Sep 16, 2014

5 Easy and Affordable Real Food Changes I've Made This Month

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Easy Real Food Changes -

Ever since I reviewed Lisa Leake's new book, 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love, I've really focused on eating more "real food" - by which I mean, minimally processed food.

We are not, by any means, an entirely real food family - every day, our family consumes some store-bought snacks, soda, and/or other processed foods. But I am making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat, and that I keep in the house. Here are five easy real food changes I've made since reading Lisa's book, which take almost no effort at all:

1. We've switched to whole organic milk.

I've always bought organic milk for the boys, but since my youngest turned two, I've stuck with 1% milk. As Lisa points out, however, reduced fat milk is much more processed than whole milk. So I've switched to whole milk and my kids haven't said a peep. Fortunately, neither of them has a weight issue, so I'm not concerned about the additional calories.

Although Lisa recommends non-homogenized milk, since it's less processed, I haven't been able to find it at the grocery store so I just buy organic homogenized whole milk. The nice thing about this switch is that a gallon of whole organic milk costs exactly the same as organic reduced fat milk.

2. I now shred my own cheese.

As Lisa notes in her book, commercially shredded cheese contains an anti-clumping agent and possibly other additional ingredients that need not be consumed. She recommends buying blocks of cheese and shredding them yourself. It occurred to me that my food processor can shred a block of cheese in just a couple of minutes, so when I needed mozzarella cheese last week, I bought a log and shredded it. {I did buy a part-skim log because the texture is so different from whole milk mozzarella and my kids prefer the less-creamy type. Baby steps!}

I forgot to do an actual price comparison, but I think the price works out to about the same per pound, at least for part-skim mozzarella.

3. I'm now using honey wherever possible.

When I need sweetener, I now use organic raw unfiltered honey and organic maple syrup whenever possible {I prefer Grade B maple syrup because it's darker and has a stronger taste, and Trader Joe's stocks a great one}. I do still bake with organic sugar, but I try to substitute organic sucanat as much as possible, since it's less processed that granulated or brown sugar. {However, I rarely use all sucanat because of its strong taste. I buy 12 1-lb bags at Amazon for just $45.88 with Subscribe & Save}.

4. I now buy organic eggs.

This is the one change that's costing me more money. Organic eggs are at least twice as expensive as the "regular" eggs at Trader Joe's, but I took the time to read the packaging this past week and discovered that the organic variety clearly states no hormones or antibiotics were administered to the chickens, whereas those claims are not on the "regular" eggs. I haven't found "pastured" eggs yet, which Lisa recommends {meaning the chickens were allowed to graze outside}, but I'm looking.

5. I read labels even more intensely than I used to.

Ever since my son was diagnosed with food allergies, I've been a careful reader of ingredient labels. But now I'm not just looking to see whether the product is safe for my child or how "natural" it is. I'm also looking to see how processed it is. Lisa's "five-ingredient rule" for store-bought foods is a great guideline. In other words, I try to buy foods that contain no more than five ingredients.

This rule works especially well for pre-packaged snacks, which I do buy a fair amount of since we eat on the go quite a lot of the time, thanks to the boys' busy schedules. So far, my kids have loved BOOM CHICKA POP Sea Salt Popcorn {contains just popcorn, sunflower oil and sea salt; $24 + free shipping for 24 single serve packs at Amazon - but they're cheaper in the Halloween section at Target right now!}, and Crispy Green Freeze-Dried Asian Pear {contains just pear!; $17.12 for 12 packs at Amazon when you order through Subscribe & Save or $7.49 for 6 packs at my Whole Foods store}. They also like some of the freeze-dried fruit at Trader Joe's, which are one or two-ingredient products.

This post will be linked to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less.

Image via by Ambro.


Wendy said...

We've gone one step further with buying the Happy Egg brand from Ralphs. The chickens roam free over a few acres and are organic, not fed with antibiotics. Once I learned that cage free still can mean a chicken doesn't get outside in the sunlight, I decided it was time to buck up and pay the price for the Happy Eggs. I can actually taste the difference!

Chief Family Officer said...

Ooh, I'll have to check those out! I love that you can taste the difference - so far, I haven't been able to tell the difference at all!