If you've been with me since the start of my Sustainable Food Journey you'll know that in 2023 I set out 5 clear resolutions. A year on I want to take a moment to reflect on my progress & to share what I've learnt.
I don't think my journey has been a failure by any stretch of the imagination but there were resolutions that I didn't achieve.
1) We still buy supermarket chicken in the knowledge that it's likely battery farmed. We also still buy supermarket fish. Absolutely MUST do better in 2024.
2) I didn't grow anything... in fact given that my daughter stripped all the wild strawberries in my garden before they had a chance to turn red, I probably grew less. Starting small is the aim for 2024, to get me over the overwhelm.
1) I reduced our food waste.
I now have two scraps bags in the freezer. One for making soups and the other for making stock. That means less waste going straight into the compost bin.
If I think a veg is starting to peak but I don't have a need to cook it, then I'll prepare it (peel, chop) and freeze ready for a day when I'm short on time.
We buy considerably less bagged salad which notoriously goes slimy. This is because we get a fortnightly veg box from Root Connections and focus on using the seasonal veg they deliver. If the box includes salads then we try to use that immediately, saving hardier veg for later in the week.
When I make a big pot of food I try to box up extra portions before serving. This way we avoid having an annoyingly small bits of leftovers.
One last thing is labelling anything I freeze and using it sooner that I would have done in the past. I used to squirrel things away in the freezer and then have no idea what something was, which naturally makes you less inclined to eat it. I have been guilty of defrosting some unknown item, waiting too long to eat it and it's gone mouldy in the fridge! Such an unnecessary waste.
2) I learned to cook unfamiliar seasonal veg.
Most recently I discovered a liking for celeriac which was not something I had ever put in my shopping basket. This was true too of beetroot. The veg box forced me to try new things.
We have also enjoyed "spring greens" which I had presumed was a collective term for green stuff grown in spring, but have learnt is actually the name given to the "first young, tender cabbages of the year"1. And it's delicious. Cabbage is another thing we rarely bought and now I love to either sauté it or ferment it.
3) I preserved.
My larder isn't full of homemade jams and chutneys but the fridge does contain a large Kilner jar of fermented cabbage or Kimchi to give it's "trendier" name. I attended a Get Pickled Somerset workshop (highly recommended) which gave me the confidence to just give it ago.
I love scrunching up the veg with salt and watching as the water is released, creating it's own brine. I am fascinated by the hissing sounds and necessary "burping" (it, not me!) over the subsequent days as the fermentation process kicks in.
Both my husband and I have quickly taken to the taste of it and regularly eat fermented veg at lunch time, putting it in sandwiches or mixing it with leftover rice or bean salads. We even had it with cheese on toast the other day. All to say that I think my resolution to "preserve more" has to be considered a resounding success.
Learning more along the way
2023 saw some really fantastic strides into our sustainable food journey. A big game changer was my husband reading Ultra Processed People, which I subsequently read too. Having him get on board with the idea of eating more homemade food and understanding some of the challenges I couldn't quite communicate (thank you Chris Van Tulken) made the journey much less lonely.
Learning to bake good bread has been - and will continue to be - a very rewarding challenge. I talk through the journey on this Instagram highlight. Dropping bread (in the most part) from our supermarket shopping list has felt like a real win.
It really saddens and concerns me that the market is so awash with "healthy looking" bread that is in fact ultra processed, to a point that you cannot buy real bread in the supermarket. And the inconvenience and cost of shopping at a bakery makes bread - a staple of the human diet across cultures and generations - a luxury item in our world today. I will continue sharing my experience of making bread as a regular habit and I hope I can inspire more people this year to do the same.
This year the journey continues.
Monzo horrifyingly informed us that we are within the top 5% of Sainsbury's shoppers for 2023?! I can only presume that is because we don't use other supermarkets (location and habit) and because with the lure of Nectar points we buy fuel there too. We buy higher priced items because when we do buy meat or fish or veg there, we in the most part opt for the most sustainably reared and organic options. We buy things like nappies, cleaning products and a number of our food basics too. It all adds up.
In 2024 I want to further reduce our reliance on supermarkets.
My husband and I have a list of things we want to eradicate from the grocery list this year. Mayo, granola, and pesto. I think we might get put off mayo once we start DIYing it on a regular basis, there is just so much oil in it. Granola is such an easy one, it's just a case of building the habit. For pesto I want to grow the basil, which we have done in the past (pre-kids), so let's hope for a good summer.
In summary, a sustainable food journey is such an adventure. You can chose to learn things and try things at your own pace. The number one ingredient is curiosity. Please share your progress with me over on Instagram; you're not alone on the road, we're in this together.