Friday, September 18, 2009

Our Shop Local Challenge

In Spring, Sam and I decided to take on a challenge for the summer:  From June 1st - October 31st (coinciding with Farmer's Market season), we would not shop at large grocery stores.  Specifically, we cut out Safeway, Sobeys, and Superstore, and have been only shopping at smaller, local stores (before the challenge started we were usually shopping local, but not always).

Three and a half months in to the five month challenge, and we're finally developing a long list of meal ideas, and eating good tasting food.  We've been shopping at Blue Earth Organics, Eat It, Vital Health, and the St. Norbert Farmer's Market.  We moved at the beginning of August, and Blue Earth and Eat It were closer to our old place, and Vita Health is closer to our new place.  Shopping at Blue Earth is still worth the drive most of the time - I know their selection and often come away with a recipe as well:)

The second part of the challenge was that our food bill was crazy high and we wanted to cut it down.  I know, it doesn't make sense - cutting back on spending but shopping at more expensive stores.  For example, organic milk is about twice as expensive as regular milk.  It's worth it.  To make up for the extra costs, we cut way back on meat and planted a garden.  I'm learning to be creative with bean & vegetable recipes, and luckily my family is pretty forgiving - they eat almost anything.

Our garden has been fantastic.  We got a great crop of potatoes, parsley, chives, peas, tomatoes and hot peppers.  We also got one cauliflower, one eggplant, some lettuce, and a couple of carrots.  Our prime crop was zucchini, which we've been eating for over two months now.  Almost daily.  I'm close to sick of zucchini and starting to grate and freeze it.  I'll also note that since we'd never gardened before, we didn't know anything about organic gardening, or fertilizers & chemicals, etc.  So we didn't use anything at all on our plants except water, and we were really happy with the way it turned out.

It's also been neat to cook with local ingredients.  When spinach was growing, we ate lots of spinach, now that peppers are here, we're eating lots of peppers.  It's a really strange concept to be unable to plan meals - local stores are not like Superstore - they do not carry every product all the time.  They carry in-season produce.  I've never liked canned or store-bought frozen vegetables, so I plan meals after buying a load of groceries.  So far I haven't thrown anything away, and if there is no recipe to include the foods that I buy, we just eat them as they are or I throw everything in a pot.

This is a personal post, but the idea for With a Flourish started about a year after our decision to pursue a more earth-friendly lifestyle.  The business and my life are intertwined in many ways, and both are growing together.

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