My family decided to stop eating anything that contains GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), at least when we are at our own home. Our reasons were many and, perhaps someday, I’ll go into all that. For now, let’s just keep it simple by saying we feel it’s best for our health and for the earth.
I thought it would be nice to keep track of how it went and share our experience. Looking back, a lot of what I wrote was repetitious, so I edited it down to just a few “entries” to share and a few tips I learned.
Before I begin, I should clarify that “No GMO” doesn’t necessarily mean “organic.” We are on a tight budget and haven’t yet figured out how to eat 100% organic without breaking the bank. On the other hand, there are many foods that you have to buy organic in order to guarantee that there are no GMOs. This led to some fairly big changes in our world.
There were 3 ingredients that we were especially on the lookout for: sugar (from sugar beets), corn and soy.
In the US it is a safe bet that any of these foods are modified unless they are specifically labeled otherwise.
That may sound like no big deal. I mean, who eats corn and soy at every meal, right? Well… if you are American the odds are good that you do.
Very nearly every pre-packaged food in the store including things like canned fruit, bread, crackers and cereal contain one or more of those ingredients. “Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, sugar, etc” pop up on an absurd number of labels. Further, the animals we eat, eat GMOs. So if your food contains anything that came from an animal it likely contains GMOs.
Day One: I was making home-made baked beans and almost blew it by using corn starch. I realized what I was doing at the last second and substituted arrowroot powder instead. This may be harder than I expected.
Day Two: I was feeling like we were right on track until I realized Sweet Hippie Daughter had bought some fake pink lemonade from the kids across the street. I guess this day is only 99% GMO free.
Day Three: We are off to a good start. We met some friends at McDonalds for a visit so I had the kids be sure to eat before we left. I brought some veggies and crackers with us and told them they could get some juice there. Sweet Hippie Daughter declared “everything good has been taken from my life!” but , in the end, she liked her OJ just fine and had fun playing. I felt really successful until she went to a friend’s house to play later in the day and they asked her to stay for dinner. I agreed to let her, knowing that this family eats mostly pre-packaged foods. 50/50 for her today I guess. This is harder than I thought it would be.
I didn’t realize how “once in a while treats” have become such an everyday part of our world!
Day Eight: About a week in we are doing really good. I’m getting the hang of things and learning new recipes and a new way of eating. A meal doesn’t have to look like a Hungry Man dinner tray. A giant plate of veggies and a hot loaf of bread can make my family very happy. BUT… we went camping with friends. We’d decided at the beginning to not push our “no-GMO agenda” on others in situations like that. The food I contributed was no-GMO. The food our friends brought was not and that was totally OK with us. It was delicious and healthy and made with great love but they kept apologizing. “I’m sorry. This isn’t organic. It’s just the regular stuff that was on sale.” I don’t want our family’s food choices to create awkwardness for our loved ones. Food is such a social thing that it’s difficult to make a choice that is different from the mainstream. Is it possible that by choosing to eat this way we are hurting others’ feelings?! I hope not!
Day 21: We’re getting better. I have needed to learn a new way of feeding the family. All of my old “go-to” recipes are worthless, either because they contained pre-packaged ingredients or because the no-GMO version is prohibitively expensive. SHD is coming to accept the new foods. We have had a few long talks about why we are making these changes.
Day 27: Food waste has become “not an option.” When an organic roasting chicken costs $15 we need to eat that one little bird all week long! He is roasted on day one, shredded for days 2-3, and boiled into broth for days 4-5. Not a scrap goes to waste. I find myself adding rice or beans to things like taco filler to stretch it. No one seems to mind. They’re still gobbling it up!
Day 30: Planning!!! Every time I fail to plan our system falls apart. Because we live in a small town with limited choices it is very difficult to run to the store and grab something off the shelf that is no-GMO. I need to plan at least 24 hours in advance what we will eat the next day or we tend to “fall off the wagon.”
What I learned:
I just said it, but I’ll say it again: PLAN! If you live 5 minutes from Whole Foods this may not be such a big deal but if you, like me, have limited shopping options you need to know in advance which ingredients you need to have on hand or you’ll end up buying frozen pizza or chicken nuggets to settle the hungry mob at your kitchen table.
Beans and lentils are awesome! You can bake them or boil them, put them in soup or use them as taco filler or form them into “burgers.” You can make them spicy or sweet. And they are ridiculously cheap! A pound of organic, grass-fed, pastured ground beef costs about $8 where I live. A pound of beans costs about $1.25.
A meal doesn’t HAVE to consist of a meat, a veggie and a starch. That’s how I was raised but the reality is that a bowl of rice with some fresh veggies is considered a fabulous meal by most of the people in the world. It is hot and satisfying and, when cooked properly, really delicious! I find that many of the “new” foods we are eating do not give me the over-full, bloated feeling that I so often had before.
“Breakfast food” and “dinner food” are arbitrary distinctions. Sometimes left over dinner makes a great breakfast and eggs and waffles hit the spot at dinnertime.
There is an organic version of almost anything you want. It may be hard to find and cost 10x as much as the “conventional” version but it’s out there… somewhere. If bacon is your make-or-break food, you can have that. Same thing with chocolate or cream cheese or…. whatever.
Nothing is cheaper or healthier than growing it and/or making it yourself. I made home-made bread in the bread-maker and lots of sauces and such from our garden veggies. We made our own tortillas and fried our own potatoes. I couldn’t have stayed anywhere near budget without making a lot of our own food.
You CAN eat 100% no-GMO. You have to put a lot of thought into your food but… maybe… putting a little more thought into what we put into our bodies is a pretty good idea anyway.
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
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