Long ago I began the process of moving our family to a healthier way of eating. It all started with Rubic being diagnosed with multiple allergies, both environmental and food, but primarily corn. Corn especially in the form of High Fructose corn syrup. That stuff could set him off in hives faster than anything. In my enthusiasm to help my son I spent all of our grocery money at a health food store, and received very little food as a result. It was just too expensive. So I then thought I would just have to read labels to get all the allergens out of his diet. This also began my foray into ultimate scratch baking. Anyway, It was while reading labels and baking something that made me about give up. Corn is in baking powder. I know right! I didn't give up entirely, but I did have to moderate my expectations some. HFCS was the main culprit. I had to make sure that was out, but the other stuff I just had to do the best I could. Money was tight. Whole corn products seemed to have less effect on him, so HFCS was my primary focus.
15 years later, I'm still not where I can do everything I would like, but I have made progress and feel we are in a better place now. Eating organic has become "all the rage", and so you really need to be able to get the most bang for your buck if you're going to try it. While his allergies opened my eyes to better eating options, It's been a work in progress. Changes have been made in steps rather than all at once, and that is my first point.
1) Small changes over time- Ours started with trying to remove High Fructose Corn Syrup out of our diet. I wasn't worried about organic or all natural at the time. I was just wanting to buy items my family would eat that didn't have that stuff in it. If I could, I avoided corn in general, but primarily HFCS. Funny though, while trying to remove the HFCS, I found we were eating items on a healthier scale. If I bought boxed cereal, it was rice, wheat, or oats. Nothing sweetened because that meant HFCS. It was a minuscule change in the big scheme of things, but a change. Then I began to read about margarine and how it wasn't such a good idea. We switched to butter. I buy it when on sale and stock up (Usually around the holidays). Dh was dealing with high blood pressure and cholesterol. We switched to Extra virgin olive oil (I buy it at Sams). Both butter and Olive oil are more expensive. You can't fry with Olive oil so, guess what, we ate less fried foods. Each small step we took led to another small step we tried.
2) Make your own- In my effort to not only get HFCS out of Rubic's (and my families) life as well as save money to afford the changes I was making; I began to do a lot of scratch baking. There were items my kids liked that I wanted them to enjoy, but the store version was not a good option. It's a real eye opener once you start to read labels. Boxed cereal was replaced with homemade granola. Cookies, granola bars, bread, Chocolate syrup, etc; are now made at home.
3) Learn - This can be used multiple ways. Learn a new skill: canning, bread making, gardening, and cooking in general. Also, learn about the food you purchase and how it affects you and your family. Look up those unpronounceable ingredients. In a world of google, information is at your finger tips. As I have learned about what goes into the foods we buy, I have felt compelled to make the changes where I can. On that same note, and not to only make it look like I'm picking on processed food, Just because something says "organic", "whole grain", or "all natural", doesn't mean it's good for you. If you buy organic boxed macaroni and cheese, you are still dealing with powdered cheese, white pasta, etc. My main pet peeve right now is Kroger's "Simple Truth" chicken. You really need to watch the label. Their "simple truth" chickens are labeled "organic"or "all natural", but the labels are identical and both types are in the same bin. Both are priced higher than the other brands. The organic I can understand, but all chickens are"all natural'. Good Grief! You need to know about what what you're buying, especially if your dollars are precious and you are trying to spend wisely. Be an informed consumer.
4) Grow what you can- I have been gardening pretty much since we have lived here (bout 20 years). My garden has expanded from just a garden to a garden, fruit trees, blueberry bushes, blackberry bushes, strawberries, and herbs. When I first began gardening, I used pesticides because that's what I knew. Over the years I have made a move away from pesticides in favor of companion planting, or scheduling my planting in such a way as to mitigate the damage from pests. I've moved away from using commercial fertilizers to using compost and chicken manure. Having chickens has provided us with farm fresh eggs, and a better garden. While I don't (yet) grow everything we eat, I do grow a good chunk of it. What I have grown in the past 2 years has had no pesticides or commercial fertilizers. While I am not certified organic with a label and everything, it's good enough for us.
5) Buy local. You can call your county extension office, or just google where the nearest farmers market will be. We have several in our area. Prices tend to be the same here in Georgia as the prices are set by the Dept of agriculture. That is up to a point. If you're buying a large amount to can or freeze, many farmers can set their own price. It's worth it if you will put these items up. Also, they will tend to reduce their prices near the end of the day. You can also google local produces of honey, milk, eggs, etc. Just keep an eye out. If someone offers you eggs or veggies, or even plants, thank them very much and enjoy your prize. What they have given you is priceless.
Here are the changes we have made over time. This list might help some of you in starting out.
1) No more HFCS- there are alternatives just as cheap. In fact many companies are moving away from using it now. Never assume it isn't in something. Read your labels.
2) No processed foods- Three exceptions; turkey bacon (Einstein likes it and it's cheap), powdered coffee creamer, and chips for Dh lunches.
3) Butter replaced margarine, and olive oil replaces other oils.
4) No more American Cheese- I buy Cheddar, Mozzarella, or other hard cheeses. No low fat or nonfat cheese.
5) No artificial sweeteners or anything with them in it.- we use Stevia or sugar or a mixture of both. True confessions. Once in a blue moon I still succumb to a Diet Dr Pepper. But that is more the exception than the rule. Rare, maybe 2 a ear if that, but I want to be honest. But I know it needs to be never.
6) Whole milk, and whole milk products- No more skim milk or other non fat dairy. Skim milk used to be the waste from milk processing. It is blue normally. Chalk is added to whiten it. YUCK! I can't afford organic and if I could I would opt for raw milk (Unpasteurized). That is only sold in Georgia for Ahem pet consumption(eye roll). I buy whole milk and mix half and half with water. Reduces fat and calorie content and tastes like 2%.
7) Whole wheat flour- I use mostly in baking bread in about a 4 to 1 ratio with all purpose. It's used entirely in cookies, crackers, and quick breads.
8) Farm fresh eggs- some what free range with our chicken tractor, but not totally because of predators and my garden.
9) Pesticide and chemical free fruits and veggies from the garden. If I buy organic, it has to be a price I can handle. I also don't buy organic for things where the peeling is discarded (like bananas).
Changes I want to make:
1) Buy more organic meats when possible. Eventually I want to raise pastured chickens for meat. We thought about this year but there was a bird flu out break close to Georgia and we decided to wait rather than bring any new birds into our yard. Those organic whole fryers I bought a few weeks ago made the best broth and the most flavorful and tender meat. Sold me! I just can't afford the prices all the time, but when I can, I will.
2) Try and begin to use raw milk when possible. I'm hopeful when we do this, the powdered creamer can go.
3) Master the art of bread making where no white flour is used.
The idea is to start where you are making small changes as you can, and adding new changes when you can. It's taken many years to get to this point in my grocery buying, and I still have things to change. You can make the changes too. A little along.