If you have a chronic illness, leaky gut, or other health issue that has lead you to homesteading, you’re in good company.
When I plan my homesteading goals, one of the questions I ask myself is, “Will this help reduce the cost of healthy food for us?”
Healthy food is necessary for me to get through each day without needing a nap, or without feeling sick, having depression, having lack of patience, or a bunch of other things. It’s also necessary for my long term health, as it’s the biggest thing keeping my illness at bay.
I’ve eluded to my illness a few times before on this blog but never really explained what it is and why I eat such a wacky healing diet.
Here it is:
I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects my thyroid (and much more).
Homesteading has been one of the biggest reasons that I could begin healing from this illness.
My Hashimoto’s journey to healing
I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s relatively early in my second pregnancy.
I was prescribed a thyroid hormone replacement and immediately felt better, though I hadn’t known up until that point that I was feeling so bad! I went on my merry way because everything seemed to be going great.
Pretty soon after that Matt also had a health issue pop up, money got tight and, long story short, we had to move.
So, I was pregnant at this time and I began to gain a lot of weight, though I wasn’t eating much differently (other than daily chocolate to deal with my incredibly high stress level).
I gained probably 60 lbs. For reference, I gained less than that with my first pregnancy where I had preeclampsia and incredible water retention.
Not good, right?
But after I had QC and didn’t lose any more weight than the baby, placenta, and blood volume, and I was increasingly feeling exhausted and just overall sick, I knew something needed to change.
My doctor’s were a waste of time: Your labs look good. You know, parenthood is tiring. I’ll refer you to our hospital nutrition and weight loss group (who still believe dietary fat makes you fat). <— dismissive, lazy, and just a waste of my time.
I had heard through the blogosphere that the Auto-immune protocol (AIP) diet could help people with autoimmune disease heal.
(If you’re struggling with your health just google our illness plus healing diet and you’ll come up with something taht should work for you.)
I wrestled with the idea of starting the AIP healing diet because it seemed hard.
I was already dairy and gluten free which was a big help but I didn’t like the idea of not being able to have my daily chocolate anymore.
I’d have to cut down on the sugar I was eating all together (which wasn’t a lot but more than the AIP diet allows).
I couldn’t have grains, nuts, seeds, nightshades, and a number of other things on top of the things I preferred not to eat anyway, like processed junk.
But most importantly, I couldn’t have EGGS anymore!
Continuing a homesteading life that looks different
It took me a long time to comes to grips with the idea of not eating the fresh backyard eggs I had worked so hard to grow for my family.
Could I seriously feed my chickens and collect eggs everyday without eating the eggs? It seems silly now, but at the time it was a big deal to me.
The one source of food I was growing was no longer healthy for me?!
I did it though. I was so sick of feeling sick that I was ready to do just about anything. So I embarked on this super restrictive diet.
(as an aside: it turns out one reason I got so sick was that the place we moved into had a mold problem.)
I’m so glad I did take that important step to healing myself and just this week I’ve reintroduced egg yolks with success!
But I had to change my approach to homesteading. I could no longer have grains, nuts or seeds. I couldn’t have eggs.
I had to focus on eating the highest quality meat I could (which I wasn’t in a position to grow myself) and the highest quality produce as my main sources of calories (as well as lots of good, healthy fat).
My kids could no longer tolerate grains either (again, probably because of the mold) so I was needing to move toward a more paleo diet for them too.
The homesteading life we have is not one of fresh baked bread, homegrown potatoes, or canning tomato sauce as I thought it would be.
It’s one of swiss chard smoothies, faux-mato sauce in the freezer, and bacon wrapped everything (thank goodness for that one!).
It’s ultra modern, and, dare I say, a bit hipster, but it works.
How homesteading makes a healing diet possible
When I made the decision to go on the AIP diet, we made every possible sacrifice in order to be able to afford healthy food knowing it was what was going to save me/us.
I was already seeing huge improvements in my health. I dropped 10-15 pounds in a week and then steadily lost a lot of the rest over the next few months.
That’s a lot of weight in a short time. Was it all fat? No way!
The only way to lose that much weight so fast is if a lot of it is inflammation (spoiler: it was).
The diet was going great but our grocery bill ballooned to well over a thousand dollars (I believe it was $1600) a month at one point. I knew it really needed to come down if this diet was going to be sustainable.
When you take cheap, healthy food items like, rice, nuts, seeds, and beans out of the equation your budget explodes.
Like as if a nuclear bomb went off and your grocery budget went with it. It’s not good. There are some ways to reduce the grocery budget but the bottom line is: healthy food is expensive.
We were spending half, if not more, of our income on food. Without that healthy diet I was useless. I wouldn’t be able to even deal with being a parent, or working, and definitely couldn’t do both.
So what do you do when there’s literally no way you can increase your food budget?
Homesteading was something we were already doing, but I really stepped it up (the best I could without owning my own place).
- I made it a priority to have a garden even though I had a 3 year old and an infant to care for (not to mention my writing work I needed to find time for too!).
- We continued keeping chickens because, though I couldn’t, everyone else could have eggs, which is one of the most budget friendly sources of healthy protein.
- I continued to make personal care products and remedies instead of buying them to free up some cash for more food!
- The frugal living we had been doing for years at that point really paid off when we needed to “do without” in order to have the healthy food we needed. Very few new clothes (used if we could find them). Very few outings that cost anything. Very small to non existent gift giving budgets.
- Started growing supplements or finding them naturally. instead of wasting money on probiotics I started fermenting. Instead of buying fish oil, I started eating fish. You get the idea.
- If you’re able to, raising your own meat is the best way to get high quality meat for cheap. I plan on having meat chickens soon and hopefully other meat animals in the future.
Homesteading on a healing diet
We’ve talked about how homesteading can help make a healing diet possible for the average person but how do you make a healing diet fit your lifestyle? It seems counter intuitive. Ma Ingall’s cooked up lots of gluten and dairy and I was choosing to eat none!
Here are some of the ways I’ve balanced homesteading with healing (not to mention parenting and working too!).
Rethink what homesteading looks like
Let go of what you think you should grow or should cook as a homesteader. Healthy is all that matters at the end of the day (oh, and tasty, don’t forget tasty!). Here are some questions to ask yourself so you can make the most of your homestead:
- What things are you growing or raising for yourself that you can no longer eat on your healing diet (at least for a while)? Is there someone else in your family who can still eat those things? If not, you may want to consider cutting back or eliminating those food sources. On the other hand, maybe you can sell them?
- Which things can you eat that you could grow yourself but aren’t? You may want to try to grow as much of that as you can. Most healing diets have one thing in common: high quality meat. That makes raising meat (or learning to hunt and fish) invaluable to your homestead and your health.
Master healing diet cooking
Even if you are a seasoned scratch-cook, scratch cooking on a restrictive healing diet is a whole other animal and can take a significant amount of time.
When you’re adding in more homesteading chores and more scratch cooking it can be overwhelming.
When I first started the AIP diet I was planning meals on my own and it was tough. A few months in I decided to invest in a meal planning app to make it easier on myself.
Real Plans was created by my friend Emily at Holistic Squid, so I checked that out first since I knew her ideas of healthy food aligned with mine. Real Plans also has an AIP setting that has made life on AIP so. much. easier!
cheap frugal as I am, Real Plans is totally worth it in the amount of time and stress it saves me. Real Plans also has whole 30, paleo, and a number of other dietary plans already available and you can add your own recipes too.
Another thing that really helped me was to find AIP instant pot recipes for those times when we messed up and forgot to take meat out of the freezer or got home too close to dinner time. This roundup has great AIP instant pot recipes that I’ve used when short on time.
Learn to balance it all
The truth is, none of us can “do it all”. It’s a matter of making priorities, optimizing the time you do have, and finding creative ways to create more time in your day. I’ve found ways to achieve a decent balance between work, family, and homesteading while not compromising on my health. Check out my free video course to glean some of my tips (spoiler: optimal health is one of ’em).
Tell people to eff off
Ok, don’t really do that, but take the idea of telling people to eff off and embrace it. Know that your family and your health are your responsibility and many other people just won’t get it.
When our children are the ones with the health issues it seems like other people think they have a right or responsibility to question our choices for our family. I’m not sure why this is but, you have to grow a thick skin wen you’re living counter-culturally and try not to let those people bother you.
There will always be folks who don’t get it. Recognize that their “issue” with your diet choices are usually more about their own lack of healthy eating. Also recognize that some people are truly curious and you may be able to give them some great information!
Because I have Hashimoto’s (and almost every woman in my family does too) my girls are highly likely to get it too. I’m doing everything I can to avoid that. Other people may not understand that “just this once” can cause long term harm. They may not understand that epigenetics shows that our diet affects more than our health but continues to affect our grandchildren’s health too.
Every step we take to teach our own children about what food really is, and that healthy food can, and does, taste good, we are changing the world for generations.
How do you homestead on a healing diet?
Tell us in the comments below! And if this post was helpful, consider sharing.