Unprocessed Food Month

The Challenge: Un-Processed Food Month

The Goal: To significantly reduce the amount of processed/pre-packaged foods we consume.

I’ve been talking about this for awhile now, and I decided it is now time to write it out. In June, our family will be undergoing a challenge to eliminate most if not all processed foods out of our diet for one whole month. I’ve been using the term “processed” very generally, for me it means, pre-made, pre-packaged food. These food items, though they allow for quick, easy meals, often contain extra added chemicals to keep them “fresh,” lots of salt and/or sugars, and lots of packaging that ends up most often in landfills. So for us, this is primarily a health experiment. But it is also an attempt to be more connected to what we eat and buy. The current US lifestyle distances us from where our stuff comes from. This doesn’t only apply to food, but food is a big part of this. It is hard to be responsible in our choices if we don’t know where our food was grown, what the factories were like where it was processed, and why certain ingredients were chosen to add to the final product. So we are committing to this lifestyle change for one month. The hope is that after the month is over we will know which things were worth eliminating from our diet, and which were not. The month experiment will hopefully give us a good idea of the cost effectiveness (in time and money) of a long-term lifestyle change. Throughout the month, and leading up to it, I will be blogging often, so that you also can benefit from our journey. My hope is that my research, new learned skills, great local finds, and whole food recipes will make this process easier for others who want to try a similar experience.

The Rules:
-We will not buy most multi-ingredient food items. This includes frozen meals, cereal, crackers, baked goods, soup, sausage, chips, dressings, and sauces. I can’t think of any multi-ingredient item that I would need to buy, so I may change this rule to “will not buy any,” but I want to leave it slightly open for now in case there is something incredibly important I have forgotten.
-1-2 ingredient items that I can make myself we will also not buy. These include butter, yogurt, and cheese.
-When buying vegetables and fruit we will opt for fresh whenever possible, frozen as a second choice (as long as nothing has been added to it), and stay away from canned. This includes beans, which we can buy dried. We will also try to buy as much local produce as we can.
-Though we will buy flour, sugar, baking powder, and other baking ingredients, we will attempt to stick to the types that are closest to the original ingredient (i.e. whole wheat flour, raw sugar or honey, etc).
-Items already on hand that do not fit these rules can be used, though we will try to avoid them. I have already limited my buying in these areas and have not been replacing many of these things.
-Where possible we will buy products without packaging, when packaged, we will strive to choose the most environmentally friendly option and will recycle what can be recycled.

The Benefits:
-Healthier diet
-Motivation to learn new skills, like cheese and yogurt making, bread baking, etc
-Fits with our life goals of being more natural
-Encourages us to try new things
-Helps our kids realize a new way of eating, hopefully encouraging them into lifelong healthy eating habits
-We’ll hopefully learn what whole foods are availably locally
-An educational opportunity for our children to learn and practice some handy skills.

The Challenges:
-Cost. I’m not sure yet how the cost of this style of eating will compare to our current budget. We’ve been making some changes already, and I’m hoping that we’ll buy less items though those items might be more expensive.
-How. I have to learn to do some things I’ve never done before. I also have to search out where to find some of the ingredients I need.
-Time. It will take time to research, find ingredients, make things from scratch, and plan meals for the month.

I know that some of you may think I am crazy to attempt such a huge change in a such a short amount of time. But I find I am more successful at making changes when I jump in headlong, with clear rules and guidelines. And as John says, setting goals goes a long way towards actually accomplishing them. John and I are both committed to this, which is important. My kids, though not too thrilled, are getting used to the idea. To be honest, we aren’t jumping in unprepared. We’ve been slowly working up to this month and will continue to prepare over the last couple of weeks of May. I started working on losing weight last month, and the meal plan I am using online actually uses mostly whole foods. It is getting me used to making a grocery list that is over half fresh fruits and vegetables. There are a few things I will still have to weed out, but for the most part, we’ve been eating pretty close to this goal for a month now. I bought the Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day book and have found it extremely useful in learning how to make healthy homemade pita bread, crackers, buns, bagels, etc. I’ve been practicing some of these already. I plan to buy some goat milk from a friend and start the process of learning cheese and yogurt making. I’ve been keeping track of other useful sources: a website I can order organic foods in bulk once a month, a local dairy for cow milk (for butter and yogurt), which stores in the area carry natural foods and hard to find items, and other things.

This does not mean we won’t eat at other people’s houses or eat out at restaurants, though we most likely won’t be eating fast food, something we tend to avoid anyway. It also doesn’t mean we won’t eat things like donuts, cake, bread, cheese, etc. We just have to make it ourselves.

4 thoughts on “Unprocessed Food Month

  1. You know, Miriam, I admire you….I have no desire to copy you, but I admire you! lol! I have thought about staying away from too many processed foods, and I’ve experimented a little. Mostly with supper. I’d like to buy more fresh stuff and cook it myself instead of the 15 minute-from-freezer-to-table things. (which I relied on heavily when I worked)

    I’d also like to see a copy of your “Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day” book. That sounds really interesting!

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  2. Good for you! I would never go so far as you are… I can barely manage our life/house as it is… I did however join a fruit and veggie coop and it is impressive how having all these fresh foods on hand is making me change the way we eat… From opting for a fresh fruit smoothie instead of packaged juice for my kids so the mangoes wouldn’t go bad… Good luck to you! Can’t wait to see what you learn!

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  3. Thanks Wendy,
    You are welcome to take a look at my bread book, though I am quite attached to it right now. 🙂 The website I am using for my weight loss diet also has wonderful recipes with fresh ingredients and I would highly recommend it if you are looking for some new whole food recipes to try. It is Eatingwell.com

    Thank you Mariafer,
    We were planning on joining a csa (similar to the coop you have) here in our area which would have been very helpful, but the flooding ended up affecting the farm, so we will not be able to do that this year. But I definitely want to try something like that next year.

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  4. I can’t wait for you to start writing about it. I’m always searching for new recipes and ideas. This last year I started making our bread on a consistent basis and we love it. Last month I began making peanut butter and surprisingly all the kids really liked it too. My next challenge: yogurt and cheese which the yogurt failed this week, but let’s encourage each other!

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