Nine people participated in our May food challenge this year. It was a personalised challenge, which meant that everyone could choose an aspect of low-carbon eating to suit themselves. Here are some reflections from participants, along with some wonderful photos from Elizabeth:
* * *
Two weeks on, has the ‘eating well on a budget’ challenge changed the way I shop?
The £21.00 budget was pretty tight for buying fresh produce – over 50% of my food budget went on veg from the farmers’ market. That said, I realise there is a pay-off at some point. Maybe I need to shift my attitude on what is a fair price. I’ve still been buying from the market, but I haven’t stopped using supermarkets either; I’m just more aware of what is – or more often, what isn’t – on supermarket labels.
The challenge did, however, open my eyes to small changes that actually save me money. I’m still using dried pulses instead of canned. I’ve also been on the look out for reduced price, locally produced veg (which has now become locally produced, delicious soup!).
I’ve also found a new worker-run wholefood store in Edinburgh, ‘The New Leaf Co-op’, where you can by pulses and grains loose and re-use your packaging, which I think is a great idea. This way it’s slightly cheaper than other wholefood stores, and there is also a 10% discount for students. Perhaps there is something similar in Cambridge? Reading around the topic of ‘cooking green’, I’ve also started using pot lids while cooking, which saves energy, cooking time, and therefore money too 🙂
Here are some of the meals I enjoyed:
* * *
My partner Ben and I did a bit of a mixture of things for the week of the chalenge – no/less meat and dairy and eating local, seasonal foods and found both a bit tough to stick to completely! As I keep reading on various websites we are only now just coming to the end of The Hungry Gap as far as UK produce is concerned so the local veg options were limited to portobello mushrooms (which Ben won’t eat but I enjoyed), asparagus, potatoes and rhubarb. We allowed ourselves a few local, free range eggs and had a simple but tasty combination of fried potato, poached egg and asparagus for tea one of the evenings. Other things that featured were homemade lentil soup, some very tasty hummus from Riverford farms (I planned to make my own but didn’t quite get around to it!), bread from Cobs bakery and a delicious cherry and almond cake from Radmore farm shop. We also picked up some live mixed beans, which actually came from a Yorkshire based company called “…and sow on” via the Co-op, so not local but they did help us to get some non-animal protein into our diet. To be honest neither of us were partucularly keen on the taste of them so I don’t think they’ll feature too prominently in the future!
One pretty significant change for us was the switch to soya milk, which we both now actually prefer on our morning muesli (still not sure about it in coffee though!). We’ve kept using it since and will likely always buy it alongside a smaller quantity than before of cow’s milk from now on. Ben discovered soya creme caramels which taste pretty much identical to dairy based ones and we’re tempted to try making our own next time we have folk around for dinner – they’ll never guess!
Usually Ben is much more of a carnivore than I am (he’ll have meat of some kind as part of his lunch most days while I tend to go for veggie options most weekdays) and I was really impressed with how we took to the challenge. Other than a spot of milk in coffee he didn’t let a scrap of meat or dairy pass his lips, going out of his way to find a vegan meal for tea the night he had to stay in a hotel for work. I slipped up a bit more than that – again I managed not to succumb to meat but I had two meals involving cheese, one with goats cheese and one with ricotta when there really was no other option except a beef lasagne (a conference meal for which I hadn’t beek organised enough to request a vegan option).
I don’t think either of us will go vegan or even vegetarian any time soon, but the challenge did make us think about different options. It also got me wondering about UK grown tomatoes at this time of year and I looked up the website of the British Tomato Growers’ Association, which would have us believe they are a pretty good choice if you want some really fresh toms, which we often do! If anyone can point me in the direction of a reliable, independent source of information on the pros and cons of UK grown and shipped from Spain I’d love to read it as I really do find it all quite confusing sometimes!
* * *
Thank you very much, ladies, for giving us such a wonderful insight into your food challenge! If any other participants would like to contribute a few words or photos then we’d love to hear from you…
May 30, 2013