I have not fallen off the edge of the planet (despite the prayers of many no doubt) I have been preserving and catching up with all those little jobs that have the ability to turn into thwacking great monsters if I don’t keep on top of them.
I am on top of them. So life, if only momentarily, is returning to what passes for normal in our house of fun. This is the time of year that feels like new year for me. In the days when I wore knee length socks and a navy blue tunic it was the time of new pencils and a squeaky new pencil case and Helix Oxford Maths set in it’s distinctive blue and silver tin.
Form teachers handed out pristine new exercise books and we carefully copied out our timetable. Over the years this process has evolved but I still buy new pencils and it is now that I start our timetable for the next 12 months.
Planning is everything, if you are decluttering, downsizing and aiming towards a life of less then you need a plan. And there is little I love more than a plan. Not surprisingly you will need some basic equipment. I prefer pen and paper, but if online and digital rocks your boat then far be it from me to question your choice. Just choose something you are comfortable, you like and most importantly will use. A plan can be pretty but it can be pretty useless if you never consult it!
If you are thinking of changing you lifestyle first you need to know what you what to change, how you are going to change it and how that will impact on your day to day life. There are big plans and there are little plans. To ease you in gently we will start with a little plan.
Let’s start with the grocery shopping. This is how we did it.
What do we want to change?
Reduce or eliminate supermarket purchases
- Produce as much ourselves
- Purchase as much as possible from local producers
- Purchase as much of what remains from local suppliers
How are we going to change it?
- Increase fruit and vegetable production
- Increase poultry numbers
- Bake own bread etc.
- Use locally grown co-operative vegetable box scheme
- Use farmers’ market
- Purchase direct from farm(s)
- Use local greengrocer/butcher/fishmonger
- Make own cleaning products
- Consider alternative purchasing options for dry goods, tins and general household goods.
How will that impact on our day to day life?
- Cannot do all shopping in one place
- Increased work in the garden
- Need to plan ahead both the shopping and the way it is purchased
- Freezer must be cleared to ensure that whole butchered animals can be easily stored and accessed.
- Bulk purchasing of some products (esp vinegar and bicarb for cleaning) required.
What will we do to fit the above into our day to day life?
- First, in terms of food shopping PLAN AHEAD.
- Usually on a Sunday I check the fridge, pantry and freezer to see what I already have in stock that I can use.
- Then I check the diary and see what is going on during the week, I do not want to be cooking a complicated dish on a day when I am ought all day and we have multiple pick ups in the evening.
- Then the fun starts. I choose up to three or four recipe books and start to plan menus for the week ahead. That way we don’t get stuck in a rut with the same old recipes and can experiment and try out new things.
- As you chose a recipe allocate it to a day , write down the page and the recipe book and check what, if any ingredients you need to buy and write them down on your list.
- When you are happy with the menu plan tackle the shopping list.
- Break it down by store. I am quite lucky in that I pass the butcher every day and with a bit of a diversion and a child looking out for traffic wardens I can nip into the greengrocer too. If the greengrocer list is long then I save that for a day when I have to go into town and park the car. Bear that kind of thing in mind when you are deciding what to eat on what day. Don’t make Monday’s meal one that cannot be done without a shopping trip unless you know you can go shopping on Monday!
- We also have a blackboard in the kitchen, whenever anything runs out the last person to use it is supposed to write it on the board. It’s not foolproof but it’s not bad! Add anything on the blackboard onto the appropriate shop section of your list.
- Non food items and dry and tinned goods are a bit of an issue. Personally if I can’t buy local then I prefer to buy ethically. This means, that for the most part I don’t use supermarkets except Waitrose (which is a partnership) and the Co-op. The other supplier I use is Suma, a wholefood co-op and a couple of online stores. This is my choice and does mean that I tend to buy in bulk and only once every month or so.
I am not perfect, I run out just like everyone else and I have to make emergency shops. I try to make those at places like the Co-op or locally owned shops, but I have been known to go to Tesco! Don’t beat yourself up. We have to start somewhere.
I haven’t addressed packaging because for the most part if you buy local you tend not to get that much packaging. Any veg I buy I can buy loose or pack in my own bags (mushrooms, soft fruit and veg etc.). Our local veg box scheme the wonderful Abundant Earth gives each member 4 hessian bags which are used in rotation for the veg. Any soft veg are put in paper bags which are reused until they are composted. The fishmonger wraps up in paper and is just coming to terms with the fact that I don’t need a plastic bag around my fish. The baker only uses paper or my own bags. Whole animals direct from the farm do come in plastic. They are butchered and given to us in a large box. But by far the biggest problem is that which is bought mail order. Everything comes in plastic, understandably nobody wants to send 5 litres of vinegar through the mail in a glass jar but why did my soapnuts come in a plastic bag? Albeit a plastic bag inside a very nice cotton drawstring bag. Long gone are the days when you could get your jars refilled at the grocers because there are no grocers left, because everyone goes to supermarkets or Costco or WholeFoods. Which brings me back to why I don’t shop in supermarkets…..
Here in Durham we have The Durham Local Food Network (I am just a little bit proud because I am a founder member and I think it’s brilliant) but we are not unique. There are lots of groups like us who have directories of local producers and suppliers and information about local food news and events. Google your town and find out what’s going on.
- Eyes – to see what you already have!
- Used envelopes, backs of circulars to write out shopping lists, menus etc (we keep our on a magnetic bulldog clip on the fridge)
- Cookery books or a head full of recipes
- Shopping bags or trolley
- Bus ticket/car/shanks pony