My kitchen is about 95% clean. No, I’m not talking about the standards of hygiene or the crud that tries to take up residence in the grout – I’m talking about the contents of my pantry and refrigerator.
I’ve worked hard to banish GMOs, pesticides and chemical additives from the premises. With the proliferation of “dirty” food-like substances that fill the grocery stores, it’s been a challenge to build a clean long-term food supply, especially on a tight budget.
Let’s talk about clean food. This is the food that we are naturally intended to eat, food that our bodies can process and turn into energy and muscle – nutrients we can use to provide us with glowing health – fuel that doesn’t make us fat.
Dirty food, on the other hand, is loaded with things that your body was not designed to process: chemical additives to change the color or texture, preservatives to inhibit mold and kill off bacteria, modified genes, altered sugars and neurotoxins. The lists of ingredients on processed foods read more like a chemistry textbook than a compilation of edible items.
A huge portion of the items available at your local Piggly Wiggly or Shop-n-Save just aren’t fit to eat anymore. Our society is becoming dumber by the day, as they kill off brain cells, literally kill them, with the neurotoxins present in a bag of Doritos and a Diet Coke. People are becoming fatter as they chow down on items loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup only to become hungry again a scant amount of time later as their bodies desperately seek satiation, since HFCS doesn’t trigger the production of insulin and leptin (the hormones that make you feel full).
I began thinking about the transformation of my kitchen last night, when I was chatting with a friend about getting rid of the GMOs that had been stubbornly resisting eviction. (If you’re a friend of mine, you know that eventually, some portion of a conversation will make its way onto the website – so, thanks, dude, for the inspiration!) Through the course of the discussion, I pinpointed the turning point that helped me clean things up, once and for all.
Six months ago, I felt pretty good about the clean and healthy foods stored up in my pantry. While the contents of my cupboards were probably healthier than those of many North Americans, there were still a lot of sneaky culprits lurking there.
I discovered this when I did a “Scratch Challenge.” For one month, back in November, I made absolutely everything from scratch. So, no seasoning mixes, no crackers, no tortillas – nothing that came ready to eat. If I purchased an item, it was a single ingredient, not a ready-made component. Initially I thought the exercise would be a piece of cake. After all, I baked healthy goodies for Rosie’s lunch box a couple of times per week. I didn’t use any of the “just add hamburger” boxed meals. I already cooked from scratch!
My eyes became opened as quickly as Day 1, when I was scrounging around the kitchen looking for breakfast. My usual breakfast of peanut butter on either toast or crackers, along with a piece of fruit, wasn’t going to happen, because a) I hadn’t made bread and b) the crackers weren’t from scratch. I ended up cobbling together a big bowl of scrambled eggs with assorted veggies, eaten, toastless, out of a bowl.
Over the course of the experiment, of course, things improved. I made bread, soft tortillas, nacho chips, salsa, pizza sauce, noodles, and many more items that I had formerly grabbed right from the cupboard. I realized that even in a fairly clean kitchen, there lurked a fair amount of potential GMO and chemical bombs.
I challenge you to clean your own kitchen. You will be amazed at the increase in your health if you can kick the dirty foods out and nourish your body with pure, clean food. You can feel confident that the supplies you have stored will see you through whatever circumstances arrive in the future when you build your food stockpile for nutritious ingredients instead of toxins in a deceptively cheerful box.
Spend one week cooking from scratch.
You don’t have to do this for an entire month – just one week will highlight for you the places where you are using “food” instead of “ingredients” to make your meals. Use only single ingredients for one week: flour, rice, oats, organic milk and yogurt, grass-fed meat, organic fruits and vegetables, and basic pantry supplies (yeast, baking soda, etc.) Include your kids in the process of making homemade pretzels, baking cookies and creating gourmet oatmeal flavors like maple syrup apple pecan. (If they’re included in the preparations, it helps to lessen the complaining if they are craving foods that are more familiar.) You may be just as surprised as I am when you discover that you have more of a reliance on packaged items than you thought.
Buy your dry items in bulk.
I recently made a large purchase of organic grains and sugar for our family. The cost of organic flour, wheat, cornmeal, sugar and oats can be very prohibitive if your budget is tight like mine. By purchasing these items in 25-50 pound bags and storing them properly, I saved about 30% off the price of grocery store purchased items, even when I tack on the price of shipping. As well, I have made great inroads towards a well-balanced, nutritious one year food supply for my family.
Plant a garden.
Whether you have a few acres, a suburban back yard, a patio or a windowsill, begin now to take steps towards self-sufficiency. No, you can’t grow enough food on a balcony to feed your family of 4 for a year, but you can cultivate some organic foods that aid in cutting your grocery bill while learning more about self-sufficiency. You can sprout seeds and grow herbs year round in a sunny window. You can, at the least, supplement your purchased groceries with a taste of nature brought forth by you. In my 1/10 acre city lot last year, I grew enough beans and tomatoes that we are still enjoying them in January. What’s more, I didn’t have to purchase produce from the store for 3 months straight – all of our veggie needs were met in our own back yard.
Start searching for sources of real food near you.
The next best option to your own garden is making friends with a local farmer at the market – you can purchase many things in bushels at a much better price than the 1 pint baskets. When I lived in the city, I was fortunate to make friends with a nice older farmer, originally from Italy. Not only did I get a lot of great tips for my own garden, after a while, he began to bring me bushel baskets of “seconds” for canning at a greatly reduced price. To make matters even better, he allowed me to go and pick my own “high-labor” foods like peas and berries. This allowed him to charge me far less, since he didn’t have to pay pickers, and allowed me to learn a great deal about growing those items. Don’t stop with produce though – find someone who raises cattle and chickens. Check out for yourself the conditions the animals are raised in, see what they’re fed and make a deal for purchasing in quantity. You will be amazed at the difference between grass fed, organic beef vs. feedlot grocery store beef. When you buy a quarter of a cow, you pay an average price – this means you’ll pay a bit more for lesser cuts that end up as ground beef or stewing beef, but you’ll pay far less for prime cuts like steaks and roasts. Free range chicken and eggs are also far tastier and healthier than their factory-farmed counterparts. When you buy direct from the farm you can confirm for yourself that your version of free range and the farmer’s version coincide.
Learn to preserve food.
I live in a tiny Northern town. The price of organic produce is sometimes double or triple the price of conventional fruits and vegetables. I combat this by purchasing organic items that are near their expiration dates and preserving them immediately. I also preserve the bounty from my garden and bushel baskets purchased from local organic farmers. I can, pickle, freeze and dehydrate these foods to consume throughout the year. One fantastic benefit to canning is that you can put up entire meals in a jar, creating your own healthy convenience foods with nary a chemical in sight. While canning is initially time consuming, you’re putting away numerous meals simultaneously, saving time in the long run. This is especially handy for those busy days that would have once sent you to the closest drive-through, desperately seeking sustenance while in between piano lessons and soccer practice.
Know what to look out for.
Over 85% of soy and corn in North America is GMO. That means that if an item is not labeled “organic” and contains one of those ingredients (in its many different disguises) that you are consuming somebody’s science experiment. The corn industry, in particular, is incredibly deceptive about sneaking in its toxic yield under different names. As well, neurotoxic “seasonings” made from MSG like to masquerade under seemingly harmless aliases. Check out The Ingredients You Should Not Have in Your Pantry for more items to avoid. Spend some time looking up the more scientific-sounding ingredients on the labels in your pantry. Compile a list of items you no longer want to bring home and keep that in your wallet to cross-reference against the labels at the grocery store when you shop.
What are you waiting for?
The sooner you take steps to exclude the FDA-approved poisons from your lifestyle, the sooner you can begin to see the health benefits. Clean foods can…
- Help you to maintain a healthy body weight
- Increase energy
- Drop your risk for many different afflictions, including obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease
- Improve your immune system
- Aid in managing childhood “behavioral issues” like ADHD, ODD, and other acronyms short for “medicate kids into little zombies”
There really is no end to the benefits of cleaning up your kitchen and your food storage. What do you have to lose, besides disease, illness and fat?