October #Unprocessed - Week 2 Update

Week 2 Update:

This week started out a little rough, not because I was struggling with the challenge, but because I cracked two of my teeth. That's what I get for eating fruit and nut bars instead of twizzlers on the way home from St. Louis. Unfortunately my dental problems have yet again left me scrambling for meal ideas — anything other than soft food is off the table for the next three weeks, unless my dentist can get me in earlier. I'm not looking forward to living on a diet of soup, bread, yogurt, and oatmeal so more menu planning is in order. Budget Impact: $2,000+ (which makes me wish I had just eaten the twizzlers.)

Speaking of budgets, since our food budget is so small I've been keeping a close watch on any extra spending I've done during the challenge. This was one of my husband's biggest concerns when I told him what we'd be doing this month. So far I've averaged $20 per week in extra expenses, but for the most part those extra costs have been offset by the things I haven't been buying, such as single serving yogurt cups and tortillas. Overall the impact to our budget has been minimal and if we can increase our grocery budget I feel like the changes would be sustainable in the long run.

Bringing Back Pizza Night

This week my biggest expenses revolved around pizza night. We gave it up for week 1, but I couldn't see us going a whole month without home made pizza and decided to modify my pizza crust recipe. This wasn't difficult, but finding an unprocessed meat proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. Many of the "natural" meats are still full salt and sugar and I was determined to eliminate as much sugar as possible from my diet this month. I did stumble across one brand of deli roast beef with simple ingredients and no sugar. The meat wasn't as flavorful as I've grown accustomed to, but it did allow us to have cheese steak pizza for dinner. We'll be using the last of the deli meat next week for pizza night and I'll be looking into additional topping ideas for the rest of the month. Ultimately I'd love to find a unprocessed pepperoni, but I'm not sure if such a thing exists.

Next Week:

I'll be experimenting more with the white whole wheat flour I bough for pizza night. I can see a lot of potential uses and still plan on modifying my pita recipe when I have time. Unfortunately the next few days I'll be busy with a number of dentist appointments so my time in the kitchen will be limited. When I have a busy week like this I prefer to pick up a rotiserie chicken and not worry about cooking. I'll need to do some advance planning or pull out my crock-pot so I can continue to focus on staying unprocessed this month.

October #Unprocessed - Week 1 Update

Week 1 Update:

The first few days of the challenge went smoothly. I focused on making small changes to some of our favorite recipes, many of which only needed minor tweaking to be considered unprocessed. Not only did it help me ease into the challenge, but it will help me maintain these changes in the long run. I find that small changes are easier to stick to and I want the changes I make to our diet this month be for the long haul, not just while we're participating in October #Unprocessed.

Breakfast was by far the easiest part of the challenge since I tend to rely heavily on oatmeal or another whole grain hot cereal to keep me feeling full until lunch. I can easily customize it for individual tastes and it can be made in advance, which is perfect for a non-morning person like me. I did use this as an opportunity to experiment with less processed sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. One of my goals this month is to reduce my sugar intake, but I found that I really missed adding brown sugar to my oatmeal; I really do prefer the taste. Ultimately I decided to switch to Sugar in the Raw (Turbinado sugar) and reduce the amount of sugar I put in my oatmeal. Hopefully over time my tastes will change and I'll stop craving brown sugar.

Lunch has proven to be more of a challenge that I anticipated. I don't always give it the same amount of consideration that I do other meals. More often than not I rely on things that can be tossed together quickly and wrapped in a tortilla – I've really missed tortillas this week. I decided to do some menu planning for week 2 to help me with lunch planning and make our mid-day meal run a little more smoothly.

Eating on the road:

Going in to the challenge I knew that this week would be the most difficult. Not because eating entirely unprocessed required more thought and scrutiny about my food, but because there would be three whole days when I had little control over what I ate. We made the trip back home this past weekend to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of my husband's grandparents. That meant meals prepared by others and a lot of eating out. I decided before the challenge that I would focus on eating smaller portions and making healthier decisions when I could rather than scrutinize every ingredient in my food. Sometimes less processed is the best you can do and it's important to realize that it's ok to eat out occasionally. For me the ultimate goal is to make healthier decisions every day.

What healthier decisions did I make?

We skipped the drive-thru at McDonalds and made a quick stop in at Subway for a veggie sub (although I did give in to temptation and have a cookie too.) 

I packed healthier alternatives to our favorite road trip treats. Instead of picking up a king sized snickers bar, I opted for a small package of dark chocolate covered almonds. While I brought along Twizzlers for my husband, they're his one necessity to survive the fourteen hour round trip drive, I didn't eat a single one. That's a huge accomplishment for me because they're one of my biggest vices and I can easily put away half a package on a road trip.

We went to a winery to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. Instead of ordering a full meal we settled on house made whole wheat pretzels and an artisan cheese and sausage platter that we shared with my parents. I focused on eating until I was full and not munching away at the extras because I hate to waste food.

Fighting food cravings:

Now it's time to come clean and admit the fact that I gave in to my cravings for fast food on the return trip home. I ate a Sourdough Jack from Jack in the Box and I enjoyed every last greasy bite (and probably licked my fingers clean too.) I've always felt that it was better to feed my cravings when I have them instead of completely restricting myself from junk food. I'm more prone to overeating unhealthy food when I choose to ignore my cravings. Now, when I crave chips I don't feel guilty, instead I buy a snack-sized bag and enjoy them. I recognize it's a treat, a very unhealthy treat, but I no longer deny myself. In the case of my burger craving, I recognized that my need for unhealthy food came from the stress of a long drive and lack of sleep. I think that it is incredibly important to determine why you are craving unhealthy food and work to eliminate the types of situations that trigger these cravings if possible. In this case, I can't eliminate my monthly trip home to visit family, nor would I want to, so instead I focused on making healthier decisions during the trip. I ordered a burger, I didn't order a value meal with fries and a soda.

What's in store for week 2?

I've made a list of healthy snack and lunch ideas. Hopefully planning my lunch and snack menus in advance will help me cut down on some of the late night cravings I've been having this week.

Tonight I'll be looking for unprocessed alternatives for some of the ingredients I've pulled out of my pantry for the month.
 
What's on the list?
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Taco Shells
  • Corn Starch Alternative (arrowroot powder or potato starch)

I'll also be experimenting with white whole wheat flour. I'll be altering my pizza crust and pita bread recipes to make them unprocessed. I'm looking forward to bringing back our Friday pizza night.

Not Starving Yet is Crossing the Pond!

Things have been a bit hectic around here lately and I wanted to give you all a quick update and share some exciting news that I've been keeping close to my chest. If you follow me on twitter then you may have caught my brief mention about this a month or so back, but one month from today I'll crossing the pond and spending two weeks in France. I'm excited beyond words since this is my first trip to Europe and it's been two years since I've left the country.

Even though I still have a month until I leave my mouth is already watering at the though of spending two weeks enjoying the the numerous culinary delights I'm sure to encounter. No one approaches food quite like the French, they've truly turned it into an art form. While I'm fortunate to have two weeks to explore and learn, I can't help but be a little disappointed that I don't have more time. There is so much I want to do and see while I'm there. 

France isn't the only trip I have planned, I'm actually going to be spending the better part of the next six weeks on the road and in the air. I'll be starting out in St. Louis where I'll be spending ten days with my family before my little brother's wedding. It will be great to be home, especially since I haven't been able to visit much in the past year. I can't wait to catch up with everyone and celebrate not only my brother's wedding, but my 31st birthday. 

I'm another year older, hopefully a little bit wiser, and I've found my first grey hair (but lets keep that a secret, just between you, me, and the rest of the internet.)

While I'm gone things should proceed pretty much uninterrupted although my social media presence is going to come to a complete standstill. I've decided to leave my cell phone and laptop at home while I'm off gallivanting around the world. I never imagined that blogging would become such an all-consuming presence in my life. Since I started this blog nearly a year ago things have really taken off and while I love spending hours in the kitchen coming up with new dishes to share, as well as reading your questions and comments, I need a chance to recharge my creative batteries.

It's going to be hard to be without you over the next few weeks, you've all become a huge part in my life, but I haven't had a chance to disconnect for more than a day since I started blogging. I'm looking forward to the quiet, the lack of a schedule to follow, and the influence my time in France will give me. Since you won't be able to be there with me and I didn't want to leave you here all alone, I've written a few things ahead of time to give you a small taste of France right here at home.

When I return from my travels I'll be back with a vengeance with even more to share. In the meantime feel free to keep leaving comments and sending me your questions. I love to hear from you!

As always, thanks for stopping by.
Jenn