Saturday, August 04, 2007

80% reduction - Food strategy

Red Squirrel, Searching, Lancashire, UK by Elliott Neep
Red Squirrel, Searching, Lancashire, UK
During the nut season, squirrels can be seen scrurrying around finding and burying their nuts as a food supply for winter.Most of the food we eat today, is provided via one supermarket and travels miles to get to us and back again. My aim last year was to learn the skills of home canning and preserving and become like a squirrel. I made mistakes mainly on what to preserve and erred on the cautious side as to quantities. Recipe books are full of wonderful chutneys and jams and may not need as much as that to compile a larder of plenty.

The pocket book of homecanning was produced during wartime in 1943 and it makes fascinating reading about why and how to can. There is devision today as to the need and the safety of home canning but if you do home canning carefully observing hygiene and canning times, as well as eating it within the shelf-lifespan, it is a delightful way to store local food. I will get back to that subject over the next couple of days.

First, as part of the 80% reduction promise I want to look at what the task is that lies ahead to achieve that and then break it down into segments to look at individually.

under the 80% reduction on food, I have committed to the following :

1. growing and preserving local food. ( local = within 100 miles), grassfed and organic.This should be 70% of the diet.
2. Dry bulk goods transported from longer distances. That is, *whole, unprocessed* beans, grains, and small light things like tea, coffee, spices (fair trade and sustainably grown *ONLY*), or locally produced animal products partly raised on unprocessed but non-local grains, and locally produced wet products like oils. This is hard to calculate, because we spend very little on these things (except coffee) and whole grains don’t constitute a large portion of the diet. These are comparatively low carbon to transport and produce. Purchased in bulk, with minimal packaging (beans in 50lb paper sacks, pasta in bulk, tea loose, by the pound, rather than in little bags), this would also include things like recycled toilet paper, purchased garden seeds and other light, dry items. This should be no more than 25% of your total purchases.
3. Wet goods - conventionally grown meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk etc… transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also regular shampoo, dish soap, etc… And that no one should buy more than 5% of their food in this form. Right now, the above makes up more than 50% of everyone’s diet.

Thus, if you purchase 20 food items in a week, you’d use 14 home or locally produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of season thing.

The above list looks daunting but here are some ways to work towards achieving the aim:
1. Go shopping as you would normally
2. look at what you have bought in terms of size, value and packaging.
3. Divide into food groups as above and look at the percentages.
4. Create a menu over a period of one year to see what you actually eat ( I have written about this before). When you have an idea of what you actually eat you can plan the ingredients you need and how to purchase them in bulk. I gave an example of a loaf of bread per day which will require 500g of flour, therefore, you would need about 160kg per year devided into 25kg bags, you would need to purchase about 7 x 25kg bags per year. You could bulk buy these every 3 months?
5. In order to store food you have to make room. You will need to declutter some space in your house to do so and rotate the foods that you buy.
6. The menu should provide you with favourite meals that can be cooked in bulk and preserved. For instance, we eat a lot of pasta bolognaise, well at least every month once, as well as chili con carne, another favourite. I know that I could cook 12 quart jars full of each and have one convenience meal sorted for the rest of the year. I can do this whilst buying local meat in bulk, reducing not only mileage but packaging. I have made an investment in jars and bottling equipment but that is a one off. Even if the electricity fails, in principle the larder should be full of food that is easily prepared with minimum effort in for example a solar oven in future.
7. Grow a garden. Our plan has been this year to grow one salad and one green vegetable per day. Glut can be preserved to make up for the ones that do not grow and as a last can go to the farmers market and buy what failed. Carrots and potatoes are stored in the ground until I need them, not in the supermarket, cleaned and packaged.
8. It is not feasible to bulkbuy from the wholesaler until you have a picture of exactly the quantities your family requires over a year. When you have that information, you can then plan the shopping list every 3 or 4 months for your bulk supplies ( toiletpaper, flour, rice, tea, cleaning materials etc). The order amount from the wholesaler may seem high but you are cutting out the supermarket profits and it will be delivered to your door.
9. Take one step at a time.
10. Relax and learn new skills.


Abelisto said...

Thanks for your blog. Our family is trying to shift to living more simply and sustainably and it's good to have your helpful input.

Downshiftingpath said...

Thanks for visiting, I envy your interest in beekeeping.I remember studying bees at school as part of biology and being amazed at their way of life and organisation. One day....its on my list.