Sunday, February 22, 2009

Defining "local"

This dairy farm is around 80 miles from our house. We stopped there two "Cowtobers" ago on a trip back from Chicago. Bill has decided they aren't "local" for us though - his definition of local is "it came out of the ground within 50 miles of our house."

The Fair Oaks cheese we bought at a supermarket last week was not counted as local and has been included in our grocery tally.

This pie was purchased from a small pie bakery within Bill's 50 mile limit. While the pie was made from scratch in the shop, we don't know where the ingredients came out of the ground (we'll ask next time we visit). We have not added this to the tally based on the technicality that it is not from a grocery store (also, we like pie and are looking for excuses to not limit our pie consumption).

These two purchases bring up the issue of source. What is our goal in eating local? Is it environmental (reducing energy used in transportation - as in yesterday's post) or is it economical - to support local small business? If we bought Fair Oaks' cheese directly from them, would that be better? It seems less efficient for us to drive 80 miles to buy 13 pounds of cheese (we like cheese as much as pie) than for a giant truck to bring gobs of cheese to our local supermarket.

We have no idea, but our quest has already gotten us thinking and talking about these things, which is a good start.

And that is a cheesy ending for this post!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Calorie Return on Investment

Kelly posted an article about local eating and the energy costs of various low calorie foods like diet soda and iceberg lettuce. A Cornell group released a study with various shocking statistics such as:

  • Americans drink an average of 600 cans of soda a year. Totally insane!
  • A diet soda with one calorie requires 2,200 calories of fossil fuel energy to get into your hands.
  • Nearly 20 percent of all energy in the US goes into the food system - almost as much as is used for all our cars.
  • On average food travels 1,500 miles before we get it.
  • Each calorie we consume takes about 4 calories of transportation energy.
  • On average across the US a person spends only $15 per year on local food (the average family grocery bill is $3,000 per year).
New Yorkers should consider eating New York cabbage rather than California lettuce. A one-pound head of lettuce contains 50 calories of energy but requires 400 calories to produce in irrigated California. It then takes another 3,000 calories to ship it to New York state.

“So you've got a 50-calorie head of lettuce that now has an investment of nearly 4,000 calories. And it's 95 percent water,” Pimentel [the study author] said.

New York-grown cabbage also requires 400 calories but doesn't have to be shipped across the country. “And it has more vitamin A, more vitamin C, more protein than lettuce and you can store it all winter long here in New York state,” he said

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gardens and Chickens

Our order is in for seeds for the garden. Hopefully, we learned a few lessons from last year's critter invasion. In addition to the usual garden veggies, we're also gonna add some chickens in this year.

We have 10 Barred Rock chicks on order, as well as 15 Jumbo Cornish X Rocks to fill our freezer. Expecting delivery the last week of March from Murray McMurray Hatchery.

As soon as the weather warms up we're gonna try to put together a serviceable chicken coop and run from some of the scrap materials that we have laying around the garage and barn.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

First grocery trip

$6.85 for 10 lbs of potatoes and 1 pint of heavy cream for Valentine's Day Steak Au Poivre. Over the summer we'll be growing our own potatoes - building on our success of last year - but at the moment, we are out. Hopefully we'll also be able to buy heavy cream from a local source.

Not really the beginning

With this blog post, Bill and I are sorta starting on a new food adventure...but the roots of these changes really began years ago.

Our quest (game, really) to see how long, and how well we can follow the rules posted on the right <-- was proximally spurred by a number of factors including a friend's goal to buy nothing new for 6 months, a trip to the Field Museum, dinner at Charlie Trotter's, and last year's minimally successful garden.

To get to a point where we will try limit our supermarket food spending to $50 a month, however, was actually the result of numerous small steps from banning doritos and fast food, to choosing the small package of Pillsbury cinnamon buns over the large and committing to grain-fed beef as to keep our brains functioning as long as possible.

When we first starting thinking about this quest, we were going to see how long we could make $600 last for groceries. But then we started considering the foods we could reasonably produce ourselves so as not to have to use money to purchase them and realized that we currently lack dairy animals, therefore, cheese was not on that list. This sent us into a panic.

As eating locally and seasonably is one of our goals, we decided that any local foods shouldn't count against our $600. We expect to get to know the folks at Traders Point Creamery very well.

This blog is mostly a self-imposed incentive to keep us accountable. We'll probably post our homemade food and garden adventures and information we come across on environmental and political issues. Hopefully this quest will change the way Bill and I interact with food and the blog will document those changes.

So, here the fun begins. An honest, uncensored look at our kitchen as it currently stands.

Nearly functional counter space:

Our fridge. I think the second shelf has two open jars of homemade applesauce (from very local apples). One is moldy. No idea what is in the styrofoam. Or a few of the jars in the back...though I think at least 3 of them are jelly.

Freezer, including at least 4 half-eaten and now freezer-burned containers of Ben and Jerry's.

And the pantry, where we do a bit better. Mostly ingredients and home-produced food including our last two jars of garden tomato sauce.

While this isn't the prettiest picture, we hope our new thoughtfulness about the food we buy will result in noticeable changes. Limited supplies of Ben and Jerry's will make each pint more precious. Knowing each purchase will creep us closer to the $600 limit will help us search the leftovers before buying more.

We hope this process will be fun, but challenging. Recipes, garden tips and helpful hints will be appreciated!!