Competing Priorities

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Today I want to address the problem I have with all of the different issues competing for priority.   Do you buy locally produced or imported organic?  Fairtrade or the cheapest available?  What about produce that is cheaper per kilo if it is already bagged in plastic?

Clearly, this the best.  Grown without pesticides within 100 metres of my kitchen and no packaging.

005Unfortunately, we cannot produce everything ourselves, hence my opening question.

Some bloggers are very clear in their strategy and I admire them for their single-mindedness.  However, I do not not want to be quite as fanatical on any one particular issue but rather to approach the things we do buy with a more holistic view.

Here are some that I read:

Zero Waste Home – as the title suggests
My Plastic Free Life – as per the title
Frugal Queen – frugality first

I have tried to minimise the plastics that we use, particularly single-use items, for many years.

This is one of our stainless steel drink bottles.  I am not saying that we always take our own drinks or that I never buy drinks in plastic bottles.  However, we have got rid of the 15 or so plastic drink bottles that we had acquired over the years and I studiously avoid collecting any more from corporate events and the like.

004These are some glass storage jars in my pantry, albeit with plastic lids.  They are old coffee jars which came from my mother.  I do use plastic screw top containers as well in my pantry.  While it would be nice to have everything stored in glass, I would prefer to re-use something I already have than go out and buy more things.  I do not see a significant health risk in storing dry goods in plastic food-grade containers.

006I do try to use glass containers rather than plastic for heating and cooking in the microwave.

007Despite my best efforts not to acquire any plastic bags over the past 10 years we still have some.  They are used for various purposes, washed and re-used over and over again.  Here are some hanging out to dry.

2012-04-21 05I buy a lot of our dry goods from bulk bins and store some of them in large plastic buckets.  Here is my new storage cupboard showing the buckets as well as the boxes of plastic bottles that The Duke uses when bottling his home-brew.  There will be doors on the cupboard once they are finished being painted.

First and foremost my strategy is to buy only what we really need.  If you remove excess consumption from your lifestyle then you eliminate a lot of waste immediately.

I buy as much as possible from bulk bins and am constantly looking to source less wasteful options for everything I purchase.  However, I know that quite a lot of this is imported.  The upside is that dried beans for example, weigh less than the equivalent in canned beans, therefore the transport costs (petroleum products) are reduced.

I source meat and fresh produce as locally as possible to reduce ‘food miles’ but do not set arbitrary limits, such as the 100 Mile Diet.  This concept began as a blog in 2005 by 2 Canadians.  I cannot find the original blog but this link explains it.  The idea is excellent and it reminds as all to consider the source of our food.

I take my own containers to the butcher to eliminate plastic bags from that source.

I have reusable mesh bags for buying fruit and vegetables and pay mostly pay the extra for loose produce.

Why organic?  Read here to see which fresh foods are likely to retain the most pesticides.  Consider growing your own if possible or buying organic of at least some of ‘the dirty dozen’.  I do not necessarily follow all of my own advice on this one but intend to re-double my efforts.

Fairtrade?  Coffee – always.  Chocolate – rarely bought so I have not been so diligent.

What about you?  Are any or all of these issues important to you?  How do you decide what is a priority for you?

Grateful For My Garden

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In the midst of all the turmoil going on around us some things remain constant, and for that I am thankful.  We seem to be surrounded by uncertainty whichever way we turn.

It may be natural disasters of flood, drought, earthquakes and cyclones, the unrest we see in the traditional troublespots of the Middle East or less expected but no less traumatic violence seen in the running battles in London and other major cities in Britain.

Today, I was doing my paid work from home but I managed to sneak in an hour in the garden.  I picked the beetroot and in its place I planted out 12 of the strongest bok choy seedlings which I have grown from seed.  I usually buy punnets of seedlings as I simply do not have the time to dedicate to raising seedlings at the moment but this was an exception and they have been a great success so far.

I also picked other things from the garden and here it is spread all over the kitchen bench waiting for me to weave my magic and turn them into nourishing meals.

2011-08-10 01The pumpkin didn’t make it into the photo – it is already in the slow-cooker, being turned into pumpkin soup.

2011-08-10 02The garden does not get a great deal of attention but we still manage to grow quite a bit of our own food.  I know that it has not been sprayed with chemicals, travelled halfway around the world, been kept in cold-storage or picked when nowhere near ripe.  All of these things add up to real, full-flavoured produce which often bears little resemblance to their counterparts from the shops which are lacking in flavour.  Apart from the obvious cost savings these are the things that making growing our own food worthwhile.  We also have the knowledge that if ever things get really tough we could spend our days growing and preparing our own food to eat.

Although we have a small acreage, area we have for food production could easily fit into a good-sized suburban backyard.  The only exception is the avocado tree which is enormous.  Even if you do not have a backyard or are renting your home, there are many ways that you can grow some vegetables.

EskyThis is an old esky that the drain hole plug had broken as well as one of the lid attachments.  I removed the lid and drilled some large holes in the base.  I plan to grow some more of the bok choy in this, but more importantly, it will be useful for growing lettuce during the summer.  I will be able to move it out of the hottest part of the garden and into some semi-shade when required and also put it under the house to avoid the lettuce becoming water-logged during our heavy summer rains.

Do you grow any fruit or vegetables?  Do you use any containers?