Eliminating Processed Foods Series—our month long challenge part 7

foodWe have been slowly working on eliminating processed foods from our refrigerator and pantry.  Here are some more items that we have replaced instead of buying “store bought.”

Dry beans

I like my convenience of opening a can of beans and just pouring it in the recipe. I don’t like that the cost can add up quickly for our large family if I am not careful.  I then realized how much cheaper it was to make dry beans and then freeze them.

Here are the beans  I buy and what we make with them:

black beans–for Haitian rice and beans and taco chili

garbanzo beans–for hummus—I have been making my own homemade hummus for years and have always used canned beans.  In my food processor it just does not get super smooth like the store bought version.  Well, my beans when frozen and then thawed and used in this recipe come up very smoothly.  I will definitely be using frozen ones from here on out.

pinto beans–for taco soup and chili

kidney beans–for red beans and rice

northern beans—for baked beans

red beans–made into chili beans–for lots of recipes

How I make my dry beans

I use my big roaster oven and crockpot when I am replenishing my bean stash.   Depending upon how much I am making, the rule of thumb is for every pound of beans add 6 cups of water.  You want to make sure that your beans are completely covered during cooking time. Remember that they will expand during cooking time and you don’t want to have to scoop any out before they are done.

I usually fill my crockpot and roaster about half full of beans and then fill the rest with water.  I turn them both on high and close the lids.  I let it come to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer.  The crockpot I turn down to low.  In usually about 2 hours I check and  most of the time, I have soft beans.  Drain out the liquid and scoop the beans into containers to freeze.  These will last for months in your freezer.

Tomato products

It seems we buy ALOT of tomato products.  We can buy pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato juice, salsa, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  We can devote much of our food budget just in buying these items.  I was thinking one day, wasn’t it silly to keep buying all these different tomato products when they were all made from the same base—-tomatoes???  It was more expensive to buy a large industrial size can of pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce,then to buy a industrial sized can of tomato paste.  Did you know that tomato paste is just highly concentrated tomato sauce, tomato juice and pizza sauce minus the spices??

We get a large can of this and then we freeze in 1/2 pint containers.  Whenever I need to make tomato juice, tomato sauce, or pizza sauce, I just add more water according to what product I need.  This saves much waste in packaging and cost.

I also either freeze pureed tomatoes for use in recipes throughout the year.  If you can get to a farmers market look to pick up a bushel of canning tomatoes.  It is usually pretty cheap and you can easily puree them and freeze them for use in spaghetti sauce. 

Making homemade salsa was a HUGE thing for us.  We really like buying it in the jars and I always thought that to purchase the tomatoes fresh along with the other ingredients it would cost more than just picking up a jar, then I realized you can make this with canned tomatoes and it tastes delicious.  I do buy diced tomatoes in a CAN for this purpose.  I haven’t tried making it with frozen tomato puree–I don’t think it would be that good.  This is super cheap when you use diced tomatoes and some spices.  We found a large bag of jalapenos last year on clearance for $.50.  I brought them home, pureed them and put them in ice cube trays to freeze.  I popped them into double ziploc bags and then keep them in the freezer.  My bag will last me ALL year for making homemade salsa.  The cost of a jalapeno is usually $1, but I have nearly eliminated my cost by picking them up in bulk.  Rinse your ice cube trays afterward with vinegar.

Looking at my pantry, we do still have canned foods to use up like canned vegetables, but for the most part we won’t have any need to purchase anymore.

Here are some I might still consider:

canned green chilies—-we use it in our taco soup.  I could probably get some this summer and freeze them like I did the jalapenos to cut down on $12 a year.

Alfredo sauce—we use this when making homemade macaroni and cheese pizza.

canned mushrooms—I use these for making cream of mushroom soup, I probably could get them fresh and then puree them to freeze.  Might try that.

canned pumpkin–I really like using canned pumpkin when making muffins, pies,  and cookies.  I have tried using fresh pumpkin and did not care for it.  I will try again this fall and tweak the recipe a bit.


My shelves are almost going to be empty!!! My freezer will be full.  I try and use just my deep freezer chest.  I have an upright one that we use to flash freeze our food and then transfer to the deep freezer.  I then shut off the stand up one to save on electric.


We do buy these from the store.  Maybe homemade would be better–I have to come across some good recipes before we do that.



soy sauce

sweet chili sauce

sesame oil

cooking spray—I have made a homemade version of this but it never worked quite right.


We do buy store bought whole wheat tortillas and corn chips for salsa dipping.  I haven’t yet braved making my own yet.

Sliced bread, I buy for quick lunches.  I try and get the “naturalist” kind from our bread store and store in the freezer.


Refrigerator foods

yogurt is a very simple and easy thing to make for our family.  We make 8 quarts jars almost every 3-4 weeks.

Salad dressings.  We have replaced our need to buy Italian dressing, french, and ranch with our homemade versions.  Takes seconds in the blender.

Bulgur burger, this is how we stretch our hamburger meat in most recipes.


Did we do any better with our food challenge this week?  Stay tuned next week to see how we did. part 8






3 responses to “Eliminating Processed Foods Series—our month long challenge part 7

  1. If you have never made homemade alfredo sauce you MUST! Once you have prepared it fresh you will never waste money on the jarred stuff. Alfredo is such a rich and decadent sauce anyways.. I find that making it fresh is only proper- if you are going ot use it you might as well keep it real.. avoid all the preservatives and chemicals and stick to the pure! I make it with heavy cream and even with 1/2 & 1/2 if it is a last minute meal addition! http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Alfredo-Sauce-2/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=alfredo%20sauce&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&soid=sr_results_p1i1

    Often time I will lessen the parm and add a handful of Mozzarella! makes it a bit thicker and heavier sauce!
    I enjoy reading all your food posts lately!

  2. Pingback: Eliminating Processed Foods Series—our month long challenge part 6 week 2 menu

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