Cooking Real Food: 15 Tips For Beginners

Real Food Wednesdays

I started eating a nutrient-dense diet about a year and a half ago. When I first started cooking traditional foods, I jumped right in and tried to do everything.

Not everything worked out so well. And there was a lot of trial and error.

Here are some things I have learned along the way. I hope these tips will help you in your efforts to feed yourself and your family more healthfully.

1. Do the best you can and don't try to be perfect.
This is the number one tip I am offering because so many of us obsess about our food. If you are striving to feed your family better, you are trying to buy organic, buying grass-fed meats and dairy, and are doing your best to avoid processed foods, you're already doing way more than you used to do eating “SAD” (Standard American Diet). So pat yourself on the back and let yourself order a pizza or eat a cookie now and then. Remember, Dr. Weston Price reversed cavities in those kids in the orphanage by just feeding them ONE nutritious meal per day.

2. Invest in some coconut flour.
When we first start cooking traditional foods, learning how to properly process grains can be a little overwhelming. We are used to going to the store and picking up a loaf of bread. Now we have to soak and sprout and grind our own grains, then bake the bread?!

Coconut flour does not have to be soaked — so at the last minute, you can use it to quickly whip up some pancakes, muffins, waffles, or bread. I highly recommend Bruce Fife's cookbook, “Cooking with Coconut Flour”. Not all of the recipes I have tried worked out (the meatloaf was a disaster — I actually had to throw it away). But most of the recipes are phenomenally good.

3. Do what works for you and scrap the ideas that don't pan out.
When I first started eating this way, I wanted to try to avoid all chemicals and additives and plastics. I heard a lot of people taking about going “no poo” and I LOVED the idea of not having to use chemical-laden shampoo in plastic bottles. The idea of just using super-cheap baking soda and vinegar on my hair was so appealing!

However, no poo was not for me. I tried for 3 solid months — and my hair was a greasy mess. I know it works for lots of people, but I read that in LA we have extremely hard water (some of the hardest water in the country). No poo does not work so well with hard water. So I gave up on that one.

4. If you can't afford raw butter and raw milk cheese, buy the next best thing: grass-fed/pasteurized.
I do buy some raw butter and raw cheese but I also buy KerryGold. The butter is about half the price of raw, and I can find huge blocks of KerryGold cheese at Costco.

That said, I do not believe in drinking pasteurized milk. Do it if you really have to, but the health benefits of raw milk are so enormous, I think it's worth the cost and trouble to find real raw milk. If you can't find raw milk, I recommend eating aged raw grass-fed cheese.

5. Find a local source for real pastured eggs.
Eggs are nature's perfect food. They are extremely inexpensive for the amount of nutrients packed inside. And eggs are so versatile — you can make omelettes, quiche, deviled eggs, egg salad, etc. And coconut flour recipes use a lot of eggs — which makes breads and baked goods made with coconut flour much more nutritious.

Keep in mind, though — “free range” eggs are not the same as truly pastured eggs. Talk to your farmer. You want eggs from chickens who run around on grass, soak up the sun (vitamin D), and eat bugs. You do not want eggs from chickens who eat a “vegetarian diet”. Try to find eggs from chickens that are not fed soy.

6. Buy a lot of mason jars.
They're cheap and you're going to need them. I've always got at least three or four different ferments going in my kitchen. I found some great 2-gallon jars, which I use for kombucha, beet kvass, and cooling stock, here.

7. Find an unobtrusive place to store your ferments.
When I first started fermenting, my kitchen looked like it had been taken over by mason jars. I've since been storing all my ferments in a cupboard — keeps the kitchen tidy and makes the husband less suspicious. I've actually unplugged my microwave and I use that as an extra space for fermenting, soaking and sprouting.

8. Trader Joe's has pretty good prices.
After I've purchased the majority of my food directly from farmers at the farmer's market, I can find most things I need at Trader Joe's. I rarely go to Whole Foods anymore — because the prices are too high. I've done the math and you can actually get groceries at Trader Joe's for almost as cheap as co-ops like Azure Standard. I'd rather save at Trader Joe's and have extra money for things like raw butter and caviar. And Trader Joe's has stuff like organic free-trade coffee, stevia, real maple syrup, KerryGold butter, and rice pasta. I do not, however, recommend their olive oil.

9. Buy real olive oil from a farm you trust.
I used to buy Trader Joe's olive oil. No longer. There was an article in the New Yorker a couple of years ago about how most olive oil is adulterated with cheap and/or rancid oils like soybean oil and vegetable oil.

I posted about this about a year ago: Take the Olive Oil Challenge!

It is not good enough to buy olive oil that says “organic”. Most olive oil is adulterated. So unless you're buying it from a farmer who grows the olives, there is a very good chance that it is adulterated. If you can't find real olive oil locally, you can order it online from Chaffin Family Orchards or Bariani.

I really love Chaffin Family Orchards olive oil. It is truly one of the mildest, best tasting olive oils I have ever used — works wonderfully for homemade mayonnaise!

10. Cook your beans and rice in bone broth.
This is one of my very favorite ways to make meals more nutritious. Instead of using water to make rice or beans, cook them in homemade chicken or beef stock. It's very inexpensive and super nutritious. Plus it makes the food easier to digest and absorb.

11. Invest in a freezer.
My wonderful mother-in-law insisted on buying us a freezer for the garage when Baby Kate was born. This is the number one thing that has made my cooking easier. I can cook larger batches of food and freeze them. I can presoak beans and freeze them. I can freeze any leftovers we are sick of — and pull 'em out a month or two later. We don't waste ANY food anymore. If we don't eat it or there isn't room in the fridge, it goes in the freezer.

I can buy food in bulk and store it — and save loads of money. I buy all my milk, cheese, cream and butter in bulk and freeze it. And next month I'll be buying 1/4 or 1/2 of a cow and 1/2 of a pig (actually I'm going to be buying a second freezer). You can save a ton of money buying meat in bulk from the farmer.

If you don't have room for an extra freezer, try to find room. Put it in a closet or an office if you have to. You can find them cheap on Craig's List — or buy it on credit at Sears or Home Depot. The money you will save will more than make up for the initial investment. You will not regret this.

12. You don't have to buy everything organic.
I try to buy everything organic but if you are on a budget, there are some foods that are more important to buy organic than others. Meat and dairy should always be organic and, even more importantly, grass-fed. Peanut butter and coffee, too (these crops are heavily sprayed). Some fruits and vegetables are also important to buy organic — like berries and stone fruits. Certain crops are likely to be genetically modified: corn, canola, soy, and cottonseed. You will want to avoid all cottonseed, soy and canola as a general rule. Always buy your corn organic.

13. Take your cod liver oil.
This is one of the best and easiest things you can do every day to improve your health. And it takes five seconds to do it. Not just any cod liver oil will do. Many of the brands have the wrong ratio of vitamin A & D. Carlson's is not a good choice — not recommended.

The best brand of cod liver oil, in my opinion, is Green Pasture. The best price I have found (thanks to Kelly the Kitchen Kop) for fermented cod liver oil (if you're buying fewer than 12 bottles) is from The Natural Health Advocates.

14. Roast a chicken or duck once a week or twice a month.
This is so easy to do and it makes a delicious meal. And you get all the bones for your stock. Much more economical than buying chicken breasts! And, if you roast a duck or goose, you will get a ton of good goose or duck fat to use for cooking (chickens provide some fat, but not as much).

15. Shellfish, particularly mollusks, are just as nutritious as liver and organ meats.
Most people gag at the thought of eating liver. But offer them a plate of shrimp or some clam chowder and they'll happily scarf it down. I know this is true of my husband.

If your family is not into liver, try feeding them shellfish once a week instead. Clams have three times the amount of iron as liver and oysters are loaded with zinc and B-12.

That's all for now! I hope some of those ideas help you. I'm going to go check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop now and see what other ideas people have shared. Don't forget to post some tips!

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Cheeseslave.com. Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

39 thoughts on “Cooking Real Food: 15 Tips For Beginners

  1. I just finished reading your post on olive oil from a year ago that you linked to, plus all the comments, and now I’m not sure whether I should trust any of it. (We don’t have local olive farms here in Illinois. 🙂 ) Are there any other healthy oils that would be an alternative for making mayonnaise? We have coconut oil, but it’s very solid when refrigerated too, so it seems we’d need something thinner.

    Aaron’s last blog post..Review: White Gold Wielder, by Stephen R. Donaldson

  2. I bought Delizia brand organic, evoo at our Costco outlet a few months ago and made a quick dressing for a salad. Without thinking, my mother put it in the fridge and it was hard as a rock when I discovered it the next day. Yahoo!!

  3. Why did your meatloaf not turn out? What did it taste like? Did you follow the recipe exactly? It really sucks having to throw out grass-fed beef!

    Also, since “no-Poo” didn’t work for you (doesn’t work for me either) what do you use for your shampoo?

  4. Amazing amazing amazing. Thank you for the great tips!! The coconut flour was the kicker for me. I didn’t know how handy it was.

    Anne’s last blog post..Real Food Wednesday– Rookie Tips

  5. Hi Ann Marie, I am glad you heard about the natural health advocates. They do offer the best prices.

    About the no poo, I am still on it and have you to thank for it. For me it took a good while to find the right formula from terressentials and it does take a couple of months for your hair to become manageable.Which formula were you using? Did you try the fragrance free one? That one is specifically for oily hair.

    Oh! and I entered the Zukay give away, Yeh!

    Thanks Ann Marie
    kelly

  6. I love getting all your tips and research – so easy for me! I have one for you – the shampoo switch. I got rid of all our lotions, toothpastes, shampoos, cleaners, you name it, about three years ago. I need to wash my hair no less than every other day – greaseball city, otherwise, but I was totally unwilling to use the toxic-laden stuff. I found J.R. Liggett’s shampoo bars (which have been around for YEARS), and have never looked back! No conditioner needed, it lathers well, and lasts as long as a bottle of shampoo. Whole Foods was ordering it for me, but recently stopped, as they no longer deal with them or something. I found an internet site where I could buy them for about $3.50 per bar (I get a dozen at a time), which is way cheaper than the actual website for J.R. Ligget’s. I have tried some other shampoo bars, but nothing comes close to these! The ingredients are : olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, New Hampshire spring water, sodum hydroxide, and essential oils. No animal products, testing, or preservatives. I keep the bars in the freezer until I need one. Great product!

  7. I just read the olive oil post and have a relevant comment — maybe I should’ve posted there? Oh well.

    Anyway, my mom sent me some olive oil for Christmas from the Temecula Olive Oil Company (grown from olives in Temecula, CA — that’s where we’re from) and when I opened the box on that 40 degree day (had been sitting on the front steps awhile) the oil in the bottles was solid! I was a little freaked at first, but after it adjusted to room temperature, it looked like olive oil. Now I know why! Good to know that I have some good stuff on hand!

    Stacey’s last blog post..Why Roasting A Whole Chicken Rocks

  8. This is a wonderful post. I am so glad you mention the olive oil. I know so many people who use it exclusively for everything. They just don’t believe me when I tell them that even the organic stuff is likely counterfeit! When we read about it a few years ago, my husband found Bariani and we just love their oil. Not too many olive growers in Tennessee so we must mail order. But it is used strictly raw.

    Where do you get your shell fish? The only source we’ve got here is Walmart. Scary. So I don’t buy it. But I do liver….the family won’t. My next plan is to have heart ground into the ground meats next time we put lamb or beef in the freezer. They’ll never know, right??

  9. Hi, Kristin,

    I almost always mix ground heart into my ground beef. My husband can never tell the difference. And heart is loaded with CoQ10.

    I live in Los Angeles so we can buy shellfish at the farmer’s market! We go ever Saturday and get either clams, mussels, scallops and/or oysters. He also shucks the oysters for us on the spot so Kate and I eat raw oysters every Sat morning for breakfast. Going to post about that now actually…

    Wal-Mart shellfish does sound scary. You could mail order from Vital Choice. They have excellent fish. You can get roe shipped to you or wild shrimp. You can also get frozen scallops. Or you can order oysters by the jar. I know there are oyster farmers who ship oysters by the jar — Drakes Bay for example.

    https://drakesbayfamilyfarms.com/

    You could also used jarred or canned clams.

    I made a DELICIOUS oyster/scallop risotto the other night using a jar of oysters from Drake’s Bay. I froze the oysters (in Tupperware) then used them months later in my risotto.

  10. Re: Stevia

    I’ve tried a few different brands and always go back to my favorite, tried and true brand by KAL. It’s the best one I think.
    Most of the others have a funky, off taste. I found the TJ one to be one of the worst. But then, maybe I had a bad batch? I don’t know– but I do love the KAL Stevia– it’s been consistently the best one I’ve ever had.

  11. Thank you for posting this info! I am in the beginning stages of my food transitioning, and this put my mind at ease.. So much to want to do!!

    I live in Eastern PA and am lucky to have a licensed raw dairy farm close by (about 15 miles away). Just visited there yesterday and can’t believe the difference in the taste of the eggs, cheese and milk! Also bought “good” bacon and grass-fed beef!
    Question, though… can you freeze raw milk? I googled and there are varying opinions… some say to add baking soda… other’s not. Any input/suggestions?
    Thanks much!

  12. Ah I guess links aren’t allowed here.

    I just posted a link for KAL Stevia.

    But anyway, you can buy it definitely at Whole Foods- that’s where I get mine (for convenience sake) but it is available online for less, I’m sure. Just type in KAL Stevia in google and you’ll see it everywhere.

    Try it 🙂

  13. I just bought some KerryGold butter to try… thanks for the tip. I usually buy Organic Valley Pasture Butter- which is pretty good too.

  14. Thanks AnnMarie, just a double-check on the milk…. so you don’t add baking soda to it, just freeze it fresh and raw 🙂 ? Some sites said freezing it changes the consistency/taste….

  15. I can’t imagine why you would put baking soda in it. Did they have a reason for that? Where did you read that? Just curious — sounds bizarre!

    So, no. No baking soda.

    Milk freezes wonderfully. I have not noticed any change in consistency or taste.

  16. here’s a recipe for coconut flour meatloaf. is it the same as the one you used?

    https://www.tropicaltraditions.com/recipes/recipe_Coconut_Flour_Meatloaf.htm

  17. Hi, Carolyn, I used the one from Bruce Fife’s book. That was the only recipe I’ve tried so far in his book that did not work. This one from Tropical Traditions looks like it might be better.

  18. Hi, I was just curious as to why Carlson’s is not considered a good brand of CLO. I took it for years, then I switched to the Blue Ice after reading more about high-vitamin CLO – but it just doesn’t seem to digest well for me. Thanks for all the great information!

  19. Hi, Ann Marie.
    The baking soda input was here:

    I believe I would prefer it unadulterated :)!!

    https://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=563247

    #10
    yitlan
    Senior Member

    Join Date: Dec 2001
    Location: NM
    Posts: 1,859 I remember reading someone suggest putting a teaspoon of baking soda in the milk before freezing and that helping with the fat globs. Anyone tried this?
    __________________
    Zia + Lane + Sonora = Mi Vida Loca!

    yitlan

    11-21-2006, 06:26 AM #11
    rstump
    Member

    Join Date: Jun 2006
    Location: Where the pastures are green
    Posts: 700 Yes the baking soda works.

    What we usually do is just freeze…If I remember I go in and shake the gallon after about an hour to distribute more of the cream. When I defrost…I put it in quart wide mouth mason jars and use a stick blender to break up the cream. It works great and my family can’t tell the difference.
    __________________
    Blessings, Renee

  20. Hi Jessica,

    Carlson changed their formulation and their ratio of vitamin A & D is wrong now. WAPF used to recommend it but they stopped endorsing it in 2005 when Carlson started removing vitamin A based on concerns of toxicity.

    https://onibasu.com/archives/fdc/3915.html

    Here’s more info on Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s site:

    https://kellythekitchenkop.com/2008/08/why-isnt-carlson-brand-cod-liver-oil-on.html

    Ann Marie

  21. Hi, Slevapa –

    I just shake my milk up after I defrost and it works fine for us. Not sure what they are talking about when it comes to “fat globules”.

    Ann Marie

  22. I’ve never heard of coconut flour before. Can you use it like regular flour? Can you make a roux with it? Why is it better than regular flour?

    Amy’s last blog post..Biggest Laugh of the Day

  23. Hi AnnMarie,

    Why is Carlson not a good brand of CLO? It seems like the ratios of Vitamin A and D are good and it’s supposed to be good quality.

  24. Okay I’m a dope. Please disregard my previous comment as I just realized you answered it a few comments back. 🙂

  25. Hi Kelly,
    I’ve been working on my diet for years. I’ve done the SCD which helped a lot but now am adopting many of the W.A.Price principals because they make sense to me. However, in the last 2 weeks when I went strictly on coconut oils, organic everything and no more “bad” foods (unsoaked nuts). In general I’ve been doing well, went from a 8 to a size 6 in about 10 days. However I’m facing a real challenge, when the die off really got going, I got a lot more than a cheeck flush, I’ve been having flu-like symptoms and clear phlem for 10 days. I have a situation where I am able to rest but it has been expensive from the point of view of lost work. I feel like when I used to have CFS and a few times I’ve had a bit of a “crawling” feeling in my lower legs. I know die-off can be crazy and I’ve been through many cleanses in my life but I feel sick (dull, tired, sore throat) but I know I’m not. I read that butter and coconut oil aggrvt die-off so I went off them in the last day but I still feel lousy. Any thoughts? I’m taking kefired raw milk, (Blue Ice) Cod Liver Oil, collodial Silver, all organic meats/eggs/veggies and no sugar. I am VERY sensitive so I know that is a component but how does one “slow down” on this type of eating, go back to junk food? (NEVER of course) Got any thoughts? Thank you for your lovely sharing, I really appreciate it.
    Thank you in advance, Lore.

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