I started off today thinking I was doing really poorly in this challenge. But as I examined our habits, I discovered that we do better than I thought. I think my food inferiority complex came from feeling like a CSA failure. We have a great CSA opportunity in my neighborhood. You sign up and then show up every week on a certain day to pick up your goodies at the local library. I did it for one season and then I quit. I found that the plan for my family’s size was just too expensive. I bought into a smaller plan, but it wasn’t enough, plus the larger plan had a better selection. I suffered from veggie-envy as I watched people get to choose the stuff I really wanted but wasn’t available on my plan. Also, I might get a bunch of something we didn’t need as much of and almost nothing of another item I use a lot of. I was still having to buy a lot of produce outside of the CSA.
I have also been bad about using our farmer’s market. The few times I went, there wasn’t really any produce, just pies, ice cream and other things that were sweet and delicious and a little too tempting. I guess the season was just getting started when I went. But, it knocked the enthusiasm for Farmer’s markets clean out of me.
Our biggest challenge is that as a household with 7 vegetarians under one roof, we go through a lot of produce. I don’t have a huge food budget. In other words, I need max nutrition for the least amount of moolah.
So what are we doing right? I had been feeling so much food guilt, I hadn’t noticed what we did right.
First of all, we are vegetarians.
“It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour.” ( Marcia Kreith, “Water Inputs in California Food Production,” Water Education Foundation 27 Sept. 1991.)
We grow some of our food. I grow many herbs, tomatoes, lettuce,c hard, cherries, juneberries, mulberries and bell peppers. I am thinking of converting more of my yard next year into garden. Then I could plant trailing veggies too.
We visit local farms and orchards and “pick-our-own” food. This year we picked blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches and apples. We also bought corn and other goodies from farm stands. It is so much fun to pick your own food or at least meet the farmer or visit the farm where it grows. You experience food by smell, taste, sight and touch, but this adds a whole new way to connect to the rhythm of the food. It is so important to give children this experience as well.
We have noticed that Giant Eagle, Aldi, Heinens and WalMart all have local offerings as well, and I try to take advantage of that. Stores are starting to see the value in selling locally grown food. I hope this isn’t a fad and it continues and grows.
I contact farms (stickers on produce may have a website listed) and comment positively or negatively on their choice of packaging so that they know it matters to consumers.
If produce isn’t going to last, I try to freeze it so I don’t waste it. I have read that 30% of U.S. food gets wasted. Just look in the garbage cans of a school cafeteria to believe it. Think about how much gets thrown out when you clean your own fridge. Add the waste from restaurants and grocers, etc… and 30% could be a low estimate. When my refrigerator died on me, I opted for a slightly larger energy star model and vowed to stop wasting food. We are darn good at eating leftovers around these parts. But I also stopped making so many spontaneous purchases, especially on fancy condiments and dressings because no one ever finishes them. Having a slightly larger fridge means I can see everything in it. Nothing hides anymore, ambushing me after it has turned fuzzy, green or slimy. The air circulates better so I no longer get frozen salads or apples.
Where do I feel like I can make improvements? I can give the farmer’s markets another try next season. I can grow more food. I might even try an indoor lettuce garden or a cold frame. I can check for other CSA options that might suit us better. I put a “dirty dozen” list in my purse so I can start buying more of those pesticide-laden fruits and veggies as organic instead.
Fun food tidbit for Day 4:
I made a recipe and video for cooking “Cheatballs”, or vegetarian meatballs. Check it out if you like, but remember that a very easy meat-free dish is spaghetti and Marinara sauce. You won’t scare off veggiephobes with it. If you really feel devious, add half a can of pumpkin to the sauce. It makes it thick and creamy and yummy!