I’d like to invite you to come into my kitchen for a moment to share some of the essentials I’m usually not without. These are the foods, products, and appliances/tools we use every day to prepare food and to maintain our health.
Even though everyone has their own set of preferences about what they use in their kitchen, availability and preference can change over time. Here I’ll discuss why these foods are important to me in keeping my family healthy.
The following are items we keep on hand for most of our meals and recipes:
Apple cider vinegar
We use Bragg’s (this and other Amazon affiliate links are included on this page) organic raw apple cider vinegar. It’s a great all-purpose apple cider vinegar, and it’s the only raw vinegar I have been able to find in our health food store. I’d like to start buying my other vinegars raw, but I’m still looking. I use this for soaking my bones for stock, soaking beans and other foods (occasionally if I make a soaked grain recipe, and if I’m not using whey or lacto-dairy), in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and many other recipes.
I bought two 14 ounce tubs from U.S. Wellness Meats before the holidays some years ago to make pie crust. I have frozen it, and use it as needed for a variety of other cooking such as meats and vegetables. I also buy beef fat from local farmers regularly and use it in a lot of the cooking we do – soups, stews, refried beans, casseroles, one-pot meals like chili or other meat/vegetable combos.
Bones from animals and birds on pasture
I buy beef bones, ox-tails, marrow bones, and osso buco (Italian for “‘bone with a hole”) from local farmers. Bones are an economic method for getting a lot of nutrition for very little.
I make chicken stock once a week with the carcass from a whole chicken which I prepare for our family. After cooking the chicken, I place the carcass into my stockpot on the stove to start broth. I always allow bones to soak for 1/2 to an hour in filtered water and a couple of splashes of apple cider vinegar to help draw out more of the minerals from the bones. Then I turn the heat up to medium and turn down just as it starts to simmer. We use chicken feet when we can get them, and the stock is super delicious and wonderful. It’s full of collagen which strengthens our bones and supports our skin tone and quality. It’s also noted for being very effective at diminishing cellulite!
I cook beef bones for two days, sometimes longer. I’ve noticed that if I leave chicken stock on too long, it starts to develop an off-smell, so I don’t leave it longer than about 20 hours. Here’s an informative post about the benefits of bone broth. The gelatin effect you will notice after you have refrigerated your stock – especially after making it with chicken feet and other parts such as necks and backs – is effective for healing gut issues and resolving auto-immune responses such as allergies caused by conditions like leaky gut.
Stock is an incredibly versatile and nutritious food, and we use it for many things – sauces, marinades, soups, stews, casseroles, chili, stroganoff, and I often add it to leftover meats and vegetables to make them moist and to give some warmth for lunch the next day. My son frequently gets this for lunch sent to school in a thermos.
I have tried making fish stock twice, once with a grouper head and once with a snapper head. I found that both were just as fishy as the other and were not palatable to me for sipping straight. However, these stocks are fantastic for using in fisherman’s stews, clam chowder, or other seafood stews/soups.
We currently use Kerrygold and Organic Valley. Kerrygold is from grass-fed cows, but the butter is pasteurized. Kerrygold is not organic, but their farming practices are traditional, which I try to support.
There has been some controversy about Kerrygold due to GMO contamination. The web site states that the cattle graze on pasture at least 312 days out of the year, more than any country in the world. The majority of supplemental feed consists of silage (grass hay), wheat and barley, grown in Ireland where Kerrygold’s farms reside. A small percentage of their “other” supplemental feed, roughly 2-3% of the cattle’s diet comes from soy and corn, which the Kerrygold website states cannot be confirmed as non-GMO. Traditional farming practices used on Kerrygold farms do not allow the use of any GM substances, hormones, or antibiotics. Read more in their FAQ.
I was buying raw, organic butter from grass-fed cows from a fantastic farm in Canaan, Vermont – Baum Farm. The owner, Rob, is really friendly and accommodating. I highly recommend their butter if you can get it. The reason we no longer buy this product is due to expense. Further, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to pay to have this product shipped as this contributes to more fossil fuel usage and pollution. Read here about the difference between real butter and artificial fats such as margarine.
If I had enough cream from the cow’s milk we buy each week, I’d make my own butter. Raw milk prices for the type we buy from cattle raised on pasture are now $10 a gallon, and we are currently buying only one gallon a week. I hope in the future to be able to buy locally-produced raw or cultured butter. Until then, I will continue to buy Kerrygold and Organic Valley.
Want to make your own butter?
Visit Food Renegade.
Want to find local butter?
If checking local stores, many health food stores including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Natural Grocer’s, and New Seasons now sell grassfed butter. Much of what you will find is pasteurized including Organic Valley, Kerrgold, Kalona, Anchor, and other brands. Depending on your location and state laws regarding the sale of raw dairy foods, you may find some locally-produced raw and cultured butter products where you live.
I’ve bought various brands over the years including Nutiva, Jungle Products Beyond Organic, and Tropical Traditions. I’ve liked all the brands pretty well, but I think Beyond Organic is my favorite so far. Right now I’m using a northwest regional brand called Aunt Patty’s Extra Virgin Coconut Oil from Eugene, Oregon. We love it, but my son says he prefers the Beyond Organic, which is an especially nice coconut oil. Aunt Patty’s is currently cheaper than Beyond Organic. Coconut oil has many nutrients including some saturated fat, lauric acid, and capric acid which support immune and digestive health, and are also anti-microbial and anti-fungal.
Fermented cod liver oil
We buy and recommend the Blue Ice Royal fermented CLO from Green Pastures. This along with our diet and the fact that we received a great deal of sun exposure last summer and fall before the extreme cold set in, I believe, has really helped to keep all three of us from getting sick this winter (knock on wood). This is the only way I can get my son and husband to take CLO (capsule form). I admit, I have a hard time swallowing the emulsified myself.
We make our own beet kvass and keep it around most of the time. It’s a great liver tonic and digestive aid. I have used the recipe in Wardee Harmon’s book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods and have had consistently good results. There are many other wonderful recipes in this book as well, I highly recommend it for all your fermenting needs.
We have been brewing our own for the last 2 years and we only rarely buy store-bought kombucha. My son is not a fan of fermented vegetables or beet kvass, which we eat regularly. But he will eat home-made yogurt sometimes and loves kombucha. Since we love kombucha and depend on it daily, we make certain we always have this beverage on hand.
If you don’t want to make kombucha at home, you should know that store-bought brands go through a very short fermentation time which means they contain less probiotics and more sugar. Thus, most commercial brands are quite sweet, and I don’t prefer them to homemade.
The brands I normally see at the health food store include GT Dave’s, Reed’s Health-Ade, bucha, Humm, Rise, and Brew Dr. If I have to drink something from the store, I like Brew Dr., but I try to avoid buying store-bought kombucha since the sugar content is much higher than our homemade.
We try to regularly prepare and eat home made yogurt, sour cream, cultured vegetables, beet kvass, and less often kefir as my son and husband don’t care for it. These home made cultured foods contain much more probiotic (friendly bacteria) than anything you would buy in the store. Read about the amazing benefits of fermented and cultured foods, and how they support digestive, immune, and overall health and well-being.
Don’t have time to make these at home? We love Ozuké, Zukay products such as beet ginger kvass super gold kvass juice, and Bubbies. These companies use real fermenting techniques with sea salt and live active cultures to produce a truly healthy fermented food.
Contrary to popular belief, Bubbies does not pasteurize their dill pickles, dill relish, and green tomatoes, and these are considered 100% raw. Here is an explanation provided by The Herbangardener. The author of this site consulted directly with Bubbies:
“…the Sauerkraut in the jars has been flash heated but not pasteurized. This means that the Kraut is neither pasteurized nor raw. Bubbies Bread & Butter Chips are vinegar brined and pasteurized and are shelf stable.
We were forced to begin heating our jarred Sauerkraut to calm the cultures inside because they were causing the kraut to continue to ferment too much in turn causing a buildup of gas that then results in brine leaking all over our distributor’s and retailer’s equipment and shelving.
When we heat our jarred Sauerkraut, it is quickly raised to about 135-140 degrees and then sealed in the jars. The goal here is not to eliminate all the beneficial cultures, but rather to stifle them so they won’t cause the jars to leak.”
Homemade fermented foods are optimal, but if you can’t prepare your own for some reason, these are good options.
Grass-fed beef, roasts, and poultry
We buy all locally-raised, 100 percent grass-fed beef, pasture-raised poultry, and eggs.
Read more about the difference between humanely raised, grass-fed meats, read The Grassfed Meat Challenge: Busting Myths About Meat.
I also recommend Tendergrass Farms. We have purchased and loved some of their products.
Here’s a list of just some of what Tendergrass Farms offers, with additional products including lard, tallow, and ghee from this company and some other recommended brands:
|Grassfed beef||Poultry||Pork||Ghee & Other Lard/Tallow Products|
|Ribeye steak||Whole chicken||Pork chops||Pure Indian Foods organic grassfed ghee|
|Chuck roast||Chicken drumsticks||Pork ribs||Ancient Organics organic grassfed ghee|
|Rump roast||Chicken thighs||Pork bacon||Purity Farms organic grassfed ghee|
|NY strip steak||Chicken livers||Pork roast||Fatworks pastured beef tallow, GMO-free|
|Flat iron steak||Chicken necks great for broth!||Pork fat||Fatworks pastured lard, GMO-free|
|Ground beef||Chicken feet great for broth!||Pork bratwurst||Traditional fat combination pack, lard, tallow and grassfed ghee|
|Beef liver||Chicken wings||Pork franks||Proper Foods for Life, pastured pure leaf lard, GMO-free|
|Soup bones great for broths, soups, stews!||Chicken breast||Pork breakfast sausage||Bayan Botanicals organic grassfed ghee|
We purchase pork fat from locally-raised, pastured pork for many meals we prepare. We use to braise meats, casseroles, cook vegetables, in soups, stews, desserts, and many other meals. It is one of our most used staples in the kitchen. Here is my post about the forgotten craft of rendering lard, health benefits, and how to render/where to find pork fat for rendering. See the section on grassfed beef and poultry below with a table of product listings including pastured lard and tallow recommendations from reputable brands I’ve used and recommend.
Liver is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, and it is best when it comes pastured sources whether it is beef, chicken, pork, duck or other. Liver can be cooked with onions or concealed in many different meals such as chili, hamburgers, meatloaf, casseroles, soups. Liver is a rich source of vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folic acid, and minerals including copper and iron. Read more about the health benefits of eating liver from Chris Kresser.
I buy various brands of real, organic maple syrup at my health food store, and I always look for whatever is on sale. Currently, we are using Spring Tree and sometimes we buy Coombs Family Farms as well.
Here is my recipe for homemade mayonnaise and tartar sauce. In the past, I have purchased Wilderness Family Naturals which is made with coconut oil and olive oil, and is a great alternative to commercial mayonnaise which contains GMOs such as soybean and canola oil, and other undesirable ingredients. My son and I like this brand, but my husband is not a fan of it.
I typically don’t do a lot of baking, but we use small amounts of unrefined sweeteners frequently for different needs. I use and recommend Wholesome Sweetener’s organic sucanat, Wholesome Sweeteners coconut sugar, and YS Organic Bee Farms certified organic raw honey. We usually buy locally-produced raw honey from the owners of Matthew’s All Natural Meats who also own Idaho Honey.
Depending on what’s available, we have used various brands. For many years we have used Napa Valley Naturals extra virgin olive oil brand. Our local health foods store carries it and the taste is delicious.
Organic vegetables and fruits
We buy these in season and depending on which farmers are selling and when, locally. In the farmer’s market season, I buy most of my produce from this source and otherwise from my local health food store.
Although there aren’t any locally-produced raw cheeses in my area from pasture-raised sources, we recently have had access to Sierra Nevada, Grazier’s raw cheese. We discovered it at a Natural Grocer’s store during a trip to visit my in-laws in the state of Utah. When we arrived back home, I inquired at my local Natural Grocer’s and discovered that this store also offers this product. Sierra Nevada offers raw and organic cheeses that are hormone and antibiotic-free, and from cows on pasture. I haven’t yet tried their butter or several of the other products they offer, but the cheeses we have purchased are delicious!
I have purchased raw cheeses in the past from U.S. Wellness Meats and enjoyed them.
We purchase milk from Treasured Sunrise Acres which is sold at the Boise Co-op. I make batches of yogurt and kefir with our milk whenever I can. Now that we are consuming less milk, I have been buying some store-bought yogurt including Straus Family Creamery and a locally-produced raw yogurt from a pasture-based operation called Feathers and Horns, both of which are sold at the Boise Co-op.
Red wine vinegar
I buy our sea salt from the health food store in bulk Redmond Real Salt, or I buy various brands depending what’s on sale: we’ve used Celtic Sea Salt, or Real Food salt. These are all good quality and include different colors in the salts (a good indication of a variety of minerals), and taste good.
Unflavored gelatin and collagen proteins
This is a very healthful and versatile food, and can be used in so many meals and preparations – soups, broths, stews, smoothies, desserts, the uses are simply endless. I buy Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides or Vital Proteins Collagen Protein, Great Lakes gelatin, All are from pastured cattle raised on pasture.
Wild-caught tuna, salmon, and other seafood
We purchase Raincoast and Wild Planet tuna in cans from our health food store. Depending on what else is available that is line and wild caught, we will buy other brands as well. We purchase salmon, tuna, sole, cod, and other fish from our health food store butcher counter as well. All wild-caught.
With all the events surrounding the approval of GE salmon, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the future of salmon will be safe.
The following are other basics we usually have on hand:
A couple of times a month we make almond flour pancakes, muffins, or a cobbler-type recipe that is baked in the oven using milk, butter, frozen berries, apples, and a bit of sucanat. For these occasions we use Bob’s Red Mill almond flour. This is our alternative to refined flour pancakes and muffins.
Germinated brown rice
A few times a month, we use DHC germinated brown rice. According to Elements4Health, “Pre-germinated rice (PR) is an emerging health food whereby brown rice is soaked in warm water prior to cooking; the warm bath induces germination, or sprouting, which stimulates rice enzymes to produce more nutrients. One such nutrient is the important brain chemical GABA (PR is thus often referred to as “GABA rice”), and animal studies have shown that a PR-rich diet can improve cognitive function. Other studies have found that PR can also act as an anti-diabetic.” Another great brand we use is Indian, organic, basmati rice is from Heavenly Farms. This rice comes out perfect every time and is easy-to-digest.
Ghee is clarified butter, which has had all the milk solids removed during the heating process, and thus is easier to digest than other dairy foods. Even those with true lactose intolerance or dairy issue can consume ghee without the same problems as other dairy foods may cause. There are many, many uses for ghee. You can use it just like butter. We use it for cooking meats, fish, poultry, eggs, popcorn, vegetables, in soups and stews, and on bread.
I was on GAPS for almost 2 years, so I avoided grains during that time. Even now, we normally eat grains only occasionally. When we do, we buy BigWood locally-made, organic long-fermented sourdough bread.
Because we don’t eat much bread, I haven’t bothered making it. My fear is that if I started making it, we would eat it. My main concern that by eating bread, we may be displacing more nutrient-dense choices including animal foods.
If you have chronic health issues, grains can contribute to gut imbalance, inflammation, candida or yeast overgrowth in the body, weight problems, auto-immune disorders, and other problems.
Read more about why grains and wheat in particular may not be the optimal choice for health.
We use this even less than almond flour, but on occasion we need wheat flour for certain recipes. We use To Your Health sprouted flour when needed. I keep it in my freezer and use it as I need for baking, pancakes, and various other recipes.
The following are kitchen appliances and tools I’d never be without:
Cast iron pots and pans
Lodge cookware comes pre-seasoned using soybean oil. Here is a helpful post from Keeper of the Home on how to properly remove this coating from your cast iron cookware and care for your pieces as well.
Cusinart food processor
We’ve had ours for years and it’s great for so many uses, including chopping up nuts and vegetables for culturing, slicing potatoes for breakfast and casseroles, stews, etc. Here’s the one I’d would purchase for when ours is not longer serviceable, a Cuisinart stainless steel 14-cup food processor.
I won this stick blender on a giveaway this past spring. I was so excited! It’s been super handy for making mayonnaise. Home-made recipe coming soon!
This is one of the first purchases that enabled me to graduate to the next step of preparing traditional foods. We bought our dehydrator 7 years ago. It’s an Excalibur and I am very pleased with it. However, it is made of plastic and my goal is to someday replace this unit with a stainless steel model. Here are some brands I recommend:
Excalibur stainless steel, 5-tray clear door
We use our dehydrator for making jerky, dried fruit, and occasionally granola. We also use it as our primary means for making yogurt.
We love our hot plate. As we have been in a rental for the last 3 years, the glass-top stove in the kitchen does not allow us to leave hot foods, broth, or soup for more than a couple of hours as even on the lowest heat setting, it scalds whatever is cooking.
We had crockpots for years, and experienced a number of issues from the brands Hamilton Beach, Rival, and another I can’t recall the name of. One of the most pervasive problems was that the bottom of the clay pot would burn through the plastic holder. I got tired of replacing crock pots so frequently, and have never been more thrilled with any kitchen purchase I’ve made.
Cadco is the brand we use, it has never failed us since purchase. And, it has 2 burners! You can use any pot or pan in your kitchen on this versatile and helpful device! And yes, it is safe to leave the power on overnight. We have never experienced any issues doing this. This fantastic product has been a workhorse like nothing else, and it stands up so nicely to all the needs we have for cooking. I will never buy a crockpot again.
We have this 7-quart enameled cooking pot and use it several times a week. This one is red, but ours is green.
I own a Kitchen Aid hand mixer which I normally only use periodically for sauces, marinades, mayonnaise, salad dressing, or desserts (which I make infrequently). I use my Cuisinart stick blender for most of these tasks now.
Someday I’d love to own a Kitchen Aid Mixer like this one. Yes, I want red.
I was excited to bring this addition to our kitchen, and we use it for juicing when needed. It’s very powerful, and is easy to assemble and clean up.
Pyrex, glass, and ceramic baking dishes
I have some of the original Pyrex glass baking dishes from my mother (pre-1960) that I treasure and use often, plus a few ceramic baking dishes as well. I know the newer Pyrex aren’t supposed to be as good quality and have been reported to shatter, so I’m grateful to have the ones I do. My baking dishes are clear glass and do not contain lead. Some Pyrex does contain lead, so it is important to watch for this problem in these dishes.
I only buy ceramic bowls that are lead-free. Over the years, I’ve purchased from various sources and have checked with the manufacturer to ensure they are lead-free.
A couple of years ago, I purchased this Le Crueset 8.5-inch casserole dish which I use for preparing roasted chicken and love it.
Stainless pots and pans
I love our set of All-Clad stainless pans and pots we bought just after we got married in 1996. They have been well-used and are still in excellent condition.
Goals for the future:
I’m actually very pleased with my progress of learning about and using traditional foods in my kitchen. But, there are always new goals to achieve. I will continue to look for local butter options that are raw and produced with organic practices. I’m also going to continue my education in cooking with and using organ meats.
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