The first week of the challenge is now complete, and starting today we are going into Week 2. Although we are not eating 100% locally yet, we have been eating more local food at each meal - even if that means milk from a local organic dairy farm or pears that I canned last summer.
After seven days, I've learned the following things:
1. Introducing local food slowly works for my family. I was happy to see that by today (one week after I went to the dairy farm) that both the skim and chocolate milk are almost gone. We have limited the amount of milk everyone drinks otherwise both would have been gone much quicker.
Choosing the elk sausage was the result of the mini-challenge during Week 1. No one in the family had ever tried it, and we were all pleasantly surprised. I was so happy to hear my youngest daughter say when asked, "What type of meat do you want for lunch?" and hear her reply, "Elk sausage." That's exactly what I had hoped for: a decision on each person's part to eat locally.
The elk sausage that my daughter likes a lot is
on the lower right-hand corner of the plate.
2. We have a lot of food on hand that we need to use up before we could eat 100% locally-grown and/or locally-produced food. One of the things I had a habit of doing was purchasing food whether or not we needed it. I would create menu plans and try new recipes - all without looking at what was already in my freezer, refrigerator, and/or cupboards. Needless to say, we had full cupboards, freezers, and a refrigerator.
So, last month on March 5th I began another challenge called 40 Bags in 40 Days in which I worked on the kitchen - each cupboard, the freezer, and refrigerator. My goal was to purchase only the essential things we needed, with the ultimate goal of using what we had on hand so we could start fresh by the summer.
We are in the process of using up canned foods, dry goods, and frozen items. When we need essential items (e.g., milk, butter, cheese, bread) we are now buying locally-produced and/or locally-grown food.
3. Winter and early spring are very challenging times to try to find locally-grown and/or locally-produced food in Minnesota. I am looking forward to planting a garden again this year as well as visiting various farmers markets. The farmers market season begins in mid-May...so less than a month to wait before fresh vegetables and fruits are ready!
4. Eating locally in winter is possible if one has planned and prepared well during the summer and early fall months. Regularly visiting the farmers markets in the area and buying locally-grown produce in the summer and preserving it (e.g., canning, freezing, drying) is essential to being able to eat locally year-round.
We do have a variety of fruit (e.g., peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries) and vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, green beans, yellow beans) that we still have on hand that I canned, froze, and dried from Summer 2013, but it is not nearly enough in terms of quantity and variety to sustain us throughout the off-season.
I'm planning on doing a better job this growing season in terms of preserving food so we can use it throughout the rest of the year.
Local Ingredients Purchased This Week
I went to Autumnwood Farm on Monday and purchased organic skim milk, organic chocolate milk, smoked colby cheese, cheese curds, and elk sausage.
The bill came to about $33 which included a $4 milk bottle deposit. (I don't believe I have to pay the $4 charge the next time I come back with the two bottles from Monday's purchase.)
Local Ingredients on Hand (Preserved During Summer 2013):
We used several items that I canned last summer and fall: applesauce, tomatoes, pears, and peaches.
Looking Forward to Week 2
Because I live in a rural area, the number of stores and co-ops is more limited than if I lived in the city. My goals this week are to:
1. Find more locally-grown and/or locally-produced items available in nearby stores, meat markets, and co-ops. When I went to the grocery store last week I was pleasantly surprised to see that the dairy section had some cheese that was produced within 100 miles of our home.
I have not visited the co-op yet, but will be doing so later this week. I'm looking forward to seeing what locally-made options are available there.
Last, I'm going to call three different meat markets that are within 15 miles of my home and ask where the meat is purchased from (locally, sources within the state, and/or national sources). This should better help us make decisions about where we spend our food money.
2. Call the customer service numbers of local food companies and ask where the products are grown and manufactured. Hopefully by doing this I will find more products that are readily available throughout the year.
3. Create a meal plan. I did not have a meal plan this past week. Rather, we used what was on hand and ate leftovers as a way to ensure that we were not wasting food that would simply sit in the refrigerator.
I'd like to more carefully look at what meals I am able to prepare with food that I have in the cupboards, freezers, and refrigerator. Whatever meals need to be supplemented and/or are missing ingredients, I would like to purchase local ingredients to complete them.