Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Buy local- support the underdogs and reduce your carbon footprint and food miles :)

A few weeks ago I was sent an email from one of my Uni lecturers inviting me to attend an optional seminar held by a eco warrior and scientist. The seminar aimed to enlighten us about our carbon footprint and the amount of food miles we tot up on items we do not need. I really enjoyed the seminar and my trips to Tesco have been unfulfilled and guilt ridden ever since! Seeing a line of eight fellow students demonstrating how far your sack of oranges travel (and the mileage involved) to get to you is quite shocking I assure you!

So, this led me to thinking. I already buy local where possible but I must admit that I do find Tesco and the like complete money magnets. It is no coincidence that when you pop in for a few key items (the staples, bread, milk, etc) they will be located at the back of the store. Meaning that you pass every 'Offer' gondola on the way too and from picking up your items. I am often disheartened by the amount our weekly shop comes too, less so admittedly since I have made a massive effort to plan meals and snacks more efficiently. In addition to this the food often does not stay fresh up until the use by date. Specifically I find the fruit and veg to be at the 'needs to be eaten within a day or two' stage from the day of purchase. There is no way it will last a week. Leaving the consumer with two options, One- eat fruit and veg that is less than fresh or 2- face gondola city a few times a week to buy fresh!

I now have a new system in place, well an ever evolving and developing system, that allows us to eat fresh produce that is locally produced and often organic. The best bit? It is also cheaper!

Some tips:-
  • If you are going to use supermarkets try to shop online where you will be less influenced to buy products you do not need.
  • Make sure you have a menu plan for evening meals for the week.
  • If you buy lunch out you will find it cheaper to take a packed lunch. This can mean preparing a little extra evening meal and taking the 'leftovers' or factoring the lunch into your menu plan.
  • Buy from local suppliers. That way you will get better value for money, a more personal service, you will know where your produce came from, it will be in season. I bet you will save money and have twice the shelf life out of your products.
  • When using markets for fruit and veg go at the end of the day. They do not want to take any produce back so you will get bargains! This does require some flexibility with what veg you end up with, not a massive issue if you menu plan 'chicken dinner with fresh veg' or 'lamb curry' (add anything from onions, peppers, mushrooms, peas- whatever you have!
  • Use your local butcher. I have said it before, I will say it again. My local butcher is the best. I am sure if you get to know yours and become a regular they will happily throw in a few extras/meet any requests for special cuts etc. Aswell as being experts on how to prepare your meat. Can you say the same about the server in the supermarket?!
  • I don't eat meat but ditto the fishmonger.
  • If you are feeling especially green you can make your own cleaning products. If like the 90% of us that have a million miles an hour life you do not have time buy in bulk. Make the most of BOGOF deals and coupons and find a small corner to store your stock. This also means you avoid that dash to the supermarket that ends up costing a few pound more than you budget!
  • Buy produce that is in season, this should happen naturally if using local suppliers, this will always result in cheaper, fresher food. It does not harm to have a vague idea of what is in season and when. Google is an endless source of help on that score!
  • Make the most of charity shops for kitchen bits and bobs, ornaments, furniture, clothes, accessories, books and everything non food related. One off bargain buys and the satisfaction of not looking like a cookie cutter person. And all for a good cause? What better reason to indulge in some retail therapy!
  • As with everything we do the best money saver is to *try* to help our children to understand that a certain brand of product is not better simply because of the marketing. Invest in some reusable containers, or better still save some yogurt pots, takeaway cartons etc. Buy in bulk and put a small amount in these containers for packed lunches. Let the children decorate the pot in whatever way you choose and they usually don't object (if they are young lol)

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