Real Food… First Shopping Trip

Farmers markets are still a couple of days away here in Hudsonville, so I had to do our main shopping at the grocery store today.  I stayed mostly at the edges, where all the fresh food is.  I had a few things toward the center that I was thinking about getting, but the ingredient list was a bit too long for me to decipher…  which basically means something in there is processed.  Notably missing from the shopping cart where cereal, granola bars, chips, and bread products (we’ll be making our own breads this month).

We planned our meals for the week ahead today as well.  At first, it was a bit challenging, but after looking at some helpful blogs we ended up with a pretty good menu.

Starting it off right…

My month of eating real food started off at the perfect place this morning:  The Real Food Cafe.  It’s my favorite breakfast spot in Grand Rapids (MI), and it was a great way to start off the month.  It was a bit earlier than I prefer, but the conversation, food, and coffee were fantastic as usual.

Time to get to the parameters of the month.  We are going to keep this pretty basic, and we’ll tackle any issues (is this food allowed?) as they come up.

  • The focus is on eating “real” food.  That means food my great grandmother would have recognized as food.  This actually could be our only rule… as it rules out a ton of stuff!
  • All attempts will be made to stay away from processed food.  The only processed food we will be eating is the kind we process on our own.
  • NO FAST FOOD.  Thankfully, we don’t eat much fast food anyway.  We will definitely be staying clear of it this month.
  • Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables!
  • Local meats are good, mostly as a side dish instead of the main dish.
  • Anything in our house is fair game.  No, we didn’t go stock up on junk, quite the opposite actually.  We do have a few things around that wouldn’t fit on the list…. but instead of wasting them, we’ll finish them off and be done with it for the rest of the month.
  • How we eat is important.  We are going to try to relax, slow down, and enjoy as many meals as possible together as a family (and with friends).

Well, I think that about sums it up.  Anything I missed?

June = Real Food.

June is a month for refrain… and this one could easily be categorized as either a refrain or an embrace.  We are going to be staying away from processed foods as much as possible.   My wife wrote a post about food a few weeks ago; She had been reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Well, it has inspired us toward eating more real and natural foods.  We already eat a lot of natural foods:  fruits and vegetables, local meat, whole grain breads, home-made granola, etc.  Thing is, we also like to snack on the processed stuff, but we’ll be cutting that junk out.

June will be the perfect month to give this a shot.  We’ll be able to shop for a lot of our food at the local farmers market and pick fruit from local growers.  We’ll be making a basic set of “rules” that I’ll post at the beginning of the month.  I am really looking forward to this, but I’ll struggle a bit as well, as I have a pretty stubborn sweet tooth.  It will be interesting to see how my kids do.  They actually eat much healthier than I do, but they also love their crackers, store bought granola bars… and the occasional sweets.

Join us for a month of “real food”?


As a youth pastor for 9 years, I experienced both positive and negative momentum.  If we had a few student leaders (not by title, but by practice) who were genuinely excited about our group and what we were up to, the group would take off for a period of time.  On the opposite end, if we had some prominent students who were negative about the group, it could really kill any momentum we seemed to have.  I think we often tried to spiritualize those realities when we tried to explain them, but maybe it was just a practical reality of momentum.

This year the Detroit Red Wings were one of the best NHL teams early on in the season (if not THE best).  After several injuries, toward the end of the season they went on a huge slide.  Just before the playoffs they got most of their players back, but they never regained the momentum they had earlier in the season.  They were just ousted from the playoffs after getting dominated by the Nashville Predators 4 games to 1.

It’s not ministry or a professional sport, but apparently small-time blogs are effected by momentum as well.  Early on in this project, I was genuinely excited.  The blog was new, it was fun, and it was something I had wanted to do for some time.  I posted regularly for the first 3 months.  Toward the end of the 3rd month, I had a couple of really busy weeks, followed up by a family vacation.  I lost momentum.  When I got back, it was stinking hard to even open up WordPress and start writing again.

April ended up being a wasted month in terms of the blog.  I tried to salvage it about a week and a half in, but I never really got any traction either with practicing the first 3 months habits or writing about it.  Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to write about something you’re not working on!  Without trying, I ended up refraining from embrace/refrain for April.

When our momentum was down in youth group, we would look hard at some things we could do to get the group excited about our community.  It didn’t always work, but we didn’t just sit around and accept that our groups momentum was going in the wrong direction.  We did something about it.  The Red Wings will definitely be busy in the offseason trying to correct the slide that happened at the end of this season.  They will work hard to change their momentum.  In the bigger picture of life, ministry, work, family, etc;  this blog isn’t that big of a deal.  However, I do want to finish out the experiment that I set out to do at the end of 2011, as I have already seen some great benefits from trying to work on better habits and discipline.  I need to do some work on getting that momentum back.

I think May will be an embrace of blogging. I will try to post as often as possible.  Do I shoot for every day?


Time to Review

My embrace of exercise ended as our family was headed out of town for an awesome vacation near Shenandoah National Park.  As we headed out of town, I not only didn’t have time to write my review of the month (coming later this week), but I could not for the life of me think of something to refrain from for April.

The first three months, whatever it was I was choosing for the month… each one just seemed to fit.  It was something I needed to do.  As this little experiment has evolved from the initial idea through the first three months, it has really become about practicing better habits and focusing on what is most important.  Solitude, not wasting time, and exercise all seemed to fit the bill.  I could not think of anything that  fit for the coming month.

Since I was on vacation, I decided to just let it rest until I got back.  I did however think about it here and there while I was gone.  Here is what I came up with:

I have noticed some great benefits from each embrace and refrain I have practiced thus far.   I wanted to continue each practice on a lesser scale at the end of each month.  However, as I turned my focus to the next project, it was hard to keep up with the previous one!  As I thought about this reality, I decided the rest of April will simply be a time to review and live into the habits I was working on in previous months.  I won’t be taking on a new embrace or refrain, but instead will try to do at least one of the practices from January, February or March each day.

Now that I have settled on this… I am really looking forward to it.  I’ll keep a log and blog about it a couple of times as the month goes on.

(not) Wasting Time – Review

I didn’t realize it when I started, but thanks to leap year, I get one more day of not wasting time on the internet via games and mindless browsing.  That is probably a good thing, as I have still a lot to get accomplish today!  However, I am not going to lie, I was really looking forward to playing a game of Ticket to Ride online.  I guess that will have to wait till tomorrow!

Overall, this month has been a good experiment.  Of course, I found countless other ways to waste time that didn’t involve gaming or internet browsing.  But, overall, I was much more productive as well.  So, while I did waste time, I didn’t waste as much time.  In the end, I probably spent about an hour a day working on things that might have otherwise been wasted.  To, me that is a success.

One of the downsides to this month, was that I really didn’t have all that much to write about.  Every now and then I would sit down to write a blog post, and think to myself:  “well I haven’t been gaming or internet browsing, but that’s about it…”  However, I didn’t necessarily pick this particular fast in order to be able to write about it.  I picked it so I could be more productive.  But sense I am blogging about my experience, being able to write about it certainly is a bonus!

On a productive note, I used most of my extra time to start learning HTML, CSS, and  JavaScript.  I already wrote about the tutorial I used for HTML and CSS here.  For JavaScript, I used Codeyear.  Codeyear is a website that sends you a new lesson each week of the year to learn how to code.  This has been a great way to get introduced to writing code.  If your interested in learning, it’s not too late to start and get caught up!

I still haven’t totally decided on what I’ll be embracing for the month of March.  I have still have a few options that I am mulling over.  I’ll be deciding tonight and I’ll post about it tomorrow.

Benefits of Fasting (link)

Here is a link to an awesome article by Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist.  I love the list of ways he has benefited from observing Lent and fasting from “controlling influences”.  This was a perfect article for me today, as I have been getting impatient with staying away from gaming and internet browsing.  This article is a great reminder of the benefits of stepping away, fasting, and practicing self control… sounds a little bit like refrain, huh?  Check it out….