I am Beginning The Local Food Experiment Starting 1 June!

This challenge/experiment is something I have created for myself. I tried it 2 years ago as a back-to-basics sustainable challenge.  I spent much time thinking about how different our relationship with food is, than it was example, 50 – 100 years ago.

As the economy is suffering greatly, and I try to avoid visiting the shops during Covid-19  as much as I just can, it seems to be that this could be an ideal opportunity to again challenge my relationship with food. I have been thinking quite often about trying my back-to-basics sustainable eating series that I challenged myself to two years ago.  I challenged myself to eat only those items which I was able to grow myself, purchase from local farms or buy locally made or produced items only. Aside from that, I did have set limits for myself of what I was ‘permitted’ to purchase at the food shops. As I was also trying to learn how to bake more in so to limit my need for prepackaged, mass produced, chemical laden ready food.  I learned how to bake 2 items: Flat bread and current muffins. It got me through, but 2 options is not enough for any extended time.

When I did the challenge last time, I was ill prepared and I was not able to keep with the challenge for long. This time, I am a bit more familiar with some of the challenges I will be facing and I hope that I can use this knowledge to better prepare myself. I understand now that locally made items will cost more, that just because you plant something does not mean it will grow food for you, that most recipes need too many ingredients (where are the simple recipes?!), that actually a lot more plants are needed to feed a person than one would think, and that eating berries instead of cakes makes me cranky.

I am waiting until the 1st June to start this challenge. That allows for a few days time that I can look up and contact some farms in the rural areas outside of the city and ask that are they even selling to people with the current Covid-19 restrictions. If I am unable to purchase grown food items from the farms, this challenge will be impossible. Rhubarb is growing, and I also can find dandelion easily.  However, a diet of rhubarb and dandelion sounds quite awful. I will order also few hanging planters of small tomato and strawberry plants. Also, as it takes time for the food to grow, it will take time that I can purchase the items from the farms also even if they are using grow house.

I will be setting limitations on my food shopping, same as the last time. This time though, I really need to think more about it because last time, it was only about the challenge. This time, its about pandemic, bad economy and the challenge. So makes those purchasing decisions a bit more important this time.  I will announce the food shop limitations on the first day of the challenge. I will be purchasing fish though. As much fish as I just can. Cheese & coffee also, for certain.

There are two exceptions I am making for myself. #1 – Last time, I ate meals separately and it seemed a waste. My husband is liking the thought of eating locally, but I am not asking him to do this strict challenge with me. I have decided, due to trying not to spend money, if my husband makes a meal enough for both of us, I will eat what he makes.  This was not something I allowed for myself last time and it seemed like unnecessary money was being spent to eat those meals separately on the occasions there was enough extra food for me. #2 Food gifts are allowed. If I find myself opening a package of food items or husband buys me an ice cream on a day out (Hah! He will remind me of this post instead), I am probably going to eat it. And enjoy it 🙂

I am not confident in my ability to do this. This will be incredibly difficult, more so than last time, and I can’t cheat with food shopping because well, what’s the purpose of doing this if I don’t do it? (Besides, I have some friends who found their way to this blog & I know that I will hear about it with quite loud voice.) I will, of course, be blogging about it. I will also share any new recipes (the simple ones that don’t ask for 30 ingredients), info about what kinds of food items I’m eating (no worries, I will not be sharing a list of meals), I will also share if it has helped me in losing the extra weight and probably a bit (more) of complaining also.

Thank you for reading and I hope that you will gain some interest about this journey.

Mliae

6 Reasons Why You Should Eat Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables

As autumn has arrived, I thought it a good time to go on a bit of a nag about food choices.

With globalisation comes convenience. We can now eat avocado and strawberry throughout the year and have access to exotic fruits which only grow in areas half the world away. As easy as it is for us to add these to our shopping bags (it’s only a few €), we should really take a moment to consider what we are contributing to.

The Bad:

  1. Your fruits and vegetables are not ‘fresh’. They have been refrigerated for long times (sometimes months), shipped, trucked, sorted and treated with wax and preservatives, then put as display. Doesn’t sound grandly appealing….
  2. Conflict. It is said that the drive for avocado has created the atmosphere for violence in Mexico, and in a Chile community, water use has actually taken away the water from its residents and instead provided that water for avocado growing. (Learning much watching Rotten on Netflix) There are many more stories of farming conflict because of increasing demand for food items. Just google.
  3. Your food has travelled more than you. Take a moment and process … I can wait. 🙂

The Good:

  1. Supports local farms. I am quite certain that you are not looking the country of origin when buying potato. When you are purchasing fruits and vegetables in the harvest season, there is high % that you are purchasing the food items from a local farm. Local farms are the markets most affordable option of sourcing foodstuffs. So you are contributing to your community, your own country’s economy and not having to take 2 hours reading packages in the market. 😉
  2. Cost.  This is simply supply / demand. When the supply is limited because your lychee is only available in one geographic area for a short time, you are paying gold prices from it. When its autumn, and root vegetables are being harvested widely, you will pay a much lower price for those.
  3. The environment. Speaking the truth, making the shift to purchase seasonal foods is one of the simplest tasks you can do to contribute to the reduction of actions causing climate change. (It took me 5 minutes of thought to write that phrase correctly….there has to be a simpler way to say that.) That mandarin you are purchasing in February, travelled a long trip to get there. If you are wanting to reduce your ‘carbon footprint’, making a considered purchasing decision with these items will help you to lower it. Or maybe it doesn’t (in some situations). Think then, that you are contributing to the ‘demand’ of these items, which continues to increase the production of them.

Why should we eat seasonally when we have access to a world of options? Food items which have been harvested in the current season are more plentiful and there is a larger possibility that you are purchasing locally / sustainable. Traditionally, people only had access to the locally available, harvestable items in that season. Specialty refrigeration was not available to extend the ripeness of the plant nor were special waxes that could make fruit look like something from a animated movie. Mis-shapen fruits and vegetables of varying sizes were the norm and ruler-regulated items like cucumbers would have been considered as an absurdity. Then, you did not put food as waste only because it was not pretty. It was grown, and you ate it. It’s food.

Autumn seasonal fruits and vegetables vary by geography, of course.  But some of the general autumnal harvest foods are potato, varying squashes, apples, carrot, onion, beetroot, turnip and cabbage.

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I do understand that eating seasonally could feel quite restrictive. It has been a long process to eating foods unavailable to us, and it will be a long process back to basics. In my mind, it does seem that we still have a small bit of ourselves that does connect to seasonal eating. In the summers, we crave fruit, berries, light foods. In the cold months, our bodies tell us that thick soups and dips are what we need. Most of these are based with seasonal harvest foods. We just don’t seem to think so much about it.

As with all consumer-driven changes, you must remember that we, as consumers, have the power. The power of purchase, which to companies = the power of money. Simply not purchasing these items will send a message in a very loud voice, that it is time to slow our food down again.

Have we lost the connection to our food?

-Mliae

The Desire for a Sustainable Lifestyle

I talk about many things. One topic that I am quite fond of, is that of sustainability. Food sustainability, sustainability in production, making better purchasing decisions, sustainable fashion…..sustainable living.

Obviously, the reason I write about this topic so often is because it is of high importance to me. (That sounded quite selfish….)  I very much enjoy introducing companies I have found that are doing good things, I like having open conversation with you, my readers, about the challenges in achieving sustainability in its different forms. I think that I also write quite often about this, because I am learning about it myself all the time. Also, maybe somewhere in my head, I do desire to help create change – even if it is only by having a dialogue.

The Cambridge dictionary defines Sustainability (environment) as ‘The quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.’ The way we (those of us not dictionaries) see sustainability encompasses more than the basis for causing no harm and making it last.  Sustainability outside of this definition, can be anything from sustainable food practices (buying organic, eating locally, reducing meat intake…), sustainable travel & tourism (minimising the negative effects of tourism, create benefit to the areas…), Sustainable gifts, even sustainable business practices (considering affect on society, treating employees better, long term strategy). In my mind, this makes sustainability more a way of making better decisions. The short-term immediate gratification of the 1980’s introduced a ‘winner take all’ mindset in which people seemed to somehow lose the importance of long-term thinking. After 30+ years of this kind of ‘now now now’ immediate-gratification thinking (like a world of infants), we find ourselves at this moment. A time where we must slow it down. All of it. We need to think about what we are doing, the effects it will have and what options we may have to the obvious questions.

No matter how you see the boundaries of the word ‘sustainability’, it is a very important word for us to keep not only in our vocabulary, but also in our decision making process. Now more than ever, it seems. Especially since the UN Climate Change Summit this year has left the world with little doubt that something MUST be done. Now, not 15th day.

I would like to make better, more sustainable decisions in my every day life. It seems like it would be easy, but it is not. You see, I have a problem…I am spoiled. I’m spoiled by the easy access to foods that shouldn’t be available outside of season. I’m spoiled by how I feel in soft fabrics from high-end stores. I’m spoiled by cheap and trendy clothing options – I can have an entire new look for 20€. I’m spoiled by never having to consider the labour behind my purchases. I’m spoiled because I live in a time where the only thing we have to think about, is ourselves. And SO ARE YOU! We all are, no? So the question is then, how do we bring ourselves off our clouds of cotton and realise that it is up to us to make the change to sustainability?  That WE have to do the work. Especially if we expect corporations to make big changes. After all, businesses follow the money. Our money. As consumers, this is our power.

There have been efforts here.

Remember the sustainable food experiment? Eating only local or what I could cook myself (actual food making with only actual ingredients). That did not last so long as I hoped for. What resulted was me learning to make tortillas (easiest bread possible), muffins with fresh berries I picked and eating buckets full of berries, summer squash and mushrooms. I was not well prepared for that experiment. However, since that experiment, I have found myself eating more local produce, eating in season fruit/veg  and not craving so much the ready food at the food store.  I have not been baking. I don’t love baking… But I should be baking.  The challenge with eating more sustainably is that its difficult. We like easy. I will inform you if I discover the secret to success with this.

I have also tried saving my money to invest in more sustainable, higher quality, possible hand made options. (Pro tip: Saving money is much easier if you actually have money. So, saving was a fail.) I did stop shopping. My new plan for this (because a lady has to have something nice sometimes) is to find a couple best options in my colour (if its a handmade leather bag) or in my size (if its clothing) or my favourite design (if its something else) and save those items and when people ask what I want for my birthday, or holidays. I can suggest that people put what money they would have spent towards one of those items (or a gift card for that store – if they offer gift cards). Holidays are quite often and I have found that my loved ones are usually happier if I give them an idea instead of them spending forever searching for the ‘perfect gift’.  But only if they ask. Otherwise, I love personal selected gifts! *If you do this, please don’t go weird with it. I’ve had people insist I only give some or another thing and it really takes the fun out of gift giving.

Also, when you find yourself with only a few new items in a year, you appreciate that item so much more. I don’t quite understand how that works, but it does seem like the more often new things come to us – the less we appreciate them. Sustainable items do come with a higher price than we have been paying (average). Of course it does! That price displays that the workers are being paid a living wage, perhaps the logistic transport was also a green/slow method, and the items are made by craftsmen and sold by a company that pays attention to the details across the growth – production – logistical – labour – business processes. Quality items cost money. Quality items also last soooooooo much longer than the rubbish we are buying now. This is why QUALITY BASICS are a thing. Basics never go out of style (now that I’ve said that, all of my basics will be out of style next week) and quality lasts. Win-win. The challenge here, I would say, is that we must relearn how to shop as conscious consumers. Our current processes will not work with the new sustainable system.

As a luxury-loving convenience monster myself, I know that the change into a more sustainable lifestyle will be slow. But slow is a sustainability keyword, so maybe its a good thing.

How is sustainability changing your decisions?

-Mliae

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I Am Ending The Extreme Lifestyle Experiment; Food Diet

It’s been over 2 months now since I initially launched my most challenging experiment thus far and I am at the point now where I have to end the experiment as it is now.

For those of you who have not been following, this experiment was based around the premise of only eating the food that we could grow here, and what is grown/made locally. Beyond those items, I allowed myself the ability to purchase oil, butter, eggs, wheat powder, vinegar and sugar from the market so that I could make and preserve our own food. The reason I did this was to see 1) if I could live locally and sustainably, to 2) put my money into our community and 3) try to stop myself buying some of everything a the market and force myself to learn how to cook real food and by doing that 4) pay off some debt.

It was challenging at first, and then I kind of got into the groove.  However, it’s been quite difficult to maintain this challenge in a household with more than just me. It’s been incredibly expensive too. I did not think things through thoroughly before setting the ‘rules’ for myself on this challenge. What that resulted in was me spending 4€ on a can of local salmon pate instead of 27 cents for a bag of macaroni. This is no way is helping my debt issue. It has been an amazing feeling knowing that I’m eating sustainably and locally, but I just cannot keep up the momentum. I need food items to eat with the vegetables and I need to be able to purchase items that I can afford. I need to be able to buy fruit for my family. And if there is a bowl of fruit on the table, why am I not allowing myself to eat it?  This is why I am ending the experiment.

I am ending the experiment as it is now, anyway.  My plan is to thoroughly integrate this challenge for myself in my day to day life. I will continue to buy locally and purchase as much produce as possible from local farms. But I will also make smart purchasing decisions in the market. I will allow myself that cheap bag of macaroni, and a can of tuna with the occasional avocado. I will still try to make bread and muffins instead of buying them, but I will not feel conflicted about buying food items for my family that are affordable options.

The great thing about this experiment is that I learned so much! I met many local farmers and am looking forward to returning for big orders to last us the winter. (Fingers crossed) I have learned how to cook a variety of items from just a few options, not to mention varying preserving methods.

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I have learned that I don’t need to waste my money on piles of unfulfilling foods. A few potatoes fills my stomach for longer that 2 plates of pasta.

I have learned how to forage for mushrooms and berries (though I still don’t trust myself to do it on my own).

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I have learned that having a small portion of locally caught fish is just as filling as a huge plate of pasta with sauce. I have also learned that if I just eat right, I don’t need all the extra stuff I was loading into my shopping cart.

So, what do you think?

-Mliae

EXTREME Lifestyle Experiment…Can I Do It?

Greetings all and thanks for stopping by! Today I’ve got a big one for you…

We just returned from our trip to the States, and it was so much fun! But now its down to business and I would like to discuss with you something I’ve been thinking about doing. I’d really like your input as to whether or not you think I have just completely lost my mind.

I’ve been rolling over in my mind how to explain this, but there really isn’t a good way to do it that I can find. So, here it is: I’ve decided to set a challenge for myself – starting today (this morning actually, and day one sucked) that I will do a complete 180  degree turnaround and live off the land – or at least locally. In all honesty, even though I’ve put some stuff to grow (fingers crossed) I really only have red currants and rhubarb growing and I’m smart enough to know that there’s no way I can last 2 days with that. I’m also kicking off a year (or thereabouts) of a shopping ban. No clothes, accessories shopping for me! I’ll explain all in the following paragraph. Please hang with me because there’s a lot of info – as this is a YUGE challenge I’ve set for myself. I have no idea how long I’ll actually make it, but we’ll see!

This whole post is surely a bit disjointed, but I do want to get all the facts out there so you can call me on it later. 😉 My motivation is this: I’ve been trying to get our accounting together and I realized that we are spending 100’s of Euros more a month than we should be, at the market. I’ve been thinking alot about how spoiled we (as several generations) are. I’ve been paying more attention at the market and it has started to stun me how easily accessible everything is due to globalization. I mean, I think its only in the past 20 years or so that its become commonplace to find summer fruits in mid winter or autumn root vegetables in the spring. This is not natural. Anyway, things got me thinking about how our grandparents lived. Although they were able to import/export items, it was nowhere near the level we have today. They had to eat according to natural harvesting seasons and also with wars, economic depression and the ration card. Despite all of this, many of them managed to survive and become what is actually one of our healthiest, toughest and most stable generations of the 20th century. And then I look at myself. I have been learning 1-2 ways of planting or preserving every year. But in the grande scheme of things, I’ll be 70 before I can actually live off what I’ve learned. I can’t bake – not for anything. I can cook, but it’s not in the realm of deliciousness – so I’m usually the only one who will eat it. And I need to learn. I have a habit of purchasing ready-made or easy to prepare food.  But the more I look at it, the more I want to prioritize my spending. As I would prefer to be able to pay off my debt (Or at least pay it down somewhat). Creating a life which is more on the self-reliant sphere has catapulted my decision. That and the fact that I really need to learn how to do this. It’s sink or swim time. And I hope I don’t sink!

So here’s what I’m doing: I am living off what I can grow as much as possible and what I can source from local farms and local small business (live fish farm -? I think it exists?, greenhouses and a small shop which sources dried herbs from the area). I am allowing myself gifts. As in, I will not turn down birthday cake if someone gets it for me. (My husband hates this clause because he thinks I’ll be begging people to buy me food ‘gifts’…he may be correct, but lets hope not!) I know that I will need lots of help from friends and neighbors to help me learn and direct me to local farms where I can purchase food items (which will fun to explain, as they don’t even know this blog exists).

I am allowing myself some purchases at the market, as I cannot cook without some things. The items I am allowing myself are as follows:

  • varying wheat flours
  • oil
  • sugar
  • cheese (& maaayyyybbe milk if I need it for casserole, but I think I can do without)
  • eggs
  • yeast
  • dried beans/peas
  • mustard powder (I’m trying to perfect a mustard recipe for gifts)
  • coffee
  • tea
  • vinegar

If I cannot make the items I need with these ingredients, I don’t get it. I have to learn to make my own bread, pastry, pasta and sauces. I don’t feel like I’m cheating with these ingredients, because they are necessary and even the cowboys had access to these items. Besides, I can’t preserve without some of it. So there. *sticks out tongue and wags fingers in ears.

Part 2 of this challenge is that I am embarking on a shopping ban. 1 year if I can do it. I have enough. Ironically, I looked in my wardrobe today and have built up my wardrobe to exactly 30 items. I find it so weird that some people consider 30 items for a season, a minimalist challenge. How? My wardrobe looks so….full!

I don’t know why my mind is so set on this, as it seems like a mission to disaster for this spoiled city girl. But I am determined to make it work. I can tell you quite honestly that I am already seriously missing fruit and mineral water.  I know that I will have troubles, challenges and frustrating days. I will be logging everything so that you can share in this journey with me as much as possible. I plan to do a vlog series about it as well, but no promises because I have no idea how weird I’m going to get.

So that’s my deal. Any thoughts on the matter?

-Mliae

*Photo sourced via Pixabay