Easy Real Food Switches

milk and eggs

I think we’ve already established that a few simple rules will go a long way to better eating.  We’ve also admitted that an eating overhaul can be taxing to both wallet and time.  There are so many things to change!  To make at home!  To do better!  It can easily become overwhelming.

One of the fastest tracks to failure, though, is to become overwhelmed and quit, so let’s not do that, okay?  Slow and steady.

Here are some real food switches that are relatively painless and don’t cost a pretty penny.

From margarine to butter.

This was definitely one of my first real food changes.  There has been no margarine in my house for years, and I intend to keep it that way.  I’m not ready to pay a premium for organic, pasture-fed butter, but I am happy to fork over the $1.99-$2.99 per pound cost of real butter over solidified, artificially colored and flavored oil.

From fat-free to full fat.

I’m in the real fat doesn’t make you fat camp.  The problem with removing natural fat from foods is that other random additives and garbage are then added to those foods to make them pretty and palatable.  Artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, etc.  I’ll take the fat, thankyouverymuch.  The bad news is that it’s sometimes difficult to find products (like yogurt) that aren’t fat-free or reduced fat.  The good news is that the full-fat versions don’t cost any more, when you can find them.

Note:  I’m not advocating fatty foods; especially french fries dripping in grease and all that.  Nope.  I just think that pulling all the fat out of real food and replacing it with garbage is unnecessary and not a healthier option.

From juice to fruit.

I’m not anti-juice (as you can see in my most recent grocery photo below) by any means, but I am pro- eat your fruit instead of drinking it.  For our family, juice is either 1) a rare gallon of orange juice that mom found on sale and will mostly use for smoothies, or 2) juice box treats for road trips or the ball field.

Sugar is often added to juice, and even the “100% real juice” labels can be deceiving.  The safer bet for regular consumption is to eat an apple.  Or an orange.  Or a banana…

From white to whole wheat flour.

If you already do some cooking and baking at home, might I suggest adding whole wheat flour to your ingredients list?  I have the best results with white whole wheat flour for bread and whole wheat pastry flour for muffins.  It’s much less dense than regular whole wheat flour.

If you’re buying your bread (I still do sometimes!) just know that “wheat bread” is different than “100% whole wheat or whole grain” bread.  If it says “wheat bread” there likely is very little whole wheat flour in there.  Stupid deceiving ingredient labels.

By the way, if I’m making cookies or cake, I’m still using white flour.  So there. 

Even easier than switching to whole wheat is switching your bleached white flour to unbleached.  Bleach in my flour?  Just to make it whiter?  No thanks.

Water.  Again.

Really, Amy?  Always with the water!  Yep.  Really.  I’ll never stop with the water.  If your family enjoys flavored beverages, you may want to take a close look at how much those beverages are costing you in cash and empty calories.  Drink more water to free up your foods budget for nutrient-dense items.  It’ll make you healthier, too, to ditch some of the flavor.  You can do it!


What would you add?  What’s easy for me may not be easy for others based on readily available resources.  And just for fun, what “naughty food” will you let go of only when someone pries it out of your cold, dead grip?  (Geez, Amy, dramatic much?!)


This week’s grocery purchases:

  • Local Farm:  $24 (2 gallons milk, 8 dozen eggs) and my aunt shared an additional 18 eggs with us
  • Dillons:  $31.67 (milk, orange juice ~$1.99!, oranges, 4 mayo ~ manager’s special $1.50, 4 organic canned tomatoes ~ manager’s special $.79, frozen peas, cherry tomatoes, avocados, salad, bananas, 1 dozen eggs)
  • WalMart:  $22.81 (picante sauce, ketchup, 4 pounds butter, chicken nuggets, oatmeal cream pies)

***About those cream pies and chicken nuggets {ahem}:  I totally blame the cream pies on one of you!  We did our grocery shopping between soccer games last weekend, and I forgot to bring snacks from home.  One of you mentioned cream pies in the comments last week, and guess what I was craving?  Ha!  Happy kids, happy mom, and some pies left for next week’s games.  🙂  Also, last weekend my siblings got together and we treated our parents to supper (without children!!!) for their 40th wedding anniversary.  My sister and I left our kids with our aunt and cousins, and I sent chicken nuggets as a peace offering.  My sister’s offering?  Blue box mac and cheese.  Our children?  Were thrilled.  My aunt?  “You can sure tell the kids don’t get to eat this stuff very often.  They ate and ate and ate…”  Ha!

Total for the week:  $78.48

Total for April:  $374.65

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  1. Great tips! I have done most of those but I still don’t use all whole wheat flour. I do a lot of baking and I am just not sure how to incorporate it into my recipes!

    • Some is better than none! 🙂

    • I would suggest a gradual change. When I was 1st starting to use whole wheat flour, I would substitute 1/2 c. at a time. For example, if a recipe called for 2 c. flour, I’d use 1/2 c. whole wheat and 1-1/2 c. all-purpose. I’d make that recipe that way for a few times and eventually increase the amount of whole wheat by another 1/4 to 1/2 c.

      I’d also suggest looking for white whole wheat flour which, in my opinion, has a texture that is more similar to all-purpose flour.

      Depending on what I’m baking, I now use combinations of whole wheat, white whole wheat & all-purpose flours. But I find I’m using all-purpose less & less.

  2. Yeah! I do all of the above!

    The most recent thing to go was the soft easy-to-spread margarine. Just in the past month or 2, I’ve been mixing butter w/olive oil to make a spreadable butter; I found the idea on Pinterest. My family is still kicking & screaming about that but they use what I make up. 🙂 Can I ask what you use?

    I have not been able to find whole wheat pastry flour at the stores around here. I just use white whole wheat in things that I don’t want to use regular whole wheat. Cakes, cookies, muffins, brownies—I *weaned* the family gradually by increasing the ratio of white whole wheat to all-purpose flour over time. No one EVER noticed–or at least they never commented!–on any taste/texture difference. They were pretty used to only whole wheat in things like pancakes, waffles, quick breads, etc. so that probably helped.

    Another thing that was a baby step here was ditching the cold, sugary breakfast cereals. The only cereal I buy is Aldi brand Cheerios for my husband & I’m still working on even that–just eat oatmeal already! Breakfasts here are now things like pancakes, waffles, eggs/omelets, breakfast burritos, baked oatmeal, homemade granola (found that recipe here, thanks!), toast/muffins/quick breads & yogurt/fruit, etc. My 15 yr old still loves his Reese’s Puffs cereal but now puts it on his wish list for Xmas/birthdays! LOL!

    • My *kicking & screaming* thing—Diet Coke. I know, I know…. However, I’m cutting back and even with drinking it, I also get in a LOT of water during the day. So I don’t feel too guilty about it…… ~~~hanging head~~~

    • For “spreadable butter” I just leave a stick of butter out on my counter on a little plate. I had a butter dish that an unnamed toddler broke a while back… haven’t replaced it yet. 😉

      My husband will NOT eat oatmeal, but he loves my homemade granola, so that’s our go-to. I agree on the cereal. It’s not hard to ditch the stuff for a “regular basis” breakfast.

      I love that your 15yo has cereal on his wish list! My kids do that! Ha!

  3. Oh dear, Amy, today’s my store run for the week, and I’m afraid those oatmeal pies kicked off the next craving . . . : )

    What do you do when your mother-in-law lovingly brings you a TWELVE PACK of orange pop because she knows you’ve been craving it?

    Why, I put it in the fridge and I drink it, very happily.

    • Awww, how sweet is she?! (Did you see that I got to “help” with a home water birth the other night?! The midwives near you were in charge. One was named Heidi. One had a 16 day old infant. Do you know them?)

      • The one with the baby is my second cousin and has been my midwife, but because she was on bedrest before the birth, I decided to work with Heidi before we move. She lives just a few miles from me.

        Small world, huh?

        • Ack! I forget the timing… the baby won’t be here until AFTER you move?! (I don’t like that at all… 😉 )

          • Yeah, the irony. We’ll have been married almost 7 years by then, lived here all this time, surrounded by tons of family and friends who can’t wait to see and help with our first live baby. And 2 1/2 months before the birth, we move 12 hours away, to a tiny church with no family.

            I guess that’s what He meant about leaving houses and family for the cause of the Kingdom.

  4. I love how honest and down-to-earth you are! Yes, now I need those oatmeal cream pies!

  5. Yeah that was me and my comment about the oatmeal cream pies…I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not! I love them and I know you do too! 🙂

    So besides the occasional snack cake (always taken from the work break room never kept at home) is diet coke and/or diet dr. pepper. Everyone in my life knows that you never come between me and my diet coke, especially first thing in the morning.

  6. Your farm prices are AMAZING. I know you know that already, but I must confess a wee bit of envy over those! 🙂 ($7/gallon, $4/dozen here– could be worse, I know!!)

    I can’t think a specific food/drink item I refuse to part with, but I know I give in to “bad” stuff from time-to-time and I’m not sweatin’ it.

    Kind of a funny story, though– yesterday, we had church school from 3:30 – 5:20 pm and had to be to our first ball game of the season across town by 5:30pm for a 6-8pm game. CRAZY. I knew I had to feed my 2nd grader before he played, but it was such chaos. I tossed something to him in the backseat and his jaw simply dropped. “Mom. You haven’t fed me a Lunchable in all my 8 years… what’s going on?” “Shh. Just eat. And don’t get used to it.” 🙂

    • I was wondering who’d be the first to comment on my farm prices. My farm milk is cheaper than WalMart!

      Bahahaha! on the Lunchable. My confession? My kids got Manager’s Special Reduced Priced Lunchables for {wait for it…} Valentine’s Day! Ha! (they loved it)

  7. My cheat foods: Kettle Brand Salt and Vinegar Chips and locally made root beer. We may have to plan a root beer float party in next week’s menu:)

  8. I admit in a side by side test white flour cookies are fluffier, but I’ve made the switch to white wheat without noticing. Last Christmas my mom had the same recipe snicker doodle made (hers with normal flour/margarine vs. mine with bob’s red mill white wheat and organic butter). So we did have the chance for a side by side. But if you let some time pass before making that recipe it’s not noticeable that it’s a smudge heavier than the old way.

    • Niiice work! I find the same thing with cinnamon rolls. A little whole wheat doesn’t bother us here, but I do notice a difference when I eat my mom’s VERY fluffy all-white version. 😉

  9. Pepsi! I know, I know….but you have to die of somethig to get to heaven, right?! We, in general, eat healthy and rarely get to eat out so……that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!LOL

    • “you have to die of somethig to get to heaven, right?!” YES! And when I do indulge in the fizz? My choice of poison is also Pepsi. 😉

  10. In early February my husband quit drinking Coke. This is coming from a guy that when we first got married probably drank 6 Cokes a day. He has slowly tapered off over the years so when he said no more, I decided not to drink any more either. We have not had any sodas since then. Many days I crave that cold fizz feeling but figure if he can do it, I can too! Now my biggest problem is that I do what Amy suggests we do with juice, I eat my sweets:) I have switched to dark chocolate, though.

  11. My hard to part with item is Doritos. Hubby pointed out a pattern. He says if he sees me eating Doritos *from the bag* he needs to be extra nice for the next five to seven days. My latest craving was spicy pimento cheese on saltines with a Dr. Pepper. Divine….

    • So funny! I like Doritos, too. My best bet is to just not buy them. Out of site, out of mind. But if they’re found at a picnic or pot luck or something… move over! 😉

  12. I will never part with my Mountain Dew. I have drastically decreased my intake (probably drank 44 oz a day in college and now only have a 12 oz can every couple months), but I will never give it up completely. And I have to admit it tastes sooo much better when you’re only enjoying it every once in a while instead of daily.
    I have a question for you. Do your older kids eat lunch at school? Do they have “real food” options there? My oldest is just in kindergarten (half day) so I won’t have to deal with it for a few more months, but I’ve seen the school lunch menu and it is full of junk, with very few real food options. I will probably just end up packing her a lunch but I was wondering what your kids eat at school.

    • I’m sure most people would agree that a 12 oz. can every couple months is NOT a problem. 😉 Great job!

      My kids do usually eat a school lunch. We are fortunate in that our cooks try hard, but yeah… no getting around it. School lunch is not always the freshest, healthiest fare around. 😉 It does make me work harder at controlling the meals we eat at home, though!

  13. Coffee!! I can’t live with out my coffee. 😉 We have been trying to eat healthier for a while now. This summer my goal is to phase out cold cereal and start making baked oatmeal, granola, etc. The exception will be Sunday mornings. That has always been the day that I allow “sugar” cereal. Gets them up and at’em with a minimum of fuss. Makes getting to worship a lot easier. 🙂

  14. Thanks for these tips. I follow all of them pretty much except for the flour, which I have been dragging my feet on. I think both of your recommendations are at the natural foods store a block from my office so I have no excuse…

    And I’m so glad to hear there’s someone else out there frustrated with the yogurt situation. Most of what I find are endless varieties of fat-free, which I don’t want to eat or feed my family.

  15. Thanks to you, switching from unbleached flour mixed with whole wheat flour (which I couldn’t stand the flavor of, but used because it was healthier) to white whole wheat flour was the easiest and best real food switch I’ve made. I grew up on homemade whole wheat bread. I gagged it down. Homemade white whole wheat bread? AWESOME! Thank you so much for your encouraging blog!

    • Oh, also, we don’t buy boxed cereal anymore….we eat homemade granola…your recipe! Thank you, thank you, thank you! (and, like you, we are blessed to have great farm prices too!)

    • Isn’t it crazy the difference it makes for whole grains?!

  16. We are planning on switching to local eggs… There is a newly built chicken coop in the backyard with 4 chicks that we hope will be laying eggs by fall 🙂

    I’m starting to use coconut oil more often and buying less cereal by making granola. I also only buy butter instead of magarine.

    Just the other day my husband and I were talking about all the convience foods we bought and how often we went out to eat the first few years we were married. We’ve come a long ways but it does work better to make changes a little at a time.

  17. We’re doing all of that! I use the white wheat flour for baking and you can’t really tell the difference. We also switched from white rice to brown rice and most recently from white pasta to whole wheat pasta. As far as oil we use grapeseed, it’s cheaper than olive oil and has a higher smoke point.

    • Can I ask what type of oil you use in baking? Do you use the grapeseed? Thanks!

      • Hi, it depends on the recipe, if it calls for butter or margarine I use butter, if it calls for oil I use grapeseed. Sometimes I’ll sub part of the oil for applesauce.

    • Ah, the pasta. That’s one that’s taking me some time. We’re not crazy about whole wheat pasta yet…

  18. I was cracking up reading “from fat-free to full fat”, our family is definitely in that same camp too! It drives my hubby crazy to hear people talking about their fat-free diet and then lament their myriad health issues 😉

  19. I don’t have a wheat grinder and no longer have access to white whole wheat flour. Where do you get yours. The stores sell Kong Aurther pastry, but I know that’s not the same and I don’t want to pay that much! Also,would like to switch to coconut oil. Do you know if Costco’s is any I? uThen do you melt it to use in place of v

    • Silly phone! Sorry! Do you melt coconut oil when using it in place of vegetable oil? Does it alter the taste? Thanks!

      • I do! It melts very easily. The virgin coconut oil does have a slight coconut taste. I use it in baked goods and for my popcorn. For everything else (that I don’t want a hint of anything sweet) I use expellar-pressed coconut oil or palm shortening.

    • Oh, that is sad! I get mine in bulk through Azure Standard. Do they deliver in your area? Could you maybe get it from Amazon? We don’t have Costco, so I’m not sure on the coconut oil from them. I’ve seen really good deals on it through Amazon, though. I also watch for Tropical Traditions free shipping weekends paired with a sale, and Azure carries it. Hope that helps!

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