If you have never been to a conference similar to the OEFFA conference, I highly recommend it. It's a wonderful mix of experts and learners (some who are both). A place where there are like minded people all around you! Everyone there knows the term organic and what it means. Everyone there is somehow focused on some part of sustainability. When you are there, you can feel that energy pulsing. It's comfortable. It's informative. It's fun.
Coming off of such a great weekend makes it a little easier to be totally gung-ho for Not Dabbling In Normal's Real Food Challenge!!
I came into the blog reading game a bit too late to join last year. This year, we are going to participate. It's true - we eat a lot of whole foods already, but we rely on some prepackaged foods for quick snacks (crackers mainly) and to indulge our nostalgic cravings (mac-n-cheese from a box - organic - but still prepackaged!).
I have several goals I'm hoping to achieve, or move closer to achieving, by joining the challenge. First, I would like to eliminate, as much as possible without making myself more crazy than I already am, the prepackaged foods we eat, but could easily find alternatives for. Looking around my kitchen and storage places, those include but are not necessarily limited to:
crackers - always organic whole grain, but processed and coming from far afield
mac-n-cheese - always organic, always white pasta, definitely from who knows where
pasta - always organic, always white, always imported (this one is going to be a major challenge...)
Another prepackaged item we use very regularly are organic sprouted wheat tortillas. I'm not yet ready to give those up and start making my own. Remember the part about not making myself crazy? This would fall into that category. Someday, when the kids are a bit older and more self sufficient, I may take this one on. But not now. Cheating, you say? Nope. The beauty of the Real Food Challenge is to embrace it and make it your own. Figure out the goals that are achievable for you and your family, and make them work. The sprouted tortillas I buy are whole grain and healthy. They make my life much easier for quick quesadillas or hummus wraps.
Speaking of quesadillas, another prepackaged item we frequently use are refried beans. I'm not sure whether or not I can include these on my list to eliminate. I certainly would love to. But maybe not quite yet.
My second goal in joining the challenge is to pull more things into our lives from local sources. Since March is the perfect time to really start digging into your garden design and ideas, I'm going to use this challenge to figure out ways to grow more of the things we love, or source them locally. As I mentioned above, celery and mushrooms fall into that category. Carrots were already on my list of things to grow more. And lettuce/greens are on my list for figuring out a better winter plan.
In addition to the tortillas, there are some things that I'm not going to give up.
Chocolate - there is NO WAY on this green earth that I am willing to sacrifice chocolate!!!!! Chocolate will stay. Although, I may try to eat less, I already always buy organic and I get fair trade organic whenever possible.
Coffee and black teas - Ditto above for my caffeine fix. We grow or collect all of our herbal teas.
Spices - Here, I'm talking of cinnamon and curry, corriander and cumin, turmeric and allspice and the like. As far as herbs go, we grow what we use on those.
Olives - we don't use very many olives, but we do indulge sometimes.
Tomato paste - I've not successfully figured out how to make a suitable paste.
Condiments, vinegars, and oils - Someday I will make our ketchup. This year will (if all goes the way we would like it) will not be the year to do so. But it's on the list. I will continue to buy mustard, vinegars, and oils. Organic, of course.
There are probably things I'm not thinking of at the moment. I'll figure those out as I go along. So, in a nutshell, I'm going to work on eliminating those packaged products I think are unnecessary in so many ways, finding healthy local alternatives. And, I'm going to work on my growing plan to ensure that the local thing will be easier for next year.
If you are interested in the Real Food Challenge, visit NDIN for more information. There is a whole list of resources in the sidebar. I'll be posting updates here on our progress - successes and pains.