a challenge… {Works for Me Wednesday}

Sunday Michael and I started two 30 day challenges.  We’d been talking about and planning for these challenges for a while now, but decided to wait until after I got back from camp to implement them.  They are…

1. 30 days of real food challenge

Sometime during my Internet wandering (probably while on Pinterest) I came across this 100 Days of Real Food blog.  This family (mom, dad, and two young girls) decided to challenge themselves to eat only real foods for 100 days and they blogged about it as they went.  Then after that challenge was successfully completed they did another challenge to show how to eat 100 days of real food on a budget ($125 per week – the same amount that a family of four on food stamps would receive).  Lisa, the mom and writer of the blog, has also created resources for if your family wants to try a real food challenge for 10 days, or gradually work up to eating all real foods over the course of several (10, I think) weeks as well as many, many real food recipes.

So as I was reading I just kept clicking on post after post to read more and more about this challenge.  I was so intrigued.  Although I’ve eaten fairly healthy since starting South Beach over 5 years ago, I still ate tons and tons of processed food.  Everything Lisa said just made sense about cutting out processed food and making more things from scratch, plus it seemed fairly easy.  I was all geared up to start but I wasn’t sure if Michael would be on board.  I approached him with the idea and I was pleasantly surprised that he was totally willing to do this with me.

Rather than commit to a 100 day challenge, we decided to just start with a 30 day challenge.  We figure we can definitely last a month, but hope that this will extend onward indefinitely as a lifestyle change.  While we were in Chicago we both read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – a book recommended by Lisa from 100 Days, which talks about the shift to highly processed food over the years, how different our Western diet is compared to the rest of the world, and how coincidentally those of us who eat a Western diet tend to be much unhealthier.  Plus it has some conspiracy stuff in there and we love a good conspiracy theory!  It was a fascinating read and we were both even more excited to start this challenge after reading the book!

Over the next few weeks we started cleaning out the pantry, getting rid of “no-no” foods, making meal plans and grocery lists, and shopping for non-perishables.  On Saturday after I got home from camp we went grocery shopping and then started our challenge off with a bang Sunday morning.  Fortunately, we happened to pick the perfect time to start this challenge – the Farmer’s Market is in full swing so we have easy access to tons of local produce, plus I’m not working right now so I have extra time to spend cooking for us.

So what exactly does a real food challenge look like?  Lisa does a wonderful job explaining all about how to eat real food, so I’m going to direct you there to check out more, but basically we are eating fruits, veggies, meat, dairy, seafood, whole wheat or whole grain breads and pastas, and nuts.  As much of it as we can we try to get local (from the Farmer’s Market, local dairy, local farms, etc.), and if not local then organic.  If we do buy something that is pre-packaged than we aim for it to have less than five ingredients.  The only sweeteners we are using are honey and pure maple syrup.

It sounds crazy, but we’re a little crazy so I guess that works for us.  Fortunately we were eating pretty healthy before this challenge so this isn’t a huge leap for us.  For Michael, the biggest challenges have been and will be cutting out the cokes and eating more fruits and veggies.  For me the biggest challenges have been/will be cutting out the sugar and not eating so many processed snack-y “diet” foods.

We did make a few exceptions.  For one, Michael travels a lot with work and often eats lunch on the road.  Those times he will just pick the best option he can find among the choices given.  We’re also going with a phrase that I heard from Mandy at Biblical Homemaking (who did a 40 day original food diet – similar to what we are doing, but not exactly the same): friends and family first.  That means that although we are going to try to stick to this way of eating, we are also not going to let it alienate us from our family/friends and if that means compromising our real food rules, so be it (although we will work to stick to our plan as much as possible).

Like I said, we started Sunday so we’re three days in and so far, everything is going smoothly.  Surprisingly, I haven’t craved sugar once.  Michael had headaches from not having coke on Sunday or Monday, but today he started feeling better.  Some of the meals we’ve eaten have been things that we ate before, just tweaked to be more real.  Other things have been totally new recipes.  All have been delicious so far.  I am so so excited about this!  I highly recommend you check out 100 Days of Real Food and think about trying your own 10 day, 30 day, or even 100 day challenge!

I promise to update periodically and let you know how things are going, as well as share recipes and meal plans.

and then our second challenge…

2. 30 days of no tv

I brought up the real food challenge, but Michael was the one who suggested this one.

For a family with no tv we sure do watch a ton.

(sidebar: I can’t remember if I’ve told you guys that before – when we first got married, Michael had a dinosaur of a tv  It needed a converter box in order to work and we didn’t want to pay for one when we knew the tv probably wouldn’t last long anyway since it was so old.  We also had very little space in our teensy apartment and we had to choose between the tv or a chair.  We chose the chair and kicked our tv to the curb.  Over the years we’ve discussed buying a new one but then have always found something else we’d rather spend our money on.  So three years later we still have no tv.  However, we watch lots of tv on my laptop via Hulu and dvds of tv shows.  But it always blows people’s minds, especially my students, when we say we don’t own a tv).

And I do mean a ton.  Basically every night we were doing nothing but watching tv, whether it was current shows on Hulu or old shows on dvd or Amazon.

When Michael suggested this I knew it would be good for us, but I was a little resistant.  This challenge is definitely harder for me because I’m home all day and I like to have the tv on in the background while I clean, cook, scrapbook, etc.  But I just decided that I would either learn to like the silence or listen to books on iPod (thankfully our library has tons to check out).

Just like with our real food challenge, we happened to pick a good time to do the no-tv challenge because all our shows have ended for the season and there aren’t any that we are just super hung up during the summer, so that makes it easier.  I’m most interested to see how much, if any, tv we go back to after this is over (let’s be honest, we’ll probably go back to at least some…I do love my Project Runway!).

And just like our real food challenge, we have built in exceptions – we decided we could watch up to two hours of tv per week…that way we can see a movie for date night if we so choose.

So there you have it.  No tv and eating all natural foods (I’m starting to sound like a crunchy hippie…I don’t know whether to cry or laugh…)

Of course I’ll keep you updated, but feel free to ask any questions you may have.  I’ve summed up a ton of reading, researching, and planning into one short post so I may have completely left things out.

(Hopefully) eating real food and not watching tv will work for us!

Liking up to Works for Me Wednesday.



  1. Such a great idea. Eating natural sounds so much easier than the no tv. You were wise to choose the summer for both I agree. Good luck – it’s inspiring!

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