If you’re like me, you’ve decided to cleanse your pantry of one toxic ingredient or another (or a hundred). But how do you cleanse your pantry without overwhelm?
One ingredient at a time. And there will still be overwhelm.
Basically, if you have a goal, or a list of goals, for changing the ingredients in your pantry (and therefore your family’s diet), go easy on yourself and make the changes one at a time. That’s my advice anyway. It worked for me.
My Pantry Cleanse: The Beginning.
The first certified organic ingredient I bought to begin my pantry cleanse? Wine. I know! Mother of the Year. Especially since my shake up the pantry goals came about after my firstborn child nearly lost his life to autoimmune disease. Putting a ‘healthier’ wine in the pantry didn’t help him in his journey any- he’s a child and doesn’t drink wine. Selfish mama much!
The second organic ingredient I bought for the pantry cleanse? Coffee. (Fairtrade.) Yep! The Best Parent medallion goes to me!
Hear me out.
Why My Journey to a Healthy Pantry Began with a Glass of Wine.
I remember my spirit hitting the floor when I looked into my pantry, on Day One of my ‘cleanse the pantry’ mission. To be honest, I thought the whole process might only take a day or two. (Ha!) At the time, I wanted to do three things:
- Eliminate refined sugar
- Eliminate wheat
- Eliminate toxins (eat organic)
Simple, right? Our family drink water. No juice or sugared drinks. I have coffee without sugar or milk, and the only sweet treat you’ll find in our kitchen is dark, Green & Blacks organic chocolate– or homemade with honey, chocolate. So not too much had to change, right?
Wrong. A peek into my pantry on Day One of the cleanse showed me the overwhelming reality of the challenge I was diving into. Even to eliminate refined sugar, despite the fact that I’ve always been super conscious of buying fresh, real food without added sugar (or so I thought), was going to be a huge task.
To get rid of wheat, sugar and all non-organic products, pretty much everything had to go. We couldn’t afford that! We couldn’t throw out a complete pantry full of food and buy another one! The cost of food has gone up in my country astronomically, and the weekly shop is challenge enough financially, as it is. And I have a lot on my plate (pun intended), like all mums.
Have you stood at the same overwhelming pantry door? Have you wondered how you could afford to go healthy, let alone attempt it?
I realised that there was no way I could cleanse my family’s pantry in one swoop, the way I’d planned. For one thing, I’d be too busy sitting on the floor, crying. That wouldn’t help anyone. It would undermine my goal of steering my family towards a natural and healthy relationship with food – mama crying at the pantry would send a negative message about healthy food.
Out of self-preservation, I decided to purge the pantry one ingredient at a time. That was what my time, energy and finances would allow.
I threw out the only remaining part bag of raw sugar. I let everyone know that when the last box of cereal had run out, it wouldn’t be replaced until we could find a sugar free ‘instant breakfast’ alternative. Since I wouldn’t use unnatural sweeteners either, or continue buying highly processed breakfast cereals, I warned my beloveds to start considering having eggs for breakfast, for now. (We have chickens, so eggs are affordable for us.)
I prioritised. Sure, everything felt like a priority given the gravity of my child’s near-death experience and diagnosis with autoimmune disease, but I’d established I couldn’t do everything on the list all at once. Sugar free, wheat free, and organic in one hit was too much. I decided to continue gradually eliminating sugar from the pantry by not replacing offending items once they’d run out, and to go organic first. I also made a mental note NOT to re-buy any pantry items that were not real food (you know, those items that are more like highly processed ‘substances’ than they are food). I’d get rid of the unnatural stuff first, then learn what to prepare for my family instead.
On that overwhelming Day One, after the decisions on how to proceed had been made, I chose one ingredient that we’d nearly run out of in the pantry, to replace with a certified organic version:
AND, I had a glass of the non-organic stuff, all for the sake of the purge, of course. The empty non-organic bottle of red could then be thrown out, after all.
I know this didn’t make sense. Even certified organic wine contains sugar. An ingredient I’d vowed to eliminate. And I’ve since learned that when it comes to wine, ‘certified organic’ isn’t quite the whole answer for a healthy sip. (But that’s another post.)
The point is that I still got there. Here (we’re never really ‘there’ right?). I met myself where I was at, accepted my flaws and drank to them. I then started a mountain of a challenge in a way that was manageable for me. Even if that was with an occasional glass of wine in hand.
The Pantry Cleanse Now.
Guess what? My pantry is now free of all refined sugar and all grains (not just wheat), and most ingredients that we eat are certified organic- I admit, not all, but most.
Despite my love of wine, I have cut down to 2-3 glasses per fortnight. This small amount would have been unheard of for me, in the past. I would have had a glass of wine or two with dinner, more than three nights a week, at least.
My coffee habit is now 1 – 2 cups of black organic coffee daily, an amount I plan to reduce.
Is my pantry saintly yet? No.
Have I reached my ‘clean eating’ goals for myself and my family? Yes and no. We’re still working on eating completely organic, and on cutting more dairy from our diet.
Did I achieve grain free and sugar free, even with the selfish start of restocking the shelves with healthier versions of my coffee and wine? Yes.
Have I still got a long way to go? Yes. You never really ‘arrive’ at perfection, after all. We’re all, always, learning. Well I plan to be, anyway.
Am I emotionally intact? Yes.
I’ve managed to purge the pantry of many ingredients that weren’t on my ‘eliminate’ list to begin with too, because I gave myself permission to be human and flawed, and slow, if I needed to be.
At the risk of sounding preachy or sanctimonious: GOING EASY on myself didn’t hurt me mama, and it won’t hurt you.
I would go so far as saying that buying myself a good quality coffee and wine or two, along the food mountain I’ve chosen to climb, has helped me to tackle my pantry cleansing goals.
In a way, it was an admission from the start that this was not going to be a perfect journey, that it wouldn’t look like anyone else’s journey, and that I would have to give myself a freaking break along the way. My children have witnessed a mostly joyful process of laughs, a few annoyances, and a few mishaps. They’ve embraced the ‘pancake surprise’ experiments from this new grain-free mama, probably because mama had an open mind about what the process might look like, and a smile on her face. So they proceeded with open minds, too.
If this post is a bit ‘me, me, me’, I hope it’s also a reminder to be a bit ‘you, you, you’ when you need to be, while you attempt to move your own mountains. Like all of us parents do from time to time.
Cheers to you. xx