What do I eat & drink

Veg box success

Community Supported Agriculture scheme, CSA for short.  Until a few hours ago I had never heard of this amazing scheme, or Woodhouse Farm & Garden, and I can’t understand why not.

I’ve just got back from visiting Woodhouse Farm and Garden, and chatting with the amazing Andrew and his daughter about the farm and its history.  I felt so uplifted by my visit, their story and the CSA scheme that I had to come straight back and write about them, whilst munching on their amazing raspberries.

The walled garden at Woodhouse Farm is set up to support 40 family veg boxes.  That’s 40 local families getting organic, nutritious locally grown, seasonal fruit and veg.  I tentatively asked Andrew what I needed to do to join the scheme expecting there to be a massive waiting list and he sadly informed me that they only currently have 20 people signed up to the scheme and have never managed to get more than 25.

Why?  I have no idea, but I can explain how the scheme works.

The CSA ask that you sign up and pay for a regular veg box, which is available in varying sizes, on the understanding that some weeks you will get more and some weeks a little less, dependant on what is in harvest at the time.  A little bit of a gamble, maybe? How CSA describe it is that you take on some of the risk and benefits of food production, whilst giving the farmer a more regular and guaranteed income.  They also ask that you give a bit of time to help the farm, an hour or two a week – that seems a low commitment to me, and I sense it’s an ‘as and when you can’ kind of help not a strictly monitored clock in and out kind of job.

Today I bought a small veg box. For £7.80 I got new potatoes, peas literally picked whilst I was there, broccoli, an artichoke, cucumber, a huge cabbage, and a massive bag of salad leaves.   Agreed, it’s a good time of year, but I’ve just tried to tally up my box contents at Tesco online for comparison and it came over £10, so you will certainly win some as well as lose some.   I also bought a large punnet of raspberries for £2.00, which were £2.50 for half the amount in the farm shop I visited later to buy my milk.  And four bags of their sausages.

I can’t wait to cook the sausages tomorrow morning, we’ve got some window fitters here as well so they are in for a treat!  And it was just brilliant to see the pigs that are almost ready for the butcher to make the next batches of sausages, and the tiny piglets that have only just been born and will be ready around Christmas.

Woodhouse Farm and Garden is a community farm, it was left by the owner Francis Paget Howard in 1936 to Birmingham Council to be used for the healthful recreation of the people of Birmingham, after the terrible atrocities he witnessed in WWI he wanted to give back to the community.  It was nearly sold off by the council, but after much hard work, petitioning and relentless determination by the current tenants Andrew and Annamarie Stone they finally ploughed the old walled garden in 2010 and created the start of the community farm.  They are continually working to improve the facilities and thankfully are getting more support from local businesses and groups.   I’ve already signed up for a weekly small box and messaged Annamarie to offer my help, I’m really excited to think that I might be able to help in some small way, and can’t wait to go back and see the little piglets grow.

If anyone readying my blog is local to Lichfield, please visit Woodhouse Farm & Garden and give them a little bit of your support and love.

Day 34

I had a wonderful break in Greece at the beautiful Neilson Sivota Retreat the food was amazing, lots of local fresh salads and so it was easy to eat fairly healthily  (I was on holiday after all!).

We were delayed on the way home so we had no other option than to buy a loaf of bread from the garage, but I did have a nice big slab of cheddar in the fridge so we had cheese on toast for our tea on Sunday!

I did a nice ‘big shop’ at The Butcher/Baker at Barton Marina on Monday afternoon, and for the first time it felt like I was really shopping rather than just playing at it.  However I was a little shocked when they told me that they don’t sell tea….?? Luckily we didn’t need any we were just halfway down the packet so still plenty of time to get some.

Biggest Positive this week

  • Seeing the veg and fruit  in Parga being delivered to the local restaurants straight from the back of an open sided van, and it smelled amazing as we walked past
  • The amazing Greek Salads all last week

Biggest Negatives this week

  • Still not found anywhere that I can do a full shop
  • Still not found a veg delivery company
  • Trying to do a big shop in a silly wicker basket

 

I’m feeling super positive this week, perhaps it’s because of the weather, we are plannign our second barbeque of the week tonight, but I think its also because I feel I am truly committed to shopping local.

I’m planning on revisiting the other farm shops I’ve been to with new eyes and really look at what they sell to see if I can find one that I can use for my big shop like I would a supermarket.

Shops this week:

Day 34

Day 24 and the new commitment to 90 days

When this posts I will be on the way to a week’s holiday in Greece.  I’m delighted to say that the company we booked with, Neilson, are an independent. However, as I didn’t actually plan my 30 day challenge very well in advance and just started it on a bit of a whim, my challenge would end next week whilst I am away.

Honestly – it hasn’t been that much of a challenge.  Although I havn’t been in a supermarket now for over 3 weeks, it has felt quite easy.  So I’ve made the decision to extend my challenge to 90 days.

I will stick to all the existing rules, and continue to blog weekly and update my instagram regularly, and my hope is that after 90 days it is a habit rather than a challenge.

This week I only shopped on Sunday, with my lovely hubby, so I went to the farm shop for eggs and milk and came out with a basket full of food!!

 

Day 17

I still havn’t found a local veg box scheme, and I’ve not yet needed an emergency shop so still not done the local corners shop.

Apart from it taking a bit of additional time, it’s been good.  I had a lovely chat with the butchers at a new farm shop in Walsall, who happily split a big box of chicken breast that they had on offer into two’s for me so I could freeze them.  This shop one actually had trollies and also lots of normal shopping items so I felt like it would be a sensible option for long term grocery shopping.  I also loved that the chickens were wandering about right next to the carpark.

The toughest decision we had was Friday when we almost ate in a large chain restaurant for ease and speed as we were about to go to a show, however lucky for us, we dropped into a fab bar and restaurant, that squeezed us in as we just wanted quick eat.  The food was fabulous, and service brilliant.  I had an amazing salmon superfood salad, and our server Victoria was lovely, I’m so glad we made a bit of an effort, and I believe we had a better meal because of it.

Biggest positives this week

  • Getting great food and service at an independent restaurant in the city centre
  • Finding a farm shop with trolleys

Biggest challenges this week

  • still not replaced my smoked paprika
  • panicking now that I only have 5 tins of tomatoes and one jar of passatta in the cupboard!!!

I’m still struggling to work out if this is a long term option.  I still think its partly due to habit, and I’m used to just doing a big shop and then having loads of different ingredients in the cupboards. I feel like each shop is just a small top up, but I’ve never once struggled to think of what to make for dinner, and have a pretty well stocked fridge, freezer and cupbards, so I must be buying enough food.

Today we are having home made bread, locally cured bacon and scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Does it taste better because I know I’ve sourced it locally, and supported an independent local business, damned sure it does.

So roughly halfway into the challenge, and it really doesn’t get feel like a challenge at all.

Day 17

Shops and restaurants this week

 

How to cook efficiently

I really love to cook, that was the reason I set up this blog.  But I am also really busy and so I have to be clever when I cook, making multiple meals at the same time.  This is really economical and ideal for anyone who is busy or doesn’t really love cooking.

It’s often just about thinking ahead, what other meals do I need to prepare this week, what can I do now to save me time another night?

We often have overnight oats for breakfast in our house, so whenever I make some I make sure I make up at least 6 portions.  A bit of fruit chopping and a few mins prep is all it needs, and I can do that whilst I am waiting for a pot to boil.

Make double and freeze a half for a night when you know you won’t have time to prepare a full meal.  Or portion off the leftovers for lunches.  Again, freezing them until you want them.

Think what else you can make with similar ingredients.  If you need half a swede for tonight’s dinner, can you make something at the same time with the rest of the swede and something else you have in the fridge/cupboard?  It takes barely any more time to chop a full swede than it does to chop half.

So just take a minute any time you are about to start to make meal and think about whether you can make two or three more at the same time.

Day 11

It’s the end of my second weekend, today is a bank holiday so I’m writing this from bed whilst my spicy pork sausages cook slowly in the oven (they would have gone on the barbie but, in the tradition of all British bank holidays, it’s decided to rain). And I’m looking back at the early days of my challenge.

I’ve been at a lot of events and away from home more than I would normally, so the week has felt a bit disjointed, and if I’d thought ahead and planned the start of my challenge I might have chosen a different date, but that wasn’t the idea. However I am looking forward to having a couple of more ‘normal’ weeks.

So far I’ve visited two Farm Shops, several veg shop/stalls and used quite a lot from my freeezer and cupboards.  Our meals have been similar to what we would normally have eaten.

The biggest positives

  • shopping experience. I’ve had conversations with almost everyone who’s served/helped me. From the obvious chats about produce, to dogs, children’s exams (theirs as I don’t have any) and of course the weather.
  • Butchers, lots of different ideas, great presentation, especially the lamb burgers shaped around spring onions to look like baby shanks

The negatives

  • The range, if I want mustard there are 20 varieties, but tinned tomatoes, just the one. 
  • They have silly baskets that are too small for a proper shop and get heavy and have no wheels

On the whole it’s been positive, I’ve changed the way I approach shopping, checking what I already have then buying products around that, which is no bad thing. However I have had items that I’ve run out of and not yet been able to replace. And I’ve had to shop a lot more often than I would have done normally.

The next few days I need to find a veg/farm box scheme, and find some independent corner shops for those late night emergencies


This weeks shops:

Day 4

So far it has been remarkably easy, I’ve done a shop at the greengrocers, had breakfast and shopped at the farm shop and I have a fridge full of food.

My biggest challenge at the minute is lunches – tomorrow we have layered salad.

My second challenge is how little I’m actually at home to eat. I didn’t plan the start date of my 30 day challenge, but I’m not sure if any date would have been better than another. Tonight I met a friend for drinks but no food, so I need to find something easy on the way home. Chippy tea it is…..reminds me of my teens walking home from the pub!! The  rest of this week is no better; I am out Tuesday and Wednesday for dinner, Wednesday for breakfast, Thursday and Friday for lunch. And then we are away on Friday and Saturday for the rugby finals.

So

I’ll keep you posted as to my food choices, my successes and I’m guessing there might be the odd failure with a week like this.

However as of tonight I’m still happy and on track, whilst walking home with my bag of chips!!

Feed you brain

It never ceases to amaze me when I speak to hard working friends and colleagues and they tell me, almost with a touch of bravado that they either don’t eat breakfast, or lunch, or both. It astounds me how people expect to make decisions or use machinery when their brains are not operating at optimum capacity.

When I ask those same people if they would send their children to school on an empty stomach, or expect them to go without lunch they look at me like I’m deranged. We would never dream of energising a child with caffeine and sugar to get them through a busy day, in fact we all know too well what the consequences of that would be. However lots of people I know see not problem with feeling thier body in this way.

Our bodies are machines, they require vitamins and nutrients in order to operate correctly. Our brains are the engine of the machine, its not just my opinion, studies have shown that we behave differently when under fuelled – ie under fed.  The vicious cycle we create when we don’t correctly fuel ourselves,  and instead prop up our energy with false boosts from sugar and caffeine ends up givin us highs and lows, unsurprisingly we make poor decisions, over-react, get angry, upset or make mistakes.  This a result of our our bodies and brains being under fuelled and unable to operate correctly.

So what’s the answer in our busy and hectic lives? I believe that a little bit of planning and a lot of bulk cooking can quickly give even the busiest person a multitude of options to allow them to never miss a meal again.

Take a look at my recipes, lots are designed to give leftovers for lunch the next day for those who have access to a microwave, my posh pot noodles can be put together in minutes on a Sunday and sit in the fridge all week – all you need is a kettle.  If your work requires you to be on the move, take a look at my Kilner salads which again can be made on a Sunday in bulk and kept in the fridge to be picked up each morning.  Overnight oats can be eaten anywhere, and if you truly cannot manage that take a couple of my granola bars and some fruit.  

Hopefully poor decision making and emotional rollercoaster will become a thing of the past for us all.

What is clean eating?

Thats the question that my husband asked me last week, and I confidently advised him that clean eating was what we did most of the time.

However

I then did a bit of research (basically googling the term) and I was astonished to find out that some people believe that being wheat free, dairy free and lots of other ‘free’s’ form part of having a clean diet.

Who stole what was a quite simple and easy to understand term and made it so rigid and Full of rules?  I will attempt to clarify what I believe to be the main rules of clean eating

  • Eat food that is made up of ingredients that you know and can pronounce
  • Eat food that bears a resemblance to its original form

that’s it.

Not that difficult is it?  My understanding of clean eating is to eat food that looks like real food.  Admittedly that would also embrace seasonal and local food, but I believe it is more about getting in touch with your food and understanding ingredients, moving away from pre-prepared food and in particular processed food that bares little or no resemblance to any kind of real food ingredient.

I’m sure we’ve all used the terminology ‘dirty food’ and whilst there is nothing wrong with the odd portion of something dirty or bad, clean food by definition should simply be the opposite of this, its not free from anything its just food.

Love your leftovers

Just the word ‘leftovers’ gives the suggestion of something unwanted, the remains.  To some it symbolises a lack of wealth and prosperity, a need rather than a desire, and therefore something that’s undesired.

I have the total opposite feeling about leftovers, I LOVE them, you only have to take a look at my instagram feed to see that.  When we are being bombarded by stories of excess waste and potential food shortages something needs to be done to encourage everyone to enjoy marking the most of all our food including the leftovers.

I actively plan my evening meals to ensure that there is enough for additional servings. If you check out my recipes most of them are for large portions so that  I can either cook double and  have tasty meals in the freezer, or portion the excess into bowls ready for lunches or last minute single suppers.  I cook extra rice so I can make a tasty fried rice the following day,  I  cook extra potatoes so I can mash them for fritters or speedy roasties for tomorrows tea and of course, cook huge joints of meat so that we can enjoy it for days. I think there is nothing more satisfying than eating a cottage pie from the freezer, I enjoy it even more than the freshly made version.  

Some people may think  that they don’t have time to cook, and much less cook extra, but by cooking more every time I end up having to cook less in the long term.  It takes me no longer to make two big Indian Style Cottage Pies, than it would to make just one.  Then on one of those days when I know I’m going to be late home, and won’t have the time (or the inclination) to cook, I get the freezen one out in the morning, bung it in the oven when I get home, and by the time I’ve had a shower and changed into my comfy pants it’s a healthy and satisfying TV dinner.  Zero effort but considerably more satisfying and cheaper than a takeout.

Spread the word, and love your leftovers.