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Our Quest for Eco Food

Recently, we’ve decided that we want to try and support local farmers. If food is produced locally, with the least amount of packaging possible, there is minimal environmental impact. If food is shipped half way around the world, growers given unfair wages for their labour, and the goods are wrapped in a ridiculous amount of plastic, there are negative outcomes for people and our world in which we live.

Whether it be through the greengrocers aisle at the supermarket, veg boxes, bulk buying on-line or farmers markets, we as a family would love to get the best deal for us, the producers and for our planet. We will keep you updated with our various avenues of research, but here are our thoughts so far..

Savvy supermarkets?

We have been investigating supermarkets and how we can get fresh, local produce with the minimal amount of packaging. We’re not finished the investigation, but we’re getting a good idea of what does and doesn’t work.

LIDL

Our local supermarket is Lidl. We have a great deal of good things to say about them! We shop here a lot. The staff are friendly, helpful, efficient and the food is cheap. There is enough loose fruit and veg to provide us with several different meals. We can use our Onya bags to take the food home and there are always positive comments made about them. See my blog post about Onya for further info. Lidl are also really good at sourcing Scottish produce wherever possible, something we try to maximise on by buying anything Scottish they have in store. Less road miles usually goes hand in hand with being better for the environment.

I have two drawbacks when I shop at Lidl. Firstly, they don’t have a massive range of produce to choose from. Secondly, they still wrap a lot of their produce firmly in plastic, and if you know me, this is a problem.

I dislike plastic wrap because it fills our bin, clutters the house and sits around in landfill for hundreds of years. Plastic breaks down into plastic, it is not a natural decomposable product. This is not exclusive to Lidl, of course. Every supermarket loves its plastic wrap 🙁

CO-OP

Oh dear. We went into our local co-op in Stirling not so long ago in a research mission to find what we could buy without purchasing plastic at the same time. We came out with a sad face. I’m afraid that nearly all the co-op’s products were plastic wrapped, no green points here! However, the co-op do try to support fairly traded, ethical products and farming methods. I don’t know if the problem here is that they are not big enough to warrant fresh produce, so therefore everything needs to be preserved within an inch of it’s life. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

TESCO

Hurrah for online shopping! A real life saver! HOWEVER…everything comes in plastic..and there’s nothing you can do about that. At least you have an option these days for no extra bags unless you’re willing to pay for them. This has saved a LOT of bags that otherwise would’ve been used once and thrown away. But more of that in another post!

A much bigger selection of loose fruit and veg in Tesco. Like Lidl, lots of Scottish/British produce, so a big well done! I’ve bought some really tasty British fruit at Tesco in the last few weeks (Winter!). What I was most impressed with in their fruit and veg aisle was their loose mushrooms. I would love to grow my own one day. I was recently passed the details of a small enterprise called GroCycle who send packs in the post that you can grow mushrooms from. When I try this out, I’ll be sure to let you know!

Unfortunately Tesco have been in the news a lot recently and not always in a positive light, so I’m not sure I want to fully support them with my entire week’s shop. More expensive than elsewhere too.

ASDA

Asda have recently announced they are rolling out ‘Wonky Veg’ veg boxes in stores – hurrah! This is brilliant because it saves veg which doesn’t meet the ridiculously high mark the supermarkets set of being ‘sellable’ from being ploughed back into fields or chucked into landfill. They are now selling some ‘wonky veg’ cheaper than non-wonky in cardboard boxes! Genius. They cost £3.50 and are stated to feed a family for four for a week, 30% cheaper than non-wonky veg. This ticks so many of my eco-boxes, it makes me sigh with relief that finally one of the big chains are taking going green seriously…or at least, beginning too.

Unfortunately..we went to check this out and our local Asda is not doing this yet…and neither are a whole ton of Asdas in Scotland. Hopefully this will come soon!

Morrisons

Morrisons have also started trialling wonky veg, but in bags, and only one or two items. I hope but don’t have great faith in them taking the bold step that Asda have. The bags are plastic too, so for me this is no different other than saving the veg from being wasted (which is still a positive thing). Apparently, this was in response to a campaign by one of my all-time heros, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Hugh is on a one-man mission to reduce or eradicate food waste in Britain, and thereby save resources and feed more people.

Morrison's Wonky Veg

I stopped to speak to the shop assistants about the idea of Wonky veg and none of them (apart from the one stacking the shelf) knew anything about it, sadly! As you may imagine I highly recommended it to them and asked to let the manager know how great it was (and please start a wonky veg box!).

I was feeling full of confidence the day I went in so I even went to speak to the cheese counter assistants about purchasing cheese without plastic – I was greeted with a confused but interested face! I was purely wondering whether or not I would be allowed to buy a chunk of cheese without cellophane. Turns out, the lady was happy to do so if I was happy to do so…cheese duly purchased in one of my fab Onya bags! (See post about Onya).

Farmers Markets – do they work for families?

I would love to be the kind of person who has time to go to farmer’s markets!

In my experience, they don’t work as a means to an end unless you happen to stumble across them at the right time of day (early morning), have money in your pocket (they don’t always take cards), a shopping list to hand (otherwise you buy so many unnecessary even if yummy things) and a way to carry stuff home or to the car without too much stress. With a baby and a toddler, this doesn’t often happen. Everything in our world has to be organised and pre-planned.

Our local farmer’s market only happens once a month, which would never work to feed a family of 4! Please tell me if you have found a way to make them fit into your lives with small people in tow! We don’t live near enough the centre of town to pop in – it’s always a family outing or at least involves a long walk or taking the car and parking.

Farm Outlets

Recently, we visited Blairmains Farmshop and Coffee Bothy, a wee converted farm shed near Stirling. They strive to sell local produce in as minimally wrapped state as possible. Their shop is something to behold – a treasure trove of goodies! From pint size chutneys and preserves to carrots needing a wash, this is the place to go…if you’ve money to burn. Unfortunately, we found it rather expensive. I didn’t realise this until we came to the till and bought some loose mushrooms. I compared the price with Tesco, a similar quantity and type, and Tesco was a lot cheaper.

The coffee shop is superb! Can highly recommend it for food as well as a cuppa. It also has a bit of a furniture/ painting shop, we really loved browsing the top-quality wooden things for sale. One day we’ll have a house big enough and a wallet heavy enough to purchase some truly lovely things…(dreams, sighs…)

It’s well worth a visit.

Bulk Buying

Naturally Good Food are a company about as environmentally friendly as they come. I’ve yet to try this out, but it’s next on my to do list! I have a cupboard to clear out then I will have space for a lovely big bag of oats, flour, pasta, rice, cous cous, chickpeas and maybe dried fruit since my two eat this by the bucket load! This is a great way of reducing packaging waste and saving money as it’s always cheaper to buy in bulk if you can. And of course, as the name suggests, the food is naturally produced using organic methods and therefore is good for the environment, allowing beetles, bugs and butterflies to flourish and therefore all other elements of the food chain also.

Straight From the Farmer Veg Boxes

The most recent thing that we as a family have tried for going green with our food is buying from a farm that does veg nets instead of veg boxes. Bellfield Organics is a family run small business that delivers in central Scotland. They produce everything they can on the farm and dig it up the day before delivery, so it’s as fresh as it comes!

The veg nets are returned to be reused or recycled and their delivery vans run on bio diesel, made by picking up used oil from local restaurants and hotels! Tickety tick! I’m impressed with the company so far, the veg was good quality and tasty. For £11.70 for the veg plus £4 for the fruit we received this much:

Veg Box

Bellfield Organic Veg Box

In our next order from Bellfield we will probably not buy fruit, I think it is on the expensive side. I want to support the company so I will try find time to do some sums and work out the real cost difference from buying in a supermarket. They say themselves you can buy cheaper, but they have great green credentials so I feel it is worth any extra cost if you can afford it, to support our planet.

Of course, the very best thing is to grow your own!

Watch this space for our gardening gossip! I’m getting my wee helpers into good training already…finding worms and making mud pies 🙂 I’m no expert and we haven’t got a massive garden but we enjoy trying!

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