Feeding ourselves and our families with nutritious food every day is hard work, and it looks different for every family. In our family we value slow food and traditionally prepared foods because they are nutritious and because the experience of preparing and eating meals together offers a change of pace from busy days. This means that we make a lot of things from scratch and there is often a lot of planning involved in making our meals. I have gathered a list of tips that help us to include these nutritious foods in our diet even when we get busy.
Let me start by briefly explaining what I mean by slow food and traditionally prepared foods. The slow food movement promotes a slow pace of life and good quality local food that tastes good, is good for the consumer, grower and environment. Traditionally prepared foods are whole foods that are prepared in a way that optimizes their nutrient content. The preparation techniques are ones that were used by our ancestors to ensure digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients, and are different than modern techniques that result in overly processed foods. These techniques include fermentation (sourdough bread, fermented veggies), soaking and sprouting grains, nuts and legumes, and making homemade bone broth.
For our family this means that we are mindful about where our food comes from, how it affects growers/producers and the environment. We value nutrient dense meals that sometimes require a lot of time and planning. Because it is more time consuming, this type of diet is not ideal for everyone. But to me there is something soulful about making food this way. Something that brings me back to my roots and to the basics of where our food comes from. I enjoy making complex recipes. I enjoy kneading bread dough. I like the fact that it slows me down, and it is an intentional way that I can serve my family. Even so, sometimes we get busy and it’s hard to put in the time and effort.
Here are a few tips for meal planning and preparing that help me include slow and traditionally prepared foods in our diet consistently:
- We keep breakfast and lunch simple. We usually eat the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch so that we only have to plan meals for dinner.
- We keep a list of our favorite recipes in a google doc, so that when we are meal planning we pick meals off of our list and don’t feel like we have to always think up new ideas for meals or try to remember what we like to make.
- We do one large grocery shopping trip at the beginning of each month to stock our pantry with items needed to make the recipes on our favorites list. Then each week we take a small trip to the co-op or farmer’s market for eggs and produce for the coming week.
- We regularly plan to eat leftovers. We often double recipes and eat the same meal 2 or three nights in a row. This way we can make more involved recipes but we don’t have to spend every night doing a lot of cooking.
- We have some homemade meals in the freezer that we can pull out if we are short on time or things don’t go as planned. Every once in a while we will make a double batch of a favorite meal and freeze half for an easy dinner another night.
- I usually aim to do one of the more time-consuming projects in traditionally prepared foods a week: making homemade yogurt, soaking and toasting nuts, making bone broth, fermenting veggies. I make these in large batches so they last a few weeks.
- I make two loaves of sourdough bread every other week. We leave one loaf fresh to eat that week and slice and freeze the other loaf to toast and eat the second week.
- We are specific about planning meal prep. I make notes in my planner when I need to do something specific to prepare for a meal the next day (take meat out of the freezer, soak quinoa, feed the sourdough starter, etc).
- I include my kids in meal preparation. This makes it easier for me to prepare meals with my kids around, and it is so good for the kids to be involved in preparing foods and learning cooking techniques, even from a young age. My almost three year old son helps me cut veggies with a crinkle cutter or butter knife and totally loves it.
There are certainly things about this type of diet that are overwhelming, but we have slowly integrated more and more traditionally prepared foods into our rhythm and have really enjoyed it. This doesn’t mean that we always make complicated meals, or that we never eat frozen pizza. But we have found that these strategies have helped us in the process of adding more nutrient dense meals into our routine. I know the specifics about this diet aren’t for everyone, but hopefully some of the tips can be adapted to different family preferences and can still be helpful.
Lindsay Considine lives with her husband, two children, and dog in Milwaukee, WI. She spends her time caring for her toddler son and baby daughter. She is passionate about simplicity, minimalism, ethical and socially responsible consumerism, positive/unconditional parenting, holistic health and providing nourishing, traditional food for her family. A good portion of her mental capacity is taken up by trying to figure out how to fit these things into life with two young children (and she has a long way to go). When she has free time she enjoys going on outdoor adventures, experimenting with elaborate recipes, reading, gardening, and spending time with friends.