making life less of a process

Joe & I are dedicating a lot more time these days to reading & thinking about local food. We’re loving our CSA, our time at the market, our time in our garden… but we’re also still leaving gas stations with a lemonade & a bag of Grippos potato chips. (Ahem, Joe…)

We’re working to eliminate most processed foods from our diet. That means bringing home fewer plastics & cardboard boxes, and it means taking the time to think ahead. Here are some tips that may be helpful as you start making similar transitions in your own diet. In typical Megan fashion, I’m making a list of the things that have been most helpful to us.

What you need to reduce your processed food intake:

  1. Patience. This isn’t something I’m known for having a lot of in the pantry. But I’ve gotten to the point where I dedicate one day a week to serious food work. Making soups that last all week. Prepping snacks. Dealing with the heat of the oven for hours at a time to avoid it for the rest of the week. It’s worth it.
  2. Travel snacks. If elementary school taught me anything, it’s that a snack midday can get you through just about anything. If Joe & I are every going to make it out of a gas station empty handed (without just eating all of whatever we buy frantically while still staying in the store) we need to come prepared. When you’re doing that one day of food work, whip up some no-bake cookies or honey-spice almonds or the basics (bulk nuts, carrots, celery, apples). They all travel well, & they’ll all leave you feeling better than that Dorito-V8-pistachio trifecta you tried to convince yourself was a good lunch on the road. Believe me, I know. It’ll be a lot cheaper, too. Gas is pricey enough, why add to the sting?
  3. A Spaetzle maker. This is top on my Buy For the Kitchen list. (Oh, come on. You knew I had one of those!) They’re such an inexpensive treasure, and they make for some of the best pasta (with a dumpling sort of texture) you can imagine. And that cuts major food miles & processing! Here’s a recipe you’ll enjoy. I’ve heard it’s of German origin; some say it’s Austrian; it’s prominent in the Alsace region of France. For Joe & I? We first had a version of it drenched in pesto–our favorite meal while visiting San Remo, served from a tiny kitchen in a book store-restaurant combo run by a darling Italian family. This is a great additional to the family meal rotation.
  4. Glass jars. I’m still afraid of the boiling bath required for legitimate canning, but I have become completely addicted to storing everything from dry goods to soups in glass jars. They easily slide into the doors of freezers; they don’t stain; they seal well; they don’t hold odors or traces of other food; they don’t leak chemical compounds into your food. That said, we do rely on something plastic:
  5. Gallon-sized bags, to be reused until they’re completely tragic-looking & leaky. They’ve kept us using produce & buying fruit when we would otherwise say, “It’s way too much for two people.” That leads to good deals & often buying more fruit, since we can store it in the freezer.
  6. Produce. Nothing, I mean nothing, will stop you from buying processed stuff like the guilt of seeing your kale & carrots go all wimpy in the crisper.

That’s a start. Snack on some simpler things. Preserve what you’ve already got. And love thy freezer. What keeps you from buying unnecessary snacks or boxes at the store? I need your help. The number of wrappers in our truck is embarrassing…

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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3 Responses to making life less of a process

  1. Lauren says:

    My spaetzle maker is an absolute kitchen favorite here too! For me, the obsession started with chicken and spaetzle, a staple in my childhood home and a throwback to my own German heritage, I believe. The obsession of course continued living where we lived in France and our own spaetzle maker was one of the first kitchen purchases we made after moving to St Louis. Sometimes, Megan, I swear we were separated at birth.

  2. meganbetz says:

    Haha! We don’t have one yet, but I’m hoping to snag one at the local kitchen shop when the weather cools. We were just thinking about that spaetzle-pesto dish we had, which seems like a bit of an odd combo… but now I can’t stop thinking about it. With shredded zucchini… I was going to wait until the weather cooled to buy one, but I doubt I’ll make it. These odd little machines always make me think of you–I remember you mentioning them in a blog post about a special occasion dinner.

    • Lauren says:

      If you don’t find one for a good price (I remember searching online and only finding ones around $35 which I can’t do for a one trick pony), the Kitchen Conservatory here in Clayton is where we found ours form $8 or so.

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