How To Balance Real Food And Real Life

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!

kids ocean

When I wrote the post How Do You Pick Your Battles? (My Kitchen Is A Mess!) on October 30th, my Kitchen Life felt really out of control.

Thank you to everyone who added comments of commiseration and advice! You all shared much wisdom in your comments and I’ve poured through the comments several times, each time learning and absorbing more. I don’t feel so badly now.

I’ve realized that many things have changed for us recently, and this all added up to a great deal of craziness. We had been keeping up a busy schedule to get our barn built, we started milking goats on our little homestead in the summer, we’ve been adding more kitchen tasks, and very recently, the dishwasher broke. Those things are more than capable of turning any kitchen upside down.

The question is: do I let that happen? If not, then how to avoid it? I’ve been thinking a great deal about this – and reading your comments again and again, hoping that between all of us, we can come up with a short list of helpful tips for balancing Real Food Kitchens and Real Life.

Here are the tips I’ve pulled out of your comments. Some are practical and some are for peace of mind and perspective. If you think of more, please add them in the comments!

Give Thanks To God

Being of service to our families – being able to cook and provide good, nourishing food is a blessing! Teaching our children to know the source of their food and how to cook it themselves – this is one of the life’s most important lessons. Being with our children, cooking together – that’s Real Fun! As Lisa wrote, “The glorious messes are all worth it, especially as I teach my children to work in the kitchen and they learn at a young age those things I had to start learning with a house full of toddlers and babies! Real food produces much revenue: good health, a good work ethic, and an appreciation for God’s provision and majesty in those amazing enzymes and bacteria! May we rejoice in the process as well as in the final product of our hands!”


Some things are more important than others. Do the important things first. But remember, sometimes things in Real Life trump Real Food. Like leaf-raking with your three-year old.

Clean And Grab As You Go

Pamela wrote, “It’s the best policy. I rarely, if ever, haul everything out that I need at once. I’m a grab it, use it, put it away each ingredient as I work. I also clean as I go. Pre rinsing each utensil, pot, etc.. and stacking to hand wash or load as I go into the dishwasher.”

Do A Pre-Meal Clean-Up

Peggy wrote, “We do a kitchen cleanup before meals are started as well. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, it makes me crazy. So, we take ten minutes before a meal gets started to wash the sinkful, wipe counters and sweep if needed. Then I can come in and cook.”

If You Can, If You Will: Outsource

As Emily wrote, “Here’s my secret – I don’t make as much stuff from scratch as you do. I live near good bakeries that make real sourdough bread with local organic grain, so I pay $5 a loaf and gladly! I buy plain whole milk goat kefir from my local co-op, as well as grass fed butter, milk, etc.”

Sink Full Of Suds

I love this tip from Peggy. I’ve used it recently (though my dishwasher is one of the children) and it’s been a great help! She wrote, “After the dishwasher is loaded post-meal, I run a sinkful of soapy water. If you dirty a dish between meals, you scrape it, rinse it and put it in the suds. That clears up about half of my available counter space.”

Revisit Your Routines

Real Life changes – we add new activities, new routines, and have ever-changing needs. Be willing to revisit your routines – what is working? what doesn’t? what routines can be altered to accommodate the changes?

Delegate The Work (And The Fun!)

Sonya said, “Involve the kids and delegate some of the work.” My saving grace the last few weeks has been my children. They have helped with so much. They rotate through the dish duty, freeing me up to cook (and clean up and grab as I go, of course) and write and do other mom-type things.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

You can’t do everything. Quit trying to be perfect. I’m preaching to the choir here. 😉

Keep Perspective: Some Messes Are Worth Having

As many of you pointed out, you look around and see the real foods a-culturing, a-soaking, a-cooking, and you’ve come to appreciate those messes. They’re better than sterility. They nourish, heal, inspire creativity, and encourage learning. Bonnie pointed out, “A slightly messy kitchen is a kitchen that is being used – and that IS after all why we have [kitchens].”

This Too Shall Pass

As Abiga/Karen encourages, “All you younguns with the kids out there remember that time passes oh, so quickly!”

Much more wisdom was shared in the comments of my post on October 30th – and sweet encouragement. I couldn’t possibly include it all. What do you think of the wisdom shared? What would you add?

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays! at FoodRenegade.

This post may contain affiliate links. We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. Thank you for supporting Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS with your purchases. Our family thanks you!


  1. says

    I love this post Wardee – and I’m sure that is why many of the 1940’s and earlier kitchens had doors to them. Because prior to WWII’s end people made everything from scratch all the time and there would have been a constant mess! Nowdays the houses are opened up and we have tv standards with all these home decorating shows and sterile cooking shows on. Do you honestly think that kitchen looked clean when they finished cooking all those meals? Those things have been edited and you can’t edit real life.

    Thanks for recapping since I didn’t have time to read through all the comments!

    (who currently has buttermilk, kefir, sprouting broccoli and olives curing on the counter and two stock pots of beef bone broth on the stove, boxes of apples waiting for juice for apple jelly or to make cider this weekend and items for chicken food on the kitchen floor…)
    .-= Sustainable Eats´s last blog post… Squash Muffins =-.

  2. Faith says

    Great post.

    I want to point out that also, prior to the 1960’s, many single family homes had maids. My parent’s home from 1890, for example, was a middle class home of the time period and features a maid’s bedroom and maid’s staircase which goes up from her room to the attic and down from her room to the kitchen and cellar. My parents don’t have a maid, but this is a typical feature of period homes.

    A hundred years ago, women worked in community when cooking and often cleaning as well. This is also a model of indigenous tribes. I grew up near the Amana Colonies which while modernized today, is well restored to the original buildings. At the time of settlement, it was a typical German settlement in America. There is a huge house for eating and cooking and it was done with help from the whole community. Certain people would cook and others would watch the children, etc.

    It’s important I think to keep this in mind, not that maids and communal efforts can always or should be duplicated, but just to keep expectations real when you’re using traditional cooking techniques, raising and schooling your children yourself, and doing other home projects from scratch. It’s a lot easier to cook for 60 with 10 people assisting and rotating childcare than it is for 1 person to cook for 4.

    I came to this realization when my baby was born. I kept thinking people wear babies in slings, cook dinners from scratch, etc. all the time with far less resources around the world, why is it so difficult? A lightbulb came on one day when I realized that a lot of the cultures practicing this had multigenerational families under one roof or a strong community to assist. So I haven’t given up trying but I keep this information in mind for perspective.

  3. says


    excellent point. the so called “nuclear” family is tough on many folks, with no support outside of their immediate family. for a few months after my hubby’s paternity leave was over (7 weeks post partum), we hired a friend who cleaned the house, top to bottom, and organized things once everyweek or so. it was a dream… now that our baby is older,can spend a few minutes (sometimes even half an hour! ) playing with her older brothers, weno loner hire help, but it sure was worth the price!
    .-= emily´s last blog post… Coconut Cocoa Almond Macaroons =-.

  4. says

    It’s so true, that we must take into consideration the contrast between what our post-modern kitchens are “supposed” to look like, and the way we’re trying to cook (more like a 19th-century kitchen).

    So, that does include, first and foremost, being ok with having a cluttered kitchen (even if it’s “good” or “clean” clutter). My guess is that many people who are changing to a nourishing diet are not necessarily Type A (I’m not), but are usually women (and men!) who are used to being organized and on top of things. It’s hard for us to let that go, even if just in appearance.

    Also, as is the case with me, many of us are just starting out. This is a radical paradigm shift in kitchen life! It will take time for that to happen, and we are used to accomplishing things quickly. I must personally also consider the time it will take to convince my family that it’s worth adjusting to the new flavors and recipes (which means, eventually, not cooking some things we’ve enjoyed for years — the jury’s still out on that one).

    All in all, it is encouraging to know others experience the same frustrations — and for our family, it probably means taking a step back and taking a break sometimes. It’ll get there eventually, whatever that might look like ; )
    .-= Katy´s last blog post… Our new favorite pizza =-.

  5. Martha says

    What a great post. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one with a “never caught up” kitchen. I tend to compare it to my mom’s and cringe. I tend to forget that while she did make homemade bread fairly often, she didn’t grind her own flour, ferment anything, etc. I particularly appreciated the suggestions about our perspective. I need to write those down and keep them front and center. :)

  6. says

    Interesting comments about kitchen life through the ages. One day my family and I were out driving around in the countryside, site seeing when we came across an old abandoned farm house. We ventured inside to see what was left. It was a large 2-story home with a big kitchen at the back of the house on the main floor but beyond that there was another room which appeared to be a work area/pantry for the kitchen. It was almost the size of the kitchen itself but was obviously meant for working and/or storing, not for eating or gathering. That would be something to have!
    .-= Marg´s last blog post… Farm Fashion Finery =-.

  7. Fran says

    I found this post very timely! I am new to this entire lifestyle. While I have been working on a healthy diet for a year it has been challegening finding healthly food and knowing what is right. I started soaking Almonds to make almond milk, then beans. I keep a soda starter going to make homemade soda. I sometimes feel overwhelmed with the amount of work required to get everything going. I live in a small space so it is even more challegening for me! I have often wondered what those who came before us did to keep up. Now I am on a journey of sprouting! Am I crazy? Thanks for talking me off the edge! I was close to chaulking this experience up to another one of my hair ball experiments. Thanks everyone for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.