Going forward and looking back: Journey into real food

Last summer, I started thinking more about what we were eating and around October I got on a real food kick again. I started following a few recipe blogs and am even considering doing a Whole30. But I’m not the type to jump in feet first without looking. So I’ve been stepping us down gradually.

Here’s the progress we’ve made so far:

  • November:
    Quit (mostly) drinking caffinated drinks

    This one has been a struggle. There was the first week of angst and headaches and general hate-the-world-iness. Then there was two weeks of aches and general detoxing. And then I thought I was in the clear. Until I had just one 20-oz coke on a rough day at work and it started all over again. On the plus side, I now know what caffeine does to me and can attribute certain issues I’ve had to the source. On the negative side, I know exactly what will happen if I turn to caffeine while I’m sick.
    Began minimizing use of the microwave to heat food
    At one point I saw a Facebook post that took this seriously and started reconsidering the microwave for a bit. Ultimately, the issue I have with it is that food is just bland when it comes out. Plus, I like taking a few extra minutes in the kitchen. It’s my space to decompress and whip up something awesome for us to enjoy.
  • December:
    Started shopping at Eastern Market every Saturday for produce, eggs, bread and meat

    You know those haul videos on youtube where a girl dumps out all the makeup she just got and crows about how awesome it is and what a great deal she got? No? Well, they exist. And that’s how I feel when I get home from the market. Yesterday’s haul, $32 for: 4 dozen hormone-free, antibiotic-free eggs; 10 bananas; two loaves of 5-ingredient bread with no preservatives; 2 pounds of rolled oats; giant bag of spinach; 6 carrots; 4 apples; 5 oranges; bunch of celery; bag of green beans; container of grape tomatoes; and 2 grapefruit; which freed me up to spend $17 (more than I otherwise would have) on artisanal jam, honey, pasta and spices.
    I get home each week feeling like a superhero. And the kids learn a bit each week about where our food comes from. This week: Meat is made by killing animals. Beef=cow. Pork=pig. Chicken,turkey=Bird. They seemed pretty OK with that. Guess I’m not raising any potential conscientious objectors.
    Stopped buying anything with MSG in it
    Due to the propensity for MSG (monosodium glutamate) to cause headaches and nausea and is now linked to weight gain, I don’t want to be feeding anything with MSG in it to the kids. So far, we’ve only cut out ramen noodles and some premade seasoning packets. I don’t tend to eat meat that has it as an ingredient in the first place, and don’t eat most chips. So this one seemed like a simple change (for us) to clean up our lifestyle. But I recently discovered that MSG also goes by “glutamic acid” and “yeast extract” and “caseinate” and various types of hydrolyzed proteins, so I’ll have to look a little more closely at those labels.
  • January:
    Started creating my own lunchables in portioned containers

    Rather than buying lunchables at $2 each (if I can get them on sale), I started putting the lunchmeat and cheeses we already buy with some ritz crackers (not the best, but we like them) in some separated BPA-free tupperware I picked up. And the result is a $1 snack pack with far fewer preservatives and more real ingredients. And we’ve started branching out a bit with them. My lunch for work today was hot turkey sandwich topper on one side and squash on the other, with a few slices of oatmeal bread in a separate container. It was brilliant.
    Started using vinegar rather than chemical cleaning products
    In addition to the food thing, I’ve started thinking about the chemicals we’re exposed to every day. The simplest change I can make is using vinegar and papertowels for small household messes rather than disinfecting wipes and the like. While I still have bleach for the bigger jobs, I want to keep the kids away from the harsher stuff that isn’t as safe.
  • Goal for February: Stop buying anything with carageenan in it
    The main place we’re seeing carageenan is in the almond milk the kids drink. Early this summer I switched them to almond chocolate milk rather than dairy milk and it solved Dylan’s acid reflux issues, so I’ve kept them on it. He can still eat cheese, so I don’t know that it’s a lactose intolerance thing, but that’s the only dairy product we eat, so it may just be a mild intolerance. Anyway, a lot of non-dairy milk alternatives have carageenan in it, which is a seaweed extract that is used as a thickener for various foods including milk alternatives. However, concerns have been raised about how safe it is. But since it comes from cultured seaweed, even the organic stuff I buy from Amazon can have it in there and still call itself “organic.” Here’s a list of foods that do and don’t contain carageenan if that’s a concern to you. For me, I don’t want to take the risk with my kids’ health.
  • Budget-wise, I’m aiming for a 4-person food-stamp budget for all of our groceries (about $632 a month) + $100/month of eating out. This way we have more money for trips and special stuff and our eating out gets restricted a bit, making it more special than a burger and fries from McDonalds every few days.

    Wow, writing it all out feels like a serious accomplishment. I’m so happy with where we’ve gotten to on this. (And with the mason jars full of food in my refrigerator.) Here’s to baby steps to a healthier lifestyle.

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