Seasonal food blog discoveries

28 November 2014
I shared my switch to eating only seasonal and local produce and why. During the transition from eating zucchini whenever to only in summer, I have had to ditch the old food blogs I use to frequent and find new ones that focused on seasonal cooking.

I was looking for ones that allowed me to browse via the seasons. Here are four that have been added to my favorites with inspiring recipes and gorgeous to look at.

Seasonal food blog discoveries
Seasonal food blog discoveries
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The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

25 November 2014
I have made the move to eat only seasonal and locally grown food. It is one of the best decisions I have made. My wallet and health agree with me and you might too.

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

Do you know where your food comes from? No not the location of stores and markets where you gather the weekly groceries. Where is your food grown and harvested? How many kilometres does your food travel before it gets to your shop? And do you know what seasons your food grows?

I didn't until recently. Now we have made some changes and decided to become local and seasonal food consumers.

When the builder and I moved in together we made a consciences effort to shop and support local business as we navigated the ins and outs of living and shopping plastic free. We frequented the green grocer, butcher, fish monger and the grain and nut store. It was not until the Builder questioned whether our green grocer's fruit and vegetables were organic that I began to investigate what it meant to eat sustainably.

I looked at our food buying habits. Nope we were not buying organic fruit and vegetables. Although we were supporting a small business not all of the food was coming from local farmers. Much of it was travelling from several states away resulting in a larger carbon foot print.

We decided that aside from organic fruit and veggies, we also wanted to make less of an impact and could achieve this by simply supporting local farmers and eating what is in season. Aside from being a sustainable earth friendly choice there are other benefits too only buying food that is in season and from within our own State. Let's look at why...

Environment

Our food has a smaller distance to travel equaling fewer carbon emissions. The fruit and vegetables we buy come from farms that are less than three hours away, some even closer. An organic farmer will steer clear of toxic chemicals and pesticides, using only friendly methods to grow food. If the farmer grows organic it is a sign that he cares about the environment just as much as you and me. Eating locally grown food means we have to eat seasonally. It goes hand in hand.

Supporting local businesses and community

Recently one of Australia's big name supermarkets were sprung marketing and selling freshly baked bread that was...no joke...baked in Ireland and shipped to Australia. Now no harm to the Irish, you are very gifted bakers. I adore your soda breads and potato breads dearly but this was ludicrous. It makes me cringe when I think of not only the environmental impact but also the economic and social impact eating food shipped from far away countries and regions has on food growers in my very own State. By going to a certified farmer market we support food businesses in Victoria which in turn supports local families and the local economy.

Save money

Eating seasonally will also save you money as food that is purchased out of season can be marked up. Think about it; tomatoes grow naturally in summer. They are a summer fruit and a delicious one at that. So for farmers to grow tomatoes out of season will require more effort which requires more money. The farmers then have to pass this added price onto the shop owners. Then the shop owners can mark it up using the valid reason a tomato is not in season so it is a premium sale. Since buying food that is in season we have enjoyed a reduction in our weekly grocery bill.

Health

I am limited with the food I can buy. Coming from a habit where I used to buy whatever I fancied I did find the change limiting. But now I am glad for this change. I know food is picked when it is ripe, providing my body with all the nutrient benefits. Let's take the humble strawberry which is in season right now. It is programmed by nature to be eaten this time of year. The farmer should not need to add anything to them to help them grow or put them into greenhouses, which are usually made of plastic to prolong seasons. There are no weird chemicals, waxes or preservatives to make them look nicer. Nor have they been picked and frozen. They come as they are, never looking supermarket perfect but always bursting with flavour. The foods that flourish in the different seasons are aligned to help our bodies through winter, autumn, spring and summer.

At the farmers market I am able to talk to the people that nourish me. I have a direct relationship with the person that grows my vegetables and fruit; farm to plate to belly. I am cultivating community.

We downloaded a list of what is in season from the Victorian Farmers Markets Association to help us understand what food is in season. Sometimes there have been items at the market that are not on the list so we ask them how they are storing the food. There are even some leeks still available but now they are on the smaller size because the season is finished. The list is there a guide. The best person to ask is the farmer or produce seller.

"Our accreditation system means that shoppers can be sure they are buying freshly harvested, seasonal, local food direct from the person who grew, reared, baked or caught it. And it means local food producers can get a fair price for their goods." Victorian Farmers Markets Association

Of course the best way to eat local and seasonally would be to grow your own and partake in local food swaps. But if you are like me and are still a novice gardener, lack the space or simply don't like gardening then I suggest you check out your local farmers market. If a farmers market is not an option and the idea of eating seasonally appeals to you search for what is in season in your area.

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

We are able to avoid plastic and any other packaging, keeping our shop to complete zero waste. If our food comes tied in elastic bands we take them back for the farmers to use. One upside of buying at the farmers markets is there are no stickers on our produce. One downside is that buying meat or fish is not worth trying as our market is took small to have effective refrigeration which is required to sell meat in Victoria. The upside is that we are now eating a lot less meat. 

Another downside is that most of my cookbooks are not season friendly. Like at all. Or the food blogs I frequent. So recipes have kinda gone out the window and ingredients have become king to inventions resulting in dishes that are simpler and resulting in less time in the kitchen.

Check out what is in season and locally grown were you live. I promise you will enjoy eating food that is good for you, grown with care and will feel good about making a sustainable choice that will save money too.

Tell me, what is your fave food to buy in season?
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Interview with No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

13 November 2014
You are in for a treat today. I was fortunate to get an interview with Luke Flesher, the Store Manager from Australia's first plastic free grocery store aptly named No Plastic Fruit and Vegetables located in Queenscliff, NSW.

While the store has not been open long I feel that it has laid important foundations of what will one day be a shift in how the people of Australia shop. What makes the store unique is that its goal is to actively encourage shoppers to understand plastic is not necessary. While there are a growing number of bulk food stores that plastic free shoppers frequent this is the FIRST one I have come across that has chosen to focus specifically on minimising plastic. They are a small store with great big heart and I look forward to watching them grow.



Congratulations on being the first grocery store in Australia that is plastic free. What made you want to open a grocery store devoted to plastic free living?
Thank you! The store is owner Alex Grant's brainchild. He is a Sydney Northern Beaches local, keen swimmer and passionate plastic hater. He sees this store as his way of taking a stand against the amount of plastic in the world, particularly in our food supply chain. And to maximise the impact he could have, what better way than starting a dedicated store, enabling others to reduce their own plastic use at the same time? He wanted to show people that it is possible, and there are alternatives to what many think are the only grocery shopping options out there.

As Store Manager, it's my job to spread the word far and wide, provide great customer service to ensure positive word of mouth, and keep finding new products that fit our criteria of no plastic in the products themselves, or their packaging.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

Even your store itself has minimal plastic, was this easy?
In most ways, absolutely. We chose wooden and metal display racks, and particle board free standing units. We don't have any of those plastic price tag holders you see on supermarket shelves, nor any laminated signage, stickers or price tags - instead we use paper, blu-tak and masking tape. Our bread is displayed in a second hand wooden bookcase, our newspapers on a recycled wooden crate, and our coffee machine sits on a second hand wooden table. We have metal shopping baskets instead of plastic. The concessions we had to make plastic-wise for our shop fittings were the till itself (sadly old-school metal tills don't quite have the functionality for what we need), the EFTPOS machine, and an air conditioning unit.

Were you living plastic free previously?
I come from South Australia, who have had a couple of excellent initiatives in place for a number of years - a ban on grey plastic bags at supermarkets (an imperfect solution but an admirable step in the right direction), and a drink container deposit scheme - both of which make plastic reduction a lot easier. I wouldn't by any means say I lived 100% plastic free, and I don't think Alex would either; although he certainly avoids plastic like the plague, it's an unfortunate reality that it has traditionally been very difficult indeed to completely eliminate it from every day life.

Since starting this business though, you can't help but look at your own plastic use, and, when you start to think about alternatives and see through research and hard work that there are legitimate alternatives, find ways to dramatically reduce your own use. Sites like your own are a tremendous resource for helping people, and we do commend you for the time you spend spreading the word!
And we're pretty realistic - it still remains very practically difficult for most people to live plastic free. No one is perfect, and I myself still make mistakes on occasion. But that realisation you've made a poor purchasing choice in itself is useful...as long as you act on that realisation and change.

That's something everyone can do, and this is something I always stress: make small but meaningful changes to their everyday habits. And that can definitely start with your grocery shopping. Our store is by no means a panacea for a global problem, but it provides a viable alternative and, hopefully, gets people thinking a bit more deeply.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables
Luke with a selection of the store's plastic-free offerings on a trade table at a local festival recently.

What common misconceptions about living plastic free have you come across?
  • That throwing something away means it's gone. It doesn't disappear - it goes into landfill. Or worse.
  • That releasing balloons at a party is a good idea. It's not. They get blown into the ocean.
  • That kids don't understand simple conservation messages like "take a bag to the supermarket instead of grabbing a plastic one". They do, and educating at a young age is the best possible way to instill behaviour for life.
What was the moment or event that made you want to live plastic free?
For Alex, I'm sure it was swimming or snorkelling at a local beach and being overwhelmed with sadness at the amount of rubbish on the sand and in the water.

For us here in the store, it's receiving the messages of support from customers and people on social media - it tells us that, despite the many challenges in running a small business like this an industry of true giants, what we're trying to do is touching a lot of people. That certainly does make it worthwhile.

What are the biggest challenges you have overcome?
Finding suitable products would be the number one challenge, certainly. It's often a case of "right product, wrong packaging" - there are countless great products that could be a great fit for our store, but plastic in one form or another gets in the way. And we don't budge on that - right down to a plastic label on a glass drink bottle instead of a paper one. But on the flip side, we have met many suppliers, particularly smaller ones, who are willing to work with us. For example, our most popular product is locally made Bobby Muesli, which normally comes in a plasticised pouch. But we worked together, and for us, Kristi from Bobby packages it in glass jars with paper sticker labels. We've also managed to reduce the plastic coming into our store; for example our regular bread delivery at first came on a tray wrapped in a large plastic sheet. We said we didn't want that, so the very next day it came simply covered in paper instead, and it has ever since. I think that says something about what is possible if you ask the right question, too.

It's always a great sense of achievement when we find our own solutions, too. Buying bulk, eco-friendly dishwashing detergent and repackaging it in glass bottles with cork stoppers and paper sticker labels is a nice feeling. Even though, yes, the initial 20L container is plastic, we're saving 30-40 single use plastic detergent bottles and lids, plus giving people the chance to refill their own bottles, and we send the containers back to the manufacturer to reuse. That is a great result by any standard of measurement.

As a small business, the obvious other one is creating awareness to convince people to change their habits away from shopping with the big guys. There's a nice bus shelter campaign in Sydney at the moment encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses, which is great to see. Social media is also great for bringing in like-minded people, and we never pass up opportunities to speak to people like yourself who are so obviously on the same wavelength!

What are your plans for the future?
As I said, we've been really encouraged by the responses we've had to our concept. We're still very much in our infancy and there's lots of work still to be done to establish ourselves in our current location. We want to keep adding new products to the store, keep spreading the word, and keep improving our own processes to ensure we adhere to our own principles as best as possible.

It's too early to talk about expansion or other stores, but I think the concept certainly has potential, particularly as the overall movement grows and more and more people start to change their ways.

No Plastic Fruit & Vegetables

What is your number one tip for reducing plastic?
Other than shopping with us? ;) But seriously, supporting people trying to make a difference is probably one of the best things you can do. Spending $30 or $40 in a store like ours makes a real difference to us, whereas it's just one more micro-transaction for the big guys.

Take the time, where you can, to educate yourself on alternatives. Buy a solid shampoo bar instead of one that is 90% water AND comes in a plastic bottle. It's a better product AND it uses no plastic! 

And ask for NO LID on your take away coffee...better still, bring your own cup!


Store info:
No Plastic Fruit and Vegetables
94 Crown Road, Queenscliff, NSW 2029
Opening Hours:
9:00am to 6:45pm, Monday to Friday
9:00am to 1:30+pm Saturday
www.noplastic.com.au
www.facebook.com/noplasticfood


Inspired much? I know I am. If you are too let your friends know about this store and feel free to share this interview. And don't forget to support your local businesses.
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Walking slow

4 November 2014
Walking slow

I had a tete-e-tete with my sister via text today. We were swapping thoughts about the Melbourne Cup, the lose of one horse and injury of another. I shared with her a quote from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

I thought I would share the passage here because it is fitting for the slow lane life I have started living more and more. Maybe it will resonate with you too.
“If I tried to ride that donkey it would stop and I'd never get there at all,” Po said. “Besides, I don't ride animals.”
“Why not?” Pea asked, amazed.
“It's not civilised,” the old man said. “We're animals too. How would you like it if somebody rode you?”
Such a question was too much for Pea. He didn't consider himself an animal, and in his whole life had never given one minute's thought to the possibility of being ridden.
“You mean you just walk everywhere?” Newt asked. The notion of a man who didn't ride horses was almost too strange to be believed. It was particularly strange that such a man was coming to cook for a crew of cowboys, some of whom hated to dismount even to eat.
Po Campo smiled. “It's good country to walk in,” he said.
“We got to hurry,” Pea said, a little alarmed to be having such a conversation.
“Get down and walk with me, young man,” Po Campo said. “We might see some interesting things if we keep our eyes open. You can help me gather breakfast.”
[…]
“I like to walk slow,” Po Campo said. “If I walk too fast I might miss something.”
“There ain't much to miss around here,” Newt said. “Just grass.”
“But grass is interesting,” the old man said. “It's like my serape, only it's the earth it covers. It covers everything and one day it will cover me.”
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