I stopped reckoning our food consumption for the Riot a long time ago: the Riot way of calculating our food consumption and production was never clear to me. And so, though the growing and storing and preparing of food are almost constantly on my mind, I haven’t kept track, which made me feel at a loss. The challenge over at Not Dabblng in Normal is a great occasion to take stock.
For me the issues are
- processing (preservatives, food coloring, pesticides, and simply the amount of steps from field to fork)
- packaging (especially plastics and styrofoam)
- food miles
(+) I’ll first discuss those points we’re already making progress on and are improving as we go. (+/-) Then there are the points that we still need to get started on, that need work but that can be done. (-) Then the ones we can’t do much about in either the near future, or ever.
Lastly, why are we doing this? Three words: health, resilience, thrift.
- + EGGS: We’re eating a lot of eggs (4-5 eggs, each, a week), which we buy locally at our Winter’s Farmers Market or through my raw milk buying club. The cartons are being reused by the farmers, and I’m keeping some for when we have chickens ourselves. I still hope to have those chickens soon.
- + SWEETENER: Hopefully we’ll also be getting our bees soon (end of April). The idea is to start using more honey for sweetener than sugar. (We decided, BTW, to go ahead with the bees even if we can’t have honey: for the skill, the pollination, the wax – the potentially poisoned honey will be returned to the hive for winter feeding.)
- + VEGETABLES/BEANS: Compared to last year, our vegetable garden will be expanded, in time (we’ll have a Spring season this time), size (double, at least), and yield (thanks to my higher position on the steep learning curve).
- + HOME–PROCESSED FOOD: We’re still eating well from our canning pantry: jams, jellies, chutneys, pie filling, apple sauce, peaches in syrup, etc. I can’t wait to start adding more and more variety to that in a few months.
- +/- FOOD STORAGE: Tomorrow marks the removal of the asbestos tiles in our basement, which prevented us from installing a root cellar or “cold room”. Then we’ll start drawing up plans and we hope to have a cold room by the end of Summer, when the big harvest comes in.
- +/- FRUIT: We will be planting berry bushes, kiwi vines and paw paws this Spring, but it will be a while before we will be able to harvest a good amount. No room for apples or pears, our staple fruits, but we buy them locally and organic when in season and eat them processed at other times.
- +/- FISH: We don’t eat a lot of fish” two or three times a month. To be honest, looking at the selection at the grocery store (Whole Foods), I don’t know what to buy anymore: farmed, wild caught? We’re planning to have a small pond in which we might grow tilapia or some such (haven’t researched it much yet) which we will harvest and freeze for special treats.
- +/- MEAT: We also eat very little meat: once a week, if at all. When we do, we buy it at Whole Foods: no antibiotics, etc, and usually quite locally sourced, but still, to be minimized. The allowances from the meat CSAs are too big for us: we’d have to stuff ourselves with meat, by our standards. They’re also pricey. The thing to do here is to keep our meat consumption down and to enjoy only as a special treat the occasional chicken from the backyard.
- +/- DRINKS: We don’t drink soda at all and rely mostly on water from the tap, which we filter. We do love a good cup of coffee and tea, or two – especially in winter, when it’s 58F in the house. I am going to experiment with tea plants and maybe, with a good homegrown tea, I could kick the coffee habit. As for juices, what little comes into the house is for Amie, and I hope to make our own come berry time.
- +/- BAKING: This is a weakness of mine. I know I can bake a bread and that it doesn’t take a lot of time or hassle. I know that with just a little more effort and dedication I can make perfectly good bread (and cookies, cakes, crackers). But baking just isn’t in my blood. I hope we get to make that Earth Oven: it’ll be a kick in the butt. Imagine how much processed, bagged foods I could ignore at the store if I did this! (As for food miles, see GRAINS).
- +/- DAIRY PRODUCTS: There is also, really, no reason why I shouldn’t be making my own yogurt, butter and cheese! As for the raw materials for those:
- – MILK: The raw milk is as unprocessed as it gets, and it comes in glass ball jars, so the packaging isn’t a problem. But its has a lot of food miles on it: it comes from 100 miles away. And at its price, $4.50 for half a gallon, we can afford only 1 gallon a week, but we consume about 3 gallons. The rest I buy from Organic Valley at Whole Foods. Nothing much I can do about this, as yet. There are cow shares around that I know of and that would be affordable. But the plastic bottles I will reuse either as hotcaps for early transplants, or for emergency water storage if I ever get round to that.
- – GRAINS/RICE: I have no room in my garden to grow my own grains, let alone rice. Most grains on the market come from over a 100 – probably a 1000 – miles away. The only thing way I can do, for now, is to buy them dry and in bulk. I’d love to get a grain mill and buy whole grains, then grind them, but that would be for later and would not solve the issue at hand. I’ll look into ways to eventually replace conventional grains with other sources of carbs and starches.