Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, March 30, 2009

What does eating sustainably mean?

Sustainable Food Budget Challenge - April 2009The Sustainable Food Budget Challenge starts in a few days and I wanted to clarify a bit what I mean by eating sustainably for the month.

First off, one thing that people seem to be getting hung up on is the idea that you have to eat local only during the challenge. If you go back and look at the guidelines, I'm not requiring you buy your food during the challenge from a farmers market, and this is because most farmers markets aren't open for a lot of us or, if they are, the only things that are in season are storage foods like potatoes and root vegetables and for us in the Pacific Northwest, it's soon going to be all rhubarb and asparagus as far as fresh produce goes.

Not that I couldn't spend most of the month of April eating nothing but those items, but suffice it to say I'll want some other variety and that's where I'll choose certified organic or the like (I'll have a post later this week describing what all the different certifications mean). Some people have the issue in their area where farmers markets are far more expensive than getting other, sustainably grown foods, so they'll need to explore their grocery stores for more affordable options or choose wisely.

So, for most of us that don't have access to farmers markets at this time of year or you are still under a ton of snow, that means the next level is organic or sustainably farmed items that are shipped in from elsewhere, frozen or canned, and preferably family farmed. If some of that is local, great. Family farm produce/products might not be doable in your area, so you will need to rely mostly on certified organic (or similar) to know whether or not what you are buying is sustainably grown.

We are lucky where I live in that there are a lot of locally grown fresh fruits readily available in our grocery stores. They are mostly apples and pears, but that's what we've been eating all winter anyway. For supplemental fruits, I've been getting organic frozen fruits and vegetables from local farms that are sold in our grocery stores as well as organic frozen juice (concentrate).

Since we've been eating seasonally for the last year, limiting what we eat mostly to what's local and in season (except for a few splurge items here and there like avocados and tomatoes), I tell you I'm champing at the bit for asparagus season to start. Roasted asparagus, grilled asparagus, steamed asparagus. I have a much higher appreciation for these tasty treats since I refuse to buy them fresh out of season or imported from South America.

Anyway, if you want to participate in the challenge, don't feel like you have to buy your produce from a farmers market. In many areas you should be able to find organic or sustainably grown products in your grocery stores. I would, however, caution against purchasing organic food flown in from out of the country, if you can. Not all of us have easy access to sustainably grown foods in our regions, so you'll need to decide what works best for you and, I suspect, this challenge will be more difficult.

If you want to sign up for the challenge, add your name to the comments of this post.

Do you have any year-round farmers markets or ones that will be open in April where you live? If so, what local fruits and/or vegetables are available now?


Anonymous said...

Well yes we do, but as I'm talking from the other hemisphere you may not want to hear what we can buy in our Framers marekt at the moment. Just think harvest and add Quince, purple potatoes, courgette, chinese greens and fresh garlic and you'll have the right idea.

knutty knitter said...

So do we. Apple and pear season mostly as plums seem to be scarce this year. Lots of veges too.

We are lucky enough to have a local shop which is also supplied locally mostly. It also has cheap rubbishy stuff from elsewhere but that is avoidable.

Peanut butter has become an issue. We used to get it from Australia which isn't too bad but now most of it comes from China! Then its labeled in Australia. At least country of origin is required on packaging round here so we do get to choose. I think I'll have to look into this one.

viv in nz

Chili said...

"Certifications later this week." Are you including the Food Alliance? I just discovered them and wow.... do they have a ton to offer. I foresee the Food Alliance as the wave of the future of "credible" certifications and more folks need to be made aware of their awesome work.

organicneedle said...

For 6 months of the year I find sustainable local/organic easy-peasy. Between the CSA and the farmer's markets it is hard to go wrong. The rest of the year...the guilt sinks in... way over-packaged, too well traveled organics. Although, things are getting easier now that local has become trendy. Stores like Trader Joe's have started finding closer suppliers which has been a major help and convenience. Isn't it great when trends are actually good?

Kelli - Our Local Life said...

Our farmers markets here in North Central Florida are open year-round. Right now we mainly have citrus - of all kinds, many not available at grocery stores. We're about to have loquats which are ripening on the tree. And it's strawberry season!

One downside we're experiencing at our local markets is a growing tendency to have non-local food. Out of the three year-round markets, only one has it in their by-laws that food must be sold by the grower and be from within a certain radius (less than 100 miles). I wonder if that's a temptation of year-round markets that the season ones don't face.

Fleecenik Farm said...

We have eaten all the green foods from the freezer. so we have been buy broccoli and spinach for a couple of weeks. However, we just had a good rain last night and I think I can see the poly tunnels that I covered last fall with spinach sprouts in them. I think I can also put some lettuce seed in a planter and put it under lights with my other seedlings. The farmers market is 2 times a month through the winter but it is usually milk, meat and cheese until April when some leafy greens that have ben grown in green houses make an appearance.

hmd said...

Our year round farmer's market is incredible. In the way of fruits, we just have strawberries, but veggies are plentiful:

Peppers, tomatoes, carrots, red onions, yellow onions, green onions, cabbage, red potatoes, white potatoes, broccoli, lettuce, beet greens, collard greens, celery, mustard greens, herbs, radishes, turnips, chives

And that doesn't include all the extras:

Honey, pickles, locally roasted coffees, locally roasted peanuts, homemade egg noodles, olive oil, a variety of baked goods: tortillas, yeast breads, sweet breads, cookies, and pies, a variety of salsas, jams and jellies, dry mixes, decorative and vegetable plants, and a wonderful variety of beautiful crafts

I love our market!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarifications. I have about reached my limit of root vegetables and tubors. Oh what i would give for local asparagus and rhubarb. Counting the days until teh wild leaks break through the earth.

Anonymous said...

I'm really disappointed in our Farmer's Markets. They don't have a good selection and the prices are beyond ridiculous. I'm willing to spend more money for local and organic, but frankly, I feel the prices are being jacked up because of the upscale neighborhood the market is in and the cost is really prohibitive. I prefer to go to an actual u-pick or farm-stand. And now my venting session is over, nothing opens around here till May.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I want to move to Heather's town!

No farmer's markets around here until May. Nothing local (except maybe early peas or spinach from my garden???) unless it's stored from last season.

Sigh. That's okay, because we're going to do the best we can with what in our freezer and cans.

Anonymous said...

Our local farmer's market does have winter markets, but the last one was on March 22 and then there's a hiatus until the regular season starts on May 10. So I'm out of luck. Although I have recently joined a buying club that features locally-grown organic food. Sadly, as my husband refuses to eat kale or mushrooms, that severely limits our options at this time of year.

The Internetter said...

Living in LA, I'm pretty close to the "fruit basket of the nation"--well, one of them--so we get a pretty good variety of fruits and vegetables all year long at farmers markets! :D (I love LA, so I'm sorry, I have to brag.) That's not to say that the blueberries they sell are actually in season--I think they grow them in greenhouses--nor are they cheap, but at least they're there and local. They have so many strawberries that I'm sick of them. :P AND.... they have asparagus. :) Must be in season in CA. LOTS and lots of asparagus. Just had it a couple nights ago. :D

Kori~Q~ said...

This is one of those times I feel so lucky to live in Central Texas! We have year-round farmers markets (Sunset Valley is my favorite, even though it takes about 30 minutes to drive down there), we have you-pick places fairly close (my freezer, pantry and fridge are bulging with the 40lbs of strawberreis we picked & prepped over the weekend) and we have a good-sized raised bed organic garden set-up (currently at 12 4x4 beds, planning to add more) plus two peach trees and a handful of grapevines. My hubby also found a local dairyman that we can get milk and eggs from - and from said milk, my hubby makes cheese. Anything else we might need, I can usually find a local (or at least semi-local) source through our food co-op, and sometimes even through our regular ol' grocery stores.

I do have to give a shout-out to Heather @ SGF - she mentioned a local source for all kinds of rice on her blog, that they'll ship in bulk right to my door, no charge for the shipping. Gotta love RiceSelect! Still working on a local source for flour, so for now that's just organic whole wheat, bought in bulk from the co-op.

Now... the whole part about staying under the budget guidelines is what's going to make this a challenge for my house. Looking forward to giving it a try!

Cheap Like Me said...

Our farmer's markets in Denver, Colo., start in late May or June. Last year we only went once and were disappointed that the one we visited, in mid June, had all "imported" food from California, etc. We ate our CSA veggies all summer and didn't return to the market. I've vowed to try again this year.

Anonymous said...

In Vancouver we have the winter market to get us through, but it incredibly expensive and imo best avoided if trying to save money.
I buy from a company called
It's a little less expensive than the farmer's market

Adrienne said...

Our farmer's market here in Kansas starts on April 11, but it's kind of slim pickings at first. The asparagus is NOT CHEAP! and you have to get there right when the market opens or it'll be all gone already.

I did some shopping for the challenge already (saved my receipt so i can make sure to stay on budget) at the co-op. They carry a lot of organic stuff and local stuff if it's available. Organic stuff from the bulk section (beans, rice, barley, oats, etc.) is easily affordable but we'll see how it goes with getting enough fruits & veg on a limited budget.

stella said...

We have a year-round farmers market here in Berkeley. Items to be found--asparagus, still beautiful root veggies, enormous oranges, grapefruit, avocados, leeks, spring onions, and greens.

We've been keeping track of how much the two of us spend, and the farmer's market isn't the problem--we spend more buying beer, wine, coffee, and going out with friends. So we're going to try to up our farmer's market spending and make our own coffees and pastries and limit our alcohol.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

The Husband and I split a pint of Organic Pale Ale last weekend. Does that count? :)

Bucky said...

Houston has a number of year-round farmers markets. Unfortunately, they've priced me almost completely out. The produce is nice, but the markets have become very fashionable among the well-heeled Houston Cuisinati. At a couple of the markets, I see the snob appeal of people bragging about HOW MUCH they paid. Oy.

Luckily we have co-op options.

Anyone know about pick-your-own around here? The 100 mile limit is kinda difficult -- you have to drive about half of that just to get out of the suburbs.

I have great luck when I must travel to East Texas to visit family and stop at all the roadside stands that people have. Seasonal food as well as some amazing jellies and jams and canned goods and other home-made tidbits.

hmd said...

Bucky - have you looked into Local Harvest? They have great resources and will let you know what's within 100 miles. I'm probably a little far from you (Bryan-College Station). We have a wonderful market (Saturday, Wednesday, and soon to be on Monday as well). If you're ever in town, check us out!

You can also look into 100 Mile Harvest. It's a family that lives just south of Houston and they are trying to eat ALL local for 1 year. If you contact them, I'll bet they have tons of resources they could tip you on.

Here are some of those email addresses for the things I mentioned:

Local Harvest:

Brazos Valley Farmers' Market:

100 MIle Harvest:

Hope this helps! If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly. I'm a locavore myself and know of a lot of resources in the BCS area.

Robj98168 said...

LOL. When the farmers markets are closed, and I can't get to PCC, I usually buy produce from the local Green Grocer, he is very good about telling me where stuff came from.
MY HIerarchy concerning food is 1 Local (within 100miles)2- If not local then organic 3- Fair Trade is an important thing for me- I cant enjoy my coffee knowing that some 5 year old got paid 5 cents an hour to pick the beans.

Bucky said...


Thanks so much for the info. I'm looking forward to exploring the sites when I have a little more time.

The 100 Mile Harvest site looked interesting, and I spent a few minutes digging around. I love their shopping lists for the farmers markets here near me. Yum. But their budget far outstrips mine. One of their weekly shopping trips to the farmers markets is my entirely monthly food budget.

I make it to B/CS about once a year. I'll try to time the next visit for a market day. Otherwise, even though it is in the 100 mile limit, spending $40 on gas seems to rather defeat the purpose. ;-)

hmd said...

Bucky - you might think about a CSA. There's one in Brenham called Home Sweet Farm that everyone seems to love and they have a pick up location somewhere in Houston. I don't know what your budget is, but the people I know who belong are far from wealthy.

Crunchy - I hope it's ok that we're talking over the post :)

ruchi said...

Crunch, I already basically do this, but it would be good to get an added kick in the butt. I'm in.

Megan said...

Ok, I think this is a great idea. I'll ask Mac if he's up for it. We're planning to do another 2 pound a day diet in June, though, so he might be a bit sick of food-based challenges.

What about grains, rice, cereals, etc? We can get British oats and local flour and bread, but next to nothing else. I don't think I could even get dried beans from Europe, let alone the UK.

Fruit and veg are easy-ish to get from the UK, as are meat and dairy, but I won't be able to afford meat or dairy on this amount.