2010 Real Food Challenge

So, I’m doing this Real Food Challenge thing.  Call me wacky. Or fringe-y. But I’m doing it anyway.

Starting March 1st, a group of  people will be committing to a month-long challenge of eating less (or no)  processed/packaged food, as well as many other related goals.  I’ll be highlighting what I am doing as well as tidbits, recipes, ideas and information I glean from others.

Why?  Ah,the Love!

My interest in real food, sustainability and healthier eating started about 8 years ago with a CSA box full of things I didn’t yet know I liked.  Winter squashes.  Kale.  Garlic scapes. Beets.  All kinds of “bizarre” things that I would search  for recipes to use. It was a hoot. I was single & living in my lil’ bachelorette pad.  I was learning how to cook all over again, making up recipes, eating strange meals and drinking wine.  Seriously, it was awesome!

Why? Argh, the Rant!

My attention more recently has turned to the dismal state of our food system and (in)security.  How the hell did we get here?  How did we get so far removed from where our food comes from?   Want to know the answer?  Corporate greed.  Corporations willing to sacrifice your health (and ultimately your life) to make a few more bucks.  Wake up people!  Marketing, pricing, subsidies….all for a lot more money for a handful of people at the expense of your health.  The greedy soul-sucking jackasses.  It is disgusting & criminal.

The result is that a whole lot of people no longer know what ‘real food’ actually tastes like.   Sure, they know what additives , preservatives and artificial flavors taste like.  They know what corn and soy (and the bajillion byproducts they produce) taste like.  Even our meat is chock full of soy, corn & antibiotics (again, to make a quicker and bigger buck.)  But real food? Not so much.  Go the store and start reading labels. Frightening.

The health issues we face due to diet are staggering.  Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndromes… to name a few.  DIET RELATED.  Totally related to the complete crap the food industry has pumped in to our food supply & “normalized.”   We get unhealthier as a country by the year.  Think it doesn’t (or hasn’t yet!) affected you?  Think again.  The cost to the health care system FOR PREVENTABLE DISEASE is significant enough that I think the food industry should subsidize our health insurance.

Anecdotally, as an oncology nurse, we have had a recent influx of 20-something year olds with stage 4 colon cancer.  Not coincidently, this is the age of people who have grown up in a world where food is actually just chemicals, additives and high fructose corn syrup.  A 20-year-old with stage 4 colon cancer (and no rare genetic disease) is 99.9% diet and environmental.  Think about it.

Sadly, as with most issues,  the already marginalized bear the biggest burden.  Unhealthy food is “cheap” food.  (Cheap to buy, expensive in societal costs.)  It is fast food.  It is convenient food.  However, I’ll save access issues for another post because it is huge.

To be frank, I’m really pissed off by it all.  Incensed.  Like so many, I feel helpless.  So, I educate myself.  And I grow. I’m gardening away my anger and disgust.  I’m growing as much food as I can for my family.  I’m learning to preserve food.  It’s a journey of resistance to greater self-sufficiency, as well as a big fuck you to the industrial food complex.

It is that or lay down slowly and die.  Ok a bit dramatic, but that is how desperate I feel.

And yet, it isn’t enough.   I want to do more.   I want to go further.

Real Food Challenge

Enter Not Dabbling in Normal and the Real Food Challenge!   I’m really excited for this month-long challenge to kick it up a notch and bring on new level of change.  And I’m glad I have some community & accountability along the way.

My Rules:

Many of the things I’ll be doing are things we already do.  I make all our bread.  I use bulk grains, baking staples and beans.  We eat pretty healthy.   But the things that we don’t do….well, we haven’t done them for a reason.  It is because, in the past, they seem “too hard. ”   As I discovered with bread making, I hope I find out it isn’t that hard.  You with me?

The bottom line: all real food with recognizable & known ingredients.  Mostly local & organic.

No store-bought/packaged:

  • pasta
  • ice cream
  • crackers
  • bread
  • jams/jellies
  • yogurt
  • dressings
  • sauces or condiments
  • cookies/snacks/boxed mixes of any kind
  • canned/shelved items
  • preservatives, corn syrup or fillers
  • sodas or juice

Meat will be only local/organic.  Produce will be local, in-season and organic.   Only local milk, cream and eggs.  Pasture-raised and no hormones/antibiotics for any meat, dairy or eggs.


  • chocolate (fair trade & locally processed)
  • oils
  • peanut butter (I love it. I hate other nut butters. I won’t give up PB. But it will be organic.  When I run out of our current stash, I’ll grind my own at my local co-op, PCC)
  • spices
  • coffee (fair trade and shade grown)
  • tea
  • Beer and wine (from Washington or Oregon).
  • Other booze & such.  I’m going to allow hard alcohol that is already in the house, but won’t buy/drink anything other than that.
  • citrus. I need it.  I’ll make sure it is west coast.

I have also decided I can go out to eat 3 times during the month.  I would limit it completely, but early in the month is my birthday (it’s a biggie!) and I want to go out & celebrate.  But I’m finally going  to Orangette’s restaurant (which you can check out here) so it’ll likely fall mostly into my guidelines. Later in the month my folks will be in town and we’ll go out.  Don’t suggest otherwise…you try and stop my mom from wanting to go out!  (love you mom!).  I double-dog-dare ya’.  I’ll sit on the sidelines having a good laugh.  Plus a bonus outing or take-out just because it will keep my lovely ladyfriend happy.

Getting Ready

I’ve tried out some new kitchen tricks.   I made mayonnaise and ketchup.  For my birthday my ladyfriend is getting me a baking stone to up my bread-awesomeness factor.  I cooked up a few batches of crackers.  I made some granola bars.  I am going to make yogurt and soft cheese at some point.  I’ll be trying out more recipes in search of the keepers.

Here’s to real food (and to your health)!

A Few Resources & Inspiration:



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21 Responses to 2010 Real Food Challenge

  1. Jennifer Jabson says:

    You, my fine friend, are an inspiration. I am in awe of your fortitude, and your momentum for change. You are making this world a better place one blog post at a time. I am sending you all our love and support for your great real food challenge…I cannot wait to see how your experience unfolds. Here’s to you!

  2. sonja says:

    This is an awesome undertaking! I look forward to hearing how it all transpires. I too hope that its ends up being easier than we all think to live like this. So great that you’re trying it out. I’m excited to read your post about making yogurt. And, I’ve gotta give a shout out for those awesome granola bars – delicious!

  3. danimalks says:

    We are trying to do this too, but not as a challenge, just in life. I think it is awesome!
    Here are things I would miss:
    cheese (I buy it from locals when I see it, but we eat A LOT of cheese)
    Sesamark rice crackers
    BBQ sauce

    Maybe I can figure it out. I’ll let you know!

  4. danimalks says:

    Hmm, that was Beth Dugan. I don’t know why it logged me as that name. Weird.

  5. Beth- yep, cheese is tough. We love cheese around here & eat a lot of it. I think that costco is carrying our local Beecher’s cheese (which is awesome stuff)…so I’m hoping!
    What kind of BBQ sauce do you like? Maybe I can try out a recipe….i love a good challenge =)

  6. Travel Mommy says:

    OK, I admit it, when we are in Seattle we do like to eat out a lot. But….hey, Seattle has just awesome restaurants! Of course, eating what you fix is pretty awesome also, Meg!
    Good for you doing this project – reading food labels is pretty scary!
    By the way, where can we go out for breakfast, Meg??????

  7. What a super post…seriously you organized and sound very determined.

    You words on 20 somethings with colon cancer is so sad…I have 3 20 somethings and I am going to have a talk with them all asap.

    Thanks for joining us, I can’t wait to see what you do to inspire us all! Kim

    • Thanks! I’m really excited about the challenge! I sometimes need a kick in the butt (and some accountability to something outside myself). I can’t wait to hear what others are doing!

  8. Unearthing This Life says:

    I love this post! Glad you’ll be joining us on the Challenge. Be sure to let us know about your progress (and how tasty Orangette’s is!). Jennifer

  9. Jennifer says:

    I didn’t get past the 20-something with colon cancer thing. While my GI doesn’t believe I have colon cancer, I’m currently in the process of being diagnosed with possible IBD after a recent bout with diverticulitis. I’m 28. This started almost 4 years ago. Oh the looks I get when I walk into the office filled with people who are much older, and the even more baffled looks of the nurses and I know they have to be thinking “she’s too young to be in here”. I have my not so thrilling camera procedure this week, and I’m not looking forward to it. Okay I’m done ranting on your blog. 😉 But seriously .. how the heck did an issue that is typically reserved for those over 50 happen to someone my age!?

    • Jennifer- Rant a way! The food stuff is serious stuff and rant-able! I am really sorry you are undergoing all that. Please keep me posted and I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

  10. Cyndi says:

    Awesome undertaking Meg!!! Having been an at-home-mommy in my earlier years, it was like a calling to start making noodles, baking bread, planting gardens and starting down the path to eating naturally and healthfully. Snce those years, I’ve been more or less doing the same things, and finding articles like yours are such an opportunity to recommit to excellent eating!! Thank you for sharing your challenge, and enjoy the experience. It feels great!!!

  11. Elise Self says:

    Meg, Way to go! I am excited that you are doing this and I am glad that I will be there for part of it. I love everything you make and I love learning from you. By the way, I made the pear dressing the other night for company and we all loved it! Being such a cracker nut I am eager to taste your homemade crackers.

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  15. Meg I forgot to tell you about my favorite coffee service, smallcog coffee.com It’s a family in Ravenna who roasts coffee then delivers it that day by bicycle. I feel good about drinking it since I’m going to drink coffee anyway. The bags are compostable, the coffee is organic, shade grown and above fair trade, there is no large distribution chain or ring of coffee shops with wifi you are supporting. I make an exception for coffee, chocolate and coconuts as well as vanilla and occasional other spices that don’t grow in my climate. After I drink the coffee I add the grounds to my compost pile so it doesn’t add to the garbage chain. And Ma Ingals drank coffee. That is my bar. Did Ma Ingals buy it? Then I’m ok with it.

    Plus I tried to make my own dandelion coffee this winter and reduce my outside the yard consumption and oh my nastiness. I did plant a tea plant but I’ve just gotta have some joe in the morning.

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