The kids

Not only do we have chickens but I try to teach my kids life lessons about everything including nutrition and a healthy diet. I am a HUGE Jamie Oliver fan – my kids and I have learned so much from him, his magazine (if you haven’t read it you simply must), and his shows. Education is the key to making things better. Here are some thoughts on teaching my kids while they’re young.

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This is after all why I do what I do.

I was talking with my 6 kids yesterday over our Fourth of July holiday dinner. We had spare ribs, mussels, clams, corn on the cob, cole slaw and raw carrots. Enough to fill us up, not enough to make us stuffed.

Missing were the chips, dips, soda, and sugary sides so commonly found at holiday BBQ’s along with the the unlimited amounts of food. We were each served a reasonable portion which we enjoyed while having family discussions. Those who wanted more served themselves, those who didn’t finished and stayed around for the company and conversation.

At one point the talk turned to our diets. Since we first saw “Super-size Me” we haven’t stepped foot in a fast food restaurant. My kids asked me why it took a movie for me to move them away from fast food. My answer was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I just hadn’t known how dangerous pre-processed food like that could be (I had trusted the food industry) and once I learned otherwise I changed my ways.

The same goes with their school lunches. I made all of my kids watch Jamie’s first Food Revolution show. Because of the show we started having conversations about school lunches and for the first time I started to really look at what my kids were being served. As a result my kids started to pack their own lunches to take to school.

My kids wanted to know why I hadn’t made them do this earlier and why it took a TV show for me to change. My answer was that again, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I had trusted other people to tell me (sell me) what I should feed my kids. Shame on me.

It’s not that I’m stupid, or wasn’t paying attention, it’s that I thought that others were holding up their end of the bargain with regard to safety and nutrition for children. It hadn’t occurred to me to doubt what others were feeding my kids at school (after all, one of the major rules at any school is to make sure that everyone is safe – right?).

Since Food Revolution we’ve tried many of the recipes in Jamie’s cookbook. It turns out my kids love food made with fresh ingredients. They love the addition of herbs from our garden. They don’t miss pre-processed food a bit (in fact, over the years they have slowly lost their taste for it completely).

We’ve even started to raise chickens in our backyard and now have a never-ending supply of fresh, clean eggs. My kids are learning about the value of food in our diets and lives.

Little by little as we learn more and more we are changing.

As a parent I’ve realized that the best gifts I can give my children are not the latest fashion accessories or even new electronic toys, it’s the ability to learn and adapt – the skill to challenge what they’ve previously held as a belief to see if it holds up. If it does then bravo, continue, but if it doesn’t then change what you are doing to something that is better.

Shows like Jamie’s Food Revolution does just that by giving us the opportunity to educate ourselves, challenge our beliefs, and to grow as we make changes to the way we do things  and not continuing just because “that the way it’s always been done.” Shows like Food Revolution allows us to learn what it is we don’t know so that now we can know and move forward.

4 responses to “The kids

  1. I love the idea of a family learning, growing and changing together. It builds such strong bonds and generates such interesting conversation – allowing each individual to contribute to the development of the unit as a whole. The way I was raised, food was an essential community event and/or experience. It makes sense then, that learning about food is also a shared experience. I look forward to exploring your blog and seeing what I can learn from your experiences.

  2. Wendy,
    I just read your food stamp blog, and my belief is that you are a good
    person. However, if your meals left you full, and you felt that someone
    on food stamps is eating well-then I have to differ with you. You have a
    lovely family and I wish all of you the best but it is much easier to
    be cavalier about other people’s lives when you know that you are
    secure. It appears you have many hard challenges and it is evident you
    are a smart person, and trying to pass very useful information onto your
    children. I am the mother of two grown men, and belief me when after a
    lifetime of trying to impart useful information, the young adults are
    still going to have difficult times. They are often much more impressed
    by our knowledge when they are young; try keeping your family on the
    food stamp diet that you appear to think is sufficient, nourishing and
    filling; do it for three months and then let us know how everyone in
    your household is doing. Your fourth of July feast was just that ; it that was not filling then your other stamp food blogs do not ring true. Invite me next year; it sounded great. Best wishes to you and yours; when one is on food stamps it usually means many other necessities are also missing from one’s life. Please help others when you can, and from the small amt. of infol. you shared I have faith that you will, and you will share the info. with your family. BLESSINGS to you and yours for a great holiday.
    Sincerely,
    Arlene BERRY

    • Wendy Thomas

      Arlene,

      I have to differ with you. You don’t have to be poor to be struggling in this economy.

      This past year has been the most stressful and the tightest year financially we have ever had. Because we *choose* to keep our kids in college, in sports, and involved in school activities we came very close to losing it all. When one of my sons had an accident this summer, we waited with dread to hear if he would need surgery which would have put us over the edge and could have jeopardized our house. As it was we were juggling bills, 3 times in the last year we ran out of heat (oil) but you know what? Blankets were invented for a reason. We got by.

      My kids have learned to be warriors and to set priorities right.

      As it turned out, my son did not require surgery (only stitches) and since then we have paid off our house. Finances have gotten better in our household (I repeat we are not and never were poor) and we are not only on top of our bills but we are also starting to pay off some debt. We hope to start on some long neglected household repairs in the upcoming year (our dishwasher has been broken for years and some of our windows allow wind to pass into the house.)

      We still allocate $200/week food expenses for our family. Not because we can’t afford more but because that’s what we need to provide a healthy diet for our family. As you have pointed out, during celebrations, we are able to allocate more but that’s on an event basis and not a weekly basis. Note our Mayan End of the Year Party where we will provide the kids with food they would have wanted if they were eating their “last meal.” Celebration food is necessary and budgeted for in our household.

      For his HS graduation, my son requested a cookbook of our favorite budget friendly recipes. I’d say that some of this budget/cooking education is being passed on.

      Living on a budget is not just something I did just for this past week, it is a way of life for us and if you have read any of what I have written, you’ll know that I get it. It’s not easy. It can suck.

      But with education, menu planning, shopping from a list and with some basic kitchen skills it can be done.

      My effort this past week has not been to belittle anyone (because truly, there but for the grace of God go I) but it’s my hope that people can look at what I did, realize that it’s not ideal and that in some cases it really stinks, but that it CAN BE DONE if that if your priority.

      I get it. I am tremendously fortunate and my heart breaks for people who do not have the security of a home or even a warm bed to sleep in. I have 6 children but really all of those kids our there who are suffering are mine as well and that’s one of the reasons why I have spent so much time in the last week documenting this entire experiment.

      If one person can benefit from how we are living, well then I’ve affected change and provided relief in my own little way haven’t I?

      Sincerest wishes of health and happiness to your family.

  3. Andy

    Growing up in a family with a single parent and five other siblings in the 70’s, you learned to prioritise.
    You got what could be afforded and what could not be afforded you went without.
    We had love and we had each other, this in itself should be considered high in the value stakes I believe.

    As a former professional chef I learnt all about food and budgeting,and was quite successful in my chosen field.
    Now I work in Corrections and it makes me frown that people have this me,me,me mindset and get in strife because of their perceived entitlement.

    The main thing to pass onto kids in this must have consumeristic society is I guess, you don’t have to be cash rich to achieve greatness, the ability to feed oneself with nourishment is not necessarily about spending big, the simplest and sometimes the best food borne out of nessecity from around the world can be food of love and also comforting.
    Most peasant foods have been ‘flashed up’ to appeal to big spending restaurant patrons, look at Spanish,Mexican,Thai,classical French all which utilise readily available garden grow-able vegetable produce with the addition of a nice garden grown rooster or hen.

    With knowledge of various cuisines you can live like a king quite frugally.

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