Keeping It Easy

New Potatoes

My kitchen counter launches many unfortunate science projects: moldy bread, fruit fly farms, and of course, sprouted potatoes.  In spite of these accidents of negligence, I do try not to waste food, so last spring I planted these potato “starts.”

I threw wet cardboard on a weedy area of the yard, arranged the potatoes on top, and scattered a bag of soil over it all.  After watering it once, I ignored it completely all summer.  You’re supposed to keep piling the dirt on top as the plant grows, but I didn’t even do that.   So it was surprising and thrilling to dig up a small crop of potatoes after my complete negligence.  They were delicious.

I’m hoping that this Unprocessed October reaps similar success with minimal effort.  The only way I’ll be able to accomplish ultimate ease with a project like this, though, would be through a bit of planning and prep at the beginning.  I may have ignored those potatoes in the ground, but at least I planted them in the ground.   That countertop wouldn’t have produced a crop.

So.  Here is my plan for having an easy Unprocessed October:

  1. Create a realistic menu for the month that keeps my actual life in mind.
  2. Make and freeze a few meals ahead of time.
  3. Keep it simple: an apple and a handful of nuts is nearly as easy as a bag of Chee-tos.
  4. Have a stock of good snacks on board (in fridge, in car, in purse, etc.) to resist all those pervasive preservatives when I’m on the run.

Let’s talk snacks.  These can be a weak link in the chain of healthy.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy and hungry in the middle of the day at work, even that stale-paperweight-doughnut left behind in the staff room starts to sing a little siren song at me.

Here’s a list of unprocessed snack options as a reminder for both of us. They all contain protein to tide you over until mealtime, and they have complex carbohydrates for energy.  Also, many of these snacks are crunchy—for satisfying munching.

  • Hummous and carrots
  • Nuts and raisins (great snack for car, purse, or backpack)
  • Edamame, sliced radishes, and a satsuma
  • Peanut butter and celery
  • Bag of cheese cubes and an apple
  • Hard-boiled egg and cucumber slices
  • Half sandwich: peanut butter, cheese, etc. (with organic, preservative-free bread)
  • Leftovers from last night
  • An orange and a handful of nuts
  • Small salad (with some beans or shredded cheese for protein)
  • Mini-can of tuna and a bag of celery stalks
  • Small bowl of leftover beans and brown rice with sea salt

If you are participating in Unprocessed October too, I wish you a month of great flavor.   I also hope it’s as easy and fruitful for you as a neglected potato garden!

About the Author

Anne Livingston is a professionally trained cook, recipe developer, food photographer, food stylist, and teacher based in Seattle. She has a regular column, “Cooking Fresh” in Edible Seattle Magazine, that features her recipes and food photography. You can find Anne at her website, on Pinterest, and on 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 4, 2010 6:15 pm

Tiffany – Although I’m intrigued by the “dairy detox,” I’m not going to ask for details. Thanks for the kind words, and keep up the great work! Gardenatrix – I’ve been insanely busy with this project (like 18-hours-a-day-in-front-of-my-computer busy), so I certainly understand the weakness/weekness! It’s hard to take (err, make) the time, but it’s definitely worth it. Irene – Don’t beat yourself up about the xanthan gum. It sounds like you’re doing great. I’ve relied too heavily on the processed fake meats in the past, too — so I’m also using this project as a way to get away from them. Tara – You’re kicking butt! Totally agree about the beer and wine, too. 😉 Anne – Thanks again for the guest post, and the follow up. You’re one of my unprocessed heroes. Nimisha – Homemade Kale Chips are all the rage — and with good reason. They’re easy… Read more »

October 4, 2010 7:06 am

If you’re a squash fanatic like me, don’t forget to roast the seeds every time you prepare squash or pumpkin! Perfect on-the-go snack!

October 4, 2010 2:12 am

Great snack suggestions. My husband decided to join me on the challenge as well. So, he will be giving up his beloved Tortilla chips and salsa. Other great snack ideas:
-Sun-dried tomatoes (bought at the farmer’s market) make great snacks- almost like beef jerky.
-Nut butters
-homemade kale chips
-halloumi cheese
-cherry tomatoes (if still available at your farmer’s market)
-non-canned/jarred olives
-fair-trade tea

October 3, 2010 9:08 pm

Tiffany, my hat goes off to YOU for doing this AND going off dairy! That is really impressive. I’ll bet you will leave this month a glowing rock star of health.

Gardenatrix, I actually appreciated the efficient “two birds, one stone” approach to week point. 🙂

Irene, I was at school on Friday and the instructor gave us exactly 10 minutes for lunch. Won’t lie, I had a bacon cheeseburger. You can bet it was processed out the wazoo. Doing better now, though. We’re moving in the right direction!

Tara, that sure is nice of your husband to eat all the Kettle Chips! 🙂 Love that you used such thoughtfully raised meat for this week. This morning I bought a chicken at our neighborhood farmer’s market, too. It just feels better, doesn’t it? I mean, in a karmic way, not just physically.

October 3, 2010 3:46 pm

I am totally doing this potato-planting thing. Day 3 progress: Not too shabby! I didn’t find out about this challenge until the day it started, so I’ve had to make a few exceptions; I had done a medium-sized shopping trip the day before, and since we are a “on-an-only-semi-flexible-budget family of 5”, I couldn’t really clean out the pantry and start fresh with all unrefined goodness. My husband has graciously offered to take care of the current stock of Kettle chips and the like, but since I cook and bake so much I’ve had to allow the Kosher salt, olive oil, organic white flour, and regular honey that I already have. A side goal for me is to get away from GMO’s, but one step at a time, right?! I spent a little time today making sandwich/salad meat for the week from organic, certified humane chicken, and pastured grass-fed beef,… Read more »

Irene Ora
October 3, 2010 10:51 am

Love the suggestions! I have been doing well despite these few things that I must confess: – having to finish leftovers with some mock beef in it and an English muffin on the first day – this morning having to go to a Starbucks (extremely long 7 day work week and the green tea just wasn’t going to cut it this morning) and using their soy milk (who knows what’s in that stuff) and a packet of Stevia -and I just put some hot sauce on my lunch with some xanthan gum in it and my lunch contained wheat gluten. Oops, but overall I am happy with the results. The purpose for me to do this is to get off my taste for all those fake meat products, cook more at home with being less wasteful and to also eat more raw and organic foods. Being vegan for the last… Read more »

October 3, 2010 10:18 am

Oh dear goodness. Thinking ‘weak point in my week’ and writing week point! I do understand the fundamentals of spelling . . . most days. 🙂

October 3, 2010 10:17 am

Love it! Busy days are also my week point, so this is extremely helpful.

October 3, 2010 8:05 am

Fabulous suggestions Anne! I’ll be using some of those snack ideas!

Today is day 3 of eating 100% unprocessed and it’s going really well as I’ve also cut dairy out of the mix. I don’t think there’s a single thing in my diet now that could be considered processed, and I feel fabulous!! (once I got through the dairy detox. ick)

I hope everyone is doing well on this fabulous challenge! Andrew, my hat goes off to you for getting so many folks actively involved in this. You’re amazing!