Ten Steps To An Unprocessed Pantry

Pantry_rice_pasta 1

The foundation of unprocessed eating is a healthy pantry.  Clean out the junk and invest in a few items that will aid in the construction of nutritious meals.

I’ve gathered ten simple rules to stocking your pantry for October Unprocessed success!

  1. No artificial ingredients.  It’s time to remove all of the items like chips, dips, dressings, etc. that do not contribute to a whole foods diets.
  2. Get rid of everything that contains high fructose corn syrup and any trans fats.
  3. Avoid any “instant” mixes, boxed meals and processed chips.
  4. Examine your energy bar. Read the label. If it has any ingredients you do not recognize, switch brands.
  5. Get rid of any pre-made sauces with added sugars or other additives.  For example, replace jarred sauces with organic, low-sodium tomato paste.  It still gives you the convenience of a quick sauce but provides a single ingredient pantry item as the starter.
  6. Steer clear of canned fruits or vegetables. Frozen varieties offer more nutrition if fresh produce is not an option.
  7. Eliminate microwave popcorn bags.  Part of going unprocessed means incorporating as many whole food, single ingredient items as possible into your pantry. Buy kernels in bulk and pop the old-fashioned way. [Andrew’s Note: You can still use your microwave if you want! Here’s how.]
  8. Replace sugars with honey or maple syrup which fall under the whole food category, unlike processed sugars.
  9. Purchase 100% fruit juice and unsweetened applesauce.
  10. Use only whole grain foods like brown rice and whole wheat pasta.

And some suggestions to help you stay the course!

Increase on hand amounts of bulgar and quinoa. These are high-nutrition grains that are easy to combine with fresh vegetables to create a quick, balanced meal.

Make your own granola from organic rolled oats, honey, slivered almonds with add-ins like shredded coconut, cranberries and dark chocolate.

Have the spices in your pantry been on the shelf for over a year? Time to replace! Invest in quality spices from local farmers markets. Using dried herbs in place of salt can lower your blood pressure without sacrificing flavor.

Switch to wholesome snacks in small quantities, like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruits and fresh fruit.  Keeping a small snack with you during the day will provide an alternative to chips and high sugar snacks when cravings arise.

About the Author

The Fresh 20Melissa Lanz is currently getting bossy about dinner.  As the author and Founder of The Fresh 20, Melissa understands that the path to health and happiness runs through the kitchen.  Her healthful meal plans have helped over 150,000 families get wholesome food on the table.

You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

Welcome to Eating Rules!

Hi! My name is Andrew Wilder, and I think healthy eating doesn’t have to suck. With just three simple eating rules, we'll kickstart your journey into the delicious and vibrant world of unprocessed food.

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October 1, 2012 3:32 pm

Tori, there are recipes for tortillas on Pinterest and the internet. I make a bunch and freeze them so they last and I’m not having to make them all the time. We go through a lot of them. My daughter eats them almost daily with eggs and cheese in them and I make my own taco seasonings and salsa for tacos as well as pulled chicken fajitas etc. Trader Joe’s does offer a tortilla that fits the 5 ingredients or less bill. And Rebecca, I had a meatball sub from a fast food sub place and wow, I was miserable for 24 hours afterwards. I never had a problem with them before cutting out the processed stuff. Yikes!!!

October 1, 2012 2:47 pm

So I have a few friends who are doing the unprocessed October thing. I am all about unprocessed, however I think it is unrealistic to try to go from the standard American diet to unprocessed for a whole month. Too radical of a change and I doubt it will last for most people, like by January 15th most people have already messed up on their New Years’ Resolutions. I think the true way to do it is taking baby steps. I cook most of my food from scratch, but I do put in a frozen pizza once in a while when I am so busy… and we do eat at a restaurant once in a while as well. And we even eat fast food about once every 2-3 months. But overall we are doing very well. We are at the point when fast food makes us feel sick… a true… Read more »

Reply to  Rebecca
October 4, 2012 10:36 pm

Hey Rebecca,

The ultimate goal is to go completely unprocessed, but it’s not required to join. Some people are just eliminating certain processed foods or ingredients, or even going unprocessed once a week. It’s an awareness exercise, and it’s not easy – that’s why it’s called a challenge. =)

October 1, 2012 1:46 pm

What do you use for the shells for breakfast burritos? I have yet to find whole wheat tortilla that didnt have a bunch of chemicals added to it! Thanks!

Reply to  Tori
October 1, 2012 1:54 pm

Tori, if you can sit tight until tomorrow…I have a good answer for you on that. 🙂

Reply to  Andrew
October 2, 2012 11:40 am

Thank you! I will look forward to it 🙂

Reply to  Tori
October 1, 2012 4:28 pm

Trader Joes has some pretty clean whole wheat tortillas if you don’t have time to make them yourself. I haven’t found them anywhere else and we use them for tacos, quesadillas, etc. I also make muffins with honey, but those last all of about 1 day in my house with three kids and a hungry husband!

Reply to  Tori
October 2, 2012 3:06 pm

None of the big name whole wheat tortilla are ‘clean’ but you can sometimes find some small scale companies that make them with very few ingredients. I’m allergic to corn, so that means I have to avoid even more then most on the October Unprocessed challenge and I’m able to find one semi-locally (50 miles away) made whole wheat tortillas that use basically the same ingredients I use when I make them. I can only get them at a couple stores & its hit or miss if they’ll have them in stock.

Reply to  Annie
October 8, 2012 10:08 pm

Can I get your recipe, please?

October 1, 2012 1:06 pm

Alli-I have a school age child and a child at home. For me I find that making things on the weekend and having a big prep day really help let the week flow easier. I bake a big batch of muffins for her and my husband for school/work snacks. I often make them with apple sauce or almond milk since my son has food allergies. I also bake a batch of cookies, make breakfast burritos for my hubby and try to have somewhat of a plan for what the weeks meals should be. Our family tries to eat many meatless meals during the week and I have found some great healthy and delicious slow cooker and freezer meals. Doing the big prep day I usually cook a large pot of black beans and with this I make black bean burgers, freeze some for chilis and soups.

October 1, 2012 8:49 am

Never mind…just read the guide. All good!

Reply to  Christina
October 1, 2012 8:57 am

Yay! 🙂

October 1, 2012 8:46 am

I have a question…where does alcohol fit into all of this? I still plan on enjoying an occasional social drink or two when I go out. I know beer (the good stuff) is only 4 ingredients, that many people DO make at home (same with wine!). Thoughts?? I know it’s not healthy, but I still enjoy it.

October 1, 2012 8:29 am

Great tips- I can’t wait to share these with my friends (who I’m still trying to peer pressure into joining October Unprocessed)!

October 1, 2012 7:18 am

Great tips. Thanks!

October 1, 2012 5:18 am

Great post. I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that my pantry follows almost all of these rules! This is not going to be as hard as I though… hopefully 😉

Alli Baker
Reply to  Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama
October 1, 2012 8:19 am

Hi Carrie-
I’m assuming your a mom because of the “bakeaholic” 🙂 So… what snacks / quick dinners do you feed your kids? I have 3 school age boys and I try to encourage healthy “whole food” snacks. Overall they are pretty good eaters, but they are always begging me to buy chips / ice cream etc….. and there are so many nights when we are running around with sports and i end up just making them a quick can of cambells soup, ramen or pizza bagels just to get some quick nourishment in them.

Reply to  Alli Baker
October 1, 2012 8:45 am

Alli – I’m not a mom (but I AM a bakeaholic like Carrie!), and if it’s possible, throw together a one-dish casserole ahead of time that can be frozen, and just pop in the oven on those busy nights! A spaghetti bake, with whole grain pasta, fresh/frozen veggies, tomato sauce, and a some ground beef is a great and complete meal. Just a thought 🙂

Reply to  Alli Baker
October 1, 2012 11:18 am

Hi Alli, I have two kids in elementary school, so here are some of the things we do. What really helps me is when I can plan ahead and have some things ready to go, like hardboiled eggs and chopped veggies and fruit for quick snacks. They also snack on plain yogurt with honey, smoothies (these satisfy the ice cream craving), applesauce, and stovetop-popped popcorn. Do your boys like muffins? It’s easy to make a batch of whole-wheat muffins sweetened with a little honey and whatever fruit you have on hand. Dinners: Christina’s suggestion of making a meal ahead of time and freezing it is great. You can also prep and freeze things like grilled chicken strips and brown rice (freezes and defrosts great), which can then be turned into stirfries, fillings for soft tacos, etc. I have a slowcooker and often just use it to cook a piece of… Read more »

Reply to  greenstrivings
October 1, 2012 10:28 pm

Quinoa cooks quickly, freezes well, and defrosts fast too. I make a batch and freeze in portion sizes. Cook beans and freeze half- portioned out, if using in a hot meal defrosting is easy as part of the warming up process.

Reply to  Alli Baker
October 2, 2012 5:14 am

Hi Alli,
When you get a little time, make muffins. Ham and chesse, tunafish and tomatoes, dried tomatoes and olives, sweet muffins as well all kind. Takes 20 minutes to prepare, 10 minutes to bake. Children love doing them, or part of as well. Freeze. Because they are small they are really qhick to unfreeze. You make differnts sorts, you mix, everybody is happy.

What to do mom!
Reply to  Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama
October 10, 2012 11:35 am

WHAT DO I DO? I have two children who are allergic to nuts, tree nuts, wheat, coffee, chocolate ? What are some health options for bread and pasta that are not bleached or processed?