Real-Food Survival Skills For When Life Is Crazy


Over the last year or so, we have been learning heaps about what different foods do to our bodies and what foods our bodies need (and need to avoid) to function well. We’ve made lots of changes to our diet. We cut out sugar, most processed foods, hydrogenated oils and most dairy. We started making fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and lacto-fermented tomato sauce. We changed from making yeasted bread from a bought pre-mix to making long rise sourdough. We cut out all grains that weren’t soaked or fermented with the exception of white rice. We started making bone broth regularly so as to be able to use it daily.

And then baby number three was born.


Unlike his immediate predecessor, our gorgeous bundle has not been the easiest of rides. It took a while for his sleeping overnight to settle down to a less exhausting pitch, and even still, day sleeps seem few and short. It has become a challenge to keep on top of breast feeding, solid feeding, pottying, nappying, feeding the rest of us, getting cloth nappies washed, dried and folded, and tending to my other two kids.

Through all this, we have not wanted to compromise our diet. Apart from working on healing various health issues with diet, it is also insurance to keep us healthy. I don’t have time for us to be sick and in need of doctors visits! So we have been forced to adapt to make home cooked, nutritious food do-able while life is crazy. And I realised recently that we have not only managed to keep it up, but we’ve even gotten better at it.

So here are the survival skills I’ve learned for eating nutritiously when life goes nuts.


Sheer Stubbornness

Recently I was listening to an audio interview with real-food blogger Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship (also a Catholic mum!) She was asked how she managed to keep up with feeding her family home-cooked, healthy food, day in, day out. Her answer: sheer stubbornness! She accepted that it took time and just did it. I had never thought to word it like that before but I very much identified with this explanation! For us, we just know that we have to do it and make compromises, like ordering take-away for dinner, a rarity.



Simplify everything!

Simplify what you expect of your meals. In the past, there would be nights when we would cook fancy dishes just for fun. Right now, we just don’t have time! Most dinners are one pot, throw it all together meals, or any separate components are easy, hands off things like steamed or roast veg, or rice done in the rice cooker.

Simplify your meal ideas. We rotate through familiar recipes more now than we used to, rather than trying new recipes every week. Because we’ve done these meals enough times before, they are quicker to throw together and to think up when doing our meal plan. It means a bit less variety than before, but we are routinely eating nutritious, tasty meals.

Simplify your meal planning. Just like Jill mentioned in her post on being efficient, we do the same thing for breakfast every day (eggs and veg for adults, soaked oat porridge for the kids) and ditto for lunch (sandwiches or a simple soup).


Simplify the way you prep food. I recently realised it is quicker and less fiddly for me to cut carrot into sticks than it is to grate it and put it in sandwiches. In both cases, we eat carrot! Same goes for spreading butter on bread – whether it is spread neatly or slopped on quickly, it will still provide the same nutrition. Sometimes it is also quicker to grate veg than it is to chop it up finely. I’m now on the watch for anything I can do to cut down on food prep time.

Simplify the ingredients you eat and cook with. As we whittled processed food products out of our diet, it reduced the number of things we regularly stock our pantry with. This simplifies food prep because there is less decisions to make to choose ingredients. As making things like sauces and other condiments takes time, rather than expecting to always have a large array of sauces on hand, we make what we have time to make and use it on everything. At the moment, that means lacto-fermented tomato sauce or sauerkraut goes on everything! Barbeque sauce or mayo may be the more culinarily sophisticated choice in a given instance, but our dead ‘orse and kraut are tasty, nutritious and there.

And simplify the rest of your life. I try to keep our schedule of activities to a minimum at the moment. It helps me have time to make meals, rather than buying them when out or getting take away because we ran out of time to cook dinner. When we already have to get things done around breastfeeds and naps, it is less stressful to not be flitting about too much anyway. We try keep the house in some kind of order to help us function more effectively. We’ve gotten rid of lots of surplus material possessions over the last year which has made it easier to keep the things we do have use for stored effectively so they are quick to access, including the things we have in the kitchen.



Stock up

Simplifying the ingredients you use to a mostly predictable list makes grocery shopping so much quicker to plan and execute! We find that as long as we can keep our pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with our usual ingredients, we tend to have everything we need to whip up one of our easy meal ideas. We’ve also gotten more used to being flexible with what meat and veg we use in what dishes. I used to spend ages coming up with a meal plan, generating a shopping list and then getting around the shops to find what I had on my list. Now I just buy whatever cuts of meat are cheapest, get a heap of whatever veg is in season, and figure out what to do with it later. Meal planning is quicker, because I just have to arrange the ingredients I’ve got, rather than inventing something entirely from scratch. And grocery shopping is quicker because I just swoop, grab and go.  And if I haven’t meal planned, I have ample ingredients to throw something simple together – meat, three veg, a sprinkling of herbs and spices, done!


Spread out the work

Every second day, I get a night off cooking dinner. When I cook, I make enough for two nights, so we can just throw leftovers in the oven the following night. To try minimise our workload on Sundays, if Sunday will be a cooking night, I will cook Friday and Saturday nights so that we have leftovers for Sunday and Monday. It really helps me having those nights where I don’t have to cook so I can try get something else done.

Same thing for lunches. I will cut up more sandwich fillings than I need for the day so that I don’t need to prep those things every day.

I also buy bulk amounts from the butcher, supermarket and our local wholefoods co-op so that I only have to shop at each of them once every few weeks.



What are your strategies for making healthy meals happen for your family when life is chaotic? Please share them in the comments section below!


Filed Under: Cooking TipsFeaturedHomemakingOrganisation

About the Author: In yesteryear, I studied and taught music and was involved in youth ministry. Now I am a wife and a home educating mum, with kids aged 7, 4 and 2. In between attending to children, I sing chant and polyphony and make GAPS/WAPF foods. Through it all, I am striving to battle the busyness to come closer to the Lord. For anything of value I write here, to God be the glory.

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