Living with Less, A Minimalist Approach to Food

I just finished watching Minimalism.  If you haven’t seen it on Netflix, I would recommend that you check it out.  There are so many areas in our lives it seems, that we live with excess.  So I’ve cleaned my closet, we’ve donated toys and clothes and I’ve hauled bags of garbage out of our space.

Over the holidays I made the announcement for everyone to brace themselves, because we were getting our eating habits back on track.  I thought I would hear moans and groans, but instead I heard whoops and hollers.  You see, we had been down this road before.  We all know the many benefits to eating better.

So with the cupboard purged and meals planned,  I started re-reading 7, by Jen Hatmaker.  Jen “felt trapped in a machine of excess.”  so she, along with some friends and her family decided to give up seven areas of excess in their lives. Over the course of seven months, she gave up things like food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste and stress.  It seemed that what Jen was saying touched my heart and I’ve felt compelled to try this same experiment.  So I presented the concept to my husband and the  kids.  “How would you guys feel if we fasted from some specific foods for a few weeks?” I asked.  At this point the whole gang is onboard.

Jen reduced her diet down to 7 items for the month.  They included: whole wheat bread, avocados, spinach, eggs, chicken breasts, sweet potatoes and apples.  Because of such a restrictive diet Jen’s kids weren’t part of this experiment.  I want to be able to embrace this culture of living with less with our kids and so our diet will be much less restrictive.

We have decided to give up sugar and processed food for one month. This means no sweetened yogurt, no fruit juices, no desserts of any sort, no sugary drinks.  We won’t eat any chips, fried food or pre-packaged snacks. For one month, we will say no to the food that is excessive.  We’ll say, no thank you, to food that doesn’t nourish our bodies.  As I’ve read 7, and watched the Minimalist, I’ve realized that there are so many areas in our life that are out of control, but by taking  small steps towards a much larger problem, we will slowly be able to transform our bodies, our minds and our souls.

As we go through this month of fasting or living without some of the excess I will blog about it.  I’m going to let you know about the highs and lows.  I’ll keep you posted about how my kids are doing and what we learn along the way. I’d also love it if some of you chose to come along.  Message me here or on FB to let me know if you want to be part of this experiment.

Some of you may think I’m crazy, to even try such an experiment.  But I want to be a good crazy, a content crazy. I want my kids to stop asking for more, in order to find the next great thing.  I want my focus to be on people and relationships, not on where we are going for dinner.  So we’ll begin here.  After a few posts on eating whole foods, I feel like our diet is a good place to start.


As in previous days, I have included the link to 2 of the books I am working through right now. 

  (This is the second 100 Days of Real Food) We have enjoyed a few recipes from this book this week and they all have been a hit!

10 Simple Ways to Get Started

So you’ve decided that you’d like to enjoy more whole foods, but in all honesty the thought of getting started is just too daunting.  Let’s remember that this is going to be a process or a journey not a sprint.  Over time you will learn what works and doesn’t work for your household and adjust accordingly.  Today I am going to highlight 10 ways to get you started.

1> Meal Plan: recipes are at your finger tips with the world wide web.  Start searching real food and whole food family friendly recipes and you will come up with a multitude of recipes to try.  BUILD A GROCERY LIST from your meal plan, and stick to it!

2> Keep meals simple and straight forward. Don’t try recipes with complicated cooking instructions or a long list of not readily available ingredients.

3> Tackle an area of your kitchen that needs a “detox.”  We started in the pantry.  You will have to read labels! Anything that contains more than 5 ingredients, refined and modified sugars and enriched wheat flour should be pitched, or given away.  Definitely get rid of any products that have ingredients in them that you cannot pronounce.  We got rid of a lot of crackers, granola bars, canned soups and breakfast cereals. Next week we are moving to the fridge to purge all condiments, dressings and sauces that are loaded with sugar.

4> When you grocery shop, stick to the outside perimeter of the store.  There you will find your whole foods.  Only cruise the aisles of the supermarket that have products you need on your list, like whole wheat pasta, cooking wine and vinegars, and raw nuts. Avoid “browsing.”

5> Prep fresh fruits and veggies the moment you get home from the grocery store.  Before you put food away in the fridge, prep it.  You are more likely to choose a healthy snack if it is at your fingertips and their is little to no effort involved before it can get into your mouth.  We wash and chop fruit and veggies, boil eggs and make veggie dips on grocery shopping day.

6> Involve your family.  What I have learned is that my kids are far more likely to eat the food if they have had a hand in planning and preparing it.  For example my kids would not touch avocado until one day they decided to “make something.”  Now, we’re all gobbling up a variation of guacamole because they created it themselves.

7> Take baby steps.  For us it started with no more granola bars and crackers for snacks and has evolved into consuming whole grain pasta and rice, getting rid of canned soups and not stocking up on diet sodas  when we are at the grocery store.

8> Don’t forbid processed food.  There was a time in this that we had “forbidden foods”  and when it was allowed, we would all just binge out!  Rather, educate yourself and your kids on the value of whole foods, so that you can make responsible food choices when you crave a treat like ice cream or french fries.

9>  Equip your kitchen with gadgets that are going to make cooking easier and more fun!  Be sure to have a good  Knife Set  Rubber Spatulas,  Stainless Steel Fine Hand Whisk  for mixing homemade dressings and sauces, and a good supply of Parchment Paper, to make for quick and easy clean up!

10> Be thankful for the abundance of food choices we have at our fingertips and the healthy food options that are available.  I know first hand that not all people have access to proper nourishment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Are you in, or are you out?  What are your plans moving forward with a whole food mindset?

Our family is about to embark on a one month fast and I’ll share the details with you here on Friday.  Be sure to subscribe to my page, so you don’t miss out!

Once again, I have included associates links to favourite products of mine.  I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase any of these products, from my link.

In the Beginning: Learning about Real Food

I am going to begin by saying that this has been a slow and steady learning curve for our family.  We have worked hard to get rid of the chemicals in our home, with the cleaners we use, the laundry detergents, and personal hygiene products.  As we started to become more aware of the chemicals we were putting on our skin, I started to research what we were ingesting through our food as well.

We have come a long way in how we view food, but also know we have a long way to go yet.  I have bought into many different diets, meal plans, tools to help me meet my goals, only to fall off the bandwagon long before I see any results.  Needless to say our real food journey has been just that, a journey.  It has been a process of learning that “light” doesn’t mean healthy, what real food is and how to read labels.

I was the mom who bought skim milk, light dairy products, whole wheat crackers and vitamin enriched cereal thinking that I was helping my kids eat healthy.  What I didn’t know was that as soon as food is processed, the nutrients and vitamins that were once in food are stripped away.  Not to mention the dangerous addition of sugar, dyes and flavouring.  If we are eating real, whole food, we don’t need to be buying “enriched food” because all the nutrients we need should naturally be found in our diet.

Let’s talk about dairy products for a moment.  I was stuck because I didn’t want the extra calories of the full fat milk, but I was learning that the overly processed skim milk may not be as healthy for our bodies.  When the fat is removed from the milk it is believed that your gut is not able to as easily digest the fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, A and E.  Full fat milk is also lower in lactose because it does not have the milk solids that skim will have.  So when we switched to full fat dairy products, I began to notice that our daughter who had suffered from eczema, began to show even fewer symptoms. Was it possible that some of her skin irritations were due to a lactose sensitivity?  If you are looking for weight control, it is still suggested to go with skim milk, because of it’s higher protein and fewer calories.  But for my kids, neither of which were a concern, we opted to make the switch to full fat milk, cheeses and yogurt.

I grabbed my cookbooks and started to meal prep one day.  So many of my recipes called for a can of mushroom soup for this,  or a package of onion soup mix in that.  Something didn’t sit right with me.  I couldn’t even pronounce most of the ingredients on the ingredient list, and the list was long.  What I was learning, was that ingredients that said “modified” meant that a food was heavily processed and changed from its natural state.  Items like MSG, didn’t have to be called MSG.  It hides in the ingredient called “flavouring.”

It was like an epiphany! I opened my pantry and started reading labels.  Most packages, contained “modified” ingredients, “enriched wheat flour”  dyes and colours,and were “vitamin enriched.”  Without further adieu I began to box up all the food that I no longer wanted to feed my family.  I began to question what our body would do with ingredients that weren’t real and wholesome?

Let me stop here and say, our family still eats out. My kids on occasion like to try the microwavable meals and cook up a box of KD.  But guess what? They often comment after eating highly processed food how much more they enjoy real food.  They are also recognizing that whole food is far more satisfying.  They don’t get hungry as often eating a whole food, balanced diet and they need less food to fill them up.

In my quest to find new recipes that were quick and simple to prepare I landed on this, 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love. I have really enjoyed reading about this family’s commitment to change their eating habits and the simple, uncomplicated fashion that she presents her research.

I was finding that I was overcomplicating my time spent in the kitchen.  I believed that healthy recipes had many steps, odd ingredients I wouldn’t typically purchase, and were often quite pricey to create.  As my research continued I realized that I most certainly did not have to cook this way for our family to be eating real, wholesome food.  Somewhere through my parenting journey, I had forgotten that.

Jen Hatmaker in her book 7, says, “Maybe food simplification is a good idea for all of us, and for more than one reason.  Spiritual clarity, and health come to mind.  Waste reduction and time management and financial responsibility and gratefulness deserve some line space too, There are other things, but that’s a decent start list.”

Stay tuned  this week, as I highlight some simple habits to help you in the kitchen and share some goals we have set for the new year, including a sugar and processed food fast.

I have included links to the two books that I referenced in this article. They are affiliate links and I may receive a small commission if purchased through these links.

100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love

7     (Jen Hatmaker’s book that I will be touching on, as we go through our fast)


Why We’ll Always Celebrate Today

Adoption day, 2015

Today was different than this day a year ago.  Today there was joy.  There were smiles and giggles and as he ran ahead of us on the beach he would periodically look back to make sure we were still behind him.  A year ago, we worked so hard for a small sighting of a smile.  There were certainly no giggles and his eyes seemed sad and lonely.  Today he sparkled.


1 week post adoption

Tonight as we cuddled before bedtime he snuggled right into me and gave me big “squeezers.”  A year ago he would sit stiffly on our knee and only press his head against us, if we rested our hand on his head.  Tonight I enjoyed our quiet time together.



first ride in a carseat; not impressed

Today was a day of remembering where we were a year ago.  We spent some time reflecting on the long drive back to Durban with a toddler that had seldom been in a vehicle, let alone a car seat.  We thought about the answered prayers, that got us to and through adoption day.  We will always celebrate today, because today is the day we remember becoming a family of six.    Today we will celebrate God’s faithfulness.  Today we will remember what happens when we say “YES.”


birthday party celebrations,

Birthdays are always a big deal around here.  Usually a day full of family actives, followed up with a party.  We had a birthday party for this little man on his birthday, but it was a hard day.  A day that left us with more questions than answers.  It left us feeling sad for the days that we had missed, there were very few memories of days gone by to celebrate and it left us longing for another year to share with our son.


Today was a birthday of sorts.  It was a day to remember with fondness; our first moments together, his first car ride with us, what it felt like to be a mom of four kids.
IMG_7427 IMG_7420The girls talked about how it was to now have a brother and we talked of how our love has grown for each other in the past year.  Today was the day we celebrated the birth of our fourth child into our family.  Today was a day worth celebrating!  IMG_6754

We know that as time goes on, and he grows older this day may also come with questions, and sadness.  It is our prayer that by always acknowledging adoption day, we will all find freedom in discussing this special day and the reason for it, in it’s entirety.

Some Adventures and Excursions


We kept things fairly low key, as our main goal was to enjoy our family and stick to a bit of a routine for the littlest one while we spent seven weeks in South Africa last fall.  That being said, we managed to make trips to the mall a bit of an adventure, and trips to the local coffee shop were a glorious treat.  Today, I’ll sum up,  our outings with photos.


We spent a day at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The weather was gorgeous, the food was delish, and the sights were spectacular.


The day we went was the day of the I Heart Market. There were so many vendors set up with fresh food, drinks and baking.  We found beautiful jewellery and lovely momentos to bring home with us.



Wouldn’t these be lovely blooms to have as a centre piece on your kitchen table?





We rode a trolley car to the top of the stadium. The view from the top was spectacular. The pictures of the stadium itself were captured on video so no photos to share today.


The view of the city

IMG_2087ocean view    

IMG_2081                            The ride to the top…IMG_2079

We were able to walk around to the back of the stadium where there was a little play structure, bike rental place and a cafe. IMG_3747 We were told we “must” try the South African dish, Bunny Chow, and so we did… It is a hollowed out loaf of bread with a type of curry stew in the centre of the bread.

From the back of the stadium we were able to take a foot path across the street and on the promenade in front of the ocean.  We enjoyed the salty breeze, and the monkeys playing in the trees.  There were rickshaws, skateboarders, families biking and so many people! IMG_2097


Another popular attraction for families visiting the Durban area is the uShaka Marine World.  IMG_2996 IMG_3013 IMG_6847 2It was a fun way to spend a day.  There was a dolphin show, sea lion show and and an interpretive session about South African Penguins.  We also enjoyed walking through the aquariums checking out all the different water creatures.

Next up was Tala Game Reserve.  It is a smaller reserve, that we toured with Tezz.  She was able to take us in her vehicle and some families tour Tala all on their own.  There is a lot of game in the reserve, but you won’t spot the BIG 5 in this park.



It was time to hit the beach.  We moved to a new area called Umhlangha.  It is a great suburb that definitely caters to tourists.  We did a lot of walking for the three weeks we were there.  Most everything was a short walk away and if not we were able to easily fetch a cab.

IMG_3217We loved the ocean, and to the ocean we would go, everyday.  We’d usually have a cappuccino or a flat white in hand with the little mister in the baby carrier and the three girls leading the charge.

IMG_3218Some days were a bit cool and a sweater was necessary to be outside, but other days were perfect for the beach.

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We discovered our most favourite coffee shop, and made sure to become regular customers.  Vovo Telo, you are missed.  Simply the best lunches, croissants and flat white coffee!  (A wee tear may have trickled down my face as I try to express my love for this little coffee shop)


IMG_3380 IMG_3379 IMG_3378While Dan and I enjoyed our coffee the kids would be invited up to the counter to bake their own creations.

We called on Tezz once again to set up a two day trek up to a bigger animal reserve and we had a blast!  The first day we went to the cutest little town called St. Lucia. IMG_3312 IMG_3309 IMG_3296As we entered the town there were hippo crossing signs because the hippos roam through the town when they leave the estuary at night to graze on land.  We took a guided boat tour to see hippos and crocodiles.

We were overnight guests in Mtubatuba at Wendy’s Country Lodge.   The owner of the lodge, Gavin, would be our guide the next morning on our Safari through Hluhluwe Game Reserve. We saw impala, zebra, giraffes, elephants, lions(from quite a distance)warthogs, water buffalo, and rhinos!IMG_3366

It was a spectacular day.  The day was chilly but we were in good company. IMG_3367 (1)Our guides were so awesome, thanks to Tezz and Gavin!   We would definitely recommend that you book a Hluhluwe Game  Reserve tour with Gavin.





One last outing was to Shakaland.   IMG_3692 (1)We toured a Zulu village, saw how the Zulu people traditionally lived and watched some amazing Zulu dancing.


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On our way home from Shakaland, we made a quick stop off at Dhlinza Forest. It was amazing and I’m so glad Tezz suggested it.

Dan had one, and only one thing he wanted to experience while we were there, and that was to go shark cage diving.  Dan and and our eldest daughter got a little adrenaline rush the day before we headed home.



(here they are pushing the rubber duck out over the waves to get out to  the ocean)


SHARKS!shark 2

(Aliwal Shoal Scuba)

I love travel planning and I am so thankful for that, as there were times getting ready to travel that I found the process overwhelming. I would suggest that you book your flights and hotels and worry about the rest of your travel once you reach your destination.

8f12e32ebccb5d6c63327ea758b54554There will always be an ache in our heart for the place that kept a piece of it. We can’t wait to go back and visit the special people and places we fell in love with one year ago.
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