Where we are, What we’re doing, How we’re doing it

Hello Dear Readers!  Much has happened in my life in the last 12 months.  It’s been hard, but it’s all good.  Major life changes, even the good ones, don’t come without effort, stress, tears, and prayer.  Since I last posted, we have moved from a rental house into our country home on 23 acres.  A month later, we had our fourth baby:  beautiful 8 lb. 5 oz. Rebekah.  We also added 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, and a study onto our house.  Then we bought 12 chicks (future egg layers!).  This has all been in the last 6 months.  Currently, we are waiting for it to stop raining long enough for us to fill our raised beds with dirt and start our garden.  Slowly, we are making this house and land our home.

Our move to the country took us away from most all of our healthy food sources.  With our beloved farmer’s market, farms, and even Whole Foods more than an hour away I have had to reinvent my entire method for obtaining healthy food without sacrificing on the health part.  Pregnancy and nursing are critical times in the life of Mommy and Baby, and at 43 years old I cannot afford to let that go like I did at 29.  But it’s not all about me – I have 3 other children and a husband looking to me to provide them with nourishing food that will keep them well now and in years to come.  Well it’s been a year this month since our move away from the city and I am thrilled and thankful to say, “We did it! And we ARE doing it!”  I want to share with you a little about how we did it, and a few things I have learned in the process.

Our here in the country there is not only no health food store, but the local grocery stores leave a lot to be desired.  Thankfully the grocer in our neighboring community has just remodeled and in so doing has expanded their natural foods section.  They have a long way to go, but there has been great improvement.   Unfortunately they still do not offer any natural or pastured meats, and the only acceptable dairy product they offer is Kerrygold butter.  I’m still searching for local sources for organic or nearly organic produce.  These things take time, and usually you meet someone who knows someone else who saw a little stand somewhere … In the meantime, we are going to learn how to grow our own and I am excited about that.

So what am I doing?  I am relying on my freezer.  We have eaten an entire beef this year.  Not a quarter, not a half, but a WHOLE.  I picked it up from the processor last June.  We have just a few cuts left.  I will be picking up our next whole beef in June again.  This will be our main meat supply for the coming year.  This forces me to plan what we are going to eat, and to learn new ways of  preparing certain cuts that I previously knew nothing about.  In the last 12 months, I have not bought one single cut of beef from a store!  Additionally, we’ve been eating the whole chickens I purchased and froze before our move.  We have not been having fancy, expensive boneless chicken breast dishes.  But I have learned how to cut up and de-bone an entire chicken to have on the grill or bake in the oven.  In the last year, I have not bought one single package of chicken from a grocery store (ok I did buy some drumsticks from a local farm)!  Additionally, once a month we drive 90 minutes to Whole Foods and load up on foods that we can’t get here that freeze well.  And I just reserved a pig that will be ready for us around the end of the year,  about the time we’ll have made a good dent in the beef.  That will re-fill the freezer.  Can I just say that the investment in a large chest freezer has been worth every penny?

Something else I am learning to do is rely on the “Dirty Dozen” list that tells me which fruits and vegetables should be organic and which ones are ok to eat conventionally.  Our local grocer has some organic produce but not much so I buy according to the Dirty Dozen list most of the time.  When we drive to the city once a month, we go on a Saturday and make our first stop the farmer’s market where we buy as much produce as we can there, making sure not to over-buy so that we eat what we buy within two weeks so it is all still fresh.  I’ve learned that healthy meals don’t require lots of produce.

After asking everyone I knew, and praying about it, I have found our source for fresh raw milk and farm fresh eggs.  We are getting eggs from pastured hens for $1.25/dozen!  On the other hand, we’re now paying $9/gallon for milk (as opposed to the $3/gallon we paid before the move).  We go through several dozen eggs and 5 gallons of milk per week.  These are very important items.  The cost is a non-issue – we have to have the milk and it evens out since the eggs are so cheap and we are not buying as much produce, etc.  Hopefully by the end of the summer our 12 chicks will be providing us with plenty of eggs!

Finally, I am relying on the mail and online ordering for items like cheese, maple syrup, coconut oil, cod liver oil, etc.  I am still able to use our bulk food co-op since they have a delivery location nearby so that is a great blessing.

Does all this sound crazy?  Consider Proverbs 31 verse 14 where God tells us that a virtuous woman, whose price is far above rubies, is “like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.” 🙂

Here’s the kicker to all this:  we are eating really well, very healthy, in abundance, and we are spending LESS. Yes, we are spending LESS!  We are still spending a bundle per visit to Whole Foods, and a hundred or more per month through my food co-op, and we are buying expensive milk and expensive coconut oil and expensive maple syrup and more, but we are spending less.  For one thing, we no longer have the convenience of running to the grocery store to pick up a little something for dinner.  For another thing, we are buying in bulk.  And finally, we eat at home.  There just isn’t anywhere to eat out around here, so we just eat at home.  I am cooking a full breakfast for my family of six most every day of the week, and a full dinner every night.  But we are spending less money.  I never use coupons, I never get anything on sale.  I just buy directly from the farmer when I can, including through the mail, and we eat at home. Oh yes – and we cook from scratch instead of eating prepared, processed foods.

So we’re spending less, and eating more, and I have a new baby who nurses every 2 hours plus 3 others to homeschool and I am cooking more.  How is this being accomplished?  I am making meals as simple as possible, and I have taught my children how to help.  My ten year old daughter has learned how to do a lot of things in the kitchen this year.  Because she can read and follow directions, and I have taught her a few cooking techniques, she can do quite a bit in the kitchen.  On Sunday nights, she is completely in charge of our meal!  Anything she has a problem with she just asks.  I can nurse the baby and give verbal directions at the same time.  Also, she and my son are in charge of emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast and dinner.  They do this every day.  And like I mentioned earlier, we eat very simple meals.

It’s been quite the year for our family.  I never thought we’d move out to the country like this, and I sure didn’t think that I would be having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby at 43 years old.  There have been many times where I have marveled at God’s mercies to have brought me where I am today.  If He had not led me on this journey of healthy eating, and I had not listened, how would my body have handled pregnancy and birth at this age?  There was a long season in my life where I had nothing to drink but diet Coke, and McDonalds was my primary food source.  But I did listen, and while it has been difficult, it has been worth it.  

I hope that you are listening too.  Your journey toward healthy eating and better health won’t be easy either.  People won’t understand, they will criticize you, they will talk about you behind your back, they will challenge you, they will roll their eyes, and you will be tired and busy and frustrated many times.  You probably won’t see immediate results and your kids will refuse to eat and your husband will complain.  Hang in there!  It will be worth it for you too.  But don’t trust me, trust God.  He will direct your path.

…Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8b

GUEST BLOGGER: A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

 

Note from The Grain Girl:  Today’s post is written by my dear friend Cindy, who has poured out her heart and soul to share the story of her and her sons’ journey toward health – and healing – by simply eating “God’s food.”  Cindy’s testimony is powerful and I pray that everyone who reads it will be encouraged and motivated. I tell everyone who feels they don’t have time, money, or motivation to change their lifestyle that if my friend Cindy can do it, anyone can.  She has endured  an intensely difficult struggle, and won.  Praise God for her courage and faith in him!

Be sure to read through to the end so you don’t miss a word of her amazing journey.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your story, and for being an example, so that others may also find health and healing through God’s perfect provision.


A TESTIMONY OF FAITH, HEALING, AND HEALTH

Last night I had the opportunity to help a lady whom I had never met, but had spoken to on the phone, to try and show her some ways she could make a difference in her family by changing how they eat.  It made me think back to my journey in this area over the past 3 years.

During 2006, I was trying to figure out how to help my son who was having trouble at school.  I knew he had behavior issues before he started Kindergarten, but it eventually came to a head in 3rd grade.  Teachers would say things like, “He has a wonderful heart but he has sudden outbursts that go against his normal personality.”  These outbursts would sometimes involve pushing other kids.  They would just happen.  I had tried multiple different things trying to help him.  The school system even had him tested/evaluated for various things and were recommending I put him on prescription medications even though he was not diagnosed with anything –for this particular teacher her only solution was to give him a pill and it would make her life easier here at school.

November of 2006 was when I went to my knees in prayer (yet again) and cried out to the Lord to please help me know what to do for this precious boy.

I distinctly remember what I can only say was the Holy Spirit saying it’s the food.  I “Googled” diet and behavior and was amazed that one of the leading hits was a website that specialized in helping people take the “bad” stuff out of their food to positively impact children with ADHD and ADD (neither of which my son has by the way).  I learned that research has shown that the shift in America to processed food tracks consistently with lots of health problems, but very clearly tracks with the sky rocketing of behavior based health issues – ADD and ADHD to name a couple.

 

A few days ago when I mentioned to my son that I had been asked by a teacher at school to help a mom with a son having behavior problems similar to what my son used to have my son said, “Well you are the one to do that.”  The next day he asked if he could share his story with this mom when she came by.  He has never spoken to others about this journey we have been on; he likes to just say, “Mom has gone organic.” My son is now 11 years old and a 6th grader at our local public middle school.  He shared with this mom the following thoughts:

·      How he was in the principal’s office 3 times in the first half of 3rd grade year when all he was trying to do was get along with everyone

·      He felt yucky inside all the time

·      Nobody wanted to play with him

·      He would get angry and frustrated very easy

·      He never felt like doing anything but video games (which I had been limiting trying to help him)

He then proceeded to say that his mom, “decided to take out artificial stuff, ingredients we cannot pronounce, and things other people make in factories.”  He shared how it took about a year but then he had lots of people who would play with him at recess, he never went back to the principal’s office (except to give hugs), now feels good, ran on the middle school cross country team and, his quote “it’s all because we eat what God made.”

My precious son has Sensory Integration Disorder – basically his nervous system would not process input from the 5 senses at the same rate most others do.  This input would build up in his body and he was continually in a constant state of “on edge” – like you feel when you are under tremendous stress and it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge – which would happen routinely at school.  We hope and pray that this disorder is something he will out grow but it has been obvious it has not.  When I say obvious what I mean is I can tell he still has it when the following situation occurs:  well meaning people give him a bag of M&M’s as a treat, if he doesn’t have the willpower and decides to eat them then he has significant physical/emotional symptoms that are from the Sensory Integration Disorder.  Every time this happens, it reaffirms that what I am doing with our diet is critical to his health and wellbeing.

So my journey started November of 2006 by taking out all preservatives, artificial colors/flavorings and even some natural foods that could cause this behavior.  We had 6 weeks of “detoxification” while all of our bodies rid itself of these bad things.  After the 6 weeks, I could add back in things like apples/strawberries one at time and see if anything happened with him.  Today he (and we) eats anything made by God as close to that natural state that I can realistically make it.

Just so you know, I am a single working mom of 2 boys – age 11 and 8 — and yes, I make everything we eat. This is just how our family eats – not because of my son’s behavior but because I have been convinced that God knows our bodies best and we should eat what God provides.

“How do I do it” is a question I frequently get.  You know when something is a priority its amazing how you can find time to fit in the activity – that is how I look at feeding my family naturally without processed food.  It’s just how we have to eat.

One of my goals was to not have my children feel “deprived” so I promised them and myself I would learn how to make all their favorite things with “good” ingredients.  My children do not miss out – instead of those yuckily processed Cosmic Brownies that they used to eat, I make brownies from scratch.  By making everything I can control the ingredients.   Every once in a while the boys will say something like I wish I could have “x” and I will say okay let’s find a recipe and make it and we do.

My key kitchen tools are:  bread machine, grain mill, deep freezer, crock pot and my Kitchen Aid mixer. I make all of our bread (using a mill to grind wheat – it’s as easy as pour in the grain, turn on the mill and get freshly ground flour -MAGIC).   I love to make bread with my mixer and hand knead it but reality due to time constraints is that usually I rely on my bread machine – I can put in all the ingredients, press start and in 3 hours 45 minutes we have freshly made bread or I can set the timer and its ready for breakfast.

My crock-pot is a great friend so that the meat portion of dinner is ready – I have meat ready, bread ready and then all I have to do each night is come up with the healthy side dishes.  We eat rice a couple of times a week, fresh veggies, sautéed veggies and salads.  I also participate in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) which is a program with a local farmer where I receive a box of locally grown vegetables every other week which keeps me well stocked with fresh veggies, helps us try new things and adds a ton of nutrition into our regular meals.  I minimize the use of veggies from a can since so much nutrition is lost in the processing process – trust me I know, my work takes me inside of manufacturing plants!

I make waffles, pancakes, tortillas, bread, and rolls; every time I make some I bag a few for the freezer.  That allows me to have some in the moments when I fail to plan for a meal.    I don’t write out a plan for the week but I have a general plan in my mind and I always know what tomorrow’s menu will be so I can plan ahead.  Not planning is the one thing that could cause me to feel like we have to go out to eat or drive thru somewhere.  I even take coolers of food to their soccer/flag football games so that we are not tempted to buy snacks there – I think every time I can provide healthy alternatives to nachos and hot dogs we are better off.

A few tips that work for me are:

·      Each Sunday the boys and I create a veggie tray that stays in the fridge all week

·      I keep apples, pears and strawberries in the fridge at all times

·      I make granola bars, cut them and put them in lunch baggies for those quick need to grab something as your go out the door

·      I make muffins once or twice a week for after school snacks and freeze the leftovers

·      I buy fresh lettuce from the local farmers market and keep it in the fridge in a large plastic bowl (lined with paper towels to minimize spoilage) for a quick salad

·      I have taught my boys if you cannot pronounce an ingredient we cannot eat it – they also know of a few other things we don’t ever eat even if they can pronounce it!

·      I keep the healthiest tortilla chips I can find so that they can take “chips” in their lunch for school (once again so they don’t feel deprived)

·      Each week I cook at least one new and different food to keep them trying new things – our latest favorite that yes 2 boys asked for as part of Christmas dinner is drum roll please brussel sprouts (I didn’t think I even liked them but we do)

·      I make bulk chicken stock and freeze it both in quart freezer bags and ice trays so that I can pop a cube of chicken stock into rice and other things to intensify the nutritional impact

Another question I get frequently is “Why don’t you just do this for your older son and let your younger son eat whatever he wants” – well the answer to that is my conviction that God designed us and designed our food and no matter what our physical make-up says what God made is what is best for us all.  But my younger son has experienced benefits too.  He used to require daily breathing treatments, but hasn’t had one in two years!  My younger son loves to eat – 5-6 times a day he is asking for fresh fruit, raw veggies, and healthy snacks like that as well as eating large servings at each meal.  His body craves the nutritional impact from our food and it shows in his growth, health and energy level.


It’s been a 3-year process but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  For those of you who do not know me, I did not grow up eating this way.  We ate lots of  “easy cooking” and comfort foods so this has been a big change for me as well.  It has been amazing how much better I feel physically and I really do not feel deprived myself.  I’ve just found ways to have these things in a more natural God provided way.   Those times when I find myself eating some of the “old” foods I can always tell the difference later that day and the next day how I feel.  What we feed ourselves truly impacts our physical bodies.

My older son had been encouraging me for a long time to break one bad habit I had – my diet cokes.  I had changed everything in how we ate except I didn’t think I could give up my addiction to diet coke – I was drinking 6-8 cans a day.  This past summer I quit buying and drinking these (the local Sonic happy hour is wondering where I am!)  It was amazing in hindsight that an 11 year old could so clearly see the importance of this one item and not give up until he convinced me to quit.

As you can tell I am passionate about this lifestyle because I have seen so much good come from switching my family to a God-planned, nutritionally dense diet lifestyle.   My children have not been on antibiotics in 2 ½ years and my 8 year old 2nd grader hasn’t missed a day of school since starting at elementary school (2 ½ years now).   My 6th grader did miss the day after Thanksgiving break with a fever that lasted six hours, but I truly think it was because we were out of town for a week eating things we do not normally eat.

It’s interesting, but as Amy and I discussed this article, I realized how much I had forgotten about the difficulty I had those years before our lifestyle diet change.  The Sensory Integration symptoms began showing when my older son had just turned 2; it took two years after that to get a diagnosis and then the trial of  a variety of methods to help him – reflux medication since he gagged and threw up regularly (which he actually started taking at age 2 ½ before the diagnosis),  occupation therapy to calm his nervous system, physical exercise programs (because this also manifests itself with loss of gross muscle control/lack of coordination), behavior modification programs to just name a few things – all of this took place for 6 long and arduous years in one form or another before I changed what we put in our bodies.  By the way, the divorce occurred about 3 years into this 6 years of sensory integration running rampant with him – I think that is important to know since it wasn’t just the emotional impact of divorce manifesting itself thru these symptoms, it was much bigger than that.  I also thought you might like to know he now runs cross country for his school and plays flag football and basketball – all are things that come much easier to him these days without a drop of prescription medication. At the same time all of these issues were occurring with my older son, my younger son was dealing with constant asthmatic and upper respiratory attacks which, as I mentioned earlier, required daily breathing treatments.  My life was consumed with doctor appointments, meetings, tests, medications, and stress.  Today, my life is consumed with simply loving on and enjoying my healthy, joyful boys.

 

Another benefit that has occurred is that I also am off of a long term medication that my insurance did not cover.  I had been on anti-depressants since my younger son was born – between postpartum depression and the intense emotional situation of a divorce I thought prescription medication was the only way to manage life.  About a year into this way of eating, God put on my heart to trust him and trust the food I was putting in my body and quit taking the medication.  I quit and have been off of it for 2 years now. God’s way really worked for me.

All of these health improvements are an important benefit, but the biggest benefit is seeing the 180 degree change in my son and to hear him say “Just do everything my mom says about food and life becomes great.”

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God!  therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.  They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house…

Psalm 36:7,8