In this episode, I sit down with Katie Kimball, founder of KitchenStewardship.com.
Katie has shared her journey to real food and natural living for over 7 years at Kitchen Stewardship, a blog that encourages other moms to take baby steps to better nutrition for their families while balancing their limited time and budget.
Along with her 4 children, she has created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse to help other parents teach their kids to cook, so that they too can get a little break (and raise healthy children who know how to cut, cook AND eat their vegetables). She has also written 8 eBooks to date, including the popular Healthy Snacks to Go.
Baby Steps to Switching to Real Food
Katie Kimball offers this advice for fellow moms seeking a healthier kitchen:
1. Give Yourself Some Grace
Creating a healthy lifestyle is a journey, and it’s not easy to do all at once. Rest assured that nobody is perfect, and making the switch to real food takes time.
2. Look for Something that Takes Minimal Effort & Make a Big Impact
Rather than trying to overhaul everything at once, Katie recommends focusing on something small that affects your family’s diet on a regular basis. Start with something small like replacing cereal for breakfast a couple times a week or replacing packaged potato chips with nuts and dried fruit.
3. Basic Food Staples to Keep on Hand
When time is running short to make a wholesome meal for your family, it’s hard to turn to healthy options. It’s for that reason that Katie Kimball keeps these healthy staples on hand in her kitchen:
Katie Kimball’s Experience with Whole 30
The Whole 30 is a 30-day diet is intended to remove food groups that can promote inflammation, and in the process, kill your cravings for artificial sweeteners and processed food. Katie Kimball and her husband have each tried this method of eating with great success. The benefits they have experienced include:
- weight loss (without feeling hungry)
- resetting their palette to curb negative cravings
- gut health reset
Better Than a Box
Katie Kimball has written an excellent book about replacing processed food with real food alternatives. In it, she has reverse engineered many common store-bought favorites like casseroles, soups, and desserts—even Velveeta cheese!
The result of her process is a book of excellent, healthy recipes that can replace your traditional meal-in-a-box choices from the store. Not only that, in the first 80 pages of the book, she explains how to reverse engineer your own recipes, a skill that goes beyond the recipes in the book. Check it out here.
More From Wellness Mama
Kitchen Skills for Kids
Katie Kimball has offered her video series, Kitchen Skills for Kids, for free to listeners of the podcast to help moms get their children involved in the meal preparation process.
Katie: Katie, welcome. Thank you so much for being here.
Katie Kimball: Hey, other Katie. I always love talking with you. Thanks for having me.
Katie: Yeah, this is going to be so fun and especially because I feel like you’re such
an amazing resource and your blog, Kitchen Stewardship, is an incredible
online resource especially for moms and especially, you have so many good
budget-friendly tips and just preparing real food with real-life time and
budget, so I can’t wait to dive in. I know a lot of people listening maybe are
wanting to switch to a healthier lifestyle or are starting to try to make
those steps and maybe are overwhelmed. I know you and I both … This has
been a journey for us, and certainly, we didn’t do it in a day. What are some
of your best baby steps for switching to real food?
Katie Kimball: Absolutely, it’s a good place to start, and I think … I mean, that’s what I try
to build Kitchen Stewardship around, as I described it yesterday in a talk, is
helping moms not let their heads explode when they look at all the things
they want to change, so you have to start … I mean, the first step is to just
give yourself some grace. No one is perfect. I think the mental attitude is
going to make or break any attempt that you have. If your mental attitude
is, “Oh my goodness, I need to change everything, including my life, and do
it all,” you’re like 90% sure you’re going to fail. You’re setting yourself up for
I think baby steps is … That’s the first baby step is baby steps. It sounds
silly, but it’s so true that the mental attitude and how you approach things
is really important. Then, I would say to examine your life, and your day,
and your food, and your eating habits, and stuff. Look for something that
would be minimal effort, maximum impact, so something that’s not going to
overwhelm you with this one step that just takes not very much time and
not very much effort, but yet, it’s something that’s going to impact your
family every day, right?
Like if you eat pizza once a month, pizza is not the first thing you should
make over because you’re not going to feel that success often enough. If
you eat cereal every single morning for breakfast, maybe breakfast is
something that you can tackle, or maybe you just say, “Twice a week. Twice
a week, we’re not going to eat cereal. We’re going to make homemade
meals, and I’m just going to batch-plan it and figure out something we can
do instead of cereal.”
Then, twice a week, you can get a routine. You can practice it. You can see
and feel the results. There may not be physical results when I say feel, but
just feel the accomplishment, so it’s got to be something, and then give
yourself that success, and then do something else, right, and some other
things. That’s a philosophical baby step, but it’s about … For every person,
it will be different, whether it’s switching out one processed food that you
buy to a homemade or going organic on just lettuce because salad is
something that you eat every day. Then, up that game to making
homemade dressings, so just one thing at a time and trying to make sure
that you keep yourself balanced, that it’s not something that’s going to take
a ton of your time and not something that’s going to completely like max
out your budget either. It’s just finding that balance. That’s always what I
try to do at Kitchen Stewardship.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to know. Just give the listeners an idea of what a
typical day looks like for you because you are obviously a mom of four, but
you also run a blog, so you tow that line between stay-at-home mom and
working mom, and you’re probably juggling both of those jobs. Can you give
us an idea of what a typical day looks like for you both with your food prep
and your healthier lifestyle?
Katie Kimball: There is so no typical day like I laughed when I read that question that you
sent over because there is no good answer. There’s no typical day, but there
is a lot. I mean, there’s a lot to balance. My good friend just said to me, “I
keep thinking of you as a stay-at-home mom because you’re home, but like
you’re totally not like you’re working many, many hours a week. Like you
really are a working mom, but you’re home, so it’s weird.” I said, “Yeah,
that’s how I feel too like it is weird.”
I’m home. I’m here for my kids, but I spend way too much time sitting on my
… behind, in front of the computer. That needs to change. I need to get a
standing desk, but as far as food prep, I thought my first step was, “Well, I
spend at least an hour or two in the kitchen every day between prep,
eating, and cleaning up.” Then, I’m like, “Oh, no because we eat three
times. No, that’s got to be more like three or four hours.” That’s probably
why I always feel like my to-do list are never getting done because it does
… There’s no bones about it like you cannot do real food in 5 minutes a day.
Forget it. You just can’t, unless you have a lot of money to pay someone
else to do it for you. That’s not going to happen for me.
For us, every breakfast, except for … We have once a week cereal day,
which is just for fun. It’s the 80/20 lifestyle thing, but the other 6 days for
breakfast through, we’re making something homemade, whether it’s … Like
I make … I had some sort of healthy quick bread type thing that I’ve made
or a simple, simple oatmeal. We do a lot of just quick egg hashes or eggs
with … I love making pancakes. Like once a week, we’ll spend like an hour
making pancakes, and they let … We have leftovers for another day. Throw
an egg in with that. Not in, on it, but next to it, and so we have a little bit
of a balanced breakfast, but that definitely takes some time.
Lunches are almost always leftovers from the night before plus homemade
yogurt like homemade yogurt is definitely a staple for us that we just … It’s
nice to have one thing that we can just, “Yup. What’s for lunch? Okay. Well,
we got yogurt for starters,” and then I’ll think about what else the
refrigerator is going to spit out at us. Then, dinners are pretty much always
homemade like if we have leftovers, that’s great like that’s a break for me,
but otherwise, there’s something to do homemade like people talk about a
half-hour meal, and I’m like, “A half hour?” Like that’s a really … That’d be
a really good day for me because I spend at least 10 minutes just cutting up
the raw vegetables that we dip in our homemade ranch and eat, which is
why I pull my kids in and get them to help because it just became almost
impossible to keep up on all that.
Then, there’s dishes. There’s always dishes somewhere in the sink, in the
dishwasher, drying in the dry rack, so that was a … That’s not a very fun
perspective, but it’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it, but again, there’s just
no … There’s no denying that it takes time. Every night, I have to check my
meal plan and see what I need to prep for the next day. Some mornings, I
wake up and go, “Oops, I forgot to prep something. Now, I need to tweak. I
can’t do this slow-cooker meal. Maybe I can do the same thing in the
instant pot, which has been saving me lately.” I think about food. I have to
think about food all day because it’s like, “Okay. We finished this meal.
They’re going to be hungry in 3 hours. What’s next?”
Katie Kimball: “What do I need to do to make sure that the next meal is possible?” We
don’t have a lot of … We don’t have options sitting around in our house like
I don’t buy a lot of junk food or processed food, so if I feel lazy and I don’t
want to jump through hoops to make real food, it’s like too bad. I don’t
give myself backups, which is my insurance plan, right? If I have a bunch of
frozen pizzas in the freezer, I’d probably make use of them on a long day,
which all days feel long, so I just don’t. I just don’t have them, so it’s like,
“Well, my cheat meal might be scrambled eggs or gluten-free pasta with
roast … or ground beef that I’ve already cooked in the freezer and a jar of
organic spaghetti sauce. Like if that’s a cheat meal, then we’re still doing
pretty well. That’s still real food, so generally, I feel pretty good about
that, but it’s an all-day mental kind of thing.
Katie: I definitely understand where you’re coming from on that, and I love the
tip about eating leftovers for lunch. We did that a lot also because I feel
like that’s a hard meal if you make the switch from processed food and
you’re not buying just loaves of pre-made bread and sandwich meats, and
the normal lunch fair. It’s a harder switch than people realize, and the
same with breakfast. We don’t really do cereal either, and so sometimes,
we’ll do leftovers for breakfast, and that does definitely help.
I know you probably did this too. I’ll try to make ahead at least enough that
I know I will have leftovers, and then serve that for breakfast or lunch, but
I also can sympathize on the whole there’s no quick option.” If I slip, up
and don’t look at the meal plan, and let it get till 5:00 at night, I may not
have anything for dinner, and we might be eating something, like you said,
frozen spaghetti out of the freezer an hour later when I can defrost it, but
the instant pot have saved my butt too a lot recently.
Katie Kimball: Yeah. For sure. I think our cheat lunch, if I don’t have any like leftovers for
lunch, we’re like, “Oh my gosh, we have to leave for preschool drop-off in
15 minutes.” It’s sliced cheese, gluten-free crackers, frozen peas, and that
yogurt and frozen fruit always saves us. The gluten-free crackers are
processed, but they’re acceptable ingredients, so I feel like, again, for a
cheat meal, we’re still doing pretty well.
Katie: Exactly. Really, I love that you follow that 80/20 principle too because I feel
like you can also make yourself so crazy with trying to be 100% perfect with
diet that you undo the benefits of having that perfect diet to begin with.
You mentioned yogurt, which you have some great resources for making,
and I’ll make sure to link to those. What are some other staple foods in
your kitchen? Obviously, homemade yogurt is a big one. What are some
other foods that you guys always just keep on hand or that you’ll prepare
Katie Kimball: Yeah, we have … We eat a lot of soup, so chicken stock is always in the
freezer and often in the fridge. I think I default to soup not necessarily
because we love soup, but because it’s so easy to make a big pot and have
multiple meals of leftovers like we were just talking like there’s … It’s
guaranteed leftovers if I make soup, so we have it. Plus, bone broth is so
healthy, so it’s like win-win on the soup. We end up with a lot of soup,
which drives my kids nuts when they’re like between the ages of 3 and 5.
They all go through this “I hate soup” phase, and they’re like, “Soup? No,”
and I’m like, “Yeah, sorry. Like you’re a Kimball, you’re stuck with us.”
Then, as far as like in the cupboard, we have a lot of … We make sure we
have nuts, and dried fruit on hand, and cheese, and stuff like that for those
moments. “What’s for snack, mom?” “Well, we have nuts. We have dried
fruit. We have cheese.” There’s always whole fruit around that kids can
grab. I can’t say I have a lot of things that we make homemade that we
always have around other than chicken stock and yogurt, but it’s fairly
common to have something homemade. It just switches up, the homemade
muffins in the freezer or something like that.
The busier I get, definitely the less I actually make and the more I hand out
the ingredients. “Here’s some cut celery. You know where the peanut
butter is. You know where the raisins are. Today is your snack
day.” I didn’t have to make that and wash the food processor, or wash a
pan, or whatever, but there’s always something to eat, I feel like. I always
tell my kids. I’m like, “We may not have 20 choices, and the choices might
be the same 10 days in a row, but we don’t starve. There’s always food
Katie: Exactly. We do the same thing. We don’t do snacks very often. I try to feed
the kids enough of meals that they stay full for a little while, but at least
once a day, especially with the boys when they’re growing. It’s like, “Mom,
I’m hungry. What can I have?” I always have this refrain of like, “There’s
carrots, there’s celery, there’s cucumber in the fridge. You can put peanut
butter on those or find some protein.” I’m definitely like you. I’m not going
to go make a full meal because they’re hungry for a snack.
Katie Kimball: No, you just can’t.
Katie Kimball: You can’t.
Katie: Especially with us. It would be shorter to cook and spend the whole day
making special request snacks.
Katie Kimball: Yup. We have a lot of smoothies too. I should say that. I think my Gabe had
like 4 helpings of smoothies this morning, and I thought. “Okay. I got to cut
you off now, but I’m glad you like the smoothie,” so that’s a good one for a
snack, or a lunch, or dinner those bad days.
Katie: Yeah. Do you put the yogurt in the smoothies as well for the probiotics?
Katie Kimball: I do. Yeah. I’ll use the homemade yogurt, especially like if I have a rough
batch that’s a little runny, then we have lots of smoothies that week, or if I
strain it to thicken it up a little bit, then the whey goes in the smoothie. I
always have frozen fruit like we pick strawberries and blueberries in the
summer as much as we possibly can stuff in the freezer. Like this morning,
smoothie had frozen bananas and frozen strawberries, and then a number
of random things like we add kelp powder for the iodine, and probiotics,
and collagen. It’s the way to just cram a bunch of nutrition in there and
some greens usually.
Katie: Yeah, and kids really do seem to like smoothies. I feel like I can get a lot in
some of these and get away with it. I don’t know if you guys have it where
you live, but I’ll share this tip for readers is there’s a coop called “Azure
Standard,” and I think that’s the website, azurestandard.com. They also
have organic frozen fruit in bulk, so when we run out of our summer stockup of
fruit, I’ll order from them. I think it’s like … You can get 10 pounds of
frozen berries for usually like in $20 to $30 range, so it’s a … That’s been a
savior for smoothies for us. If anybody has been in that area, I think the
website is azurestandard.com, and you can look up, but it’s like a coop
with a truck that they drop off, and so I’ll leave that in the show notes as
well. I love that. Having frozen fruit on hand for smoothies definitely saves
time for sure.
Katie Kimball: Yeah. If you can buy as far as budget-wise the red tape bananas like when
the bananas are already going bad, so we’ll get those, and then just peel
them, and break them in half, and freeze them in one flat layer in a big
gallon bad, and then I just crack them apart when I throw them in the
smoothie. That’s good because the banana makes the smoothie. That
always adds the sweetness that can cover everything else that we put in
Katie: Yeah, definitely. Another thing. I actually was going to call and just talk to
you about your experience as a friend, but we can just do it on the podcast
instead. You mentioned that you guys recently did a Whole30, you and your
husband. I know this has gotten really popular lately, the idea of the
Whole30. Can you explain what that is and what your experience was?
Katie Kimball: Sure. The Whole30 … The diet is intended to remove food groups that can
promote inflammation, so you remove all grains, all dairy, all legumes, and
all sweeteners, including stevia and non-calorie sweeteners because the
another arm of the Whole30 or intent of the Whole30 is to smash your
cravings. Not only do you cut grains, but you also cut any baking, so like
any grain-free baking. Even if all the ingredients are Whole30-approved,
you’re not supposed to bake because that act of baking and smelling the
things baking can like trigger, supposedly trigger your cravings and keep
For 30 days, which is enough, the number of days that you need to really
make something a habit, for 30 days, you do no cravings, so you don’t do
like junk food like chips even … Again, even if all the ingredients are
Whole30 compliant, you’re not supposed to have things like chips. All those
things where like once you start eating them, you can’t stop, those
addictive things, you’re supposed to cut all those out, cut out all, again,
sweeteners just to tell your tongue like, “You don’t need this. You don’t
need all these sweet stuff.” Let’s back your palette off of sweet and teach
it to find the natural sweetness in things like fruits and roasted vegetables,
caramelized onions, stuff like that. Things that with our American tongues,
we don’t even notice the sweetness in those things.
The Whole30 tends to help a lot of people lose weight without being hungry
because there’s no quantity restrictions, which is really nice. We actually
had two of our friends did it with my husband. I didn’t do the whole thing
like I didn’t cut dairy because I just … I don’t know. I just couldn’t. I can’t
do it. I’m still nursing. I need my yogurt and my cheese, but I did cut grains
and sweeteners. For me, it’s still a very good reset. We try to do this once
a year and call it … It’s really good reset of our gut. It’s a reset of our
palette and of our habits.
Last year, when my husband did a successful Whole30, he ended up not
going back to any sort of candy at all because he has learned about himself
that it’s all or none. If he would have candy sometimes, it’s too hard to
figure out when should be sometimes and when should be not, and so he
didn’t have any candy until my mother-in-law brought over a big bag of his
favorites for Halloween, and I was like, “Really? Do you not know he hasn’t
eaten candy in 8 months? Thank you very much.” That unfortunately
started the downward slide through the holiday season. Once it came to
January, he was like, “Oh my gosh, like I’m totally noshing on candy all the
time again. I have to do another Whole30.”
For him, it really works to break the cravings. It definitely promotes weight
loss for him, I think, in a healthy way. Again, he’s never hungry because you
can still have nuts and dried fruit. What I love about it is, number one, it
forces me to meal plan because there is no grab a box of gluten-free
spaghetti from the cupboard. You can’t even add rice to the meal. When
you have like a meal, you’re thinking, “Oh, we need one more thing. Let’s
throw in some rice or whatever.” There is none of that. You have to … “I
need one more thing. Let’s cut some Brussels sprouts.” I end up meal
planning a lot better because you have to, and I end up buying way more
vegetables because instead of a meat, and a grain, and a veggie maybe in a
meal, it’s a meat, and a veggie, and a veggie, and a veggie.
We diversify our veggies a lot. I always get back into parsnips, and
rutabaga, and fennel, and bok choy, and a lot of things that I … after the
farmer’s market ends in the summer. When we go into fall, I get a little
boring on my veggies, and I end up with just a lot of like frozen broccoli,
and green beans, and peas because they’re easy, and I don’t have to worry
about the perishableness, and using them in time, and everything. Then, if
we get around to February or so, we’ll do a Whole30, and then I’m like,
“Okay. Let’s plan this better. I can get the veggies and plan them out.” For
me, I love it. I end up roasting a lot of veggies and playing with spices. It
really stretches my diversification of our meals. It’s great.
Katie: Yeah. We’ve done one in the past too, and I noticed that as well, just the
focus on vegetable, which is nice because like you said, you can eat as
much as you want. When you’re eating Brussels sprouts and cabbage, it’s
not a big deal. You can truly eat as much as you want. I feel like even
though … I’ve never put our kids on a Whole30 because they pretty much
eat grain-free and only like raw-fermented dairy anyway, but I just feel like
even with them, I focus more on vegetables when I’m doing the meal
planning for that kind of a focus. Speaking of meal planning, you have an
awesome eBook called “Better than a Box,” and it’s basically real food
alternatives to pantry staples. Can we talk about that, how you created
these alternatives, and what are some of the most popular recipes in that
Katie Kimball: Yes. This book was a fun. It was a very long process and a labor of love for
sure. It goes beyond just the pantry staples, but into how you use them.
Thinking of a box like a box of Stove Top Stuffing that someone might use to
make another recipe. What I started noticing is that a lot of the recipes
that I used to use before I switched to real food would be … They were
homemade. It took time to make them. They were a recipe with
ingredients, but some of the ingredients themselves
will be processed like a can of cream of mushroom soup or like that box of
Stove Top Stuffing or something. I think a lot of people run into that where
their favorite recipes … that do.
It feels like real food because you’re making it and it’s homemade, but
then you’re looking. You’re like, “Wait a minute, like this isn’t real food.
This doesn’t count. That stinks. What can I do?” I wanted to teach people
how to remake those kinds of recipes, taking out the processed foods and
being able to make those like parts of the ingredients from scratch. Again,
it’s a little bit beyond just like the pantry staples, but how to mix them
together and how to re … I call it “reverse engineering a recipe.”
I actually ask readers to send in their favorites that fit that criteria, their
favorite … I get a lot of casseroles, a lot of things with cream of whatever,
soups, and some desserts that included stuff like pudding mix. They’re like,
“Oh, it’s all … Like all these 7 ingredients, 6 more real food, and then
pudding mix,” but I love this dessert. It’s so good. I can use succinate or
whatever, honey as a sweetener, but I can’t figure out how to get rid of this
pudding mix with its like 20 unidentifiable ingredients.
That’s what I set out to do. I set out to figure out how to replace things in
recipes, and so we … There’s a lot of casseroles in there and a couple
different methods to make the cream of whatever soups. That’s definitely
the pinnacle of it is for people to help people get rid of that particular
product because it’s such a reliant … something that people really rely on
for their family-friendly home-style recipes that their palettes love.
Then, I was able to get rid of Velveeta, which is another common ingredient
in your casseroles, that creaminess of the cheese. It doesn’t really work to
just throw in shredded cheddar because you lose the creaminess, so you
have to do some stuff with like cottage cheese and some other little tricks
to add the creaminess. Then, I would remake the recipe, and I’d send it
back to the original person who sent me their recipe, and so it was like a
huge task because they would have to … They’d make it and give it to their
family who loved the original recipe, and I’d be like on pins and needles
like, “How is it going to go? Is it going to be okay? Are they going to hate it
and say, ‘Oh, like this is totally not like the original?’”
It was really edifying because most of them like some of them might fail,
but most of them that people would come back and be like, “I can’t even
believe it. My kids ate it, and they loved it. My husband said it was better
than the original.” I was like, “Yes, score.” That’s what we did, and it’s a
massive book. It’s like 200 pages, and so it not only has those recipes ready
to go, but the first like 80 pages are teaching the process of how to reverse
engineer stuff, so that people have the skills to take their own family
favorites and remake them for whole foods.
Katie: That’s awesome. Yeah. I know. I make a lot of meals for friends when they
have babies, and so many of the classic meals for that rely on cream of
mushroom, or cream of celery, or cream of some kind of soup, and so I love
that you have such easy switches for all of those. I’ll make sure to
definitely include a link to that eBook in show notes because you do have
some amazing recipes in it. Thank you so much for your time and being
here today. I can’t wait till our next episode. We’re going to talk about real
food shopping tips and tricks, which you have so many great tips and tricks
to share. Please, I hope everyone will join us again next time for that, and
thank you so much, Katie, for being here.
Katie Kimball: Fantastic. Thank you too, Katie.
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