Eating Local, Step 1: Have a Plan

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Apologies for the long stretch without posts. There’s a lot to, um, digest, right now, and I am integrating many new ideas into how I perceive the world. So bear with me.

Making changes in the way you’ve been living your life is hard. It’s complicated. Everything’s connected, so one change affects everything, in sometimes unexpected ways. Switching your eating to a more local mindset is no different. It’s not going to happen in one shopping trip, one week’s meals, even one month’s meals. It’s going to take time, patience, and a new thoughtfulness to how you plan and shop.

Let me stop right there to insist one thing: Please start planning what you want to cook/eat, and write it down, and then make a shopping list. This one strategy will save you money, time, and tears, I promise you. It’s one discipline I hold myself to faithfully, week after week, and I almost never waste food, or find out I’m missing an ingredient for a meal. I have my family (almost) trained to add things to the list as they run out, and as I plan my weekly menu, I add to the list while I am standing in the kitchen.

When planning what you’re going to cook, be realistic, not optimistic. If you know there are nights you won’t want to be in the kitchen, don’t plan on being there. Pick a day or two to cook big one-pot meals, and have leftovers for a couple of days. Setting yourself up with overly high expectations in the kitchen is only going to make your transition miserable.

Repeat after me: Buy what you’ll cook, cook what you bought.

Following this one simple rule will help you prevent food waste in your home, and will help you understand better how food and cooking fit into your life. This may seem unrelated to your goal of eating more locally, but it is connected, I promise you. Giving more thought to what you want to cook will help you focus your energy on finding those foods locally first. Once you are in the habit of planning your meals, shopping for them becomes simpler.

So, I guess that’s your first assignment. Start planning your time in the kitchen like you plan the other important things in your life. Get used to thinking a little bit more about what you’re cooking and eating, and what you’re wasting. Stop measuring your commitment to eating locally against anyone else’s commitment. It’s your kitchen; make it work for you.

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5 comments

  1. Very well written, I read an article recently about the food waste in France vs. the waste in the US, it was appalling how much we Americans throw away! The only time I struggle with eating locally is in the dead of winter, I miss a variety of fruit, any suggestions?

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    • The dead of winter is challenging for fruit! During the growing seasons, we try to put some fruits in the freezer (berries, peaches), and some later fruits can be stored for long periods (apples, pears) in makeshift root cellars (we keep apples for months in ice chests, outside when it’s not too cold). If you are looking for local fruit right now, see if you have any orchards around you. They may have some fruits in long-term storage. Winter is often a compromise; my rule of thumb tends to be as local as possible. It may mean choosing between fruit from Florida or fruit from California. Not local in its strictest sense, but as close as you can get.

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  2. On the subject of keeping apples – we keep them for up to about 4 months in coolers without issue. Longer might be possible, but we run out before then. They go outside when the temps are colder than it is inside (most of the time) and come in when it’s going to be mid 20’s or below for more than a couple of hours during the overnight. If the day is wet (raining or just humid) I’ll open the lids to let some moisture in, or if the day was warm i’ll open them for an hour or so when temps drop at night to get them cool quicker. If we get a long deep cold snap they go in the garage where it’s about 40°F.

    It sounds like a lot of headache, but it isn’t really. As long as they don’t freeze there’s lots of wiggle room in their care. This year we had about a bushel in 2 coolers that we picked in early-mid Oct. We picked fewer than in years past, so they only lasted until right around New Year’s day. In that time, a total of 3 spoiled.

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