Welcome to Week 8!
I hope last week’s Challenge wasn’t too difficult for you to incorporate. It can be really time consuming to make 5 dinners in a week, especially if you and your family are used to eating out more often. But to be honest, I usually don’t MAKE 5 dinners, we have leftovers one night or a casual night with soup and sandwiches. Also what helps is making 2 and freezing one like a meatloaf or lasagna.
We were never really big on eating dinners out, maybe because it’s so expensive to do so. But I think you will find the less you eat out the more money you will save. And that money can go towards buying organic produce for example or fresh bread at the bakery.
Eating whole, organic, real food isn’t as expensive when you put back the processed foods that end up in the cart along with it. It makes more sense to spend a few extra dollars a month on healthy real food than processed non nutritional foods.
Well it is now April and it is the beginning of Spring! What better time to start cleaning out the pantry and fridge and purging all the old processed foods that have probably been there for months now?
This weeks challenge is to:
Restock the pantry and fridge with whole real foods
I’ve compiled a list of some of the most common processed items that we buy from the supermarket. And alongside it is a healthy choice (or a few) in that category. These are the categories that I found the most changes in for us as a family.
Our pantry was once filled with processed General Mills cereals, processed granola bars, canned soups and kids snacks.
I find that my freezer is more packed now than the pantry ever was. That’s because if I make homemade muffins or blondie cookie bars as snacks or desserts I freeze them. The kids know now that if they need a quick snack the freezer is the place to go, not the pantry.
So here are some alternative choices you can make when cleaning out the pantry.
Milk – This is one item I ALWAYS buy Organic. I just don’t like or trust the rBGH in milk, this also bleeds over into cheeses, I buy them Organic as well. One brand I like and trust is Organic Valley. According to their website, “All dairy cows, by law, raised for organic milk production can not be given antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones. Plus, organic dairy cows must be raised on 100%-certified organic feed. That includes grazing on certified organic pasture grown without herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers. Organic feed may not come from genetically modified sources, either.” If you go to their webpage there is a link for coupons on the bottom left.
Yogurt – This was a big switch for us, including me. I am still working on the kids. Organic yogurt tends to be stringier (is that a word?). It isn’t as thick I guess you could say. I’m still mixing half Yoplait or Dannon in for the kids. Now that I have made the switchover I can’t eat Dannon anymore. Things taste different when you eat food without hormones or added preservatives and going back is kind of gross to be honest. Anyway, I seem to use Stonyfield pretty regularly. Again their website has a coupon.
Steer clear of the Gogurts and kids yogurts! Unfortunately food manufacturers think kids won’t like or eat products that aren’t neon green and can be seen from space. My kids eat plain and vanilla yogurt only and have no problems scarfing them down. Add some of your own vanilla for flavor or cut up strawberries or blueberries.
Let’s just go from best to worst here for a moment. The best bread to consume would be bread you’ve made yourself, like my Everything bread. You DO NOT need a bread machine. I make this in my Kitchen Aid and let it rise and bake it. It really is simple. The next option would be to buy it fresh from your bakery, 100% whole wheat.
And the last option (which is where the most processed breads are found) is the supermarket. Now there are a few good choices, you just have to know what you’re looking for. White would be your worst choice because it is not only stripped of all its nutrients, but contains a lot of preservatives and chemicals to keep it fresh. Choose breads that don’t have enriched flours and use whole wheat flour. My choice when I’m in a bind is Nature’s Own. It’s pretty readily available. When in doubt check out www.fooducate.com. You can even download it on your phone! Believe me I used it A LOT when I first went unprocessed!
This category can go on forever from potato chips to Goldfish. Who doesn’t like to snack? I think out of ALL the changes we have made so far this one is the most drastic. If you open my pantry there are literally no snacks. Well I maybe not NO snacks… but what I do stock now is:
Fruit Strips – these are like Fruit rolls up (you want to see a laundry list of ingredients, check that out!) only better. Stretch Island Fruit Co makes the ones I buy or you can make your own. My kids seem to like strawberry the best.
Potato Chips – the problem with potato chips is in the flavors. If you just stick with regular chips with 3 ingredients or less it would be the better choice. Kettle Potato Chips makes an Organic one with just sea salt. They do have safflower oil in them so we eat them sparingly.
Kids goldfish – If you have kids, chances are you have goldfish crackers somewhere in your house. A lot of moms (including myself) thought these were an ok treat. These are the ingredients in Pepperidge Farm’s goldfish:
|: WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR,UNBLEACHED ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR [FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), FOLIC ACID], CHEDDAR CHEESE [(PASTEURIZED MILK, CHEESE CULTURE, SALT, ENZYMES), WATER, SALT], VEGETABLE OILS (CANOLA, SUNFLOWER AND/OR SOYBEAN, CONTINAS 2 PERCENT OR LESS OF: SALT, YEAST, AUTOLYZED YEAST, SPICES, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, AMMONIUM BICRBONATE), ANNATTO (COLOR), ONION POWDER, BUTTER (MILK), ENZYMES, SODIUM PHOSPHATE|
We have chosen to buy Annie’s. And again there is safflower oil in these so they aren’t eaten on a regular basis, but my kids are kids and want to munch on something during a movie or with their sandwich, this is the brand I buy now.
Crackers – I am so happy to say Triscuits make the list! whew! I really like these. Another good one I’ve found is Mary’s Gone Crackers. The kids don’t seem to like them so much but the adults do.
This is another category that I can spend hours on, but to sum it up almost ALL breakfast cereals should be avoided, especially the ones marketed towards kids. My daughter LIVED on Lucky Charms, but only ate the marshmallows leaving the cereal in the bowl. We have cut back on our cereal consumption drastically, although I do buy 1 box a week. What should you look for in a cereal? Ones with low sugar (preferably under 3 grams) high fiber (preferably over 3 grams) and low sodium (under 150). Know how many cereals fit that criteria? Not many.
The brands I buy now are Cascadian Farms and Nature’s Path. Cornucopia Institute is dedicated to responsible farming and marketing and they ranked Nature’s Path Optimum Blueberry Cinnamon cereal #7 out of 10 best Organic choices for cereal.
If you are looking for 100% ORGANIC cereals Cornucopia has an Organic Cereal Scorecard on their website dedicated to rating organic cereals, with the highest rating being 700. Nature’s Path comes in pretty high as does Go Raw (another of my new found favorites). Barbara’s came in at a shocking 98 stating only 4 out of their 21 cereals is certified organic. More shocking was Kashi’s low score of 54 claiming only 4 out of their 24 cereals are certified organic. It’s a good site to check out!
But since I started making my own Granola I can’t begin to tell how much less cereal we are buying. And I never tire of this stuff! I change up the nuts from pecans one week to walnuts the next, add coconut, don’t add it. I eat it every single day now and to be totally honest I haven’t had a bowl of store bought cereal since January and it’s now April. I used to rely heavily on cereals in the mornings for the kids and if I’m being REALLY honest here it was just laziness. If I get up 15 min earlier I can make them a hot breakfast. I give them cereal about 2 times a week now on average.
Oatmeal– this is another area where there is tons of hidden sugars, preservatives and chemicals. Avoid the instant oatmeal, especially the flavored ones. Do you really think they hand picked strawberries for that oatmeal packet? Think again, this is where your strawberry flavor comes from. My new found favorite oatmeal is from Better Oats. Also try steel cut oats, they take longer to cook, about 20 minutes. I’ve seen some recipes where people preset their slow cooker with the oats and all ingredients ready and it goes off before morning and when you come down for breakfast it’s hot and ready!
- These are just a few of the many things we buy each week and bring in our home. We still eat cereal, we still eat snacks and desserts. We just have chosen different brands. Try different brands of the things you love.
- Try and go off the beaten path for a change. Try shopping in different stores, organic stores, Better Health, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods. Just be careful to read labels wherever you go. Just because one cereal from a certain manufacturer has gotten a good rating and is a healthy choice doesn’t mean ALL their cereals are.
- Shop the perimeter of the store. I can’t tell you how much time I used to spend on grocery shopping each week. Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you how much I HATE grocery shopping. Now I’m better mainly due to the fact I shop the perimeter and I’m not up and down every single aisle anymore. Your produce, your dairy, your meats (if that’s where you choose to buy them) are all on the outside perimeters in refrigerated sections. Anything in the middle is mainly boxed, packaged and can sit there indefinitely.
- When choosing produce buy organic. If you can’t afford to buy ALL organic, then at least be sure to get the Dirty Dozen. As you eat more fruits and veggies you want them to be as free from pesticides and chemicals as possible.
- Take advantage of the bulk nut bins. They are often fresher than the packaged ones and you can get only what you will use saving you money.
- When choosing your meats you want organic, grass fed. Big packages of the ground chuck that’s on sale could potentially have pink slime in it. Visit your local butcher where you can ask where the beef is coming from and how it was raised.
- When choosing your seafood, always choose WILD over FARM RAISED. Farm raised fish are given chemicals to give them color, and due to the overpopulation of the fish being raised they are prone to lice. Yes lice! And they are given antibiotics to prevent this. Wild fish eat wild food like they are supposed to. Farm raised fish are given pellets.
- Challenge yourself to find foods with 5 ingredients or less. I just found these mints at Trader Joe’s … well it was my daughter actually who spotted them because it says right on the package ONLY THREE INGREDIENTS. My all time favorite candy is Junior Mints so imagine how happy I was when we bought these!
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:
PS ~ I want you to pay particular attention when you visit the websites listed in the resource section that you can EASILY find the Nutritional content of each of their products. That means there’s nothing to hide! I like transparency.
Sept 9, 2014 UPDATE:
We no longer purchase Annie’s, Lara Bars or Cascadian Farms due to General Mills buying them out. We feel strongly that where our dollars go our voices go as well. If you missed the recent buyout with Annie’s you can read that here.
I’ll be on the hunt for smaller organic companies and will pass them on.