Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Another month?

Just saw this posted on another friend's page and maybe this is the next challenge.  I found the list a bit surprising and would like to verify many of the listing but it is something to think about. 

The consolidation of food production and distribution in North America is frightening and in many ways my one month challenge (to go without The Grocery Store) is about just this - choice, diversity, sourcing and faith.

We have trusted those who grow, process and sell our food to have food, its nutritional value and quality, as their highest priority. We know that is not the case. So what do we do about it? 

Boycotts, like mine, can be effective but for every one of me who lives somewhere with little choice, there are a 100 others in the same position.

Lobbying can work and it might be the next step for me.  I can imagine sitting down and talking to the store manager about this and seeing what he might be able to do within his corporate structure to change things.  Maybe a farmers' market in the parking lot midweek? 

Stranger things have happened.

PS I will catch up on posting in the next few's been a busy time...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 9

Well, it has been 9 days since I started this and with the exception of the trip for the cooking class, I have managed not to shop at The Grocery Store for our family.  I have used The Other Store but this wasn't about completely abandoning conventional sources for food and other items. 

The whole purpose of this adventure was to re-establish my commitment to local food, which has happened.  I have also discovered new products and sources that I might not have pursued.

Despite some of the inconvenience and some of the added cost, I actually think we will spend less money on groceries this month.  There is a lot of temptation in a grocery store, especially to buy things you don't need (and if you didn't know it, the stores are designed with just that in mind!).  Though I am diligent about a list and pre-planning menus, somehow there are always those few little things that sneak into the cart and add up. 

There is also the mid-week craving or change of plans that sends us out in the car to get something.  Now that we are acting like the store doesn't exist, we aren't doing that.

Last nights dinner was a testament to just using what's in the house as we had what, on most nights, I might call leftovers or as my friend calls it "Encore!".

This was more like "dregs".  Still a good dinner - pasta with roasted veggies and sausage, salad and garlic bread but it was really about cleaning out the fridge.

Tonight's dinner is looking far more promising - cilantro-chili marinated flank steak with roasted sweet potatoes and a salad with avocado, corn and radishes.  And then family movie night - Angus has already picked Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Can't wait!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

Just when I thought I might have to rename the blog 7 Days Without Galen, I struck gold.

Gail, who owns the healthfood store Abundant Health (519-524-5801), is willing to order in milk for me with her Ontario Natural Food Co-op order. 


We use a lot of milk around here and sourcing organic milk without going to The Grocery Store was going to be my biggest challenge of this whole month.

This week is shaping up to be an interesting one as far as food goes.  I am getting some free-range chickens for my freezer later this week, just to top things up and we are planning to go to the Slow Food Market in Stratford, Ontario on the weekend.  Larder should be well and deliciously stocked by Family Day.

I completely missed that last Sunday, the 12th, was Food Freedom Day.  The link takes you to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture site where they urge Canadians to "make choices at the grocery store that will support the Canadian agriculture and agri-food industry."  I am shocked that they don't say "make choices to support Canadian agriculture..."

Not all food comes from grocery we are finding out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My mother - the enabler

Sunday was my birthday and as I sat around on Saturday evening after our wonderful and delicious Indian cooking class at Samuel's, we were planning the menu for my birthday dinner.  Again, the issue of where to get the ingredients came up.  I needed garlic for the lamb recipe.

"Well, if you can't go to Zehrs, we can always go for you," says my mom, who is beyond a doubt the most generous soul in the whole world.

"Mom, that kind of defeats the purpose."

But, it made me think.

The Grocery Store sells local organic garlic from August's Harvest.

The Other Store sells garlic from China and Argentina.

What to do?

I let her do the shopping.  The lanb was delicious.  The garlic was moral. 

And me?

Getting busy on finding another option.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Attention Staff, Hypocrite in Aisle Five

Today presented me with a challenge.

I am teaching an Indian cooking class on Saturday (okay today - it's late!) and today was the day to get the majority of the ingredients.

I had not planned on doing the shopping but things changed.  I am sure you can guess where this is going. 

After three days of blogging about my renewed efforts to support a local food system, there I was, at The Grocery Store (and you know which one I mean). 

The thing is, I did have options.

I could have shopped at The Other Store but I wouldn't have found all of what I needed. 

I could have driven to Stratford to the independent co-op or The Gentle Rain, though I had picked up stuff at the latter store earlier in the week. 

I could have sourced at least a few of the ingredients from local suppliers (ie lamb and chicken) if I had been better organized.

Today highlights the challenge I have set up for myself.

Shopping locally involves way more planning and time.  It isn't convenient.  It is however so many other things - community-building, social, environmentally friendlier -  that the inconvenience isn't a big deal - normally. Today time was of the essence and not just because I was busy but,

Because I was working.  So, I had to ask myself, is my employer willing to pay me the extra time and mileage to do the sourcing in such a way that my values and morals are upheld?  I don't know.  It would mean the cooking classes would be more expensive.  Would people be willing to pay more to offset that cost?  Maybe.  It's a question to ask them.

I am not the first person persuing local food to recognize the added time and sometimes added costs however my experience today does show me just how encompassing food procurement becomes when you are making your choices about more than convenience.

Today was about finding balance.  I am not sure I am going to be able to fulfill my pledge if only because there is no other place selling organic dairy products.  Can I reconcile myself to buying only the things I can't get anywhere else because driving an hour is not a good choice either?  Is that balance?

On a bright note, despite the hypocrisy, I did manage to make paneer from scratch and get one step closer to acting on this idea of a coomunity food cooperative.

Necessity may just be the mother of action.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Farm Living

Thanks to a friend for posting this on's good for a laugh!

And a reality check - with so much of our prime farmland in Ontario being used for things other than growing food, we should remember the purpose of agricultural land and support those who are trying to make a living from this fine soil.

In other not-so-funny news, I am in a bit of a pickle today about my pledge but more on that later. 

I have to go get my disguise ready....

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Old Habits Die Hard

Me: "What do you want for dinner?"
Hubby: "Burgers."  pause  "And get some of those Thintini buns."
Me: "Nope"
Hubby:  "Oh, right...I forgot.  Well, go to Shanahan's."


But, it was a crazy day and the burgers didn't happen.  Popcorn is an excellent dinner however.

I also couldn't get in touch with the health food store owner to ask about the milk.  I will try again tomorrow.

So far so good.  Even found some Canadian-made, organic products at a store that I wouldn't have been looking for if I wasn't trying to shift these dollars. 

Recently I had been purchasing ACE Bread at 50% off late at night and loading up the freezer but tomorrow I am off to Red Cat Bakery for bread and a few other goodies.

Should be delicious!

Change Due

It was a perfect convergence of messages from the universe that led me to this adventure, this CHANGE DUE.

The messages started when I read the comments by Galen Weston which reminded me just what farmers and producers are up against in their effort to grow good food and sell it in their communities.
Then, I was offered a new job working in community development (I accepted and can't wait to start!).  My whole life has had community development at the heart of all I have done and it is exciting to be part of an organization working towards the values and goals I hold.

Then my friend and I attended an event hosted by Revel Caffe in Stratford that was about raw milk.  Volunteers with Slow Food Perth County hope to kick off a regular discussion group on food-related topics and the evening was a wonderful, meandering conversation about food, economics, community, health, farming and what we can all do.  One of those nights when you feel excited to know you aren't the only crazy one out there!

Are you seeing the trend?

Food is about community. It connects us in ways not many other things can.  I also believe that food can build a community, broaden a community and bond a community.

Friends and I have been talking over the last year about a buying club or co-op of some kind, particularly for access to local foods, the purchase of which will support our neighbours in this rural area we call home.  There are lots of examples including this cool model in England, The People's Supermarket.   For a variety of reasons, I think now is the time to pursue this.

The first reason is the momentum behind food issues right now.  People are interested and are thinking, talking, tasting.  And they are searching for community among the stalls at the markets, hoping to connect over the carrots.  I can't wait for our seasonal market to reopen in May!

The second reason that now is the time is that we, the residents, don't have many options.

Goderich is in a state of recovery following the tornado that devastated the town on August 21, 2011 and the health food store that sold items like organic milk has still not reopened.  Because of this, I go to the grocery store. If I am choosing to "break-up" with Zehrs (a division of Loblaws) for a little while, I am left with no other source for organic milk.  I have two choices, the popular in-store private label or the organic cooperative.  I always choose the cooperative even though the check-out lady always asks me if I know this is the expensive milk - it's endearing and thoughtful of her to ask.

So, my first challenge is the milk.  The health food store is still taking orders for products they use to sell.  Job number one today is to find out if they are still getting the milk order.

What else will we miss?

We don't eat a lot of processed foods and there is another grocery store in town, albeit smaller and with less variety and specialty products, so we can still get a few of the items we like there.

I will miss the olive bar (so will my kids).  My husband will miss the naan.  We can't grow olives but I can certainly make naan.

We will likely miss the convenience although last summer, in an effort to drive less, we were trying to shift our spending downtown so it's not a completely new challenge for us.  And I have always been willing to go to where the good food is - have cooler, will travel is my motto (when we celebrate our wedding anniversary at The Inn at Walter's Falls I am picking up two sampler meat packs from Dragonfly Farm - we will be in the neighbourhood!).

And I will miss Jason who always has a funny story and a smile.  I will miss the kid who bags my groceries and says "I always see you in here."  I will miss Cindy who always offers my kids the bologna and tolerates me saying "No thanks - I am THAT mom!". 

But, this is a small town - we'll see each other around.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Message Was There All Along

Thank You Galen!

Today's comments at the Canadian Food Summit by Loblaw's Executive Chairman Galen Weston Jr., were just what I needed to hear. 

I have for over 12 years worked and lived towards a food system that embraces what Slow Food likes to call "good, clean, fair" - delicious food produced in an ecologically sustainable way that provides a fair income for farmers and farm workers.

But, like most people, the chaos of everyday life, the challenges of time and various budget limitations have sometimes impeded my own ability to shop and eat the way I would like to, the way I feel I should. 

However, when I read Galen's comments it was a huge kick in the pants.

It was a reminder that, despite the advertising, despite the store makeovers, despite the Christmas sweater, Galen Weston and Loblaws are not interested in supporting farmers - no matter how many black and white photos they put on the pork, beef and chicken. 

So thank you Galen for making me think.  And you know what I think? 

I think it's time we had a little space, maybe see some other people, find out if we can really be happy together. 

Honestly, it's me, not you. 

I just need some time....we'll start with 30 days.