There are a few things I think about when I am buying food or cooking a meal. As part of the Real Food Challenge I thought it would be a good idea to write about them.
- Local food – where is my food coming from, how far is it traveling
- Organic – how was my food grown
- Garden – growing as much of our own food as I can
- Preserving – making what I grow last longer
Local Food: I want to be more aware of where our food is coming from and how far it is traveling to get to me.
I stopped buying boxed food and canned food a few years ago. I still some of those thing in the cupboard and pantry. I thought I would use them up (vs. throwing them out) but I find I can’t bring myself to use them at all most of the time. Annie over at Pollinators on the Brain suggested that I take and donate them to a food shelf. GREAT IDEA! Gone!
As I have made the change to real food over the past few years I become more aware of other things to think about. There are so many great blogs out there and they are a wealth of information and they have opened my eyes to things like “local food” and “how far did my food travel to get to me.”
With the Real Food Challenge I want to focus on finding more local foods. Gavin over at The Greening of Gavin did a segment on his blog called “100 Mile Diet (160km) – Eating Local for Global Change.” He set a perimeter around his house (100 miles) and decided he wanted to try really hard to eat only foods he could find that came from within that perimeter. What a great eye opener for me! He also talks about it at Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op.
In the last few weeks I finally found a co-op to join where I could be bulk items (flours and grain) and local meats, cheese, eggs, and milk. I already have a source for milk and now with the co-op I can start getting local organic meats and eggs too. I am thrilled to find this co-op and we are eating out of the freezer so I am make room for all the great organic local meat I want to start buying for us.
In one our of local grocery stores, they are starting to put the sign “GO LOCAL” with differently fruits and vegetables that are local. I think that is great, but what would be better is if there were a lot more of these signs rather then just a few of them that I saw. I also haven’t looked down the other isles in the store, but I hope they are putting them throughout the store on different products if they are locally made too (like olive oil, or jam, honey, etc)
Garden: Living in South Texas I am thrilled to have three growing seasons. For the past two winters I have had things growing out in the garden and it has been great. Lettuce, spinach, chard, onions, cabbage, garlic, kale and cilantro. This past winter I added cauliflower and broccoli. There are times we can get quite cold here and the past two wintered have proved that. I made some simple row covers and those helped a lot, but they don’t provide any help if I am not home to put them over the plants or it is just to cold. I experienced both this past winter, mainly the “too cold” part and I ended up losing all the broccoli and cauliflower. I also lost several cabbages that hadn’t had time to establish themselves. I guess 12F and 14F are a bit too cold for them to handle, but I understand that. It is too warm during the day to leave to covers on all the time, so that would have been an easy solution. I am still earning and I will keep trying. I think one thing I need to do is get some of those winter vegetables planted a bit earlier than I have so they are more established when those cold temps hit.
This year I have expanded some of the vegetable planting areas and I am working toward starting all my own seeds for the growing season. This will help me grow more of our own food (and not buy it). I will be saving seeds more seeds this year to plant in the years to come.
Preserving (canning, freezing or drying): The expanded garden will also help me preserve some things to eat later in the winter when things like tomatoes aren’t growing. I started preserving (canning & freezing) a few things two years ago and this year, I have high hopes that I will have enough vegetables to eat fresh and preserve. Whatever is left over I will share with neighbors and friends. There are a few things that are on the top of my list to preserve. Roasted red bell peppers and roasted Anaheim peppers. Tomato sauces. Zucchini chutneys and relishes. Pickles. Vegetable soups. In another year or two when the fruit trees start to produce I will work on jams and other fruit sauces. I have already started collecting recipes so when the time comes I hope I will be prepared.
Organic: Growing as much of our food as I can also makes me feel better because I now it is organic. I have stared with organic and heirloom seeds and I also know how my plants are grown – all organic.
When I am buying fruits and vegetable I have been buying organic when it is available. I have found that I am not buying as much if I can’t find it organic. So that leads me back to my garden and preserving (whether it is canning or freezing or drying). I know I have a lot to learn and it will still take time to work on all of this, but I have a good start and it feels better to know I am trying. Many times we don’t know what will work if we don’t try it. Sometimes I feel I just want someone to tell me what to plant and when so I don’t waste time, but I do know it is better for me to learn some of those things on my own. I also know that the way two of my neighbors do their gardening, is not how I do mine. I can still learn a thing of two from their years of experience, but when they saw me planting things late last fall they thought I was crazy. Then they saw I was actually growing things.
As I post more about the Real Food Challenge I will reference the above things I am thinking about. I think it will help me see what areas I need to focus on and give me a perspective on how I am doing with my goals.