Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finding Our Way to Ethical Eating - The Resolve






I've spent the last couple of months thinking about eating ethically on a budget. It was my intention to trial three different approaches to feeding our family on $150 a week. They were shopping solely at the local supermarket for what was readily available and cheap, eating exclusively organic and lastly, eating as much local produce as possible.

I have documented my findings here (as well as a time poor, focus lacking, english drop out stay at home mum can)* and briefly explored the issues surrounding the way we eat in our western context.


I've decided that for us, eating local produce needs to be first priority. Our garden provides us with some of the veg we require but not nearly enough to call ourselves 'self sufficient'. While we plan to increase production with each season (we've recently expanded our two garden beds to 6 and have a range of fruit trees down the back), it will be a long process and we will still have to 'shop' for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of our earthly lives.

So, where we can not produce ourselves, we will attempt to buy food that is both local and organic (especially when it comes to those highly sprayed items like wheat or broccoli).

In addition we'll commit to eat seasonally as much as possible. This means no fresh tomatoes over the winter months. But it also means we will relish the changing seasons all the more. In winter we will feast on Kale, broccoli, fennel and peas. When the weather warms we will pull the garlic from the ground, turn excess tomatoes into passata and devour pumpkins, beans and egg plant at will.


For now, I have a box of organic fruit and veg delivered once a fortnight and buy local bio-dynamic meat and grains in bulk. I buy organic milk for the kids while Dave and I still use the milk from our Aussie Farmers deliveries. I make sure or flour is organic too.

Before you label me a self-righteous wanker, let me confess that while it's my desire to be principled and ethical at all times when choosing and preparing food for my family, it also has to be practical.

I have enough stress and guilt in my life without adding any extra's. So, I'll do my best but often, it won't be perfect. Sometimes I'll buy passata made in Italy from Italian tomatoes, sometimes I'll buy home brand flour for 99c and i'll always stick to the best bleached white, 3 ply toilet paper on offer (much to Dave's disgust**).


At this stage of our life, food needs to be easy. That's the fact.


* rather poorly

** remind me to tell you about sending Dave to the supermarket for 'necessities' after the lady baby was born. All shall be revealed.


Tell me, is eating ethically (local, organic, bio-dynamic) really a viable option for your family? 


finding our way to ethical eating
eating organic on $150 a week
adventures in vegetarianism
conscious consuming
a new year a new dream



We can eat foods from all over the world anytime we want - but when we do, someone has to pay a price sooner or later. The transportation costs in terms of pollution and energy are enormous. Worse still, we no longer have the excitement created by having to wait for foods to be in season. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, and this applied just as much to strawberries as it does to sweethearts.
 - John Seymour, The self-sufficient life and how to live it, p. 392






33 comments:

  1. We are giving eating ethically, local and organic a red hot go in our house. Like you there are times we fall short of ticking all the boxes, all our fresh produce is organic and local but I do have some tinned foods that are imported. Out of interest, do you buy wheat or spelt flour? We cut back on wheat flour and products a year ago and are feeling much better for it. I think seasonal eating is really important because it teaches all of us, adults and children, to delay gratification in this 'want it now, have it now' world that we live in learning to wait and then fully appreciating what we have waited for is a good thing in my book. x

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    1. Hey Nikki,

      Delayed gratification is SO wonderful and, for me, such a childlike feeling. I remember having to really WAIT for what we wanted. It was exciting and wonderful!

      We use wheat flour, is spelt better for you/environment?

      xo em

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    2. i recently baked a loaf of spelt bread - it rose so fast but i'm yet to be convinced that it's better than wheat .. it didn't last as well as our normal rye/wholemeal flour mix does. spelt flour is meant to be more digestable than wheat - more of a thing for people who have slight wheat intolerances. lots of people don't realise that they do so when they switch to spelt flour they feel better.

      why the different milks for your kids? is one not pasturised? one thing im pretty against (in nz) is milk that has been mass produced at our dairy farms that have really poor practises and dont look after their cows, so I refuse to buy milk that supports fonterra. luckily we have a local guy with 12 jersey cows who sells his milk fresh from his gate, or we get pasturised organic milk from a local farm a couple of hours away.

      lastly toilet paper! its like the easiest way to be a little eco friendly by using 100% recycled unbleached !!

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    3. do you really want to enter into our marital conflict over toilet paper, georgi?

      What out the scratchy factor? what about taht? ;)

      xo em

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  2. I've struggled with this so much. Seasonal, organic, but affordable? I also find it such a challenge trying to make just one meal for the whole family - something the kids will eat and will provide them with the right nutritional composition for growing bodies, but without growing our older, slightly too podgy, bodies. I don't know what the answer is.

    Love that you grow lots of your own food. Our summer has been so terrible this year that nothing really grew properly. It sucks.

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    1. I'm with you on the family meals Lottie- my kids typically have some kind of 'vegie face' (must blog about this) and then dave and I eat later.

      On the times that we all eat together I amend the main meal for the kids. effort effort effort.

      Nothing wrong with boiled eggs and soldiers though!!

      xo em

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  3. I've been waiting for this post...standing ovation from me. Clap clap girl.
    This too is such a struggle for me and I battle trying to keep the food budget under control. I feel like every time I go anywhere to get food it costs more than I remember. Kill the guilt, you rock and have no reason for it!

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    1. oh thanks. It's a difficult issue to tackle, especially when I want to be honest about what we actually eat and it's just not always possible to be perfect, you know?!

      thanks for your support!

      xo em

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    2. oh yes, I know alright...I love a good rant about eating whole raw foods then polish off a block of chocolate in one sitting...bad me!

      everything in moderation is my moto and i believe it to be true.

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  4. We've been focusing on all these issues a lot lately, and I've found a great book that looks at eating sustainably and nurturing growing little bodies while also satisfactorily feeding the adults at the same time...it's Jude Blereau's book, Wholefood for Children. It's a little bit militant and I have to take it with a grain of salt (so to speak) so that I dont add to the mama guilt, but it's got heaps of great ideas, easy and amazingly delicious recipes and masses of information. Worth a look for some good ideas on feeding us and our littlies in a way that's good for us and our environment.

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    1. Oh we've got Whole food for the Family. I love it but must confess that i don't have many of the staples in my pantry (whoops, thats naughty of me).

      No, we don;t need more mama guilt but great food, yes please (but hold the salt ;))

      xo em

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  5. We try to do our best in eat ethically, organically & what not, but mostly it is me pushing for it, & the lack of money we some times have (I know that shouldn't be an excuse) but sometimes $6 a kg of apples compared to $2 a kg always wins. & him telling me that all the foods are the same so it doesn't matter.

    Its is so amazing what you are doing.

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    1. It is a struggle to make that choice when the $$ are staring there right at you!! I agree!!

      xo em

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  6. thanks, I appreciated this post. I used to think that it was just about money but since reaching a point where we can afford to spend more on food I realize it's not. It can be exhausting analyzing every food choice. Sometimes I don't have the energy for it and sometimes I just want to enjoy life and be a little carefree. And sometimes I forgot to buy oats and can't wait for the next local food club day. Got to remind myself that just because I'm not able/willing to always eat the 'ideal' doesn't mean it's not worth striving closer to it at least most of the time.

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    1. e.x.a.c.t.l.y!! You have just exactly explained my thinking.

      xo em

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  7. Hi from Austria (:
    I just came across your blog a couple of weeks ago and am loving it a lot!
    Thank you for this great, inspiring post!
    Having lived in Australia for about a year, I think I can say that buying local, organic food is much easier in Europe (or at least, here in Austria. According to statistics we are the number one country Europe as regards to organic food availability). Almost every supermarket here has its own organic product line, so although I'm still studying at university and therefore only working part-time, it is possible for me to buy almost exclusively organic. Which I'm very grateful for. My family comes from a dairy farm and I know only too well on how small a budget farmers have to live because the industry keeps the price on milk so low. I am willing and find it important to pay for good value products to support our local farmers.
    Good luck with these great resolutions (I'm sooo jealous of your veggie patch! :-) )! You rock! :-)

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    1. Helloooooo ooo ooo (that was the eco of my voice travelling across the seas) over there!

      thanks so much for your kind words about my humble little space. Yes, Australia is SO large and food just comes from everywhere. But we have really lost the art of eating seasonally here. I like the way you do it better!

      xoxo em

      p.s YOU ROCK!

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  8. Em, I loved this series so much. I've been mulling over the idea of ordering a CSA box to be delivered to the house, and now I really think I might take the plunge. For us it also has to be practical, and unfortunately all of the good farmer's markets and natural supermarkets are around a 40 minute drive downtown in the city. You know it's not easy packing up the little ones and heading out sometimes!! Just wanted to cheer you on and say "YES!" for writing these original columns, I quite enjoy them! Hoping for a healthy and progressive 2013! xx

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    1. hey Kate,

      thanks so much. I really feel like we spend more on food since having the box delivered- we MUST eat what we have in order not to waste anything. Less meat more veg and less dollars. Happy little Beetle Shack's.

      xo em

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  9. yeah, i've been working on this too. ethical and budget-wise AND convenient- tricky. but learning lots and doing the best we possibly can. i bought my first organic unhomogenised milk through the week. it was bloody expensive but so, so delicious. i actually remembered the milk that the milko used to deliver in the glass bottles with the foil lids when i was a kid the minute i tasted it. dude. i'm oooold. loving that you are writing about this, i've been doing the same but just with fruit and veg at this stage. comparing AFD organic and regular boxes this week :)sarah

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    1. Sarah, YOU REMEMBER THE GLASS BOTTLES????? who are you?? agaagaghhh ;) just joking (but gee i'm funny)

      my kids poured 2L of organic, unhomogenised milk on the floor this arvo. Not only did I have to clean it up- but it also wasted 5.50. BOOO HISSSS children, poor effort.

      but well done you!

      xo em

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    2. Methusela. I actually have to work out how old I am if anyone asks. You know, with maths. Also i can never remember. My mum had 4 kids under 4 at one point, I think that's why we still had the milko deliver.

      and crying over spilled milk :( i kept the 'good' milk for myself.

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  10. This is something I think about often, but don't put in practice nearly enough. And we have a big move on the cards that is going to make it even harder for us due to the remoteness of our location. I have already started investigating our options, but it seems that the closest farmers market is 7 hours away, now dairy farms in sight for even longer.

    And I am with you on the toilet paper. That is one thing we tried but had to revert back too...

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    1. you know, sometimes you've just gotta do what actually works. If you can;t get your hands on it then you can't do it?!

      re the t.p issue. It's gotta be 3 ply.

      xo em

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  11. Hi Emily, first time commenter here, but long time reader... I notice you're from the same area as I am... if you want an absolute bargain fruit and veg stand direct from local farms (think 3 brocs for $2 and a bag of peeled local garlic for $2) there is one on George Downes drive at kulnura, about a km past jerrys cafe (you'll see it) my family and I take turns to do a bulk trip every few weeks and buy for 3 families, the nice Sunday drive is worth it and the food lasts forever because its so fresh. good luck on your food journey... I always look forward to your blog- my little boy is a the same age as your little girl xx

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  12. a beautiful resolve you have reached Emily. we approach things in a similar way to you (bar the toilet paper, we are with Dave on that one, there are some eco ones out there that aren't scratchy). what we find hard is not offending other people and their choices, just by making our own choices. We do make compromises occasionally and it is hard not feel guilt for that. We are making these choices for ourselves, our children, the planet and the future, it also feels better and for us tastes so much more delicious. thanks for taking us on your journey.

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  13. i have really been enjoying following your journey in making ethical, yet practical choices with your meals, it sounds like you're having great results with more to come! it's something i am struggling with too, like many others, and sharing your journey has been inspiring and informative, so thank you! Bernie x

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  14. My husband and I have been paying more attention to organic fresh foods more often lately. We've always eaten well but now we're extra conscious to avoid the nasty things often found in meats and vege. I can't say we eat ethically though as salmon is still on our menu from time-to-time... I think your efforts to feed the family for less than $150 are commendable! It is just the two of us and we spend way more than that a week... so silly how expensive the cost of living is these days. Sal x

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  15. Buying organic is a big thing in our house, both for me and my hubby - we prioritise it over many other things, and it's fair to say we spend a huge chunk of our income on it, even though we're a one income family (I'm on maternity leave at the moment). All our fruit, veg, bread, milk etc is organic, and cleaning products etc green, earth friendly. I find it's more cost effective now that Woolworths has introduced their macro organic range, and our local health food store is pretty competitive price wise... But, it's just a choice, really... A choice to spend our cash on organic food rather than on other things, because it's what's important to us, and we believe in the health benefits for us, and the planet. Each family will have their own priorities and find their own balance - I believe it's good even I'd people have a good think about where their food comes from : ) We've started our own veg patch this year too - its really nice to get ideas from your blog (loved the bean trellis) : )

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  16. Buying organic is a big thing in our house, both for me and my hubby - we prioritise it over many other things, and it's fair to say we spend a huge chunk of our income on it, even though we're a one income family (I'm on maternity leave at the moment). All our fruit, veg, bread, milk etc is organic, and cleaning products etc green, earth friendly. I find it's more cost effective now that Woolworths has introduced their macro organic range, and our local health food store is pretty competitive price wise... But, it's just a choice, really... A choice to spend our cash on organic food rather than on other things, because it's what's important to us, and we believe in the health benefits for us, and the planet. Each family will have their own priorities and find their own balance - I believe it's good even I'd people have a good think about where their food comes from : ) We've started our own veg patch this year too - its really nice to get ideas from your blog (loved the bean trellis) : )

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  17. I think it's all about "resolve". I think that's a perfect word to use. It's all about being careful and considerate about your choices. Informed. Open to new ideas, not afraid to fail. That's what it's about, surely? Well done you. It's about doing the best you can do with the resources that are to hand.

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  18. Hi Em, I really connect to this post, striving to cook and eat more local, ethical and whole foods myself, glad I had a little wander around your space...i look forward to more ethical eating posts.

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