Before the challenge kicked off this week I went through our pantry, refrigerator, and freezer using the kitchen test to determine what foods wouldn't be allowed to stay. Any items with questionable ingredients, or even worse ingredients I couldn't pronounce, were removed. Last year I decided to lock up my off-limits ingredients in the guest room with the intent of slowly finishing them off and not replacing them. The funny thing is, this year I ended up pulling out many of the same ingredients— we never ate them.
I have a friend that will be getting a huge care package pretty soon, she has a hungry little boy running around and since shopping with a toddler in tow is not always a fun prospect, I know she'll love a box of staples to keep on hand.
There are a few items I'll keep, they're ingredients I only use on special occasions like our upcoming poker night. These are things like Milnot, Velveeta, French's Onions (although I'm working to find an alternative to those this year) and my husband's favorite BBQ sauce. Most of these ingredients I only use once a year and in a small amount, so I'm ok with keeping them for now, although eventually I'm going to spend time this month exploring alternatives to these products.
I also pulled out a few of our poker night staples which actually do pass the kitchen test, even though they are junk food. It's really hard to resist the cheddar horseradish potato chips I've been buying. To keep with the spirit of the challenge they're gone, only to be pulled out for poker night next week, That way I'm not tempted to sit there an eat the entire bag (which I may have done last month because those things are so hard to put down.)
Now that my pantry is ready for the challenge it's time to outline my goals for the month.
My Goals for October #Unprocessed
Last year I started the challenge with a clear set of goals which evolved as the month went on. I expect the same to happen this year as I find new areas I want to focus on. GMOs continue to be a concern, so I want to continue to educate myself about them and work to eliminate them from our diet. This has been one of my ongoing goals this year, but one I've met with little success, so I'd like to continue to focus on it.
Budget also remains a concern. Last year at the start of the challenge I had a grocery budget of $250 per month to feed three people. It's the same budget I had been struggling with for years and rising food costs were making it impossible to keep. By the end of the challenge I was able to increase my budget for the month, which is currently $400, not including the $50 per month I own my parents for beef. Switching to an entirely organic and non-GMO diet isn't something entirely within my grasp at the moment, so I want to use this month to determine where the money is best spent.
Another goal from last year was to track and reduce my sugar intake. I've done a great job eliminating excess sugar from lunch and dinner, but breakfast could still use more work. I usually alternate between fresh fruit, scrambled eggs with cheese, sprouted wheat toast with natural peanut butter, blueberry oatmeal, and Honey Walnut Granola Breakfast Bowls. I may have finally gotten the hang of eating breakfast every day, but it isn't always a healthy breakfast, which is why my goal for Weeks 2 and 3 will be to come up with more low sugar options.
Above all else I want to spend the month learning more about the food I eat. That is my number one goal during the challenge. The more I know about where my food comes from and what ingredients actually go in to it, the easier it is to make better decisions about feeding my family. As with last year I'm sure I'll make mistakes and miss ingredients that don't hold up to the kitchen test, but I try to keep in mind that a mistake can become a teachable moment. Rather than beat myself up over something I've done wrong I choose to learn from it.
Deliberate Exceptions to the Challenge
Before I started the challenge last year I outlined any exceptions to the kitchen test I was willing to make. I knew going in I wanted to keep the list small and for the most part I was able to stick to it.
Here is what I decided to allow:
- baking powder/soda
- citric acid
- enriched pasta (in limited amounts)
- cane sugar (in limited amounts)
- soy lecithin (but only in chocolate) NOT ALLOWED THIS YEAR
Most of these allowances were made so I could bake my own bread and eat the food I had already put up for winter since I use citric acid for canning. I did my best to limit ingredients that didn't pass the kitchen test and continued to look for items where I could switch brands to avoid unhealthy ingredients.
Last year I found the need for one more exception—Calcium Chloride. I couldn't find a single can or jar of diced or whole tomatoes that didn't use it to keep everything nice and firm. Even switching to organic didn't help. Since tomato season ends fairly early in Wisconsin store-bought tomatoes aren't a great option either. I'll be adding Calcium Chloride to my exception list. My focus will instead be on reducing the amount of canned tomatoes I use.
The last allowance for this year is one that I've debated about a lot before finally deciding to include it on my list. We love Mexican night in this house, but I haven't been able to find the time to make tortillas from scratch. While looking for something healthier than those yellow-box taco shells and thick doughy tortillas that taco night often centered around I stumbled across Tortilla Land uncooked tortillas. Since they only have five ingredients—wheat flour, water, canola oil, salt, and sugar—and don't contain anything unexpected, I was happy to make the switch. They don't pass the kitchen test and are a processed food, but I still feel it is a huge step in the right direction. We'll be allowing them this month, but I'm going to limit us to two packages.
How to take part in October #Unprocessed
If you're interested in joining me in October #Unprocessed head over to Eating Rules and take the pledge. Otherwise, you can check back next week for an update on my progress.