Why Ditch the Box?
Three years ago I started shopping at the farmers market weekly so that I could create a cookbook of local recipes for my friends and family. I was traveling quite a bit for work and that weekly trip to the market ended up being all that I needed to fill my pantry. I didn’t intentionally set out to make the change, but the next thing I knew I was eating very little unprocessed food.
Then last spring I accepted a challenge with some of the other food bloggers to eat for a week and create interesting recipes from a typical food pantry donation box. My supplies included a box of Chicken Helper. I didn’t want to eat it, but I wanted to be true to the challenge, so I did it. I tried to doll it up by adding broccoli and only using half the flavor packet, but it didn’t help. the meal tasted terrible and made me feel even worse - I had a headache and felt nauseous. When I checked the list of ingredients, the items I couldn’t pronounce was longer than the list of things I recognized.
Initially, I rationalized that maybe the boxed food was cheaper, but then I compared the cost of that meal to one I had made the night before with fresh ingredients. The cost of the two meals was almost identical and the fresh meal didn’t make me physically ill.
Humph. If it’s not cheaper and it makes us feel bad, why do we eat this stuff? I started asking a lot of questions. What was in this box of “food,” food that I had grown up eating, that made me feel so bad. The answer? A lot of salt, sugar, fat and additives.
For example, this very innocent looking box of frozen peas has sugar as the third ingredient. SUGAR. Why on earth do you need sugar in your frozen peas? You don’t, but the food companies add it so the peas taste better and you’ll buy more. And, without stopping to read the label, you would never know that you are getting an extra lump of sugar with your frozen veggies.
What is a well-intentioned eater to do? Not all convenience foods have “extras” that you wouldn’t be expecting, so one solution is to read labels and find brands that you can trust.
The other solution is to Ditch the Box. You are more likely to get unwanted extras if you buy food in a box, can or bag, so buy less of it. The more processed the item, the more additives and less food you get.
I know what you’re thinking. “ I don’t have time or know how to cook.” Or, “ Eating fresh is too expensive.”” Maybe, “It’s too hard to change,” is running through your head. That’s where I come in. Together we can do this.
First, it took me about 30 minutes to make the Chicken Helper meal from start to finish. In 30 minutes, you can make some pretty terrific fresh dishes and I’m happy to teach you how. Cooking can be a fun activity for you and your family, bringing the family together instead of being a chore.
As for the cost, I think you’ll be surprised how much you’re really paying for that processed food. It might seem cheap, but when you started adding up the real cost like the other items you add to it, the price is the same or more to buy the processed food. And, that doesn’t include how much you might be paying in doctor’s bills or prescription costs for diet related diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol (and the list goes on.)
There are always reasons or excuses not to do something, but if you are willing to try a change, then I’m here to help. Let’s Ditch the Box together.
Here’s what I propose. I worked with some friends to put together a program that anyone can follow to move to fresh food. Each week, you take one step and by the end of the month you have a new way to eat.
Step 1) Pantry purge. We’ll clean out the pantry and fridge, getting rid of the things you no longer want to eat. As part of that, we’ll practice reading labels and learn what some of those “mystery” ingredients really are.
Step 2) Navigating the grocery store. We’ll learn the things to look for when you are shopping at the store, how to compare brands and how to fill your shopping basket with things you feel good about.
Step 3) Shopping at the farmers market. More and more often, farmers are selling their produce directly to consumers at farmers markets. There’s no better way to know what you are eating than to meet the person who grew or raised it. I’ll help you become a master shopper at your local market.
Step 4) Cooking effortlessly. While it can be fun to make the big, fancy on occasion, your daily cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. We’ll learn simple cooking techniques and tips for creating meals you and your family can enjoy.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to Ditch the Box with me?