Simplifying Our Food

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I have been overwhelmed by the response of the Life: Simplified Project kick off and am excited to dig in and share some of my goals and projects with you in the coming weeks!

5 Processed Foods Easily Simplified

Today I want to talk about food. I have been a struggling menu-planner for years. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what the problem was and why I felt overwhelmed and stuck by the idea of menu planning. But one of the major reasons finally hit me: too many choices.

Our grocery stores are filled with endless choices of just about everything. The overwhelming choices cause me to freeze. I just don’t even know where to begin. Though we aim to eat healthy, there is still room for improvement and in order to simplify our choices, I decided last year to eliminate as many processed foods as possible.

I am still on this journey and will continue to eliminate more items and replace them with more homemade, whole foods. Today I am sharing 5 processed food items that we have swapped out for more whole foods. These are some of the most simplest food items to change out.


We stopped buying margarine, which is mostly hydrogenated vegetable oil and water. Although it is inexpensive compared to butter, the health benefits just aren’t there.

I understand some people cannot eat butter due to special health restrictions, but for those of us who can, I recommend it over margarine. It has a higher fat content, but the fats are healthier than those in margarine and you can save money and calories by cutting down your portion.

Vegetable Oil

Not far behind, we swapped out our vegetable oil for extra virgin olive oil. Again, healthier fats. Buying this in bulk will save lots of money in the long run.

I have also heard of many people using coconut oil, which is something I tend to add to our pantry stables but have not yet found a local place selling it at a decent price.

Canned Chicken Broth

High in sodium and void of wonderful nutrients, I have stopped buying canned chicken broth in favor of making my own homemade. It is super easy and it doesn’t even compare to that stuff in the can.

Simply use bones from a chicken, add water, some carrots, celery, and an onion and simmer for 8-10 hours. I put mine in the crock pot over night. You can add seasonings to your liking, but the broth comes out so full of flavor, you don’t need them, or could always add them later, when you use the broth for soup or other dishes.

I’ll be sharing on this in more details in a later post.

Processed Cheese

No, I don’t make my own cheese. But I do buy it as little processed as I can. We have stopped buying pre-shredded cheese in favor of the blocks and just shred it ourselves. The shredded cheese is coated with a substance called dextrose and calcium sulfate, otherwise known as corn starch and a synthetic salt. Both created in a lab, yet pretty easily eliminated in this instance. This substance is to prevent the cheese from sticking together.

I am currently doing some research on American cheese. While we stopped buying the individually wrapped slices, we are buying the deli-style, but am not sure that’s much better, honestly. So, my research on that continues.

Pancake Mix

I know, yes, I am one of those mom’s who buys the packaged pancake mix and while it seems perfectly fine, it’s really not. It has elements in it to preserve the mix and, if used passed the expiration date, has been known to be deadly. Scary thought, huh?

It’s really quite simple to find a good, healthy pancake recipe. Whole wheat, topped with fresh fruit? Yes, please.

What processed food would you like to simplify, or swap out for real food? I will share more as my journey progresses.

This post is part of the Life: Simplified Project. Follow our Pinterest board here.

Life: Simplified Project


You can link up your Life: Simplified post here. Share your goals or projects for simplifying your life in 2014. If you’re reading this in your email, you can click over to the blog to add your link. Prepare a post and join us each Monday!


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  1. This was super interesting to read. I’ve already made the butter switch, but admit I have not cut my portions of it. I really love butter. I purchase sticks of butter at Costco and freeze them. Then just take out a box at a time as I need it. I also made the switch to olive oil a long time ago, mostly because I cook a lot of italian dishes. I too, have heard of coconut oil but haven’t tried it yet. I’m looking forward to learning more about chicken broth. I use chicken and beef broth a lot so I’d love to know how to make (and store) my own. I had no idea it was so easy to do. :)

  2. I live overseas, and a lot of what we eat is all-natural to begin with. Pre-made mixes are pretty much unheard of, and I’ve been making things from scratch since we’ve lived here. It always seems more time-consuming, but it’s also what we’re already used to. In that, though, there are some things that I’ve considered switching out…like not buying the pre-sliced deli hams and instead buying a roast and slicing it up myself. We’re limiting our meat intake to 1-2x a week, more because of the high cost of meats, but also because we don’t feel like we need it all the time. Another thing I’m going to switch out is cereal for either müsli or homemade granola.

    • You are quite right, simplifying to whole foods is more time consuming! I, too, want to switch out lunch meats for less processed meats.

  3. A number of years ago, I found a recipe to use in place of canned cream of __ soup. That has been a big help to our healthy eating. I also always make my own chicken broth, and freeze it if I don’t need it right away. Takes a bit of thought ahead of time to thaw it, but I’ve found that if I freeze 2 cup portions in ziplock bags, I can thaw them pretty quickly. You can use any chicken bones to make broth – even pop bones in a bag in the freezer until you have enough bones or time to cook up a batch. Keep leftover veggies in the freezer to add to the broth for an added nutritional boost.
    I’ve been hearing more about coconut oil lately, and plan to look into that.

  4. Loved this info, thank you! I had no idea about shredded cheese. Great suggestions for simple switches.

  5. Great suggestions! We do many of these! I know coconut oil is good for you, but I use it sparingly because I hate coconut. The refined coconut oil doesn’t have the coconut taste, though. You can get it at Sam’s Club or Costco for an okay price.

  6. Melissa Ferguson says:

    Thanks for the list! We are doing some of these, and need to do a few more (like the broth – I never have chicken bones around, so I’ve been buying unsalted stock). I’ve read many of these types of lists, and this one seemed much more realistic and do-able for those of us just getting started!

  7. Our goal this year is to cut out all processed foods. We are easing into it, meaning that we are not throwing away stuff we already have, but we aren’t purchasing new processed items either. We made the butter switch a couple of years ago. It was hard at first for a frugal mama like myself (it’s so much more expensive!), but I’m so glad we did. We also haven’t purchased boxed mixes for a while. I use olive oil for most things, but keep vegetable oil on hand for a few things here and there.

    I have always thought that American cheese was processed, even the block kind, so let me know if you find that’s not the case! I grew up on that stuff and kind of miss it! We do the blocks and shred them ourselves as well.

    I also make my own chicken broth. I just do it when I’m making a chicken in the crockpot anyway, so it’s not much extra work and it’s so much better and better for you :)

    The list of processed things we eat is ridiculous. Nearly EVERYTHING is chemically processed and contains artificial ingredients. The more I think about it, the more it kind of grosses me out! lol.

    One tough one for us is going to be store bought bread, and we might just make an exception for that. Most of them at least have preservatives. I make homemade bread, but there are things that I like storebought bread better for.

    • I discovered that you can take the bones after you cook the chicken and make a whole ‘nother batch of delicious broth! Throw in a few carrots, couple of celery stalks and an onion along with the bones and skin, fill the crockpot up with water, and let it simmer on low for 10 hours. Mmm Mmmm Good! :)

      Bread is definitely on our list — one thing I want to do other then make my own, is eat less of it. We eat way too many bread products. So cutting down on eating it and baking it regularly is one of my goals, too.

  8. Wow! Didn’t mean to leave such a LONG comment! lol

  9. I started making my own chicken broth a few months ago. It is SO easy! Just throw a chicken carcass in a crockpot, cover with water and simmer overnight. Before the holidays I was trying to learn to make homemade bread. A friend gave me a bread machine that had been given to her. I found out why it was given away — doesn’t work very well. Once we’re back in our normal routine I plan to get back to making my own bread.

  10. For me I’m tackling cordial. Today I made my own orange cordial it was super easy & tastes just like the store one but without preservative 211 & other nasty chemicals that growing brains don’t need!

    I am going to try the chicken broth too.

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