At first I was overly confident - after all, I rarely ate any processed foods, right?
I started looking through my diet and checking the food I was eating on a regular basis....lunch meat (every day), instant oatmeal packets, sugary granola bars, crackers, potato chips, instant rice mixes, canned soups, etc.
So when I visited MN in August Brandon and I decided it was the time to make some changes. I had the time to do a lot more meal planning and prep work and we were in the unique position where we were together almost every night for dinner. I also made several meals ahead of time and froze them so that he would have something healthy to quickly grab for breakfast or lunch when I wasn't around.
1. It was cheaper than we thought: Because Brandon kept very few things in his cupboards/refrigerator to begin with, our initial grocery bill was higher than what Brandon usually spent (think additional spices, things like honey and flour, and meat). However, after that first week our subsequent grocery bills were lower than Brandon typically spent on a week's worth of groceries (and he was feeding 2 people for dinner instead of 1).
2. We found some great recipes: My favorite go-to website is now 100 Days of Real Food. Not only does the author have some great tips for switching over to a natural diet, but she also lists some really delicious recipes. Some of our favorites were:
- Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes (these were delicious and perfect for breakfasts because I could make a batch when I was over at Brandon's apartment at night and then freeze them for him to grab and go in the morning)
- Whole Wheat Tortillas (I will never buy store bought tortillas again - these are awesome!)
3. It was easier than I thought it was going to be: I found that I could easily switch over a lot of our favorite recipes and make them healthier by taking things a step back (i.e. making more of the components from scratch rather than buying premade). Brandon also loves to eat leftovers, so I found that making a slightly larger dinner left him the perfect amount of leftovers to take the next day for lunch.
4. My handsome man is now willing to eat vegetarian....at least once a week :) This is a huge step for Brandon! He likes most vegetables, but hates beans, and the thought of a meal without meat seems incomplete to him. I started out slowly by incorporating a few "scary" vegetables in some of our other meals - i.e. cucumbers, peas, asparagus. Then I moved on to adding beans to some of our meat meals to stretch the meat. (He was shocked when he really couldn't even taste the beans that much). He is still wary to most vegetarian meals, but we've found a few that he really likes and that have a lot of flavor. Score!
5. We had more energy. I was amazed at how quickly I started to feel more energized and sleep better. I suppose it could have been a placebo effect, but I like to think it was the real deal!
Coming back to Michigan made things a little more difficult. We still eat dinner together almost every night, but sometimes it is with my parents or out to eat. Because I am not cooking dinner at night at Brandon's on a regular basis he doesn't have leftovers for lunch - meaning that he has gone back to Kashi TV dinners for lunch and Cliff bars for breakfast (not horrible, but....). Time is also harder for me. Now that I'm working full time I still love the break cooking gives me when I come home at night, but I've found that if we are really going to stick to this new plan I need to be diligent about meal planning and prep on the weekends.
We know things will be a little hit-or-miss, especially for the next 113 days until we are married and living under the same roof (but whose counting?!), and there are some things we just aren't willing to give up (i.e. frozen peanut m & ms), but for the most part we are excited about this change and committed to embracing it fully!