Doing Away With Processed Junk Foods

Over the past three years, our grocery list has changed dramatically. And I mean, a complete 180. I’d estimate that a good 80% of what we bought from the grocery store just four years ago was processed food. Seriously.

But convenience foods are expensive, and more often than not, horrible for your health. So, we’ve stopped buying them. Well, almost completely.

I’m not gonna lie to you, I still enjoy tortilla chips and sodas every now and then. But now, what we buy from the store is more like 80%-90% fresh foods and baking ingredients, with only a small amount going to processed food. And on the rare occasion that we do buy a soda, it’s one made with real sugar and no high fructose corn syrup (the Mexican sodas are our favorites).

Not that long ago, my grocery list included a whole lot of this:

  • frozen chicken nuggets
  • Hamburger Helper
  • Pasta-Roni
  • frozen pizza
  • frozen waffles
  • Cereal
  • Graham Crackers
  • Oreos
  • OJ
  • Juices
  • Soda
  • Kool Aid
  • Ice cream
  • Cheeze Its
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Breakfast Bars
  • … and the cheapest imitation flavorings I could find.

It’s funny how your definition of what food is changes once you start growing it yourself.

Today, the food we buy is easily identifiable. No mystery ingredients, or long labels to ponder. An apple is an apple. A pepper is a pepper. If my kids can’t look at it and tell me what it’s made of, then it’s not food.

Yes, there are still some convenience foods thrown in there, but for the most part it’s pretty much just raw ingredients.

My normal list today looks something like this:

  • a block of cheddar and mozzarella cheese
  • bananas
  • apples
  • lettuce
  • a whole chicken
  • yogurt
  • yellow, orange, red peppers
  • broccoli
  • grapes
  • avocado
  • potatoes (red, russet, and sweet potatoes)
  • onions
  • garlic
  • herbs
  • tortillas
  • tortilla chips
  • refrigerated biscuits
  • tea bags
  • sugar

…which is still a little embarrassing.

Especially the refrigerated biscuits. I blame Jerry for that one.

We’re still learning how to grow many of these things ourselves, and working on being able to produce them year-round. And a few of the convenience items I could totally make myself, like the yogurt, tortillas, and biscuits. But you know what… a girl can only do so much in a day! And I don’t mind giving myself a break every now and then, as long as we can afford to do so.

What we definitely steer clear of is boxed and bagged junk foods. No more cookies, crackers, cereals, breakfast bars, gummy fruit snacks, or frozen dinners.

Oh, except the Saltines. I’ll blame Jerry for those as well.

Cooking three meals from scratch every day took a little adjusting to at first… especially the planning ahead part. I still have my days when 5:00 rolls around and I’ve been knee-deep in the garden all day and have nothing planned whatsoever. But, we always manage to throw something together.

Finding easy snacks for the kids has been a little trickier. They get burned out on the same old, same old every day, so you have to get creative and mix it up a bit.

Here are some snacks my guys enjoy. We have snacks twice a day:

  • fresh, canned, or dried fruit
  • frozen blueberries
  • yogurt
  • yogurt with fruit
  • applesauce or pearsauce
  • popcorn or kettlecorn (popped on the stovetop)
  • cheese and crackers
  • peanut butter and crackers
  • apples and peanut butter
  • baked goodies (muffins, cookies, quick breads)
  • tortilla with honey and butter
  • carrot sticks
  • sweet pepper slices
  • tortilla chips and salsa or hummus

I feel so much better now that we are eating a much healthier diet. I have more energy, I’m staying in shape, and I know that what my kids are eating will actually benefit their growing bodies and minds.

Maybe in a couple more years I’ll be able to look back at this post and share an update with a much, much smaller grocery list. It’ll be so awesome when we can raise all of our own meat, grow our fruits and veggies year round (or eat seasonably), and dry our homegrown herbs. THAT will be cool.

It’s hard breaking old habits. What can I say? I grew up on junk food! But once we learned the importance of filling our bodies with truly nutritious foods, just the way the Father made them, junk food just didn’t taste as good anymore.

About Kendra 1103 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. I am really working on eliminating processed food too. Somedays are harder than others, but so far so good. I also primarily shop on the outside of the grocery store and buy baking supplies in bulk. I haven’t mastered bread yet though and need a really good all around recipe. Suggestions? Great post! I love his blog!

  2. It’s great to see the new trends in food consumption. Maybe this will send a message to the industry.

    My “monthly” shopping list:
    8 lb butter
    8 bags King Arthur stone ground whole wheat flour
    3 large blocks of Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar
    1 gal canola oil
    1 jar yeast
    (looked at meat/fish, but didn’t buy any)
    I did buy a loaf of Scotch Oatmeal bread for .99… just ’cause

    That’s because…
    I have no children at home so we cook really, really simple meals.
    We have a freezer full of veggies from our garden.
    We have a freezer full of our own chickens and ducks that need to be used before fall and last week I picked up pork chops for 1.00/lb.
    We get produce and fruit from wholesale discards for the chickens and often get something we can use too.

    So glad to not purchase highly processed foods that cost more and have so many empty calories. Judging from my form… I can honestly say we eat very well and could probably do with a LOT less.

    Do you have a “More-With-Less” (Doris Longacre) cookbook? It’s still available from Amazon and it’s a wonderful cookbook that tells more about how to prepare grains, beans, cheese etc. Very good recipes too.

    Thank for sharing.

  3. I’m in total agreement. Actually, my grocery list looks very similar to yours. Over the last several years we’ve taken a similar food journey, and now I’m buying a much larger percent of whole, real foods. We still have a few processed items – tortilla chips or pretzels, crackers, and breakfast cereal (we gave this up…then I got pregnant and sick and didn’t want to cook first thing in the morning! We’re working on getting back to more cooked, real-food breakfasts :)). I also have to admit to the occassional ice cream purchase!

    My sister is a big-time coupon-er. I used to coupon as well, but now that my shopping has changed so much, I don’t find nearly as much use for them. She doesn’t really get why I don’t use them anymore (other than the occassional great deal, but usually not on food products), and tries to show me how to coupon better and find better deals. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a source for coupons on fresh food yet!

  4. Hey Kendra,
    I have been following you for a couple of years now….I too can look back at my past grocery list and smile that I have come a long way….I try to shop the outer part of the grocery store instead of the aisles….one of my favorite cookbooks is the Breadbecker Cookbook….I bought my grinder from them….Just FYI, didn’t know if you have heard of them….Thanks so much for blogging about your experiences…I truely enjoy reading about you homestead…
    Happy Homesteading from TN, Holly

  5. Wonderful post!
    As of yesterday, I started a new way of eating…and it does not entail any prepackaged foods, and though it is still new to me, it is nice NOT to see so much paper and plastic thrown away.

    I am telling you, the easiest (and tastiest, in our opinion) biscuit recipe is:

    I have made them in large batched and put them in the freezer for future meals.

    If you ever find a recipe for homemade tortillas, please post it! We got a tortilla press for Christmas, and have yet to find a recipe that we prefer over store-bought.

  6. What an inspiring post. Good for you ~ you’ve made so many good changes!

    We fall somewhere in the middle: Dinner is almost always made from whole foods. I found an easy recipe for homemade biscuits, and that has broken us completely of the canned biscuit addiction. Hooray! We do have frozen pizza three or four times/year as an “emergency dinner” when we are really in a hurry.

    Lunch…My kids love homemade broccoli cheese soup, quesadillas with shredded chicken, and panini sandwiches (on our George Foreman grill) with cheese, sliced turkey, and homemade bread. I admit to still having chicken nuggets (although the ones we choose are a high quality/healthy brand) and mac and cheese for easy lunches on occasion. We always have fruit (applesauce, blueberries, grapes) and vegetable (sliced peppers, baby carrots) as sides with lunch. I’ve started keeping a divided veggie tray in our fridge, and it’s so easy to just set it out at lunch time!

    We’re doing better with breakfast – eggs, made-from-scratch pancakes, etc. We always do yogurt as a “side” at breakfast. Sometimes, yogurt topped with granola is a nice, quick breakfast on a busy day.

    Snacks are hard. Sometimes we have sliced apples or set out the veggie tray. Sometimes we make popcorn or have pretzels. My little ones LOVE gummy fruit snacks, though, and the BEG for them. We did switch to Annie’s snacks and organic fruit leather, rather than the really junky fruit snacks. It’s a start, right?

    Thanks for the inspiring post…as the weather gets warmer and fresh produce is more readily available, we’ll have to start rethinking some of our lunch and snack choices!

  7. That’s fantastic progress. And thank you for the honesty. It is hard to break some habits that have been around since childhood.

  8. Good for you! We are heading that way. it does take time to prepare from scratch, but so worth it. There are still some things we need to get out of our diet. Right now we are lucky because of a new supermarket close by (about 3 miles) that has just opened up in the last few months has great prices on produce and meats. We still make a trip about twice a month 20 miles into town where there are two stores that get super prices on produce on wednesdays. I love that when my kids are hungry they reach for the fruit bowl. The other day I had to laugh becase my kids were sneaking fruits and vegetables before supper. The only trouble is I have three very active children. having good food gives them even more energy! Good thing I am getting more energy from the food to keep up with them.

  9. It’s a process, isn’t it? I’m right there with you and it’s taking a little longer than I expected to get there. I work two jobs, which makes it really hard, but I’m eliminating the bad stuff item by item and adding in good stuff the same way. Baby steps.

  10. its so funny that you said that about the mexican sodas, Ive heard others say they are good and made with real sugar also. so why arent ours?? I was at a store a few months back and was going to buy a bag of hard candy and they had some different ones I had never seen, but when I looked, they were from United Arab Emirates, (I belive) ( If I remember correctly) so I didnt want to get anything that I wasnt too sure about, but then when I looked at the ingredients, it was also real sugar and REAL stuff anyone would recognize, and to top it off, the bag of candy was cheaper than other American recogized name brands… so… I bought it, and it was good. what is your take on that? do you think things like that are safe?

  11. Kudos to you! We are working on this too along with making our own “junk food”. But I am still looking for a substitute for saltine crackers. The kids and I both can devour a sleeve of them in minutes. Now we make our own granola bars, granola, and bread and we are much off for it! Thanks!

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