How to Convert Your Family to Crunchy

You might be a crunchy mom and not even know it. Or, you might be interested in this new parenting trend and asking yourself, “What’s all the hype with being crunchy anyways?” and “What makes a person crunchy?”

You might be a crunchy if you:

• Make your own breads, jams, pickled foods, etc.
• Gave birth at home or without drugs
• Homeschool
• Grow your own food
• Don’t have a television
• Are a vegan or vegetarian
• And more…

Lis Luwia from Catholic Mommy Blogs is here with an exclusive interview with Nell O’Leary, a semi-crunchy, pregnant mom of 3 who sells organic children’s clothing in her own Etsy shop and blogs at Whole Parenting Family. Let’s see what a crunchy mom has to say about this!

Lis: In your opinion, what are the qualities of a crunchy person?

Nell: There are varying degrees of crunchy people—
• the true believers who live off the land, and
• the modified live-in-the-city-folk like me who are conscious of where their food comes from (fair-trade, organic, local as possible), concerned with recycling and reusing (waste in general), and generally inculcate a sense of respect for the environment at large.
A sidebar crunchy thing we do is to not have our kids watch TV or play with electronic devices (a little YouTube video here or there for instructional purposes aside.)

Lis: Without screen time for your kiddos, how in the world do you cook dinner? I would definitely burn something or never get around to finishing dinner if that was my situation!

Nell: I know my personality and that I have trouble stopping at one chocolate chip cookie—hang with me, this will make sense with regard to screen time. I knew that if I relied on it from the start, I would have trouble limiting my reliance on it because as a small artisan and writer, there is ALWAYS another little thing I need to get done without the kids’ interference. So it’s just not even an option in my toolbox as I’d probably overuse it.

My kids learn quiet time when they listen to audio stories as soon as they drop their second nap. It takes a little getting them used to staying in their rooms, but they all really love it now! The same principle applies to dinner: older kids can either busy themselves listening to something or playing or even helping me make it, and babies and tots go in the carrier if they’re fussy or needing to nurse. The show must go on and the kids learn pretty quickly to either help or escape being roped into helping!

Lis: Ok. That makes sense … especially about the chocolate chip cookies! Have you always been crunchy or are you a convert?

Nell: This is such a great question! We grew up eating Velveeta cheese and spam with a side of Cool Whip so I can’t say I have always been crunchy—in the least. Around high school, my sisters and I started learning more about BHT in cows, and the switch all started with the milk we convinced my mom to buy! Now all five of my siblings are crunchy to a degree, and there are even a number of foodies amongst us. It was gradual, and over time, though. Certainly I’m crunchier today than the first time I bought organic, hormone-free milk at 16!

Lis: What do you miss most about your pre-crunchy days?

Nell: Cheetos. Oreos. Microwave mac & cheese. I’m not insanely strict and will occasionally eat some of my mom’s fudge recipe (NOT HEALTHY! NOT ORGANIC!) or use disposable diapers for trips (though our favorite tried and true never-leak-out are also compostable, which is cool!). My teeth run sweet so I have to curb my natural inclination for sugary sugar.

Lis: What made you convert and become crunchy?

Nell: My true perceptive shift from processed food, plastic everything, and new clothes every year came about when I was pregnant with our first. BPA! It’s in all the plastics that babies use and can leach out and disrupt their endocrine system! These polyblend outfits are harsh on my babe’s skin and don’t breathe well! I was able to nurse and felt if I could make that gift to my babe, I’d like to continue the good-food-thing by making organic food as well for him.

Lis: What changes did you have to make?

Nell: Although I still live in an urban environment, we garden as much as possible for fresh veggies and fruits from our yard and shop the farmer’s markets and food coop. We also buy meat from local farmers by the half-cow or pig. We shop used clothing for the most part, use cloth diapers, stainless steel for the kids’ plates (in lieu of plastic). Of course we recycle everything that our city will take—plastics, paper, cardboard, glass. Our coop even will recycle the plastic veggie and fruit bags from the grocery store now, so that’s a really exciting new change!

Lis: What did your husband and people close to you think about the lifestyle change?

Nell: My husband was raised similarly to myself on quick food and not a ton of eco-consciousness. Although I led him to it a bit, he’s been an enthusiastic crunchy Catholic in his own right. He tends the garden and helps in the kitchen extensively. We’ve been on the same page about media.

Lis: That’s awesome! As your family has grown, has your crunchiness level changed?

Nell: I’ve become less dogmatic about my judgment of  the crunchy level of others the older I get and the more my family grows. I recognize food privilege and that buying organic or fair trade can almost double the cost of groceries, and certainly increases the cost of clothing if you’re going that route. It’s not in everyone’s budget nor a priority for everyone. Instead of packing my own snacks for the kids when we’re at a friend’s house (cringe … I was that mom!), I’m gracious enough and mature enough to be a good guest and accept what’s served to me.

Lis: How does being crunchy affect your children?

Nell: We talk about being appreciative for the cow that gave us this hamburger. We talk about treating the earth with respect and not littering. They love to recycle and hear about how their old artwork can become something else. It’s not spiritual per se, but more character forming.

Lis: What would you recommend to someone planning to start on the crunchy journey/ lifestyle?

Nell: If you’re a reader, I’d read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. If you’re a watcher, I’d watch “Fast Food Nation.” If you’re an experiencer, I’d go to the natural food coop and just shop with your eyes, comparing prices, seeing what looks like it’s worth the up-buy and what isn’t. I’d look for quality used kids clothes at franchised sales like “Just Between Friends” and stop at garage sales all summer long. Just look and see. Maybe you’ll like a semi-crunchy path and you don’t even know it!

Lis: How would you recommend explaining it to their kids?

Nell: I’d keep it simple: we’re going to try something new (dates, or pistachio ice cream, or kefir). You might not like the taste at first, but I want you to give it a try because I think your tummy will like it better in the long run. Or just talk about seeing the world through the lens of stewardship, again, this might manifest itself wildly differently in your lives than mine, and there’s really no wrong thing to emphasize about taking good care of our bodies and the world we’ve been given.

Lis: Dear readers, I hope this interview helped to unveil some of the concerns you may have about becoming crunchy or living more naturally with your family! If this is the next move for you, be sure to talk it over with your husband and take those baby steps while discussing it with your kids. You may get some funny looks from friends and family at first, but once you figure out what to do with a poopy cloth diaper in a public restroom, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a crunchy mom!