Homemade Goodies and Doing Without- still dodging MSG

28 07 2008
Peach Jam

Peach Jam

Here’s proof that I have been domestically occupied today!  The peaches I bought at the fruit stand this morning were already molding this evening, so I rushed them into jars.  Three jars sugar free for my husband, three jars for me & the kids.  Hope it turns out well, because Neal hates the commercial sugar-free jams & jellies.

I’ve had a lot of good response to my blogs about MSG and food purity, so I thought I’d slip in an update.  We’ve been sticking to it, more or less, at home.  Found some new things out.  Wal-Mart and Sams have decided to cave in to consumer pressure and get all their store brand milk from dairys that don’t dose their cows with growth hormones.  The official line is still that the hormones don’t hurt us, although that’s not what I’ve seen in my research on the internet.  What I see is a lot of studies talking about how the chemicals formed in our gut after drinking this milk can irritate our bodies and lead to greatly advanced incidence of breast and colon cancer.  (Go figure.  If it causes the COW to make more milk, what does it do when it gets in my body?  It’s only common sense to imagine that it might try to fool my body into producing milk and lead to breast cancer.)

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is produced w/o growth hormones, but they do, apparently, use MSG-containing food additives (listed as natural flavor.)  I have contacted Ben & Jerry’s to ask them exactly what is in their natural flavor, and they have refused to answer my inquiries.  So we’re still eating Hagen-Dahz.

We’ve found a commercially produced bread that doesn’t contain MSG.  It’s marketed as Nature’s Own Organic.  They have a honey wheat and a 100% whole wheat.  We eat the honey wheat.  Thomas bagels (plain) also contain no MSG, though they have a few other interesting things.

Natural peanut butter has become more affordable & is available in several brands only a little more expensive than the partially hydrogenated trans fat kind.  We’re also eating a lot of Barilla Plus Pasta, which is high protein pasta, and much better for Neal’s diabetes.  I also notice that it is more filling, and my children eat less of it and stay full longer.

Cascade Farms, another brand available at Wally World, markets inexpensive MSG-free and organic cereal.  My kids loved their honey-nut-o’s, which Wal-Mart recently quit carrying.  But we also like Kashi’s cinnamon squares and strawberry flakes.  Also eating eggs and oatmeal for breakfast.

I can’t find much support either way for the new “natural” nitrates found in celery powder or juice over the artificial nitrates usually present in lunch meat.  We’ve been eating some of the Oscar Meyer naturals.  They make a really good turkey and ham lunch meat.  Love the beef hot dogs, too, and they have very few odd chemicals compared to most hot dogs.  Oscar Meyer also makes a “natural” bacon that I have only had once.  It was delicious- everyone noticed how much better it was, but they don’t sell it around here.

For eating out, the best bet is still Wendy’s.  They’ve cut MSG entirely except on a very few menu items like their spicy chicken sandwich.  The food is cooked in non-hydrogenated oil, so even the french fries are trans fat free.  The chicken nuggets are quite possibly the only chicken nuggets available in the western world that DO NOT contain MSG.  Sadly, to taste buds used to McDonald’s, the food obviously doesn’t taste quite as good, and I only hope that enough people continue to eat there to make their policys worth while.

Many Food Lion store brand products do not contain MSG, where their name-brand counterparts do.  My favorite find so far was Food Lion chocolate chips, which are MSG-Free!

With food prices going up, how do we cope with trying to buy high quality food for six people?  One of the ways is by reducing variety.  There are fewer choices for lunch or breakfast.  I don’t try to provide exotic dinners most of the time, either.  I am slowly adding to my list of acceptable foods as I have time to read labels in the grocery store (challenging with the kids hanging off the cart).

Eating what they call whole foods is still the best way to lower cost and eat smart.  Buying rice, canned tomatos, frozen peas, sweet potatos, plain oatmeal, sugar, flour, oil, canned beans… none of these things cost very much.  Even dairy, which is rising, doesn’t cost as much as buying pre-prepared freezer dinners for six.  We’re also trying to use up our leftovers.  Eat more leftovers for lunch.  Use bits and scraps for soup and casseroles.

If this sounds like too much work, please remember that I’m a lazy cook.  I NEVER prepare anything that takes more than 30 minutes to make.  I make a lot of one-dish meals, too, with the veg, protein, and carbohydrates all in one place.  If the kids don’t like it, they get PB&J.  I guess, over the years, I have just become used to cooking, too.

An example is homemade biscuits verses biscuits snapped out of the can.  I keep my biscuit recipe card taped to the inside of my baking cabinet door.  That saves the time of looking it up.  My mom kept hers, a cut out from a flour bag, INSIDE the flour cannister!  Always available.  The baking powder, flour, salt cannister, and oil are all in the cabinet together.  The bowls are right above them.  The spatulas, measuring spoons, cutter, and rolling pin wrapped in its pastry cloth are in a drawer at my hip.  I can make biscuits almost as fast as you can snap them out of a can.  You throw five ingredients in a bowl, dump it on the cloth, roll, cut, and bake.  But it’s like everything- the first few times you do it it seems exhaustingly hard.  The next few times, it seems annoying.  After three months, you can whip them out without looking.  My grandmother’s mother raised eleven kids and made biscuits three times a day on a wood-burning stove.  I expect she could have done it blindfolded.

So I bake biscuits from scratch, pancakes, muffins, cakes, dumplings, and cookies when we have them, which isn’t often.  I also make homemade granola from time to time.  I don’t bake as often as I would purchase these foods from the store.  If you don’t have cookies unless you have time to make them, you eat a lot less cookies!  When you have to make foods from scratch, it’s amazing how your priorities change.  An apple really starts to seem like dessert.

I am grateful to the people who prepare organic ketchup, mustard, and salad dressings for me though.  Trying to avoid MSG foods has really made me grateful for the convenience foods I can still buy.  Tomorrow, I’m hoping to make pickle relish out of those lovely cukes you saw on my counter in the picture- apparently all pickles and relish are laced with MSG.

Sigh.  I used to love sweet gherkins.




One response

31 07 2008

Great post, Angela – I try really hard to buy organic and natural foods as much as I can afford because I KNOW it’s worth it. My health and the health of my family far outweigh the added expense of shopping this way. You gave some great information – thank you!

Still miss you – we would love to see you and the family when you come in town next time!

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