Eat Local

Food for thought… eating seasonally and locally

The recent “courgette crisis” had me in a panic. I tried 3 shops before I realised the seriousness of the problem. How was I going to follow the recipe I was meaning to cook on the 28 Day Challenge I’m doing (more about that another time)- WHAT was I going use as a base for my new pesto sauce…god forbid, RICE???

Drama aside, all was ok, I managed to survive the ordeal and I didn’t actually explode on first bite. It did however get me thinking seriously about the way we shop and the way we eat.

Ever wondered why your parents/grandparents were in such good shape when they were younger? (Well, mine were!) Wars and food rationing aside, it may also be because they had far less access to processed foods- they grew at least some some of their own vegetables and ate home cooked meals. From scratch! Eating seasonal food is a timeless trick to saving money and keeping healthy. It also provides you with all the essential nourishment needed, to get your body working at its best, all year round.

Don’t have time for a veggie patch or didn’t inherit granny’s green thumb? It may be more effective to change your habits and invest a small amount of time each week going local for your food shop, sourcing organic, sustainable, non-imported goods and supporting local businesses and farmers.

Not only are organic foods helping the environment, they’re good for your health, with antioxidants approximately 60% higher in organically grown crops. Non-organic foods can be full of harmful hormones and allergens that mess with your body and mind.

To focus your shopping list, here are the foods I’d encourage that you buy organic:

  1. MILK. It’s been discovered that organic milk contains nearly 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic.
  2. VEGETABLES AND FRUIT contain significantly lower amounts of both heavy metals and pesticides when they’re organic. If you need to prioritise, top of the list to buy organic are the veggies and fruit you eat without peeling (berry fruits, apples, lettuce and cabbage)- bananas and avocados are still better organic, but not as high up the priority list.
  3. MEAT. Beef and chicken reared conventionally are routinely fed hormones and antibiotics. They have the potential to cause antibiotic resistance. There are some very alarming documentaries about this if you want to learn more. In addition, non-organic livestock can be kept in horrific conditions, with no exercise- it is not far off the truth to say meat from such animals is diseased meat.
  4. FISH. This is a slightly tricky one. If you buy farmed fish (most salmon is farmed), buy organic. (If you’re buying wild fish, make sure it’s sustainably fished.)
  5. EGGS. Always buy free range organic (organic and free range are not the same, you want them to be both free range AND organic). The eggs taste better and the birds are happier! Just look at the yolks!

As for the supply issue, have you considered freezing your veg or even buying frozen? Eating freshly frozen food captures all the goodness ready for you to cook. Fresh food, as amazingly healthy as it is, has a tendency to lose its nutritional benefits the longer it’s been picked. Buy frozen foods that are 100% pure with no added nasties and stock up on peas, spinach, berries and corn. Check the packets! Also go further and freeze a range of foods should your freezer have space, saving your time and money down the track. A great blog post on this here.

Going local – the “how”

If you usually shop only at supermarkets, it could mean making gradual changes to where and how you shop, ensuring you have a hit list of what you will buy from Tesco versus your local farmer market or deli.

Check the internet for local outlets

If you don’t know outlets in your area, a great website is Big Barn. Try it! The site is map based with a postcode or place name search function which brings up a wide range of local food outlets: farm shops, farmers markets, delicatessens, independent shops such as butchers, and community supported farms. Sold!

Find a farmers market near you and try it out

From the first recognised farmers (or producers) market in Bath in 1997, there are now hundreds across the country. Farmers markets come in all shapes and sizes and are great for fresh fruit and veg, meats and preserves – jams, pickles and honey. Also (shhhhh), fantastic for bread and cakes! IF I MUST. Distinctive local products make them fun to explore and for finding treats, especially for the kids. London Farmers market is a great site for sussing out local options.

Use good independent food shops

Traditional ‘specialist’ food shops – butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers – and delis can be excellent places to find local food (obviously). They can be missed out because they may not label their local produce. More shops seem to be using local labels now, but do get to know your local independent stores, speak to the staff to find out what is local and show your interest in local food.

Sign up to a box scheme

Yes! I’m a total convert to this. A lot offer trial boxes or discounts for your first box delivered. Some schemes offer a selection of veggies/fruit/salad/meat and fish- I use one of the first to appear on the market- Abel and Cole. Other schemes work towards certain recipes, and deliver a boxful of all the ingredients you need to make those recipes. Mindful Chef is a well-known favourite of that type amongst friends, sourcing all ingredients from the West Country. All gluten free, carb free and organic, each meal is conveniently bagged for ease with herbs and spices already measured and ready to go. All recipes take maximum 30 minutes to prepare and the options are fantastic!

Box schemes are a very convenient alternative if getting to the shops is difficult and often they can supply meat, dairy, eggs and drinks, as well as the traditional fruit and veg.

Find a Pick Your Own (PYO) farm or stop at local farms selling at the gate

This is a great way to buy quantities of local fruit, which is as fresh as it can be; it can be a treat too for the kids, especially if strawberries are involved. They also get to learn where the fruit comes from.

Big Barn has some links to PYO farms but also try Pick Your Own Farms, which has a decent listing by county or just put pick your own and your city or town into a website search engine and it should come up with plenty of suggestions.

Go micro – if you’d like a local pint !

The growth of smaller companies producing beer is an amazing success story – there are now more than 1,000 microbreweries and it’s a really good way to find some distinctive local ales and support your local economy. There’s a good country by county listing on the British Beers website.

Microdairies could be the next big thing. Dairy farmers are struggling to make a living on what they are paid by the big processing companies but more farmers are now processing and selling their own milk direct. There are 20 or more such microdairies in the country but lots of other small dairies producing cheese, yoghourt and ice cream. A good start to find one is Big Barn’s dedicated milk map.

Support a microdairy and you could be getting top quality milk at fair prices to you and the farmers – and from a nearby farm.

Food for thought on this Wednesday! Hope you’re all having a good one!

Mx

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