October Unprocessed

Have you heard of October Unprocessed? It’s the brilliant idea of Andrew Wilder at Eating Rules – taking something most of us want to do and setting a goal just hard enough to make you really think but not so hard it’s beyond most of our grasp.

The goal? Going without processed foods for thirty days.

It sounds easy until you think through it. He’s got a pretty specific list of what is not allowed although he’s letting you make exceptions, so long as you think them through ahead of time (otherwise it’s like changing the rules to suit your hand – nothing gained and nothing learned.)

Think back on everything you ate today. How would it be different if you had to make it all from scratch?

This challenge is near and dear to my heart as you well know since I’ve been doing this since January 2009. Minus a brief strike and some cheating while trying to write the book in six months last winter. I’m not going to lie to you and say it will be easy. What I will say is that you will surprise yourself. You will think more about what you feed yourself and your family then you ever thought possible. And throughout the month you will learn a lot, feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and probably change a few habits along the way.

So, how do you start?

Take the pledge.

Then sit down and think through what your family likes to eat. Can you make it from scratch? Will they mutiny if you do this for a month? Then take it one week at a time. The best steps you can take aren’t the biggest ones.  The steps that you can consistently maintain bring about the most lasting change.

Andrew has thought through some things like chocolate and baking powder and come to conclusions that don’t work for me, partly because I’m not just in this for October, I’m in this for reals. And while traditionally people ground up reindeer antlers to use as leavening agents for things like cookies I’m not advocating the poaching of nordic animals so I’m using baking powder. As far as chocolate goes I try not to buy processed chocolate (although I admit it’s a weakness). Instead, I use cocoa powder which does not contain emulsifiers and soy.  Very briefly I tried to buy cocoa powder and cocoa butter and recombine them myself, but the expense was ridiculous. When I have chocolate cravings this chocolate pudding fills the bill nicely. Andrew would disallow the cornstarch but you could add an extra few egg yolks and omit it entirely.

What next?

Making a meal plan would be a great place, although I’m an unstructured cook who works with what is in the garden, the freezer, or beginning to rot on the counter. In fact, the best way to ditch the store (and it’s processed food temptations) is to stop shopping for recipes and to learn to cook with what you have on hand.  But here is a glimpse of what we’ll probably be eating:


  • Swedish pancakes with seasonal fruit
  • Kefir and fruit or carrot smoothies


  • Leftovers
  • Egg or Chicken Salad sandwiches
  • Bacon or ham sandwiches
  • Hummus and vegetables
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches


  • Cheese


If you aren’t prepared to take the challenge for an entire month, consider doing it just a few nights a week, or for one solid week. Do what you can, that works for you and your family.  I hope you’ll play along!

6 Responses to October Unprocessed

  1. Thank you for giving a list of suggestions for your own family. I love this idea. Moving beyond the unprocessed dinner would take some thinking — I don’t fix lunch and breakfast for people, so maybe I’d pledge for myself only for those meals.

    • I think it’s a great idea to do this in stages – even just as an exercise in thinking through it. Great idea, Julia!

  2. I have to admit, my meals are good, but I keep forgetting when someone in the office suggests we go on a coffee run (which translates to chai for this non-coffee drinker). Oops, sugar alert.

  3. Interesting challenge. I think I will modify it to suit my own personal objectives though – i.e. I am not against using common baking supplies or shade grown coffee etc but my goal is to use basic ingredients and as much from my own backyard as possible to prepare our meals.

  4. Annette Cottrell

    Stephanie I think it’s possible to take things too far so don’t feel badly about your sugar!
    KFG I’m not surprised – your backyard harvests are so inspiring! When are you getting the dairy goats? :p

  5. Pingback: Lemony Lentils — Victory Get Fit Club

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