Tina Brenize has been a CSA member for several years and is a constant inspiration to me. Not only is she a super mom, she also is a true CSA pro! She hasn’t always been a nutrition enthusiast though. Let me share her story with you.
Tina is a wife and homeschooling mom of 3 young children. Back in 2012 she was overweight, suffering from bouts of depression and it seemed like someone in the family was always sick. Her oldest daughter, Kailey, had struggled with allergies, asthma and eczema since she was a baby. The doctors had prescribed 3 medications to be taken daily and 2 additional medications to be taken as needed. She wanted to find natural alternatives to help her daughter so she began researching how changing our diets can heal our bodies. She began a journey of eating healthy whole foods.
Now they have a “clean-eating” or “low-crap” lifestyle. They eat grass fed meats and plenty of fresh local vegetables, grass-fed butter and the occasional grass-fed cheese, and steel-cut oatmeal about once a week, They soak and sprout beans several times a month and occasionally buy Ezekiel bread or non-GMO corn tortillas. It wasn’t always this easy though.
Things started off pretty difficult. Her youngest was the hardest. His favorite foods were yogurt, toast and crackers, all of which went away. He would go days refusing to eat anything she prepared and they spent several dinners in agony as he would have complete meltdowns and throw fits on the floor. She refused to make separate “kid-approved” meals for him but would make sure each meal included a “clean” version of something he liked and would eat. She continued to offer the new foods to him and little by little, he stared trying (and sometimes even liking) the new foods.
Her oldest seemed to do a little better because she noticed immediately the positive changes regarding her health. She was using her inhaler less, she was no longer getting stomach aches after eating and she noticed she was better able to control her behavior and attitude. She also had more energy and was better able to concentrate during school. But even with all the benefits she was experiencing, there were still days where she would baulk at the foods Tina prepared, pitch a fit at the table and was sent to her room with nothing to eat. Tina said that these were days that she would hide in her closet and just cry. She was trying to do what was best for her family. Giving them the best chance she could for a long, healthy, joy-filled life and more times than not, she felt like the bad guy, depriving them (in their minds) of all things good.
Her middle child did the best. For the first 10 min or so after sitting down for dinner, she would huff & puff and pout with her arms crossed and eyes browed. But after realizing that she would not be getting anything else to eat, and being the child that is ALWAYS hungry and freaks out if they ever skip a meal, she too would eventually eat her meal (even if it was with a scowl on her face).
For her husband, it wasn’t the change in the foods as much as it was about the money. She completely cleaned out the pantry/fridge, and then went out and replaced it with all clean, healthy foods/ingredients. The first month, the food budget more than doubled and her budget-conscience, sole-provider for a family of 5 husband totally freaked out. He told her she had to stay on budget, even if it meant going back to eating ramen noodles. They finally came to some good compromises.
First, they prioritized their budget. They also noticed that since it was difficult to eat out and still eat clean, they were saving lots of money by preparing and eating foods at home. They also started researching and making their own cleaning supplies/laundry soap and body-care products which saved tons of money! Second, they prioritized their foods. Instead of buying EVERYTHING organic, she followed the Dirty Dozen / Clean Fifteen list. She also joined a CSA and stared receiving local, in-season produce each week. This not only helped save money, but forced her to learn how to prepare and eat food they would have never bought. In addition, they planted a small garden for items they use the most like tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and peppers. Tina also found a local farmer that raised grass-fed meat and started buying direct from the source at ½ the price of what was in the stores. You can find farmers in your area by going to www.eatwild.com. The last thing they did was to start buying foods on Amazon using the subscribe and save feature. This saves tons of time and money having it delivered right to the door!
The biggest challenge (next to the financial cost) was not knowing how to prepare and cook the foods that were healthy for her family. She said she was so used to opening up a can of this or a box of that, stopping through the drive-through or simply just making a sandwich. It was almost like learning to cook all over again and relearning everything that she had been taught about what was healthy and what was not. But the time and effort spent learning and experimenting was so worth it. It seems like people are always taking the time to learn new hobbies or to learn how to use the latest technology but we don’t want to take the time to learn how to keep our families healthy and strong.
That brings us to the second challenge: TIME. It’s the most common excuse. “I just don’t have the time.” There is a quote that says “Over the past decade we have found 2 hours a day to be online but we say we don’t have time to cook”. She took a one-month Facebook hiatus and also cut cable (which also freed up money for the food budget). Then she used the extra time to learn how to prepare homemade foods, preserve veggies from her CSA and garden for later use, and to find ways to be more efficient in the kitchen. The biggest challenge now is dealing with family and friends who don’t either understand why they make the food decisions they do or who simply don’t respect the decision.
The positive changes have been astounding. She lost 50 pounds, no longer has the allergies and sinus problems that she struggled with her whole life and is off the antidepressants. Her oldest daughter is almost completely off all her medications other than an inhaler if needed but she has only had to use a few times over the past year. All of the children experience more self-control in their behavior and better concentration during school.
Tina’s story has always been an inspiration to me. The wellness that comes from healthy food is well worth the trouble.
So don’t give up! You can do this!