Monday, April 7, 2014

All natural, baby!

We're on Day 33 of Lent (not that I'm counting) and this year, I decided to give up processed foods.

Cue everyone saying: Don't you already do that?

Oh, people. If only.

I grew that last summer. And I will do it again!

Yes, it's true that I have sensitivities to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives (if by "sensitivities" you mean "big ball of gut pain"). And it's true that I have IBS and that weird things like too much sugar makes me dizzy and too much oil makes me crampy. This is actually why I switched to organics--it has to be natural by law, which means yay! I can eat all kinds of fun stuff!

Except not really. I still pay the price sometimes. My system is a jerk, that's why. And I am a terribly slow learner.

I tried to go no-processed a few months back and lasted exactly a week. Unfortunately, I lack the wherewithal to stick with something if not inspired by the eternal fires of hell (um, that's a joke, by the way). My diet is pretty good, all things considered: We don't really eat out, and when we do, we go to a restaurant that specializes in local, organic food; I can't eat typical junk food if I want to live anywhere besides the bathroom floor; I make 85-percent of what we eat at home.

But I knew I could do better than that. And I really wanted to see what would happen. Would I sleep better? Feel better? Would I lose my sweet tooth? Would I lose my love of Annie's Homegrown Extra Cheesy Bunny crackers? Could I live without vanilla lattes?

Well... I guess you can live without a lot when you have to. Sometimes I sleep awesome, but sometimes I still suffer from insomnia (I'm a crappy sleeper by default. Always have been, kind of used to it at this point). I do feel consistently better. I really want chocolate. I kind of miss the cheddar bunnies. The first thing I'm going to do when Lent is over is get the biggest vanilla latte I can find.

I'd like to think I can keep this up when Lent is over. I think I can. I've learned some valuable lessons that will help me in the future... and a few things I was not expecting, either:

To pull this off, you have to be super organized. And I mean super organized. I'd gotten kind of lazy on the meal planning front (yes, I know the benefits. No, that isn't enough to inspire me), but without a plan, we end up eating a lot of meals like Random Crap in a Tortilla and Whatever Is in This Freezer Container. That doesn't exactly make for a satisfying meal experience. And I am all about satisfying meal experiences. (Seriously.)

Prepping everything helps. Last week, I bought 3 1/2 pounds of carrots (so many that my reusable cloth bag ripped in two. Blerg), and I peeled and cut THEM ALL. And I did the same with the lettuce, celery, green peppers, cucumbers, jicama, and cabbage. I ran out of bowls to put things in, so I had to resort to quart jars. I'm kind of liking the Mandarin oranges and tangerines that are available now--no prep needed. And also bananas, not that I can personally eat them (they make me dizzy... although I can eat cooked bananas, go figure), but they're quick for the fam to grab and go. In our family, if it's not readily available, it will not get eaten.

There are way more one- and two-ingredient foods than originally anticipated. My definition of "processed food" is something with more than four ingredients (although Fritos only have three, and you can't tell me they're not processed. So obviously it's not a hard and fast rule). So I'm eating plain yogurt (adding my own jam or organic bulk maple syrup)... but not store-bought bread. I've been kind of impressed with our bulk aisle. My go-to snack is whole almonds, and dried apricots or prunes when my sweet tooth acts up. Which is every day.

Thank God I canned tomatoes last summer. My home canned tomatoes consist of tomatoes, water and lemon juice. Regularly canned tomatoes consist of tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, citric acid and calcium chloride. And sometimes sugar. Anyway, I use more canned tomatoes than anything else when I'm cooking, so whew! I still get to eat them!

Our weekly grocery bill has gone up. It turns out buying food as opposed to food-like products isn't cheap. I shop the perimeter, except for the bulk aisle, and it's expensive, organic or not. Well, until you divide the total by four people and then by seven days of the week. Then it's like $3.50 a day per person. But still, we're up by about $15 to $20 a week.

Temptation ends at the store. When you only buy fruits and vegetables, you only eat fruits and vegetables. :)

Zero waste is easier. Whole foods generally come unpackaged. I just bring plenty of jars and bags to the store. We're generating much less trash.

So it's been an interesting experiment is what I'm saying. Well, you've got to do something to pass the time. And it's nice to know my willpower is stronger than I thought. I pretty much feel like a rock star, if you want to know the truth.

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