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Buttoned Up > Everyday Life > Food & Fitness > Part I: From frozen dinner queen to healthy weeknight cook

Part I: From frozen dinner queen to healthy weeknight cook

posted by Sarah on February 17, 2012 | print article | e-mail to a friend
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  • Jordana Megonigal

    In July, my household (with 3 kids—then 5, 3, and 1) went through the same thing—and we shifted to “mostly” Organic/whole/clean foods.  My biggest problems were 1) learning how to cook things from “scratch” and 2)juggling that with a full-time job/commute/kids stuff

    At 6 months, I’m still a work in progress. Love this series.

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @facebook-1231072034:disqus – glad you are liking this series; it has been fun to write and “relive” the journey (although technically, I’m still on it!).

    Thanks for sharing your biggest problems. I’d agree, both of those were big ones for me too. Just out of curiosity, what kinds of books or blogs did you turn to in order to come up the curve on cooking from “scratch?” Have you found that you’ve gotten better/more efficient? Have you looked back to see and appreciate how far you’ve come?

    And on the juggling front, how is that going? What are the key roadblocks that you still struggle with?

  • Michelle

    This series is timely for me as I am just getting my feet wet as a sahm after feeling like I was neglecting these very basic necessities in my children with 12 years of a demanding job.  Now I am trying to also change from processed foods to home made healthy dinners and am looking at clean eating and paleo methodologies for health reasons.  I have plenty of books in my to-read list, but have not read yet.  Looking forward to some books others post here.  

    The Omnivore’s Dilemma has been in my to-read list for quite sometime, I know this sounds shallow, but I think I just don’t really want to know… my children are SO SO picky and I’ve changed our chicken in the past after learning some things and they wont eat it.  So I’m fearing I’ll learn the only food I can get them to put down the hatch is horrible for animals and the earth!!  Ashamed.. but maybe now I’ll have the courage.

    Thanks Sarah!

  • Dusti Sage Mosher

    I’ve been fighting with myself to start cooking healthy and wholesome meals too. My Mom, bless her soul, was never much of a domestic goddess, and passed that right on to me. Now I stay at home with my two boys, 12 months and 22 months, feeling overwhelmed and piled under things that need to be done. On top of that, we are in the process of moving, so once we get settled in I am going to do a complete overhaul and try new things! I’m looking forward to reading your series and learning how to get out of convenience cooking and into cooking real meals!

  • Sarah

    I am trying to make shift to making more foods from scratch. For some reason my blog is helping with that. AS the Holidays ended, I ran out of food topics for my food Friday. So I decided to try a new recipe each week and blog about it. It’s opened the doors to more choices in things to cook. My crock pot is my best friend. haha 😉  

    I grew up with my healthy conscious mother, so we tend to eat more organic and healthy choices because of that. Like learning that non-fat milk still is homogenized was interesting. So we buy a real milk from a local market here in town. I wanted my son to drink better milk. And meat has always been something we’ve thought about. I am thankful for growing up with my mom and gleaning from her knowledge. 🙂

    I just was more of an “easy” frozen dinner cook when I went out on my own. But slowly moving out of that now. It’s actually too expensive and just not as tasty, and I am learning cooking actually is fun. 🙂

  • Joy

    My advice is to keep meals simple–lots of fruit and vegetables with a little meat. When my two children, now both in college, were younger, they didn’t like vegetables. So, we started eating fruit at every meal. Now that there are just two of us at home, my husband and I still eat fruit almost every night after we eat our meat and vegetables.

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @2c8288d7954e1022e682084cb6c846f7:disqus – I don’t think there’s anything to be ashamed of. 🙂 Trust me, I get the sentiment. In honesty, the Omnivores Dilemma was less “scary” to me than Eating Animals — it’s not about shock and awe but rather is a very thoughtful almost memoir of food, if that makes any sense.

    Picky eaters do pose a challenge. But what I’ve found generally is that in the end picky eaters will eat what’s put in front of them in one of two scenarios:
    1) if they are hungry enough
    2) the fourth of fifth time they are served a particular dish for dinner
    It is SO hard – but I try, really, really try not to let the food thing become a control battle. The rule in our house is: you have to try it. If you try it and don’t like it, fine. But what’s for dinner is what’s for dinner and there’s no snacking allowed if you don’t like something. You can wait until breakfast…

    Harsh, I know. But it works pretty well for my oldest so far. I say so far because the one thing I’ve learned as a mom is that nothing is certain. 🙂

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @facebook-1248312499:disqus – please, be kind to yourself. It’s okay for this NOT to be a top priority this very second. Lord knows – you have your hands full. Do whatever you can, even if that’s just trying to make one “healthy” meal a week from scratch.

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @b17122caa541b1617d5bbf41a5eb6a30:disqus – I know, right? There are some nights I wish it wasn’t yet another thing on my to-do list, but I’ve found that once I just START prepping, it’s sort of meditative. Except when the boys are fighting and screaming. That’s why there’s wine. 😉

    You are lucky to have had such a great role model in your mom. Nutty about the milk thing, isn’t it? We buy real milk too. Although sometimes I wish a milkman would deliver it to my doorstep. Wouldn’t that throwback to the olden days be nice?

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @d7ed3eed86d9fb37bc054d2bdc68d720:disqus – that’s great advice. I am going to give that a try. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jordana Megonigal

    I’ve found that the more I cook the better I get at it (timing things to finish together, understanding how things work together) the more comfortable I get with it all.  And the more comfortable I get, the more I’ve found that I actually LIKE to cook! I spent 1 1/2 hours on Swedish meatballs the other night (TOO LONG for a weeknight!) but they were so good that I didn’t mind!

    My biggest recipe finders — the Pioneer Woman and Pinterest. I like things with pictures. 🙂

    On juggling…I’ve found that meal planning (on Saturday), grocery shopping on Sunday (three stores, but a specific list for each), and a PLAN every night changes everything.  Then I can prep/defrost the night before and just COOK when i get home. And we don’t spend an hour bickering about “What to eat” because it’s already set.  BUt my biggest roadblock is actually sitting down and doing that menu plan and shopping list.  UGH. 

  • eileen marie

    Got a little too ambitious w/ my menu planning challenge -and spent 3 hours making veggie shepherd’s pie that was just ‘meh’.  But it’s a start!  I went from microwave to that, so it was a big leap.  At least your lasagna would have done Garfield proud. 🙂  I like the emotional connection -my mother was also a culinary whiz -she kept it simple for her picky brood, but cooked 6-7 nights a week!  So did/does my M-I-L.  My motivator is the fact that we hope to have kids soon, & I didn’t want to raise them on the junk hubs & I had resorted to.  I can’t wait to read Eating Animals -I have been a vegetarian for nearly 20 years.  It makes cooking a challenge, but I refuse to cook meat, even for my carnivorous husband.

  • MommyGoose

    I love this!  Thank you for sharing!  I received nutrition counseling from someone who was trained at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.  It was very helpful that I had someone to which I was accountable.  It was the best decision I ever made and continues to make positive contributions to my life.  You’re so right – this is a process and wont’ happen overnight.  I went through many of the ups and downs as you did!

  • SarahButtonedUp

     @596786f815607f058096ef1bce587061:disqus – 3 hours for ‘meh’ is definitely a bummer. I’ve definitely been there before. 🙂 The good news is those ‘meh’s’ become fewer and further between once you get a hang for the ingredients you know your family likes AND a hang for prepping veggies. Seriously, you should consider taking a knife skills. I did (in phase 3) and wish I would have taken one in phase 1 it helped THAT much.

    Keep up the great work. 🙂

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  • SarahButtonedUp

     Interesting! Thanks for sharing your roadblocks. We share the same ones in common. Problem is, if I don’t plan, dinner goes to hell in a handbasket. And fast!

  • Jodi Clardy

    “Just that notion alone reminded me that I hadn’t been making the best dietary choices for my boys (because I was “too busy”).”…YIKES…you stepped on my toes!  I have good intentions with my girls but not always the best follow thru…okay..I am officially inspired!  Thank you for this series of posts!

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  • Denise

    Hi Sarah,
    I happened on your site through the recipe exchange that my niece Irina B. sent me with your name at the top (but the address went to this website, not an email address)…I started reading and it’s funny because I’ve just entered this same new stage of food preparation FINALLY, but my kids are now college students.  The book that got me started was “Skinny Chicks Eat Real Food” by Christine Avanti.  Very educational and interesting.  She recommends several blogs, one of which I have been enjoying,  Also Mark Bittman’s site/recipes.  She also recommended the books you said that you’ve read.  Good luck to you!

  • SarahButtonedUp

     Thanks for the lovely note Denise! Love that niece of yours, she’s one of my all time favorite people. 🙂 I will definitely check out the blog you mention and the book. You should also read the other two posts related to this one (you can see the link to part 2 at the end of the post above) as there are great blogs I reference in those too. GOOD LUCK and keep it up. If you ever want to swap a recipe – you know where to find me. 🙂

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