Today’s Q & A is with Julie Sheehan, creator of Soulicious Foods.
ND: Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a mom, wife, social activist, and someone who believes that clean, whole foods are medicine for the mind, body and spirit. In 2014, I took a deep breath and started Soulicious Foods.
ND: Tell us a bit about how you went from making granola for your family, to offering it to consumers?
We were on a family vacation with a close friend. I brought granola with us, and one morning at breakfast she looked at me and simply said, “You should package this and sell it.” The seed was planted. It took a couple more years before I took that deep breath and put it out to the world.
ND: What is involved in the process of creating the granola?
Soulicious Foods granola is made in small batches right here in our home. As a stay at home mom, homeschooling one of our two children, the most sensible way for me to start was to have an approved residential kitchen. In the beginning sourcing ingredients was challenging, however, I never strayed from the core principle of using only clean ingredients. You won’t find any ingredients in our products that come from a genetically modified plant, “Roundup ready” seed, or a source laden with chemicals. That’s why I use as many organic ingredients as possible. It also remains a priority to support locally owned businesses, so I use New England wholesale distributors for most of Soulicious Foods’ ingredients. From the beginning we’ve sourced our maple syrup from a wonderful family owned and operated maple grove in Vermont. The owners of Pop’s Sugarhouse personally deliver it when they visit their daughter and her family in Newburyport. It’s the best maple syrup I’ve ever tasted, and I’m convinced it’s what makes Soulicious granola unlike any other.
ND: I read on your website that you follow a clean, whole foods diet. Have you always been someone who felt aware of healthy eating, or did you have a particular turning point that inspired you?
There were two turning points. One was really a subconscious evolution, and the other, an “aha” life changing moment. When I was in my twenties I started practicing yoga, and then in my early thirties took the plunge to get trained to be an instructor. Soon after I left my job and started teaching full-time. During that journey my food preferences simply shifted. Unhealthy foods became less appealing while clean, more nutritious ones became more and more attractive.
The second moment was when I had my son. It struck me to my core that these little beings take whatever we give them with unconditional trust and love. How could I offer him anything less than the highest quality foods I was capable of providing? That’s when my vigilance for clean, whole foods and their connection not only to my family’s health and wellness, but also that of the environment, kicked into full gear.
ND: What advice would you give to a parent who feels overwhelmed by the idea of reducing processed foods for their family, but wants to make a change?
Start simple and be kind to yourself. Look at your shopping cart and choose one item that you know you can make yourself, then put it back on the grocer’s shelf. Perhaps it’s a box of frozen waffles you decide to make at home using clean ingredients. That batch of waffles can be put in the freezer to pop into a toaster, just as easily as the box you purchase. It’s a journey, but also a really slippery slope in a good way. One change will inspire another and yet another, and before you know it, it’s not only your food choices that are shifting!
ND: One thing I hear from people is that eating in a more healthy way can be more expensive. Do you have any tricks for affordably feeding your family?
I don’t think it has to be. Often when people decide to eat healthier they start by purchasing a higher quality version of the same products. For example, they may choose an organic cereal or opt for organic produce. At the onset I did this as well and yes, the jump in food dollars spent was shocking. I started making what I could myself, phasing out processed foods. As a result our grocery bill went back to what we were used to spending if not less.
As for tricks, I have a few:
Purchase as many ingredients as you can from the bulk section of grocery stores. I find more competitive prices for some of our staple items on sites like Vitacost.
Purchase produce locally. A bunch of chemical free kale or a head of lettuce at a local farm is comparable in price, if not less expensive, than purchasing organic at the grocery store. And here’s my plug for local CSAs! You can get the most for your dollar while supporting a local farm whose growing practices align with your values. It’s a win-win!
Gradually reduce how much meat, especially red meat, your family consumes. I saw a staggering statistic recently that shared you could save 1300 gallons of water by either not showering for three months or passing on one burger. So for me it’s a cost value issue, as well as being kind to the environment.
ND: We are lucky to have an abundance of farms in this area to source great local food. Do you have favorites?
My go-to farms are Middle Earth Farm in Amesbury, Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, New Hampshire, and Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton and Long Hill Farm in West Newbury. I’m always asking what growing practices a farm uses because it can shift from season to season as well as within a growing cycle. For me, a farm does not have to be certified organic to get my support, however, they do have to adhere to clean growing practices.
Heron Pond Farm, South Hampton, NH
ND: On this blog we love to promote local places. So what is your favorite place in the area to…
Get a drink (cocktail, beer, glass of wine): Ceia Kitchen and Bar, Newburyport
Get a cup of tea/coffee: Café di Sienna, Newburyport
Get a meal: Blue Moon Evolution in Exeter, NH
Explore outdoors: Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (If you haven’t been to the rock grotto you won’t be sorry putting it on your “must visit” list!)
Go on a Day trip: Recently, we had a wonderful day at DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA. With over 50 sculptures to explore it’s the perfect place to take a picnic and spend a morning or the day. I’d recommend Sandy Point at the tip of Plum Island to walk the beach, build drift wood nooks, or relax with friends; Rye Beach to collect rocks, enjoy the ocean, and bask in the sun; and any of the MA Audubon properties which offer nature quests, trail,s and at some even a canoe paddle if you’re up for it.
ND: What are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for so many things, not the least of which is the journey that has brought me to this awareness of clean, whole foods and the role it plays in keeping my family happy and healthy. It truly is an exciting adventure and I can’t wait to see where else it leads!
Soulicious Foods Granola can be purchased here, or at numerous local farms.