A little backstory: Levi, our son, was born last year and pretty early on we noticed symptoms of colic. As an attempt to help the little guy out, I cut dairy, wheat, and soy from my diet. It helped...a LOT. As the months have passed, I have tried to introduce those things again, but it seems like he is still having problems. So, as of now, our diet is dairy, soy, and gluten free. Our daughter, Juliet, does eat gluten in her snacks at school (cereal, crackers, etc.), and she doesn't seem to have any problems with it. But at home, we all eat a diet free from those three allergens.
Portland is the perfect place to live if you have food restrictions. At the local supermarket you can find gluten-free mixes for just about anything, and I've tried them all. Bread, pancakes, muffins, pizza crust...you name it (costing $5-$10 or so). Then, there are the treats made from coconut milk, such as yogurt and "ice cream" which, if you ask me, are better than the real thing because they don't leave you feeling bloated and yucky (yogurt = $1.99, ice cream = $5-$6). Brown rice pasta is also delicious and tastes just like the real thing (around $5 a bag). Allergen-free granola was also a staple ($5.50 per small bag). And, the mother of all allergen-free foods, for me at least, are the Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips. At $5 a bag, they are not cheap, yet I was eating 2-3 bags per week. I quite literally had developed an addiction to these chocolate chips, and if I didn't have any, I would go get some ASAP.
These are very convenient (and delicious!) options to have, but as you can see, they are not affordable and can really add up.
They are also processed. For a while now, we have been trying not to eat too much processed food. If you compared our shopping cart to the average American's, I know we would have fewer packaged goods. We don't drink soda or juice, no frozen pizzas or lasagnas, rarely do we buy chips, fruit snacks, or other junk food for ourselves or our children. So, you may think this isn't really a challenge for us.
Yet, it is. There are some processed foods we have come to rely on heavily. Aside from all of the allergen-free foods mentioned above, that we purchased on the regular, we eat a lot of cereal. The kids' main snack when we are out and about is cereal - not the sugary kind - but Corn Chex. Travis has a bowl of cereal as an after-dinner snack every night. We also cook several soups during the week and have been purchasing broth at the store (which is not cheap as it has to be GF). And rather than put fresh tomatoes in our soups and use them to make spaghetti sauces, we tend to buy canned tomatoes and jarred sauces. I use store-bought tortillas to make chips daily to dip in guacamole. And almond milk - we go through that stuff very quickly.
We think we will be healthier if we eliminate all of the processed and replace it with fresh. In some instances, we will try to make a substitute. Almond milk can be made at home, for instance (and if we don't have cereal, we won't need nearly as much). I will be challenged to find an alternative "on-the-go" snack for the kids that they enjoy and doesn't trash the car (although the cereal does get dumped every so often). And I'm not even sure how I'm going to handle not having my chocolate chips. Can we just not talk about it?
So, we will not be purchasing any processed foods for the next full year (if it's in the house now, we will use it). If we have a choice between say, rice in the bag or rice in bulk, we will always choose the bulk option. Helping the environment - added bonus! There will be at least one processed product we will continue to use: olive oil. I don't really see any way to not use oil for cooking, and olive is our oil of choice.
Come along for the journey! And feel free to comment - have you ever thought about doing a similar challenge? How do you feel about processed foods?