • Shelton's Turkey or Chicken Hot Dogs
  • Applegate Farms Chicken and Apple Sausages
  • Applegate Farms Roasted Red Pepper Sausages


Snack and Convenience Foods

When it comes to snacks, there are a few storebought items that I regularly purchase. I limit the amounts of these that we consume by not stocking up on them.  Rather, I only buy a small amount at a time.  Since I only grocery shop every two weeks, we often run out of these items, and I think that is fine. (I buy most of these items at our local health food store, but I've included product links below in case you want to see what these brands look like.)
  • Go Raw Spirulina Super Chips - These crackers are wonderful because they are made with sprouted seeds and made at low temperatures so they are still raw.  The only downside to these is the price, as they are rather expensive.  I buy no more than one or two packages of these a month.
  • Sesmark Rice Crackers - I buy rice crackers made with white rice rather than brown since we've had problems with brown rice. These crackers are great topped with cheese, nut butter, or cream cheese. I limit these to one package every two weeks.
  • SeaSnax - SeaSnax are made from seaweed, olive oil, and salt. The kids and I love these crispy snacks.  We eat no more than one package of SeaSnax a week, because they are expensive.  I especially like to take SeaSnax along when we go to the park for playdates, so my kids have something salty and crunchy to eat when they see other kids eating snacks that we don't consume.
  • Kettle Brand Potato Chips - Kettle chips are GMO-free and are cooked in safflower or sunflower oil (which I prefer over canola oil).  At our local health food store, these chips come in fairly small bags of only 5 ounces.  As a family, we generally eat less than one bag of these chips a week, but they are a great treat to have.  We mostly stick to the simple flavors, like Sea Salt.  I've noticed that most of the other flavors contain ingredients I'd rather not consume on a regular basis.
  • Gluten-Free Sugar Cones - For an occasional treat, I buy gluten-free ice cream cones.  These aren't perfect, as they do contain some sugar and soy lecithin.  But we eat so few of these that I don't see a problem.  We generally eat no more than one box of ice cream cones per month (they come in a package of 12 cones). 
  • Organic Popcorn - Once a week during our family movie night, we have homemade popcorn. I cook the popcorn in refined coconut oil and top it with plenty of butter and celtic sea salt.  What makes popcorn a compromise is that corn should ideally be soaked in lime water before consumption to maximize nutrition.  But, since we only eat popcorn once a week, I'm fine with this compromise.
  • Black Olives - We love to eat black olives as a quick snack alongside some cheese or nuts.  I buy organic Mediterranean olives packed in a glass jar.  My 3-year-old son in particular loves to eat lots of olives.
  • Just Peas - Just Peas are a great crunchy snack that only has one ingredient: peas!  Both of my kids have loved these dried peas since they were 1-year-old.  I like having such an easy veggie side dish to add on to any lunch.
  • Just Fruit Munchies - Everyone in our family loves these dried fruit snacks.  One great thing about them is that they include some sour fruits (like sour cherries, green apples, and raspberries) so there is a nice mix of sweet and sour in each bag.  They are great straight from the bag, or even sprinkled on top of yogurt. The only downside to Just Fruit Munchies is that they are expensive.  
  • Bubbies Fermented Pickles - In the summer, I make lots of Fermented Bread and Butter Pickles.  But the rest of the year, we buy lots of Bubbies fermented dill pickles at the store. While Bubbies sauerkraut and bread & butter pickles are pasteurized, their dill pickles are not pastuerized so they are a wonderful probiotic-rich food! My 3-year-old son often asks for pickles, and he will devour them!  My husband doesn't like many fermented foods, but he does love Bubbies fermented dill pickles. (I have tried making homemade dill pickles numerous times, but they are never as good as the Bubbies pickles.) These pickles are expensive, but this is one expensive food that I am willing to buy lots of. We go through a large jar of pickles every two weeks. 

Sushi Rolls

We typically eat out once or twice a month.  While we don't eat at any of the typical fast food restaurants, one great fast food option for us is sushi rolls from a local Japanese restaurant.  The kids and I LOVE sushi rolls!


Back when I was working outside the home, I didn't have time to make homemade condiments.  So I compromised by buying storebought condiments, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. One great trick with storebought condiments is that you can ferment them very easily!

I do also buy jam and peanut butter at the store. These are items we don't eat much of, and I'm happy to have them readily available. We use St. Dalfour jam which is sweetened with only fruit juice, and Maranatha no-stir peanut butter.  When I have time, I do sometimes mix in some crispy pecans and cashews to make pecan-cashew-peanut butter.

It's All About Balance     

I don't want to spend all of my time in the kitchen, and I also don't want to spend too much time worrying about our diet.  I try to relax and go with the flow, rather than getting mired in dietary minutiae.  By and large, our diets consist of nutrient-dense, real foods lovingly prepared at home.  But I'm happy to also take advantage of some easy and no-preparation required foods as well.

What compromises do you make to lessen time spent in the kitchen?


Bobbie said...

Loved this post! We also eat bubbies kraut and pickle relish and love it! Other compromise foods I buy are Hain's Safflower mayo (because I just can't stand homemade!), Mary's Gone Crackers gluten free products, Central Market Organic Corn Tortilla Chips (which are prepared with lime) and Newman's Own Organic Spelt pretzels with raw cheese for occasional snacks and maybe once or twice a month Applegate Farms grass fed beef hotdogs and pepperoni (though they do have the celery juice in them). Thank you for alleviating some of my "I'm poisoning my children" guilt by sharing your compromises!

MrsWendy said...

I have been visiting your blog for a while now and thoroughly enjoy it! Just had to take a moment to thank you for posting this wonderful list! My family's favs are Kettle Brand Chips and anything by Applegate Farms! Yum! I have not heard of some of the products on your list though and was very glad to learn about them! I'm going to check my area's stores to see if any of them carry these 'new to me' brands. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I love all of your suggestions. I recently learned that the Krab in sushi rolls can contain gluten. So for those of you like myself that are GF ask if for real crab along with the Wheat free soy sauce.

Unknown said...

It's so refreshing to read your posts Sarah. My kids have so many food allergies and I seem to have an autoimmune disease and there is so much pressure. My son and I are doing Full Gaps; we just haven't reached the point where it seems that it's time to start the intro. Hopefully we can get there soon. But anyway, it is nice to see that we can be doing a really great job without having to be perfect and do everything perfectly. Your post on homeschooling helped me a lot too-my reference point is from teaching 6th grade in the public school, so I have been feeling stressed wondering how I am going to give my daughter constant attention and interaction during our school days. Your post let me see that life homeschooling can be enjoyed and treasured. And also your post on once-a-month cleaning-I've never heard anyone be so honest and open and reading that was a big stress releaser too. Thank you!

Cindy said...

Sarah, thanks for another great post, just what I needed!

I have been adjusting to the GAPS program for several months in a desperate effort to treat 15 years of severe CFS/ME (with its myriad of systemic hormonal/thyroid imbalances) but am becoming very discouraged.
At this point, apart from fewer hypoglycemic symptoms, the only change is I am even sicker and gaining more unneeded weight.
I feel like I am doing little more than slug away in the kitchen preparing, cooking, cleaning up afterwards, all while I can barely stand unaided. Even putting away my clean dishes has become a series of complex mental calculations my brain is unable to process! My body and brain are screaming with exhaustion, and interests/hobbies are dwindling to nothing.

So your post came as such a blessing for me today. I especially loved the points about fermenting store-bought condiments, and the link to Matt Stone's 'dietary minutiae'.
Time for me to have a serious think about what I can do to reduce the load - I have always loved cooking, but am now starting to HATE it, and want my joy back.

Thanks again Sarah, and any other tips would be welcome!

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for the tip!

Sarah Smith said...

You're welcome, Bethany! I'm glad you are finding my posts helpful. You may find that you don't even need to do GAPS intro; some people do fine without it. When I first started eating real foods, I strove for perfection in our diets. Now I've learned that with kids especially, that is too much to try for and I don't think it is necessary either. I remember at one point realizing that my daughter was starting to hoard anything sweet, because I had always strictly limited sweets and fruit for her. But hoarding sweets is not good! So I backed off and tried to make sure she can enjoy some sweet things, especially since her body wants them so badly. I've since then learned that high fat ice cream is the food most closely resembling breastmilk in nutrient composition, and that made me realize that kids probably do need some sweets in their diets. I'm trying to have a more balanced approach now, as perfection is unnecessary and even harmful if it leads my kids to create bad habits such as hoarding food.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Cindy,
I hope you find healing! One thing we learned through doing GAPS is that it doesn't work well for everyone, and that it can make some problems worse. You might like to read mre from Matt Stone, such as his RRARF free ebook, which I found very refreshing and interesting.

On GAPS though, we did fine with the turkey lunch meats from Organic Prairie, which only has two ingredients: turkey and salt! I found that to be an awesome help to at least have a super easy option since GAPS is so kitchen-intensive.

Danielle said...

Great list! The cost of these convenience foods is helpful in keeping them limitted in our diets. :) Were you able to find a prepared mayonnaise that you were okay with? I haven't been able to find anything without really wretched oils, so I only get store-bought if it's for non-family-members.

Sarah Smith said...

Before I made homemade mayo, I used the Hain's safflower mayo from the store. It's not perfect, but better than most. I also would have liked to try the Wilderness Family Naturals mayo, but I never could convince myself to pay the very high price for it.