I have always been big on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and preparing meals from scratch, but I used jars of sauce and packets of powder to get a flavourful meal on the table in as quick a time as possible.
I also used white pasta which I can buy in 3kg bags and is cheaper than the brown varieties; the same with rice – bigger bags, cheaper price.
Over the last 6 months or so I have been thinking more about what we eat and realised that a lot of the foods that I bought was highly processed and contained a lot of ingredients which I have no idea what they are and often cannot even pronounce!
Looking at those ingredients lists scared me, and made me wonder what effect they may be having on our health, so I decided to go as healthy as practical.
First I switched to wholegrain pasta and brown rice, wholemeal bread, brown sugar, and wholewheat flour for baking; simple switches, done gradually, that largely went unnoticed by the family and appeared not have a huge impact on family meals. No mega tantrums from disgruntled family made me a bit more encouraged.
I soon realised that wholegrain pasta was far more filling than the white stuff I had been using; yes it costs a bit more and I can’t get it in the huge bags, but as it is more filling we don’t need so much on the plate. Same goes for the brown rice, and everything I made using the wholewheat flour and brown sugar was also far more filling so lasted longer. I also have the brown unrefined sugar in my coffee. I am the only one who has coffee and I just can’t bring myself to go without; my little treat.
I soon realised that I needed to empty my cupboards and take a look at everything that was in there and clear out the junk. The rule was – if I couldn’t pronounce it, or couldn’t find it in natural form then it went out the door. So ingredients like onions, herbs, oils that I understood (olive, sunflower, etc) were ok. Anything else was not.
What I got rid of:
All the packets with artificial ingredients ; salad dressings, and jars, etc.
Premade sauces in jars had all sorts of unpronounceables in them
Instant mixes, ready meals, etc I had a few of those for those lazy nights when the family where all out, so I didn’t have to do a ‘proper’ meal just for me.
Anything containing fats or syrups that I didn’t recognise as ‘proper food’ went as well.
I switched the small pots of fruity yogurt to a great big tub of natural yogurt with no added sugar or any other additives. It is a live yogurt, which means it has natural biotics in it which is good for your gut – like those little tiny very expensive pots of yogurt tasting milk, only cheaper.
I looked at the breakfast bars and found they were ok – only things like nuts and seeds and honey where to be found in those, phew, that was a relief; they are handy for tossing in the pocket when you are running out the door to catch the bus in the morning.
I looked at the cans of fruit and vegetables; I didn’t have many as we mostly use frozen veg; baked beans, tomatoes, kidney beans, chickpeas, peaches, grapefruit. They looked ok, but I was a bit concerned about the beans in salted water – I decided I would use those, but look for an alternative next time. I mean, I can understand using salt as a preservative, but they are canned, which is a preserving technique so what is the need for the salt? The fruit was in natural juices, great. And the tomatoes had citric acid, which is basically lemon juice, right? So they stayed.
Popcorn and pretzels are a favourite healthy snack for the lunch boxes. I decided to use what we had, but the next time I would get the corn kernels and pop them at home. It’s fun and has to be healthier and cheaper than buying them ready popped.
White sugar had already been replaced with brown, but I decided to get a few jars of honey and maple syrup for baking.
The flour, rice and pasta had already been switched to wholegrain, and I decided to start using other grains like quinoa & couscous, and to make sure I had more nuts and seeds on hand for baking and grabbing for a quick snack. These are healthy and nutritious and much better than crisps or sweets.
When the breakfast cereal ran out, I found a great granola recipe, and make it every 2-3 weeks in a big batch. I also found a refrigerated oatmeal recipe, to which you can add any fruits and stuff that you normally add to hot porridge. Porridge oats are always to be found in my cupboards, I love the stuff.
The herbs and spices stayed put. Nothing untoward in those.
I know that the cheese and bacon is highly processed, but I just can’t give them up, and I figure that as I have made so many other changes that a little of something bad may be allowed.
I use cheese fairly often, not every day, and the same with bacon; it’s nice to have to add to the odd dinner dish, or to make bacon butties. I looked into home-making cheese, and they seem to be cottage cheese types and soft cheeses, which are great, but not so good for grating on toast, and making a cheese sauce to put over cauliflower, so the cheddar stays for now.
If you change just a few things each week, bit by bit as you need to replace pantry items, then that is better than not changing anything at all. If you cant bear to part with your salad dressing for example, then that’s fine, keep it, just look at alternatives in other areas that you could change.
If you are responsible for what your family eats, and you have only good stuff in your pantry, then that is what you and your family will eat. It soons become normal.