taking the real food challenge

by Stacy

A little over a week ago, Kris from A Small Life talked about a “Real Food Challenge.” I checked out the link and pondered the idea.

After seeing Food, Inc. I talked to my husband about his thoughts, and we agreed to aim for more organic, local, and seasonal foods in our home. With veggies from our CSA and bulk items from Azure Standard, I’ve just needed to lightly supplement with fruit and the occasional baking supplies from a local chain of natural foods stores. We’re doing pretty well, so the challenge didn’t seem necessary to me.

But I want to do it anyway. The majority of our food purchases are made by me, so I have a lot of control over what we eat, but I wanted my husband to be involved if we were going to do this. We talked it over and set up some ground rules.

For the month of March:

  • We will not buy any foods we can make at home. Mac and cheese, this means you!
  • We can use organic staples we already have in the cupboards (canned tomatoes, jam, pasta, etc.). That doesn’t mean we will.
  • Anything we do buy will be (preferably) organic and contain 5 or fewer ingredients.
  • We will also look for local options when possible.
  • We are not buying any new equipment for food-making over what we own. No home-brewed beer.
  • Irish beer is allowed for St. Patrick’s Day.

Very little food in the house is processed, so we will simply avoid those few things. I have half a jar of purchased pasta sauce that I would rather use up than let spoil, but once it’s gone I will make my own. One of my personal goals for the year is to make pasta from scratch, but I won’t say we can’t eat the organic whole wheat spaghetti from the cupboard.

I’m looking forward to trying my hand at corn tortillas for homemade fish tacos. I haven’t bought flour tortillas or bread in months, so I’ll keep on track with that. I’m hoping it will push me to use my sourdough starter, too. Things I already make at home: granola, bread, pudding. Other new things I am considering trying to make at home: pasta, crackers, tortilla chips, marmalade, and mock duck.

The challenge is flexible, there are no hard and fast rules. The concept is simply eat fewer processed foods and focus on eating “Real Food.” You don’t fail or get into trouble if you stumble along the way, it’s just a group forging a path on a journey to eating better food.

Does anyone want to join us?

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Chiot's Run March 2, 2010 at 8:09 am

Ah, getting rid of Mac N Cheese, this was a hard one for Mr Chiots since it’s about all he ate growing up. I used to keep a box in the pantry for occasional quick meals. It was the organic stuff though without artificial colors.

After making homemade pasta, he much prefers it to the boxed stuff now. We’ve come a long way!

Can’t wait to see how this Challenge goes for you!

OH yeah, Irish beer on St Patties day. I think we’ll be having Irish Car Bomb cupcakes to celebrate with Irish Beer & Irish Whiskey :)


stacy March 2, 2010 at 10:07 am

We’ve started adding CSA veggies to the boxed stuff, and it’s not even the organic kind. His favorite meal is blue box mac n cheese with Heinz Ketchup.

I have promised lots of burritos, and once he got his beer caveat, he was sold. =)


Kate March 2, 2010 at 9:21 am

We try to follow these guidelines & goals at home and are gradually adhering to them more and more. My weakness is on snacks — crackers and other nibbles; I’ll try this challenge and focus on that big weakness over the next few weeks!

On a side note – can I make a request for you to post the fish taco recipe when you make those? I’ve been wanting to try those at home for awhile now. Also, if you come across good seitan recipes I’d love to see those. I’ve made it several times at home and only have 1 recipe that I liked OK, but wasn’t crazy about it (and my son downright hated it!)


stacy March 2, 2010 at 10:11 am

Awesome! Good luck! Like I said, I don’t think it will be any drastic for us, but I think it’s good to remind ourselves of the choices we’re making. It was also important to me to have my husband on board and not just stop buying stuff he likes.

Oh there will be fish tacos! I’ve been meaning to make them for months because we love them and don’t need to pay $3/taco. Also, I still have too much cabbage. ;p I just need to figure out what sauce to make and use.

Seitan would be a nice change (we eat a decent amount of tofu and tempeh), but the only recipe I stumbled across was so futzy and vital wheat gluten is so expensive that a $4 package doesn’t seem unreasonable. I read a few vegetarian communities and may ask there if I don’t find something appealing. Trust me, that will get posted, too! =)

So glad you’re joining the challenge!


Kimberly March 2, 2010 at 10:23 am

If you don’t already have a tortilla press, you’re going to want one before you make corn tortillas. I keep trying to make corn tortillas without a press and the results just aren’t that good. FYI :)


stacy March 2, 2010 at 10:30 am

I have read several recipes and I guess rolling them out between Ziploc bags really helps. I don’t want to get a tortilla press if I can avoid it.


Lisa March 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

hey! it’s pretty easy to make your own tortilla chips; i just made tortilla chips today after our walk. they were soooo amazing!!! unbelievably better than store-bought chips. we should make them sometime and make some homemade guacamole to go with it. here’s how i did it:

1. i took some corn tortillas that were a few days old in the fridge (one recommendation was that they not be brand new, because the moistness might detract from the future crispiness of the chip) and cut them into strips (about 8 strips per tortilla). i used 6 tortillas, but im sure 8 could be used too to fit into the pot

2. i put some canoloa oil about an inch or two high in a wide but semi-short pot on medium/but more high (an oil that steams is important–im pretty sure that olive oil doesn’t), and once i saw steam rising from the pot, i threw the tortilla strips in

3. i waited till they got brown and crisp, stirring them around a bit to make sure they were getting crisp on both sides, and then i put them on a couple of paper towels to drain

4. lastly, i hit them with some salt right away (i saw this done on food network b4, apparently it’s important to get the salt on when they’re still hot)

it was sooo delicious! the chicken tortilla soup was pretty good. it had a very fresh flavor due to the extra tomato i put in there, the cilantro, and the chile power i put in it (not the chili powder for chili that has cumin and all sorts of stuff in it, just plain old ground up cumin). although my boyfriend liked the chicken tortilla soup, i think the fact that there was chicken in it turned me off, because i am for the most part a vegetarian…so i think i’ll stick to vegetarian cooking from now on


stacy March 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm

I’ve made crispy tortilla strips in the oven before, but I’m not a huge fan of frying things. That’s the bigger obstacle for me. =)


Lisa March 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm

i know what you mean! =) i’m trying to lose weight so that was rather naughty of me, lol. i’ve actually never fried anything before, besides latkahs, which don’t actually require you to submerge the latkahs in a pot full of oil… i’m going to try make some fresh guacamole this week to dip some black bean and cheese taquitos from trader joes i have! (they’re in the frozen section, and taste excellent crisped in the oven). i have some cilantro and red onion to add into the guac, as well as some ground chili powder.


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