Cleaning out my pantry

Recently I wrote a post about the 15 Grossest Things You’re Eating. I don’t know about you but that information really did gross me out. In fact, as I was making out my menu plan and grocery list for the week, I was getting my breakfast ready and terrified of what my yogurt container might say in the ingredients list. When I went to the store later that morning, I spent an unusual amount of time reading labels. There were a few employees who I’m sure were wondering just what the heck I was doing camped out on the floor on various aisles, just reading labels. What I found was disappointing.

On the other hand I was renewed and recharged to get back on the health track. There was a time when I only purchased white cheddar cheese from a health food store. Since then we’ve eaten a pound of shredded cheese a week. I use it in so many recipes. Cheese tastes good and it makes anything super yummy. Right? But it’s not good for us and that article about cloned cow’s stomach made it quite clear that it’s more than just being about how too much dairy is fattening.

That’s going to be a trick around here- cutting out the cheese, I mean. But I’ve done it before and as a great start to my efforts I found an excellent all natural white cheddar block on sale 😉 Bonus. Back to the days when I buy it in a block and ration it out on various meals.

I also spent $95 instead of my budgeted $60. But I did buy things that will go over into the next several weeks, such as wheat flour that I intend to use for muffins, waffles, tortillas, etc. Basically anything that I used to just buy pre-made, which falls into the “packaged food” category, I know, but we all have fallen short where convenience steps in. I purchased several boxes of cereal because they were BOGO and I had coupons. And I also bought organic oats, which were costly but worth the price. I even bought several small whole chickens (after checking to make sure they were all natural) at incredible prices. I just couldn’t pass that up.

So all in all I spent more money but the food items will stretch further than 1 or even 2 weeks. I am hoping I can make it through next week’s shopping trip at $30. That seems pretty hard, and I may or may not be able to do it, but I’ve got lots of ingredients in the freezer and pantry, so we’ll see. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

FYI: for those who want to make a change but don’t really know how to start or don’t think you can afford it. Look for the nearest Trader Joe’s grocery store. This place is a favorite of mine and I highly recommend all their products. You can safely purchase all natural and organic food items at an incredible price. In fact I have a list of some of my favorite Trader Joe’s items.

1. Trader Joe’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese – right about $1.29 per box. Can’t beat that for organic.

2. Organic Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup – Ready to eat in a 32 oz. carton. All you have to do is heat it up.

3. Rice Orzo Pilaf Mix – Similar to Rice-A-Roni but way better. They also carry all manner of rice and grains.

4. Whole Wheat Pasta. I love buying my pasta here. The prices can’t be beat and I can stock up and not feel I’ve spent a ton of money. You don’t even need coupons at this store.

5. EVOO. By far the best price and value anywhere.

6. Pasta sauces. High quality organic sauces so I don’t have to worry about what I’m feeding my family.

7. Joe-Joe’s – Chocolate sandwich cookies similar to Oreos. Also comes in vanilla and special holiday flavors. These are especially good when kept in the freezer and eaten frozen. None of those pesky preservatives or chemical additives found in brand names.

8. Canned beans. I’m not a fan of canned veggies but I trust this store and you can’t beat their prices on all-natural products.

9. Organic coffee. Where else can you get 2 lbs. of dark, rich organic coffee for under $15?

10. Granola Bars. My kids’ favorite snack are granola bars and Trader Joe’s has awesome organic ones with chocolate chips and peanut butter flavors at a very reasonable price. Plus I know they are not getting any of those chemical additives.

This is only a short list of what non-perishable staples I buy nearly every time I visit a Trader Joe’s. There are definitely more items I buy but I am going on memory right now and my pantry is slightly bare. I am hoping to hit a store next week when I am in Virginia. I don’t live near a Trader Joe’s so visits are far and few in between. *Disclaimer: As much as I’d like to get paid for advertising Trader Joe’s, alas, I do not. This review and recommendation is my personal opinion based on experience.

Check out their website for listings of their products. They also have a frozen section, fresh dairy, and complete produce section. Other than fresh meat/deli they have everything you could want. {I have to retract that statement: yesterday I was in THE BEST Trader Joe’s I’d had ever seen, in Virginia Beach, and they had lots of fresh meats. It was AWESOME! I wanted to move in and never leave, I love it so.} I’ve never tried a product from there that I was not satisfied with. I also like being able to buy Easter candy for the boys’ baskets that is all natural, organic, dye-free, etc. I was in a popular chain store yesterday and looking at all the candy in the aisles and couldn’t bring myself to buy any of it. All those dyes and chemicals…free radicals….blech (makes me shiver.)

Since beginning this post a week has gone by and I’ve menu planned and shopped for another week (BTW I spent over $30 :p). It is crazy how I just completely passed up the meat section a couple of times. I can’t seem to find any grass-fed beef around here (we’re hoping to be able to buy a whole side eventually) and ended up settling for a higher priced brand of ground turkey just for the safety factor. Truth is, it’s not a bad idea to eat less meat all the way around. I have a hard time with that. I grew up fixing a meal around the meat- that’s just the way I’ve always done it. Whenever I make a vegetarian meal it’s usually a blip. Not that I mind, I just don’t specifically plan vegetarian meals. Cory would love more vegetarian meals though, so I’m pretty sure that plan wouldn’t bomb in this house.

So here’s your challenge: Don’t be afraid or intimidated by making a healthy change. The Trader Joe’s website also has recipes, as well as a million other sites on the www. Do your homework and some product research. Don’t feel like you need to dump your pantry immediately and replace everything with organic products that you aren’t even sure if you will use. If you’ve been eating convenience foods all along then a few more days or weeks won’t kill you. The purpose is to phase over slowly and make a lifestyle change that you feel good about.

If you just can’t get to a Trader Joe’s then start slowly at your local grocery store. Most chains have some organics available at least. Start with smaller changes like whole wheat pasta and brown rice. These don’t have to be organic, but when it comes to pasta sauces, definitely at least go with an all-natural product. Produce that has a thick inedible skin does not have to be organic, but apples, tomatoes, lettuce should be if you can afford it. Buy in very small amounts so there is no waste. In fact, try buying less amounts of produce all together. If you normally buy 6 apples at once, try buying only 2 or 3 organic. You may be surprised that it is still enough and there is no waste.

OK, enough babbling from me. There is so much more to talk about but I’ll cover that in future posts. Have a great day!

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