It was probably a year or more ago when we started weaning off processed foods. It may seem like a hard thing to do, but once you get yourself in the mindset for it, it starts getting easier, and eating natural foods quickly becomes a way of life.
First off, let me explain something: weaning off processed foods does not mean that you have to become a vegetarian or vegan. It doesn’t mean that you need to buy all organic. It doesn’t mean that you need to shop in the health foods section of the store. All it means is that instead of buying things that come in cans and boxes, you start buying the components and begin learning to make your meals from scratch. I know, even that can sound daunting, but it really isn’t.
The first step we took was what seemed like the easiest one: we stopped buying canned vegetables. I know, they’re cheap and easy, but they’re also loaded with salt and a lot of the nutrients have been stripped away through processing. Buying fresh vegetables is a great way to start getting away from processed foods. I highly recommend getting a steamer basket and learning how to use it, since you’ll use it a lot with fresh vegetables.
Fresh vegetables are a lot more versatile than canned ones, so when you start buying them you’ll open yourself up to new cooking options. Another thing we did was to ditch instant rice in favor of real dry rice. It takes longer to cook, but it has more flavor and more varieties and can be bought very inexpensively. We also stopped buying instant mashed potatoes and only bought real potatoes. Real potatoes are far more versatile than instant, and they come in a wide variety of flavors and types. It’s pretty awesome.
We also stopped buying packaged broth and stock. Every once in a while we will buy meat with the bones in, then boil the bones with herbs and vegetables. We strain that, then cool it and skim off most of the fat, then store it in freezer-safe containers. You can make any kind of stock this way, and you have a product with far less salt and fat, and you can make it taste just the way you want.
TV dinners were the next thing to go. This was a bit harder, but it’s very doable. What you need to do is look at what goes into the frozen meals you buy, then find recipes to make it at home. Start with simple things like macaroni and cheese, Salisbury steak and other meals that don’t have a lot of components. Once you start mastering those, you can move on to more complex dishes.
We have learned to recreate almost every frozen meal we ever ate. It’s been a great experience, and we have learned a lot about food preparation, cooking and experimentation through this process. We hardly ever buy anything that comes in a can or frozen box anymore. TV dinners are a once in a blue moon thing for when we just don’t feel like cooking. I’d say a good 95% of our meals are made fresh now.
Oh, and don’t let people convince you that eating fresh costs more than eating frozen. Unless you live on the super cheap stuff like Banquet, it’s not true. We actually started saving a significant amount of money when we ditched processed foods. If you learn how to make extra and freeze portions, you can save a lot of money and even make your own TV dinners at home.
I highly recommend weaning yourself and your family off processed foods. It can save money, it’s healthier, and it tastes so much better! Once you get used to eating fresh, home-cooked meals, you’ll wonder how you were ever able to live on that frozen stuff.