Sunday, January 8, 2012

One Big Eco-Change 2012: No More Zoodles

Choosing a big eco-change was difficult for many reasons.

One is the initial rationale behind my reticence in making New Year's Resolutions: often the "all or nothing", binge-type behaviours end in disaster. We burn ourselves out, pick unrealistic long term expectations and crash into oblivion. (This is also the reason why I am not a fan of bootcamps or 30 days of yoga or cleansing type activities).

Another was that Andrew and I actually already have changed a lot of things about our lifestyles. What is left are mostly things we can't change, like heating (we have no control over in our apartment), selling the car (we need it for my job), buying only organic and local (we don't have the financial means to do this 100%, but we try where we can), getting our electricity from sustainable means (we live in an apartment...).

Over our weekly fancy coffee (Direct Trade Organic at Smiling Goat- best coffee in town!), we made a daunting decision:
We are only going to have one boxed/pre-made/in-a-can supper a week. 

You might think- whaaa? Super easy!

Except. I am a fussy eater. Always have been. I have food restrictions due to my IBS on top of that. A lot of "easy" and quick meals include things like tomato (anything), onions, sauces (I generally don't like them)... You see where this is going? 

 Also, both Andrew and I work/ go to school full time and Andrew gets home pretty late (6:45pm usually). I come from a family who eats supper at 4:30-5pm and I've submitted my childhood habits on Andrew. Since I'm so fussy and uncreative with regards to meals, by the time he gets home, I'm embarrassed to admit that we often have KD, zoodles, or frozen pizza. And we LIKE it. 

On top of all that it has taken Andrew 5 years to be ok with eating left overs. Yep, his childhood family habits have resulted in his intense distrust in anything frozen or left in the fridge for a day. His mother throws stuff out when the expiration date is two full days away.

So, this decision was not taken lightly and is a BIG DEAL. 

(THE list on our fridge. Thursday is blank because I have my LLLI course I'm teaching that night. Also, you may notice that we have a Pirate themed word

It's daunting because we've tried meal-planning before. And failed miserably. I'm not exactly sure why (I think work exploded and I became frustrated with the lack of inspiration for meals), but it definitely makes me nervous about the weeks to come.

Ways to stop a FAIL:

  • More ideas for meals. Although he annoys the crap out of me, we have "Chef at Home", Chef Michael Smith's cookbook... and it ROCKS. Therefore, we're going to purchase his new book (and check his website). 
  • Sundays are now planning/shopping/cooking days. 
  • Andrew and I have had an honest chat about sharing this burden. Including my fears regarding my limitations with food and lack of creativity and his limitations regarding a general sense of laissez-faire. We are both committed this time.
  • I now know a really awesome and quick recipe for flatbread so we can make a quick flatbread pizza.
  • I don't really like zoodles, I like to pretend that when I eat it the heat changes the "tomato" sauce to something "un-tomato". So it shouldn't be too hard to give up. (yep, this tomato phobia is all in my head, but it's deeply rooted from my childhood. You should SEE my brother eat ketchup. Barf).

In any case, we have planned our first week and tomorrow after yoga (while Andrew is at his night class) I'm off to pick up what we need for the week. I'm really hopeful this change will result in new habits and a new portion to our life that we'll stop thinking about, like getting rid of paper towel, or walking to work. 

Anyone else go through this process and have any tips/suggestions?

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at 


  1. I've been eating things out of cans and boxes for a few months now, for different reasons than you. But I need to stop too! I can't afford to keep buying that convenience food and I eat out for lunch a lot too. I also have IBS but I can eat a lot of different things and like to cook too.

  2. You read my mind sometimes EcoY and I totally commend this goal! I'll be following along for inspiration because we could use a swift kick in the non-processed-foods pants too. We both know how to make awesome from scratch meals.....but we're too lazy with school and jobs to do it anymore (and the fact that hub's on campus til 7 most nights and I teach nights at least once a week). So PLEASE inspire us! :) My goal for this term is to make sure I take something for lunch every day I'm on campus to make sure I'm eating something, anything at this point. PS what are some food options you like? Maybe I can send some suggestions.....and what are zoodles?! Oh and one last one---LOVE the lobster magnet!

  3. Oh meal plans are so tough! But in many ways, so worth it! I still have yet to stick to any, but I definitely need to be more creative in the kitchen!

  4. this is something we really struggle with. my OH doesn't get home till 8pm normally, I like to go to bed at 10. I hate cooking and we tend to have 2 takeaways a week as a result.

    I don't like it and we have tried meal planning and failed on numerous occasions, howevver the weight has snuck back on recently, so we are going to try eating properly again. Difficult -t thanks for the brave post.

  5. @Melly: ahh eating out for lunch was the bane of my existence for a while. I'm allowed ONE per week now haha, and I'm pretty good at making my sandwich in the mornings. But leftovers really are key:)

    @Simply Authentic: Zoodles are like alphagetti- a weird tomato based soup-y thing with pasta shaped like animals in a can. Really, it's kinda gross lol. I will try my best to be inspiring.... haha. but i hear ya on being tired and making something quick. (I know, I LOVE that lobster magnet)

    @FiveSeed: I'm hoping being creative gets better w time.... and practice :)

    @DarkPurpleMoon: ohhhh 8pm is LATE. I also like to go to bed at 10pm, so i completely understand why that would be hard. Also, Andrew and I like to cook together.... I would probably just eat before 8pm :S that's a tricky one!

  6. "yep, this tomato phobia is all in my head, but it's deeply rooted from my childhood. You should SEE my brother eat ketchup. Barf." - I actually laughed out loud at this part Lisa! I have been nagging him about the Ketchup! There's SO much sugar in it! An entire teaspoon PER tablespoon of ketchup is purely sugar. I worry about diabetes so much. It runs in both my family and yours. The baby could be doomed. I really want to encourage better eating for the whole tribe of us, but my nagging isn't working in the least! I need a new approach!

  7. Because of various food allergies and general pickiness, we very rarely eat packaged food. And if we do, we pay for it! 2 tips that are lifesavers in a very busy household of 2 careers and 2 teenaged boys that play competetive sports--make friends with a slowcooker (it can be an amazing tool) and spend some time on weekends making food everyone likes to throw in the freezer and reheated when you don`t have time/energy. Keeping ready-to-go soup stock on hand also helps, you can throw together a quick/healthy soup in about 20 minutes.

    Good luck, it is a worthy endeavour :)

  8. I've found that the best way to avoid buying convenience/processed foods is to read the ingredient list and nutrition label. Usually, learning what is actually in processed food causes me to leave it at the store, lol. When time is tight I make things like stir-fry, or pasta dishes. The vegetables can be chopped ahead of time so that you only have to throw it all in the pan and cook it. I like to have a batch of homemade meatballs in the freezer because it is easy to add a few to pasta or soup, or mix a sauce and serve them with rice.
    For me, the key to keeping my family fed is to plan meals in advance so that I`m not figuring out what to make at the last minute.

  9. OK, you can definitely do this and it is NOT hard. I hate cooking, always have. And I can count on one hand the times I've bought a frozen meal of any kind (although I will confess to rarely buying prepared food at my local Whole Foods market - but that's very rare because I am cheap.

    First of all, to take the stress down a level, don't feel you have to plan. My OH is the absolute worst planner ever - five minutes from now is too far away to plan. But we manage to cook very simple, but good, meals with very little planning. (I won't say none at all).

    If you have a freezer, that's one good thing. When you can buy local/organic or any other good quality foods such as meat and fish, stock up a bit and put it in the freezer. And if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can still use the freezer to great advantage. We will often make a big batch of soup and freeze some (mason jars freeze just fine if you leave some space at the top, no need for plastic). One day on the weekend make up some veggies, bake some potatoes or sweet potatoes, and put some in the freezer. Oh, save some out of the freezer to take for lunch too.

    If you have a slow cooker, you have another very useful device (and if not, it's worth buying one as they are not expensive and can even sometimes be found at charity shops). There are some good cookbooks around (I like "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker"), and although I don't use one all the time, it was helpful to get me started. The great thing about a slow cooker is that you can prepare food and put it in the cooker overnight, wake up, turn it off, and place the container in the refrigerator. Obviously, one has to be OK with leftovers for this cooking method to work. But stews and soups, and even chicken and pasta dishes, and baked apples, come out great using it.

    As for our frozen food (not packaged! We have wild-caught fish, steaks, bison burger meat etc.,) that takes minimal planning and if you like simple meals, not a lot of time. Just take the item out of the freezer and put in the refrigerator the night before. Next day after work, cooking is a cinch - our cast iron pan gets a ton of use.

    And a very simple thing, one I lived on throughout undergrad and grad school, is steamed rice with veggies on top. Any kind of veggie will do. This meal takes about 20 minutes to prepare. They can also be topped with cheese, chutney, hummus, whatever.

  10. Thank you all for the suggestions!
    I think what makes this more difficult than non-fussy eaters has been a variety of things:
    1. i'm fussy. 'nuff said.
    2. Andrew has refused to eat frozen meat for the longest time. as well as leftovers. this makes it tricky to buy in advance and freeze.
    3. I generally don't like meals that are good for making and freezing in advance- like meatloaf, lasagna, soups, casseroles, meatballs... etc. Now- before i get rolled eyes and such- my food repertoire is MUCH larger than it used to be, so don't judge please.

    so... although this may seem easy for many people, Andrew and I have our own challenges that we need to work through to make this work :)

  11. @Anonymous: you're right, we need to buy more local haddock- that would be super easy to bake. The problem here is that 'I' don't like frozen fish (I'm too spoiled from being a fisherman's daughter!). But I'm sure on our weekly grocery trip at the market we can pick up some haddock too.

    Also- you're so right about the slow cooker. We have one, but I just haven't had the motivation to use it (Andrew usually does). This week I'm going to try to slow cook a pot roast Yay! And andrew is going to try to eat the leftovers :)

  12. Maybe don't look at cooking like a chore and a challenge. In our house cooking becomes that time to unwind and forget about work and the little details of life. Make each meal you cook seem like a little celebration, bring some mindfulness and joy to it and you will succeed! I get that not everyone is as food nerdy as us...but really, you can make some amazing things that don't take long. And they are healthy! I can't wait to see how it goes for you and what creations you come up with!

  13. Baby steps! If you know you are picky then stocking your cupboards or freezer with stuff you'll never cook or eat is just a waste.

    So here's an easy starting point. Start with basics that you know you eat - carrots, broccoli, chicken breasts, whatever. In the case of veggies buy whole fresh produce and prep them yourself. Cut a week's worth carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, peppers whatever you know you'll eat and pack them in small containers. If you're really ambitious you can blanch and freeze most of these (not the mushrooms)and make many portions at once. Cook a batch of chicken breasts,(or beef or whatever protein you prefer) cut them up and refrigerate (for no more than 5 days) or freeze. Then when you go to make something you've done most of your prep already and it won't seem so daunting. I make double or triple amounts of rice and freeze that too- it thaws quickly and can't be distinguished from freshly steamed once you've added it to other things.

    If you are weaning yourself off processed foods, try adding any of the above to things like KD or canned soups. Figure out what tastes you like together and then see if you can recreate it from scratch or using only a small amount of processed food. I sometimes make pasta with canned soups as a sauce if I'm in rush. Tomato soup with grated cheddar cheese makes a similar pasta dish to zoodles and you can control how much sauce and add some healthy options too.

  14. @CallieK: ouuuu I really like those ideas, especially the pre-cutting of veggies in advance!

    I didn;t know you could freeze rice successfully either!

  15. So when you say you are "picky" do you mean that you are a stickler about things like freshness, ripeness, quality etc., or that there are few foods you like?

    Do you like pasta? There is a great old, very slim, cookbook, called "sauces made while the pasta cooks". The "sauces" are actually very simple toppings and can literally be made while the pasta cooks. You might search for it on a site like thriftbooks, powells, or amazon. And there's no reason why the pasta could not be replaced with rice. This would make after-work cooking easier.

  16. Our issue is eating out rather than eating from cans. It is essentially the same issue we just spend more $$. Once you get on a role, find an array of recipes you like and can change up every week it is pretty easy. But it is also just as easy(perhaps easier) to fall back on said habit when things get busy. If there are 2 of you working at it and one partner stays strong during the other's time of weakness (aka: cook something - this goes back and forth between partners...) then it is much easier to pull through! I fully support your quest and look forward to news of your journey!

  17. I know you are not vegetarian but if you guys like hearty soups there are lots of really yummy ones here:

    (the Ethiopian, Moroccan, and the tropical black bean are yummy!)

    You can do it, you can do it!!! (and so can I!!)

  18. Knowing more recipes definitely helps! I'll also buy some cook books and browse online for easy recipes to eat healthier and cook more. Great post!


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