Introduction to October Unprocessed and My Menu Plan

A few weeks ago, bits and pieces about a project called #Unprocessed filtered through my Twitter stream – my main source for all things hot and newsworthy – and seeing that they were mainly initiated by @eatingrules, or Andrew Wilder, I just had to follow up and see what the buzz was about.

I was glad I did. I came across Andrew’s challenge to his readers – to go a whole month without eating processed foods – and I was instantly motivated to take part. After signing my name to the pledge, I started clicking around some of the posts from October Unprocessed 2010 (yes, this is an annual event) and was fascinated by the guest posts, testimonials and stories that arose from the challenge.

I knew I had to share the #Unprocessed challenge with my readers. After all, I can’t have all the fun in October by myself now, can I?

What is the Unprocessed Challenge?

Andrew of Eating Rules is a terrific guy with a fantastic message about healthy food. We met briefly at BlogHer Food in the spring and I am is constant awe of his drive and super impressed with his story.

His goal behind the October Unprocessed challenge is to try and get as many people as possible off of processed foods and eating whole, healthier foods on the month of October. The thought behind this goal is to show people that they will ultimately feel better after the challenge – and hopefully be inspired to improve their long term eating habits.

What are the ‘rules‘?

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

Sounds do-able, right? After all, we’re already on the whole food track here at Simple Bites. This just means no cheating. Like, none.

My October Unprocessed

I’m showing my support of Andrew’s cause with a one-week unprocessed challenge for my whole family. Perhaps we’ll continue for the rest of the month, year, that remains to be seen, but we are starting with one week because I’m confident we can do at least that.

October holds travel (I’m speaking at Blissdom Canada), a holiday (Canadian Thanksgiving), and lots of other situations where a no-cheating, strictly-unprocessed diet might not be feasible.

Plus there is the small matter of my pregnancy to think of. Since my last update, I still have not gained a pound (or an ounce, for that matter) and my doctor is becoming quite stern about the whole situation. As I’m in my fifth month, she wants to see at least a pound a week of weight gain. For me that is going to require plenty of cheese, ice cream, Montreal bagels, and more of those decidedly ‘processed’ foods.

What You Can Do

Enthused? Excited? Here are seven steps you can take to join October #Unprocessed.

  1. Sign the petition. And join 450 1294  2100 others as you do so.
  2. Discuss the challenge as a family.
  3. Set a goal. Three days? A week? The whole month?
  4. Make a menu plan.
  5. Blog about it and add a badge to your site.
  6. Follow the #Unprocessed hashtag on Twitter.
  7. Read Eating Rules for daily updates and tips in October. (Look for my guest post on October 7!)

Homemade granola & fruit-bottom yogurt. Photo by Cheri

#Unprocessed Menu Plan

Being the organizer that I am, of course I’ve been working on a menu plan for #Unprocessed week. A proper menu plan is a live saver on an average week, and completely essential for a busy family of 4 1/2 during the Unprocessed challenge.

A menu plan will help you stock your pantry, figure out your meal options, facilitate a one-stop shop, and finalize your October unprocessed challenge. It’s a vital step in succeeding with this project.

I’m posting my menu a week early (we start next Monday) in hopes that it might inspire you in your unprocessed challenge. Perhaps once you see that it’s not such a scary, ‘out there’ project, you’ll draft up a shopping list of your own and join in on the fun.

Here is my October Unprocessed Dinner Menu Plan and below it, I’ll give my breakfast, snack and lunch ideas. This is a realistic menu plan for us, perhaps not as hard core as a Andrew would be, but it is only marginally different form how we normally eat, and this, I believe, will be the secret to our successful October Unprocessed.


  • Homemade tortillas. The boys and I made and froze these already. I adapt Amber’s recipe with whole-grain flours.
  • Refried beans. Diana’s delicious Frijoles Rancheros are the base for my refried beans.
  • Garnish: tomatoes, lettuce, cilantro, limes. Also, crème fraîche, which I’ve been making on my own. Marisa has some tips on making it from scratch.



  • Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash, slightly adapted for October Unprocessed (no ketchup, etc)
  • Green salad


  • Shrimp Fried Rice (brown rice) with egg, grated carrot and peas, possibly shredded napa cabbage. Adapting this recipe for the challenge.
  • Garnish: green onion, crushed chillies, chopped peanuts




Oatmeal, steel cut oats, fresh fruit, wholegrain toast & apple butter, homemade fruit bottom yogurt, granola, most of our usual breakfast items.



Dried fruit, homemade apple chips, granola bars, fresh vegetable crudite, nuts, cherry tomatoes, apples & other seasonal fruit, popcorn.

~ For more weekly menu plans, visit Menu Plan Monday. ~

Will you take the October Unprocessed pledge?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Oh, I can do this! I pretty much do unprocessed anyway, but it will be fun to play along! Fun that I’ll get to see you at Blissdom AND we’re both Food Blogger Tribe leaders! Yay!

  2. Oh, we must do this! But like you, I’m going to start with a week. This month holds 3 birthdays, one big party, and a beach vacation so I don’t want to take on more than is feasible. I’m hopeful it will stick with us. We are pretty good. We garden, eat fresh fruits and veggies and cook fresh meals, but we are guilty of easy to grab processed snack, cereals and deli meat. Gotta work on that…with little ones sometimes I cave to convenience.

    • Sounds like a good plan, Kristi. I have little ones, too, and I’ll be guest posting over on Eating Rules about how to approach this challenge with kids.

  3. I think this is an awesome challenge! I try not to keep processed food in the house at all, much to the irritation of my husband who *needs* easy snacks in his life 🙂 I might have to jump on the bandwagon here. And I completely agree that having a plan is the way to do it, or it is too easy to get off track. I have been trying to build up my own convenience foods in the freezer lately – mainly beans because dry beans are cheap and easy…if you remember to soak them 🙂

  4. Aimee,
    40 weeks of pregnancy, but 25-35 lbs is “average” “normal” weight gain. If you’re eating real foods until you’re satisfied, healthy fats for baby’s brain, no need to follow numerical rules. You’re a healthy gal and your body will do what it needs to to keep baby healthy and happy in there. (Go for eggs cooked in butter over bagels, and just add cheese! Nom!)

    Not that I purport to know more than your doctor, just a little encouragement and moral support from someone who’s just been there, done that.

    And, um…how are you going to Blissdom with a teeny tiny baby?
    Blessings, Katie

    • Katie, I so appreciate your input. 🙂 Love the encouragement, any day!

      Blissdom ’12? No way! I’m headed to Blissdom Canada in three weeks. =) Just bringing my baby bump, that’s all.

    • I completely agree with this. Having done similarly. Congrats on the new baby!

    • Yeah I gained plenty of weight in my pregnancy and I didn’t gain a single pound until I was 7 months. So, no worries. 🙂

  5. I so love this idea! I’m always striving to make more from scratch and eat less processed, so this is right up my ally (also, I simply must make that lentil shepherd’s pie!).

  6. Posting your meal plan for the challenge is a great idea! I already meal plan, so I’ve been thinking about posting my meal plans every Monday for the week ahead, but had decided against it. I think just for the month of this challenge though I might do it! I loved seeing what you have planned for the month — it all looks incredibly yummy.

  7. Yes, I’m a big fan of Andrew and have taken the pledge too. Your menu ideas are very helpful. I hope we can all trade ideas during the month.

  8. I’d love to do something like this but I feel like I’d need to spend 3 weeks planning exactly what I was going to eat. It stresses me out to even think about, but it sounds like you’re ready to rock!

  9. Aimee, I barely gained any weight with when I was pregnant with my son. I was a 40 year old mid weight kinda momma. I left the hospital with a healthy baby boy and weighing less than when I got pregnant. To bad that didn’t last after nursing. My doctor wasn’t worried but encouraged me to indulge in premium ice cream. It was hard to force myself into habits that I would have to break when my babe was born.

  10. I signed the pledge. I’m going to try it out for two weeks. Let’s see how it goes!

  11. What a great idea – I totally think I could do this, now just to get Brian on board! Love your menu ideas too. Can’t wait to hear about your progress.

  12. I saw this last week and am considering trying it out for a week as well.
    For you and your weight gain attempts, you can have cheese! (eR says “Cheese. Yup. In fact, I already make cheese at home. Skip the “pasteurized processed” cheeses, or “cheese foods,” of course.”) And I’m guessing you could make bagels, although they won’t be quite the same as the Montreal kind. eR says you can use refined flours: “[Flour Update: Refined flour, as long as it’s unbleached and unenriched, actually would pass the Kitchen Test. Check out this flour followup in the forums.]”
    So go ahead and eat your carbs and cheese!
    I’m nervous about diving into this challenge, as we live in a very processed world. It may have to start with me and slowly edge its way into my husband’s eating habits. 95% of what he eats is processed if I don’t make it myself.

    • We actually make our own bagels that are really decent, so I think I’m going to have to add them to the menu plan!

      I encourage you to try the challenge, even if it is just one meal at a time. Good luck!

  13. Love it! And thanks for the meal plans, that really helps. I plan on being the 451-454 people on that petition, but NO cheating? We’ll try!!! 😉

  14. Thanks for all the ideas, tips and recipes!
    If you post another week’s menu, I might do it for yet another week 😉

  15. We have cut out most of the processed foods in our diet and moved to raw foods, most of those straight from our garden. Oh, the benefits have been fantastic!! I am always looking for more menu options that work well with our large family budget. The homemade fruit on the bottom yogurt has got my pulse going! LOL

  16. Hi Aimee! I’m in love with your site (just found it today)! You inspired me to ask my readers to take the October Unprocessed pledge, too. I’ll be looking for that guest post on Eating Rules 🙂

  17. I love this challenge, and I think I’d spend the entire month working on it. We try to eat as few processed foods as possible, though there’s a few items in our pantry like granola bars for my high school son, ketchup, organic cereal, and probably a few other items that I’m not thinking of.

    The thing is I’ve been frustrated with making do when it comes to snacks for the beginning of school. This is great incentive for working on that area of our diet.

    We do have a family birthday party this month, plus Halloween parties at school at the end of the month, and I think we can avoid processed foods by planning ahead.

    I’m off to sign up!

  18. Aimee, I’m so glad you brought this to my attention. I’m going to go sign the pledge right now 😀

  19. What about cheese? It is processed, factory-made. I have made cheese in the past, but I couldn’t make up cheese before October. And I don’t think my kids could survive without at least a couple of grilled cheeses.

  20. Ooh, what a great thing to be a part of! I love this, but maybe I will do a modified version on my own next month since I already did our October meal plan (or I could just through in a few unprocessed meals along the way!). Good luck with your week!

  21. I’ve seen the hashtag on twitter, but never took the time to really research exactly what it was about, since I’ve had tons going on lately. I would love to be a part of this, and our family definitely needs it!! I was telling my husband about it and he’s totally on board. I need to sit down and figure out how long I want to make the pledge for, and do some serious planning. Honestly, right now, even one day’s worth of unprocessed food would be a great step for us!! Thank you for sharing your menu ideas as that really helps jump start my thinking. 🙂

  22. I loooove this idea! I think we will try for a week. I think the best part is the awareness for my boys in what exactly we are eating. (Of course we will have to finish this before Halloween–just keeping it real!)

  23. Hey its Really innovative tips.. Thanks. The above information
    about easy diet plan is very useful.

  24. How would you freeze your homemade tortillas?

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