Monday, 14 January 2013

Feeding the world one urban home at a time

A few weeks back my eye was rather caught by this article here about the Future of Food: Can Organic Farming Feed the World from the Small Footprint Family blog. I think it was short after I saw on youtube a documentary made a few years ago about the future of farming here in the UK from the view of a farmer's daughter here in Devon. The underlying point from both were that current farming methods are not sustainable. So it was on my mind for a bit, and then Christmas happened and starting my new business venture, but then the other day I heard on BBC news about the Institute of Mechanical Engineers publishing a report that claims that 30-50% of food produced does not make it to a human stomach. I'll let that settle in. Up to half of all food produced in the world is wasted. In my day job I talk to some vulnerable and often hungry people so this just seems plain wrong to be happening.

I remember being concerned about "green" stuff twenty years ago as a child. I'm pretty sure that "reduce, reuse, recycle" only became common later to wider audiences. Food is a finite source. It takes land, water and oil to produce industrial qualities of food. My personal feeling that I don't care whether we're reached Peak Oil or whether climate change is caused by humans or entirely natural. I do however care that it's doesn't make sense to balance our whole economy on something as finite as oil. I just don't think it makes much sense to keep making more and more of stuff, and that has only been compounded by this report from IME. It's a waste of resources, an insult to the producers, and when it comes to food wasted in the western world it is largely consumers who are to blame. So this is something we can do something about. The report recommends that we put into action what we already know about making good use of food. So here is my advise, tried and tested.

  • Grow your own. Firstly you have control, and secondly you don't. Mother Nature doesn't often make perfect tomatoes and sometimes carrots are funny shapes in the real world too. Growing your own teaches you to be more forgiving when selecting fruit and veg that other people have grown. Buying from local producers is another good way for naturally shaped and appearanced fruit and veg to be given a chance. I'm really lucky. I have a local grocer who sell their own stuff plus a few bits from other people. I can buy unusual varities of apple that look less than perfect but taste fantastic. The next best thing I've seen in the supermarkets is again apples. Tesco and sainsburys seem to use whatever variety is cheap to sell as their cheap range. So don't always buy the beautiful shiny apple (or whatever) when the ugly sister next to it is less wasteful and still tasty. 
  • Only buy what you need or can reasonably use. This was actually high-lighted in the report as they point out that bulk offers from supermarkets often result in bulk waste when stuff goes off. So you know, meal plan. I go to the shops on a saturday, buy what's cheap or on offer, get home and then plan what I'm going to make for the week dependent on what I've bought. Obviously I know I need to buy a few kg of veg and usually about 5kg of meat/fish every week so that helps because that's how these foods are sold. Sometimes I will buy more of something than I know I will use in a week, so when I get home I repack it for the freezer. Simple. I have meat, veg and fruit in my freezer. Rotate what's in your freezer, checking through it every few weeks and include it in your meal plans. The nice thing about eating the way that I do (meat plus veg) is that it's really easy to plan. The only thing else that I will add to this point is to plan yourself some easy to make or can be cooked from frozen meals. I will try and share some examples in the coming weeks. I had a friend fail at converting to this way of eating because he forgot too often to get meat out of the freezer to defrost. 
  • Use up leftovers. This site isn't paleo but you get the point - Love Food Hate Waste. Again your freezer is your friend but really it's best to use stuff up sooner rather than later. If you put stuff in the freezer - label it! I speak from experience. You're not saving anything if you end up throwing food away as unidentifiable. Everything looks the same once it's been in the freezer long enough. Omelettes are a good way to use up veg, and can be eaten at any time of day. Scraps of meat can be saved for things like a stew or curry. And save them bones. Stock and broth are common ways to make best use of left over veg and bones. Bone broth is easy to make, good for the digestive system, protein sparing, filling, and generally good for you as well as economical.  
  • Eat nose to tail. The report focuses more on plants than meat, and carries the assumption that meat is automatically uses more resources than plants. However if they are measuring what makes it to the human stomach then eating nose to tail will increase the amount of the animal that we eat and therefore generate less "waste" (although much of the waste is used to feed dogs and cats amongst used for other things). I am planning on getting a bigger freezer and when I do I will be buying my meat by the part animal. Eating nose to tail and making things like broth will mean I can go longer between purchases and throw away less at the end. 
I will probably expand on all these in later posts. However I've got a long day ahead of me tomorrow so I'm off to bed. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Eight days into a fresh 30 Days Paleo

I thought I'd offer up a little insight into how things are going. I was worried that after months of not being as strict as I would have liked that it was going to prove really hard. So far it's been relatively easy. I managed to walk past the creme eggs in tescos and avoid the chocolate machine at work. From time to time I get a sugar craving, even though I'm not deliberately trying to be low carb. I was probably helped on by one of my colleagues who IS low carb at the moment. She was having a difficult day so bought a big bar of dark chocolate and shared it out. I'm not avoiding dark chocolate but didn't have any with me. I was also having a difficult day, and that piece of dark chocolate stopped me from breaking and buying normal chocolate.

This next week is the really big challenge. I'm going out for a meal Saturday night to celebrate my birthday followed by drinks. I have my plans to manage this, but there will be peer pressure to conform. Thankfully since it's my birthday I've picked the restaurant. However the big challenge follows on Sunday when I have a re-enactment group meeting. There's always food at our meetings, and it often revolves around bread. Yummy yummy spelt bread. But I'm just going to have to say no.

Really the thing that keeps me strong so far is knowing that I'm going to be seriously disappointed in myself if I can't make 30 days.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Why my goals for 2013 didn't include a fitness goal.

Most paleo folks have fitness goals. Most paleo folks who have blogs talk about fitness sooner or later. Movement and exercise are an important part of realising our genetic potential and an important part of achieving "health". So why have I not included a fitness goal?

I'm going to be having surgery at least once in 2013. I might even have surgery twice. Not simple day surgery stuff either.

I've also taken to heart the advice Robb Wolf gives in The Paleo Solution to build and maintain some muscle.  So no specific fitness goals at the moment beyond making time and energy for movement that allows me to build and maintain some muscle. Once I'm done with surgery I look to bring to fruition some ideas I've been having about physical challenges. I live near Dartmoor so I'd like to get climbing. I like would to try a martial art. And I would like to tackle one of those big obstacle races.

So there you go. No fitness goal because other priorities fill my world at the moment.

As a PS to our goals though. I realised at the gym tonight that this is the first time I am doing a strict 30 days Paleo and working out regularly throughout. My sleep isn't great at the moment but I'm trying to work on that. I've also got loads of social stuff planned for the month too. It feels like I'm really giving myself a cracking start to 2013, as long as I actually do it all.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

My aims for 2013 - I don't do resolutions

Resolutions are too easily broken. A whole year is a big ask. Whilst aiming to make a change is a good ideal there are too many unknowns over that kind of time frame. I do however have some aims for the time ahead.

  • Do a proper 30 paleo without non-paleo treats. So no grains, no vegetable oils, only dairy will be in my tea/coffee, no legumes, will allow myself dark chocolate. My plan is to then give myself February  "off" before getting back on track for March. Really this is to prepare my body as best as possible for surgery later in the year. By March I should have a surgery date for chest surgery. 
  • Start and build a small business venture I am getting involved in. It's an established company and I will have plenty of support. I would like the extra money plus the experience building a business. The extra money will hopefully get ploughed into paying off my mortgage. 
  • I want to have my chest surgery before the summer and I would like to have at least consulted about lower surgery before the end of the year. I will continue to work on improving myself in preparation for surgery so I can do what I can to have the best result possible. Just call me vain.
  • I want to replace the lawn in my garden with raised beds and stone paths. I want to move my chicken coop so it's better positioned on my patio. I want a water butt. I want to rip down the shed in my garden that is falling down and replace it by rebuilding and extending my side shed. And I want to see how much food I can produce from my garden. I want a garden that produces food and that I can enjoy spending time in without being a slave to it. I have further plans but I think this is enough for one year. 
  • And last but not least I want to lay down some good memories with friends and family. 

We'll see how many of them I manage. And in the mean time I really need to polish a couple of recipes so that they're good enough to share.