no impact experiment – day 4: food
Today’s focus was on food. And I have to admit that it was a pretty dismal failure on my part. Dinner last night was pizza and salad. The lettuce was organic, but nothing was local. I prepared the pizza myself, but used an “all-natural rustic crust” that I had purchased earlier at the Market, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to make my own pizza dough. The cheese was not local, the tomatoes not from our garden… Like I said, other than being meat-free, a pretty dismal failure from a “foodprint” perspective.
I know the key things to lessening our “foodprint”: eating local, organic, seasonal food; no (or less) meat cconsumption; avoiding packaged and highly processed foods; passive cooking methods…
So where does our household stand? On a daily basis I do try to avoid buying food that has been shipped a long distance, or that is highly processed or packaged. I don’t buy or prepare meat, although Mark and the boys tend to eat it sometimes at school and work, or if we’re dining out.
I really try to be mindful when shopping for food, but it is frustrating when the only organic lettuce I can find is stuck in a plastic bag. Although we have a once-weekly farmer’s market, I didn’t do alot of grocery shopping there – mostly due to hours of operation and location. Same goes with the Amish market that is nice, but a 50-mile round trip.
We grew a fair amount of vegetables in our garden, although I haven’t done much of any canning for several years now. We ate most of what we harvested, although I still have a supply of squash we continue to enjoy.
My local grocery store of choice, Season’s Harvest Market, will frequently stock a few seasonal and local items. Apples and cider from within our county have been the lastest and most abundant. But some of the things – like a $2.99 almond/granola bar that was produced by a local in-home bakery – well, I just question where the ingredients came from? Certainly the almonds were shipped in, and there was no indication that the ingredients were organic. And given the price-tag, I just can’t justify buying one. So as much as I would like to support “local”, sometimes it is just not sensible or reasonable. (And I won’t even comment again on the imported bottled water from Norway that they still have on the shelves …)
I have found that I often tend to have “food-store envy” when I visit other cities. Visiting my cousins in California last year, I was so jealous of the small fruit and vegetable stands that seemed to be everywhere, as well as the shopping choices that included Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc. Even where son Ross is in college, in Johnson City, TN, they have a great EarthFare grocery store, stocked full of organic and fair-trade items. And although I know there are some “better” options in Chattanooga, I can’t justify making the drive on any kind of frequent basis.
It’s sad situation when the simple chore of shopping for food has become so complicated. Trying to figure out how far a tomato has travelled to get into my salad, or determining if the corn in this product is GMO or not? Can I actually find a locally-grown organic version of the cheese I want to buy? Why can’t I purchase this vegetable without it being encased in a plastic bag? It’s exhausting, frustrating, and I will admit there are times when I just give up.
From the Experiment Guide, I did find this pretty nifty on-line resource to help located nearby local, sustainable shopping choices – it’s called the Eat Well Guide. I actually found several places that I didn’t know about, including one market in nearby Collegedale that might be do-able by bicycle(?).
One last thing from the Experiment Guide that I’d like to try: Cool Idea #3 – make-your-own food-scrap vinegar.
Combine in-season fruit scraps and chop up coarsely. Dissolve a quarter cup honey in one quart of water. Throw the scraps in and cover with a cloth. Let ferment for two to three weeks, stirring occasionally. (For more recipes like this, read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz.