You know how when you buy a really great pair of shoes or a cute sweater at a bargain and someone compliments you feel obligated to say, “Thanks. I got these on sale.” Or “Thanks. Target!” Is that a woman thing or is it just me? Anyway, it’s that same mentality that has prompted this post.
You see, yesterday I posted a recipe on our Facebook page for my Super Healthy Power Smoothie. And as soon as I did, I had to resist the urge to add “But we ate white bread for lunch yesterday!” to the comments box. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to make our readers feel like I so often do when I’m scanning FB and Pinterest. I intentionally follow people who offer healthy recipes and tips for greener living because, well, because I want healthy recipes and tips for greener living. But I’m not gonna lie. These people are wearing me out. I want to eat whole, natural foods, but if see one more meme about the dangers of GMOs, or the nutritional inferiority of grain-fed livestock, I’m going to pummel some poor free-range chicken farmer with a bag of Lays potato chips! Just for spite! Yet, I do continue to follow these seemingly flawless health nuts because, as much as they drive me crazy, I really want to be one too. I try to stay away from processed foods. I buy organic when I can. I look for ways to add “super foods” to our diet. For Pete’s sake, I’m even wearing natural deodorant and making my own household cleaners!
But the truth is, I’m not always that great at being a “granola mom.” For starters, I don’t actually make my own granola (like that cool lady on Pinterest). I buy it. Sometimes not even organic. And sometimes covered in chocolate and looking suspiciously like something one might find in the checkout line next to the Snickers.
Sadly, I can’t even really say I’m making steady progress toward a more natural lifestyle. In fact, when it comes to healthy living, it’s more like two steps forward, three steps back. Looking back over the years, I can see that my attempts at granola living can really be divided up into phases.
THE I’M SO HEALTHY I’M EMBARRASSING PHASE
My older children think it is great fun to entertain their more conventional-eating, friends with stories of how I used to humiliate them by taking our own organic hot dogs and snacks to birthday parties. Honestly, I think I only did that once, but they act like they’ll need therapy to get past the mortification. Truthfully, looking back on it, I am a little embarrassed. It was insensitive at best (self-righteous at worst). The last thing a woman who has 12 frosting-crazed six year olds running around needs is another mother showing up at the party with special meal requests and wooden swords. (I was also going through an anti-plastic, toy phase then too.)
THE SNEAKY PHASE At some point, I guess I just got tired of trying to convince my children that Newman O’s were as good as Oreos
and that eating broccoli was like eating tiny trees. Instead I got sneaky. I put natural peanut butter in the Jiff jar and organic cereal in the Honey Nut Cheerios box. I baked spinach into brownies and grated carrots into their spaghetti sauce. And I might even have led them to believe that certain foods (like hot dogs and white bread) were actually poisonous. But none of it worked. When it comes to discovering healthy substitutes, my kids are like drug-sniffing dogs.
THE MONEY IS NO OBJECT PHASE
This phase actually coincided with the the sneaky phase and the embarrassing phase. You see, at the height of my healthy eating craze I was not only willing to embarrass and deceive my children, but I was willing to way overspend on groceries. I would drive 60 miles to the nearest natural foods supermarket, not only for organic produce, but also for other absolute essentials like organic graham crackers, chips, cereals, cookies, and refried beans. I bought bread and freshly milled flour from a bakery and spent $8 gallon for organic milk at Wal Mart. Now, I do think some foods are worth paying more for, but I was out of control. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to figure out that feeding four growing children required a bit more practical grocery budgeting.
THE FART IN A WHIRLWIND PHASE
Let me just apologize right off for using such a crude expression. I never say that F word word, and I don’t allow my children to say it. But it’s an expression a good friend of mine used to describe our obsession with health food. She pointed out that even if we bought organic milk and refused them boxed mac and cheese at home, that our children were still getting a fairly steady diet of junk food. And she was right. To this day we can’t leave the house without someone offering my kids a cookie, some candy, or a soft drink – the bank, the library, friends’ houses, school. Junk food is everywhere. Suddenly, in that off-color phrase, I felt like I was freed from the pressure to feed them natural foods. After all, I was spending a lot of time and money and ultimately, it probably didn’t really matter anyway. I reasoned that my real fruit gummy bears were probably being cancelled out by the suckers they were getting after library story time. (I know that logic is somewhat flawed, but I think at this point I was just desperate for an excuse to eat some Cheetos). After that, I still tried to avoid some heavily processed foods, but I cut way back on expensive healthy snacks and cereals. I figured, why bother? If they were getting cookies at school and candy at the bank, surely a little regular cereal and a few Pop Tarts wouldn’t kill them.
THE SUMMER OF SAVINGS PHASE
One summer I discovered comp ads. This was my all-time low. Are you familiar with the concept? You find an ad at any grocery store within a sixty mile radius, and certain local grocery stores will honor it. In other words, if a Price Cutter two towns over has a special on grated cheese, I can buy it at my grocery store for the same price. The first time I saved 1.28 on coffee, I was hooked. Hooked bad. I was willing to compromise nutrition for the sake of the deal. It’s just too embarrassing to admit to all the things I “saved” on, but I can tell you that that summer, my kids ate a lot of 39 cent frozen pizzas. Thirty-nine cents!!! Honestly, I still get a little giddy thinking about it.
THE SMALL CHANGES (otherwise known as the finally sane) PHASE
This is where I am now and where I hope to stay. I realize in a world of fake food and harsh chemicals, every little bit that I can avoid helps. I admire (and resent) those people on Facebook and Pinterest who are whole foods purists, but that is simply not realistic for me right now. So, instead I’ve adopted a set of standards I can live with and hope to add more as time goes on.
1. When it comes to buying organic, I try to stick to the dirty dozen.
2. I’m taking baby steps toward more natural living. I don’t follow all of these, but I am trying to use natural sunscreen, glass water bottles (sometimes),and buy or make more of my own cleaners.
3. I’m trying to make one new healthy recipe a week. Whether it’s a dessert or a main dish, I try to draw from my vast store of healthy recipes on Pinterest and actually make some of them. I’ve had varying degrees of success. For example, my chickpea chocolate chip cookies got mixed reviews. But at least I’m trying. And I’m going to continue to post healthy recipes with a minimal amount of apologizing.
4. I do what I can. I buy the best bread I can get my hands on – from a natural bakery when possible. I buy good oils. I spend a little extra for preservative free lunch meat. I try not to buy a lot of convenience foods. (But if you looked through my kitchen right now, you’d fine Ritz Crackers, Cheez-its, and frozen waffles.). This means I have to hear a lot of complaining from the kiddos about how we have “nothing to eat”, but I just tell them to spread some peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread or have a chickpea cookie.
5. I compromise. The reality is that at this point, no one in my family (including me) is willing to give up all of our favorite junk foods. We all have our guilty pleasures. Mine vary. Currently, I’m rather enthralled with the Sonic peanut butter bacon milkshake. I’ve only tried it once, but summer is not over.
The point is this ladies, most of us want to do what is best for our families. If we spend anytime at all on the Internet we will “meet” women who make the Proverbs 31 woman look like a big ol’ slacker. But raising children and providing for our families is not a contest. It’s not a contest. It’s not a contest. I don’t have to be The Organic Momma to be a good momma. (By the way, talk to me when you are feeding a houseful of hungry teenagers, Lady). I just have to do what I can. And right now, the kids are asleep and I’m all alone it the house, so I can have a chickpea cookie and a Coke. Cheers!
Linked at The Prairie Homestead Barn Hop
Linked at Homemade Mondays
And at Pin-It Tuesday