Changing the Way We Eat

Oh, Food….how I love you.

Over the past few months, we’ve been slowly changing our eating habits.  They weren’t all that horrible before…or rather, I should say we probably ate like most Americans do.  Lots of crackers and cereal and snacks in little packages…an apple or banana every once in awhile, and our vegetables were mostly of the canned variety.  Moving to Seattle meant having a little bit more money since Clay finally had a job, so I was able to rethink our diet a little bit more….not to mention I finally had a kitchen that more than one person could comfortably fit in, so I actually enjoy being in there and cooking isn’t quite the chore it used to be.  As I mentioned before, last year I discovered what it meant to actually cook something from scratch.

Things I didn’t know you could make without using a box mix that I have since added to my cooking repertoire:  brownies, hot chocolate, cake, muffins, biscuits, pancakes, pizza, cookies, etc., etc., etc….  Since I’ve been regularly making some of these, (mostly biscuits, pancakes, pizza, and cookies) now it just seems weird that I would buy them in a mix.  And when I read the ingredient list of such mixes, I can’t imagine why they have such odd things in them like high fructose corn syrup and soy and other things I can’t pronounce.  There is such a satisfaction to being able to name every single ingredient of something you’re eating because you were the one to include it.

So I slowly began eliminating as many processed foods from our diet as I could, and I’ve really enjoyed experimenting and learning more about how to actually make food.  As silly as it sounds, I’m still kinda surprised when I realize that I can usually make most of the things I’ve always just bought.  For example, last week I made homemade mayonnaise!  We don’t eat vegetable oils anymore, and I could NOT find any mayonnaise in the store without them.  I found a recipe online, so I tried it–and lo and behold, it was SO easy and SO good!!!  (I did add an extra yolk)  It really took about 4 minutes, and because I used olive oil instead of flavorless vegetable oil, it had such a great flavor.  I normally don’t even like regular store-bought mayonnaise, but I definitely loved this kind!

I’ve started buying regular whole, unsweetened yogurt instead of the nonfat sugary stuff I used to get, and I LOVE it so much more now.  (my favorite is the Stoneyfield Farms brand)  It was a small adjustment getting used to the taste, and at first I didn’t like it at all.  I started by putting sugar and/or strawberry jam in it, and I slowly decreased the amount until now I really love it just plain.  Eating whole rather than lowfat means that there are more healthy fats to keep our appetites satisfied for longer and it’s one step closer to the way it came out of the cow.  Not to mention, whole milk yogurt is so much thicker and creamier and tastier, I don’t think I could go back to lowfat!  Buying plain yogurt also allows you to customize exactly what you want in it.  You can still add sugar if you want to, and I’m betting it will take a whole lot less to taste good than is already added to the store-bought kind!  You can also choose if you want to mix-in things like fruit, nuts, maple syrup, vanilla, jam, etc…  This morning I found an easy recipe for making homemade yogurt in the crockpot, and I can’t WAIT to try this!  (should probably finish the two big containers of it that are in my fridge first)  I’ll let you know how it goes…

It’s been a fun process to experiment with making things homemade that I used to always buy in the store, and honestly, it has NOT been hard.  When you’re used to just mixing some powder with water and an egg and all of a sudden you have pancakes, it’s only a couple extra steps to add baking powder and salt.  When I realize how few ingredients it actually takes to create most things, it kinda grosses me out now when I read the super-long ingredient list on the store-bought items.  I’m not saying I’ll never buy any processed food again, but avoiding them has been easier and more fun than I expected.  If you’re a mayonnaise lover, I highly recommend you trying to make it yourself, you might be surprised at how easy and fun it is!  And it definitely made for a very tasty chicken salad.

What food do you normally buy that you’d like to try to make at home?  What processed food would you like to give-up or have you given-up?

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12 responses to “Changing the Way We Eat

  1. Emily, tell me how this change has affected your budget and how much more money you spend/don’t spend = ). I remember from past posts that you are a pretty thrifty grocery shopper.

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  2. eating this way (buying organic, free range etc) probably is more expensive unless you go vegetarian. We spend close to 20% of our budget on food. No coupons for whole foods.

    I am really curious about yogurt in a crock pot. I have a yogurt maker and I have made it just using s hot water bath but I would think a crock pot would be way to hot for making yogurt. Do they have you put it in a water bath inside the crock pot? mybe they just have one of those super fancy crock pots with a temperature control.

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  3. Sorry, Emily, I meant to put that link in there: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html
    Laurin, we have raised our food budget. Part of that is eating more whole foods, part of it is trying to buy organic for the first time and eat fewer grains. Definitely more expensive. And unfortunately, I’ve blown the larger food budget for the past couple of months, so I’m still working on it. =) I will say, though, that my perspective has changed. I used to put ultimate priority on price, now it’s on nutrition. I’m still trying to be frugal and there are lots of healthy things I don’t buy because they’re too expensive, but I’m seeing it as a long-term investment in our health. And I guess I’ve just realized that some things are just worth it. =) There are lots of blogs out there about how to eat whole, healthy food while still being frugal. Check-out the ones in my blogroll!

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  4. em- we’re working on this at our home too- i have been making all our bread (sandwich, biscuits, etc.) for the last year instead of buying them- going to purchase a grain mill soon- so we can have “real” bread instead of store-milled. i do buy “good” flour, but it’s still not as good as grinding your own. had to prove to myself i was going to actually bake bread regularly before investing in a mill. kids won’t touch store-bought bread now- and it used to be the other way around. perhaps my skills are improving! also make granola- our standard breakfast around here.

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  5. Em, we have done the same, and it has been SO WONDERFUL. I’m with you.. I can’t justify saving $25 a week knowing that I’m feeding my family food that severely lacks in nutritional value. Awesome post. Glad to know I’m not the only “crazy” doing this. 🙂

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  6. Hey Em, great post! I’ve noticed since moving to Scotland that my food has naturally become more fresh, organic, rarely boxed anymore. I’ve had lots of fun experimenting with making soup!

    Pricewise I probably do spend a bit more, but also try to eat less meat/poultry in general, as I realized there are some very good veg recipes out there that actually fill me up quite well. My tummy is thanking me for that change. Also doing a weekly inventory of the fridge/cupboards before shopping is helpful so you can buy things that will help you use what’s already there rather than having the ends of a batch of beans, pesto or any combination of ingredients rotting in your fridge.

    Another good website recommendation: http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/ I keep finding new things to try on it…no recipe repetition here!

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  7. hey em! ..i know…shocker that i am actually commenting on a blog! ha!
    but (as you know) i’ve been really digging into this, and wish i could just snap my fingers and be done with processed food…or “food-like substances”! ha! we are slowly but surely working on changing our eating habits…thankfully, we’ve found good organic/grass-fed meat…so big dinners like spaghetti…etc. is covered. (what gets me in trouble is the convenience and quickness of chicken nuggets and mac n chz for the kids!) so, what are some lunches/snacks/dinners that you do? what is on your grocery list?

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  8. I’m definitely with you in the food choice arena and placing nutrition has higher priority than money. If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out the documentary Food, Inc. Very, very good, informative movie.

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  9. Laurie, we watched Food, Inc. back in November, and that was definitely the big kick in the pants that had us start buying organic, and now we’re looking into purchasing part of a cow!
    Joanna, that’s definitely the hardest part about it, convenience for the kids. I need to be better about planning meals/snacks instead of frantically trying to think of something when they’re starving and fussing. I’m actually going to try to make homemade crackers today! =) Ev is a really fussy eater, but she’s gotten a lot better and has started eating more vegetables…yesterday I think she ate a whole cucumber! They eat a lot of fruit, baby carrots, cucumber slices, leftovers, grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese slices, and oatmeal. Ev is newly obsessed with oatmeal now that I let her stir-in the cinnamon and some frozen blueberrires to make it turn purple. And I cook scrambled eggs almost every morning. It’s still a challenge, but I think pre-planning is going to be the most helpful thing, I’m still working on that. Oh, and I have bought some organic hot dogs without nitrates/nitrites….more expensive, I just try to make them stretch. It definitely requires a lot more time in the kitchen, but I’m starting to enjoy it more. Just take baby steps, there’s no need to change everything at once. Pick one thing to eliminate and find a good substitute for it and get comfortable with that before you overhaul everything. And that’s awesome that you found grassfed meat!!!

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  10. Oh, and regarding mac-n-cheese, Joanna, they do have Annie’s Organic brand that comes in a box like Kraft….it’s still processed white flour pasta, but it’s definitely a step up from Kraft. I’ve also made my own quick version that probably doesn’t taste nearly as good but it’s easy and quick and I think it tastes good! I just boil some noodles, grate some cheese, drain the noodles, stir-in butter and cheese and there ya go! That’s my shortcut version and the kids don’t know the dif!

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  11. Just another 2 cents from me (I have a lot of opinions about this topic)… It’s SO important to change just a few things at a time. I’m still making changes regularly in my lifestyle choices, and I started doing it SEVEN years ago! If you try to change everything at once, you’ll be overwhelmed, loaded with guilt, and won’t ENJOY the process of growth and change. I’m not advocating for laziness, apathy, or selfishness – just some grace for oneself in the lifelong process of growth and change.

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  12. Emily,
    I was just catching up on your blog. I buy about 60% organic but make most of my own goods. I use a fair amount of coupons incuding at whole foods. They let you use a manufacture coupon and a whole foods coupon so I often get stuff for free. If you stick to the 365 brand it’s often much less then Safeway or Fred Meyer. For example I can get a three pack of red bell peppers at whole foods for 3.00, it’s hard to find those on sale at chain stores for that. They also have a great bulk section. How did your yogurt in the crock pot turn out? I have feeding the family book that Emily recommended if you would like to borrow it!

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