I’m a man on a mission. My mission is to turn many of you away from all the pre-packaged and convenience foods that so many of us use. You’ll notice I don’t use the verb “enjoy” but “use.” The reason? I don’t think any of us particularly enjoy the pre-packaged, pre-made, but insanely easy foods that have permeated our world. Even the pre-made Rice Krispies treats taste nothing like the ones I make at home.
So how do I plan to do this? Well, guilt would be easiest, I suppose. I’m Catholic so I know a great deal about making you feel guilty. How might I do this? By reminding you what it is that you had growing up: I woke up every morning and my mom had breakfast for me. Maybe some days it was cereal or Cream of Wheat, but it was there. She had us prepped, ready, out the door, and on to school whether we wanted the feeding, primping and help or not. Now, before any of you start to tell me the whole, “Well, we’re a two-income family with both parents working and lots of activities and football practice and dance recitals . . . “ I need to tell you that’s a poor excuse.
I am a single-income family where I am the sole parent. When my wife was alive, I was using convenience foods and easy desserts and bought meals just like everyone else. I bought pre-made sandwiches. I bought packs of cookies. I even bought sugary drinks.
It wasn’t until I lost Andrea that I realized this was actually doing more harm than good. When my kids became my sole responsibility the first thing I thought was that I needed to give them the same kind of upbringing I had. It wasn’t until I was doing this alone that I realized it really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was.
I hear you scoffing.
It’s not that hard. The first thing I bought was a shiny, new Sunbeam stand mixer that makes cooking a breeze. I make the desserts for my kids myself. I make dinner every night. I even stopped buying takeout and frozen pizzas. I make my own pizza crust! (It’s just yeast, flour, sugar, oil and water, people!). The time I spend gathering materials and putting the lunches together isn’t significantly less than making PB&J, stuffing cookies in a ziplock and grabbing some chips. I use bottles of water so the sugar is less. Sure, toaster waffles are easy. But if you make a batch of real waffles the night before and freeze them you’ve got toaster waffles. I use a crock pot a lot. Sure, Rachel Ray may cringe but guess what? She’s got money and help. I don’t.
The best part is I know that my kids see me doing it and appreciate it. I also know that they hear me singing when I cook and hear me telling them how I do it. I am giving them tools to survive. They will be able to go to school knowing how to eat a real meal AND how to make one. It also has us eating together at the table each night.
I also noticed these preservative-filled, chemically-enhanced, sugar-filled foods were wreaking havoc on our home. If I give my son, Sam, store-bought, pre-packaged cookies, I have to peel him off the ceiling just to get him to the shower and into his bedtime routine. If I give him a couple homemade chocolate chip cookies, he’s fine. I can’t tell you if it’s the chemicals, preservatives, processed sugars, corn-syrup, or what have you. I can tell you that when you’re alone doing this that every little benefit is something you grab with both hands.
Sure, I had some of that stuff as a kid but I also didn’t eat it every day. Treats are just that, a treat. I learned that and we seem to be getting away from that in our lives, hence part of our obesity problem in this country.
So I challenge each and every one of you, can you do this? Can you – GEM Nation – make cookies instead of buying them? Can you MAKE a pizza rather than having it delivered? Can you make dinner a project for all of you rather than a chore? I promise you, it’s not that much more time and effort and you get the satisfaction of having made it yourself.
Remember , it doesn’t have to be perfect . . . just good enough!
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Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.