Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Convinience Foods

My sister will be thrilled if she sees this post, because she has been trying to educate our family on food related issues for years. I will be the first to tell you that I likely will not jump off the deep end entirely, but as a mother and a wife... and really a person... it's time to take a look at what I'm putting into my family as well as my own body.

It's no secret that our society is plagued with a lot of issues that weren't around 20-30 years ago... I can't tell you without a doubt that it is related to the food industry or anything specific, but we certainly have become a society built around convenience. As a mother of two very busy toddler boys... I gotta say that time savers are a beautiful thing, but at the same time - not at the expense of their health.

I also won't tell you that the food industry is the enemy... I don't believe that entirely. First and foremost, the food industry is our livelihood in this house - John works for a rice company, and while they don't produce a lot of things that have a lot of added preservatives - it is where our means of income comes from. Now, in the grand scheme of things - rice is a fairly unchanged product from the field to the store. His company does make instant products, but that's more of a means of precooking it and then dehydrating it - there isn't much added. The spice mixes and things that are added are fairly simple as well. (Agree or don't, that's fine - but I'm just stating my beliefs)

When I woke up yesterday morning, this video was in my inbox from a friend back home. It is pretty convicting in terms of certain foods and it got me to thinking about what I put in my body. The experiment shown in the video basically takes you through the digestion of Ramen Noodles and Gatorade... versus homemade items being processed in the body. Ya'll, I've eaten Ramen Noodles within the last month... so I'm certainly not preaching about anything that I haven't done... and it's made me think about it in a whole new light.

Sadly, one of our favorite recipes uses Ramen Noodles - so I'm going to have to figure that out. I'm thinking that maybe in extreme moderation - it might be okay for our family. (You have to choose your own limits) If I can figure out an alternative over time - maybe I can make that change too.

After watching this video, what were my thoughts? Well, I've been seeing things popping up on Pinterest lately about alternatives to buying mixes and things in the grocery store... and I'm thinking about incorporating some of that into our pantry. They are basically homemade versions of popular mixes - baking, spices, and cream soups... and I think those are some of the staples that I can eliminate from our grocery purchases initially. I can make a mix or two to have on hand instead of buying the pre-packaged ones and just do it over time.

One thing is for sure, for us right now - a drastic complete change isn't affordable. So what I can do is rethink our weekly menu plans and find ways to do it with less prepackaging and more homemade alternatives. As we get rid of the pre-packaged things in our pantry - I can choose to not replace them.

I believe for us - the first of these that I will likely do will be the cream soup replacement. I tend to make lots of crock pot meals and casseroles that I can prepare during nap time and then bake or have ready when meal time hits in the evening. My plan is to get some of those large air tight containers - either glass jars or plastic from Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or our Kroger store and keep some of these things on hand in our pantry. Maybe make a new mix each week - and keep researching.

Here are some links to these homemade mixes that I plan on trying:
Cream Soup Alternative
Baking Mix (Bisquick Alternative)
Spice Mix Recipes (Lots of other spice mix recipes)
Chili Seasoning Mix
Ranch Dressing Mix
Ranch Dip Mix
Vanilla Pudding Mix
Cookie Mixes
White Cake Mix
Yellow Cake Mix
Chocolate Cake Mix
Brownie Mix

Are there any other mixes or things like this you've found that I need to know about? What about other tips and tricks you've found for cleaning up what is going into your bodies while trying to keep some of the convenience factor alive?

Like I said, this will be a work in progress - rest assured though, I will be keeping you informed of our progress and how these things work for us. I am excited for the changes, and a new organization to our pantry!


  1. A lot of stuff can be made into mixes, it just depends on how your family eats. For example, if you only bake chocolate cake once or twice a year, it doesn't make sense to have several cake mixes. If you like making muffins once a week, it is easy enough to take 4-5 ziplock bags and fill with the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe. All you need to do on muffin day is mix in the wet ingredients.

    Realistically, it doesn't have to be more expensive to cook more whole foods (unless you mean throwing everything in your pantry away). That $2.00 cake mix is probably $0.50-$0.75 of ingredients, most people just don't know how to cook a cake without a mix.

  2. I think that sounds like a good idea. Here's what we've been trying to do since about June... I was watching the show "I used to be fat" on MTV, and the girl was with her unsupportive family cooking in the kitchen. They were making a shrimp dish. She was eating her shrimp au naturale, and her family was making a sauce and putting it in something. Her trainer said that after a while, she wouldn't even miss the sauce and that "food should taste like food." Her family said, "No, food should taste like what you put with it." (or something like that. So, I started thinking about food tasting more like food. And that's what we are trying to do. If something calls for Rotel, I instead cut up a tomato and a pepper. Little things like that.

    We're trying to go as natural as possible and get slowly away from processed foods. I even quit buying bread. If I want it, I have to bake it. 1.) It's more economical for us, and 2.) It tastes better, and 3.) It makes me think twice about every piece of bread that goes in my mouth. Now instead of sandwich being a convenience food for me, a salad is much easier.

    How has this changed our family? Seth has lost 17 pounds. I've lost 1. Anyway, I'll get there in time, though.


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