Do you remember last summer when I shared my family’s experience about our summer without visiting the grocery store, and strictly relied on food from local gardens and farmer’s markets? If you don’t, you can read alllll about it here – Our 2014 No Grocery Store Challenge. To sum it up, last summer, as an incentive to eat cleaner, support local farmers, and decrease our ecological footprint, we set up a challenge for ourselves that included a vacation away from grocery stores and supermarkets. This included the butcher, drug stores, corner stores, etc. … essentially, anywhere where there’s a roof and tax.
It was more rewarding then we ever could have imagined, and we received such a wonderful response from the community, with many people expressing interest to join us next year, that we’ve decided to go for it again! So, I’m inviting you, whatever community you may live in, to join us in the Summer 2015 No Grocery Store/ Eat Local Challenge!
At the end of the summer last year, I’ll admit it, I was a little burnt out from cooking every meal from scratch – this challenge does involve quite a bit of meal prep and planning – but no one said that I “challenge” was easy!! That being said, throughout that experience, we were in the best shape of our lives, and had never felt healthier! Once again, we are stuck in a bit of a food-rut, and with all the farmer’s markets and fruit stands popping up, we are so ready to kick start this challenge again!
Last year, deciding to embark on this challenge was a last-minute, cold-turkey decision. We couldn’t stock on anything, and the only thing we could eat that wasn’t from our garden or farmer’s markets, was the food that we had lingering in our pantry! This year, since I’ve been anticipating doing this challenge again, and learned a few things from last year’s struggles, we’ve decided to stock up on a few items … but before I discuss the rules, how about I share with you the many benefits of participating in a challenge like this one!
Why you want to participate in a no-grocery store/eat local challenge!
1. It’s an opportunity to get out in the community and meet the people that grow and make your food. Learn where your food comes from and support local farmers whose seasonal livelihood often depends on your support.
2. It doesn’t get more “farm to table” than this! You can guarantee that your food hasn’t travelled a long distance. No need to head to a specific section of the grocery store or check labels in order to find out where your food is coming from.
3. You will feel SO good! THIS, is a real-food “diet,” friends! You will consume so much more fresh produce then you otherwise would. Tempting, processed foods just aren’t an option, and snacks turn into cut-up fruit and veggies, stir-frys, salads, and omelets. I’m not into dieting, but if you’re looking to get “healthy,” the RIGHT way, this challenge is for you!!!
4. You don’t have to go to the grocery store all summer! Even this simple fact will be enough incentive for some, as many despise entering the grocery store – especially those with young kids. This challenge is a fabulous vacation away from bright lights, long lines and tantrums in the aisles.
5. You’re forced to learn new skills – like baking and how to make condiments. When you’re precious mayo, pickles and pasta run out, you’ll be forced to learn how to make your own, and trust me, you’ll be glad that you did! This is a great opportunity to brush up on your survival skills!
6. You will learn to appreciate seasonal fruits and veggies. As fruits and berries come in to season, you’ll never be so happy or grateful to see them. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbor if you can climb their plum tree, or get a little scratched up collecting blackberries!
7. You will produce much less waste (garbage and recycling). Many store-bought foods come packed in packages and bags. In comparison, when you’re eating food from your garden, or supporting your local farmer, you’re using your own bag (hopefully) and eliminating a lot of potential waste. Throughout this process you will notice that your garbage can will look awfully empty come garbage day – an easy way to decrease your family’s ecological footprint.
8. You will learn to live without foods that you didn’t think you could live without, and kick unhealthy eating habits. Everyone has their weakness– and things that they think they “can’t live with out.” For many people, it’s sugar! This challenge is a great opportunity to kick those cravings, in a healthy, non-diet-oriented way.
9. You will use up the food that’s ben lingering in your pantry. We all have it – pasta, soups, dried beans etc. – all collecting dust and hiding behind mason jars and bags of chips in your pantry. This challenge is a good opportunity to clean out the pantry and make room for future, fresh stock and home-canned goods (because you’ll be looking for that dusty food in a few weeks). Whatever’s left in your pantry at the end of the summer – you’ll probably never eat it!
We set aside a few rules for ourselves to follow, some have been carried on from last year, and other’s I’ve since added or changed now that I have a better understanding of what’s in store.
1. NO shopping at the grocery store, butcher, drug store, big box stores, etc.…essentially no shopping anywhere where there’s tax and a roof. Toilet paper is an exception, although, surprisingly, feminine hygiene products are NOT! Buy a Diva Cup, already!
2. You CAN eat food from: farmer’s markets, side-of-road fruit and veggie stands, your garden, your friends garden, people you’ve traded with, fishermen and farmers. You can also eat the food that’s lingering in your pantry, and, of course, food that you’ve foraged.
3. You can eat out twice a month! You will SO be looking forward to this!
No “stocking up” before hand (this was a cold-turkey, spur of the moment decision). This is one of the big rules that I’ve changed from last year. Since I’ve been anticipating this challenge, I can’t really quite shopping “cold-turkey” the urge to “stock up.” But, after last year, I realized that there are a few things that I am going to stock up on, and will make persevering food a lot easier. You can stock up on:
- Raw, organic sugar (which I use for canning and wine-making purposes only)
- Salt (for fermenting and preserving food)
- Organic flour (for baking bread – I make sourdough, so I don’t use yeast, but that it something you also may want to get ahead of time)
- Rolled oats (which I use for homemade granola to turn flour for these muffins)
- Coconut oil (I use this for all of my cooking needs, and it is my main, fat-source)
- Dried nuts and seeds (which I use to make nut milks, and are another healthy, fat and protein source that I can’t source locally)
- Rice and quinoa
Everything else you should be able to source locally – honey, fruit, veg, fish and shellfish, poultry, beef, berries. And YES, you can treat yourself to homemade bread and baked goods at farmer’s markets!
5. You can eat at friend’s and family’s homes if you’re invited – I don’t think that you’d be willing to spend a summer without socializing.
6. When/if you go camping, you can buy beer. This is such a weird “rule,” I know – you can thank my husband for this one. But really, what’s camping without cold, beer? (We did go camping last year and my husband bought enough beer to last us the rest of the summer…not really what I had in mind). If you can, try out a local, microbrewery.
Can I afford to eat like this all summer? We found that we spent about the same on food – if anything, a little less. You save money by not buying unnecessary food at the grocery store, and end up spending more on quality food when you support local. Remember, your couple extra dollars are going into the pockets of hard-working, local farmers, and thus, the local economy.
But I didn’t start a garden this year, should I still do the challenge? Yes! I had a very modest garden last year, and this year too. Farmer’s markets and fruit stands offer a bounty of options!
Is it difficult to source local meat? A little… and if you’re a “meat for every meal” kind of eater, then this challenge will either be costly, or shift to your eating habits. My solution – eat less meat! It’s not necessary to eat meat for every meal – it’s hard on your body and the planet. You can still get plenty of protein from farm fresh eggs, quinoa, nuts and seeds.
When do I start? How long should I continue this challenge? That it really up you, but I’ll start around mid-June to July, when the food is really available and the markets are in full swing, and continue on until mid to late September. Last year we did 6 weeks, so this year we’re pushing for 8, but do what you can 🙂 Ideally, set a goal and stick to it!
Is it ok for kids? What if I have a picky eater? Of course – a summer of whole foods, teaching your kids how to grow food, source local food, and that food doesn’t grow in the grocery store, will be a great life lesson. And personally, didn’t have a problem with feeding my toddler at all! Also, I don’t believe in catering to picky eaters, so I won’t be accepting that as an excuse 🙂
I live in the City, is this even possible? My best friend, who lives in Vancouver, proved that you can do it! It takes a little more effort, and often driving to rural, farming communities, but yes, possible.
I hope that your join me in the Summer 2015 No Grocery Store/Eat Local Challenge! Look for the Facebook page (coming soon), where we can share our tips, likes, dislikes, food-share info, farmer’s market locations etc.