Posts tagged Food
The Choice to Go Organic

It's a divisive issue. Whether or not to buy organic food doesn't just affect your monthly shop, it also projects a certain image out to the world about the sort of person you are, and many don't see it as the positive lifestyle choice that we believe it to be. Dan and I have been growing and buying organic food for a number of years now, but it's only over the past six months or so that we've made a real, conscious effort to embrace it as a lifestyle choice. It's fortuitous (or perhaps serendipitous?) that we've embarked on this organic journey with full steam ahead, at the same time that supermarkets have cottoned on to the fact that people are actually interested in buying this stuff.

So why all the fuss?


Organic produce, in essence, is food that isn't grown using unnatural chemicals or pesticides; that's not to say that it doesn't receive any help during the growing process, but natural products are the order of the day. The simplest way of looking at the decision to eat organic, is as a choice not to pollute your body with these chemicals. I don't know about you, but I'm not too keen on the idea of my bloodstream swimming with pesticides and herbicides. This video from Swedish supermarket Coop, shows the effect that eating organic food can have in just two weeks; it doesn't take long to rid your body of these chemicals, the long-term effects of which are unknown. 

Choosing organic is also hugely beneficial for the environment. If we don't relish the idea of flushing chemicals through our bodies, why would it be any better for the earth around us? It is estimated that the UK has only around 100 harvests left before we have depleted everything we can from the soil. What then? 

Of course, there are possible solutions to this crisis, one of them being to grow your own food. Allotment holders produce between 4 and 11 times more food per hectare than farmers, mainly because their crops are hand-cultivated. If this isn't an option for you, then veg boxes could be the way forward. During the hungry gap in May, and through the winter when our own produce is scarce, we order weekly organic boxes from Riverford (not a sponsored post - I just like the company!). They're affordable and reliable, and we love the seasonal nature of the veg. They state that their organic methods of farming promote "biodiversity within fields, in the hedgerows and, most importantly, in the soil". Carbon sequestration also "removes CO2 from the atmosphere and accumulates it as increased levels of organic matter in the soil". So the soil is healthier, and I'm healthier. Surely that's a win-win? 

One of the biggest arguments against organic food is the cost. However, if you're willing to do a bit of creative cooking, it really can be very affordable. As a couple, we use the following per week during the hungry gap (when we don't have any of our own produce):

  • 1 x medium fruit & veg box from Riverford. It's supposed to feed 2-3 people, and comes with at least 6 varieties of vegetables and 3 fruit varieties. £16.75
  • 1 x 2 litre whole milk from Riverford. It lasts us for cereal and milk for coffees for the whole week. £1.95
  • Some kind of vegetable pasty or homity pie from Riverford. Will be good for one evening meal. £2.35 - £3.35
  • Something for the store cupboard. This usually alternates between oats, pasta, rice and noodles. £1.79 - £2.95
  • Food order from Sainsburys, which includes any fish (Dan is pescatarian and I've stopped buying meat altogether). I find that they do the best range of organic produce, and it's getting better all the time. I do one order per month and spend on average £60, so that's around £12.50 per week.

Total average spend per week = £37.50
 

Don't get me wrong, I know that you can spend less than this buying own-brand products from supermarkets. I'm not trying to convince you that this is the cheapest option, but it is more affordable, I think, than many believe. What's more, I haven't even touched on how much better organic vegetables can taste. 

I know that for many, choosing to shop in this way isn't really a priority, but what I urge you to consider is the long-term impacts that eating organic food has on your health, and the health and well-being of the planet as a whole. 

I'll leave you with this: 

“Organic is something we can all partake of and benefit from. When we demand organic, we are demanding poison-free food. We are demanding clean air. We are demanding pure, fresh water. We are demanding soil that is free to do its job and seeds that are free of toxins. We are demanding that our children be protected from harm. We all need to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done—buy organic whenever we can, insist on organic, fight for organic and work to make it the norm. We must make organic the conventional choice and not the exception.” 
― Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, author of Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe
Slow Food: The Importance of Celebration

It can be so easy to hurtle through and consume at speed in order to make time for doing other stuff, but what if in doing so you're missing out on one of life's great but simple pleasures that costs little and can be enjoyed every day? 

In this post I'll take you through 5 simple steps that you can introduce to your mealtimes today.

Often it's the most basic of activities - like an evening meal - that can be overlooked.  It's time to start prioritising the everyday as a celebration too. Here’s how to get started – before eating your evening meal tonight, just take a moment to look at what’s on your plate. It’s not about making yourself feel guilty for all the advantages that most of us experience, but rather it’s a reminder that no matter what has gone wrong that day, no matter what stresses may lie in store for tomorrow, right now you are privileged enough to have a plate of food in front of you. 

We don’t say grace in our house, but this is our own personal way of counting our blessings. Perhaps you’d like to say something? Giving thanks is a good place to start; leave it there if you like, or add a more personal touch if you’d prefer. It’s fantastic to try if you have children as it instills gratitude at an early age, forming it into a habit rather than a chore.

Now you’ve altered your initial approach to a plate full of food, it’s time to turn that everyday meal into a celebration. Here are 5 ways you can achieve this:

  1. Turn off all electronic devices (mobiles, laptops, TV etc.) and really focus on the moment. If you don’t like silence then a little music will add to the atmosphere, but nothing more.

  2. Light some candles. It takes only the striking of a match, but immediately lends a romantic, peaceful feel to the dinner table.

  3. Set the table (with whatever you like). Use a tablecloth, get out the place mats or fold napkins into pretty designs – all of these are such simple acts, but can really make a meal feel like something special.

  4. Gather the troops. Of course if you live alone this isn’t always an option, but if you live with your family, partner or friends, then eating together is a sure-fire way to really connect after a long day. Many choose to eat separately for ease, but in order to appreciate slow food you won’t want anyone thundering up the stairs or watching TV in the other room.

  5. Sit and enjoy a drink for a minute or two first. Again you’re only elongating the whole process by a short stretch of time, but it will give you chance to pause and take stock of any chaos left behind from your day before continuing with your meal.

Tonight aim to do just one of these things, and over the next week try them all out before selecting one night when you’ll try out all 5. I certainly noticed a difference when first following these steps, and it turned our mealtimes into something to treasure rather than rush through at speed.

Healthy Living

Healthy-Living3-Creative-Countryside

There have been a few changes afoot in the CC household over the past few weeks. We were entering a sluggish rut after Christmas and the usual January health kick wasn't working: change just didn't seem achievable. Work was getting busier every day and we barely had time for each other, never mind time to spend thinking about eating well and exercising. Luckily for Mr CC, his job is physical and so he exercises everyday, but despite standing for a long periods of time in my job, I am not so fortunate - exercise is something I have to find the time for. With a wedding dress fitting scheduled for Easter, summer on the horizon, and a general feeling of continuing lethargy, it was time to take action. Here's what we've decided...

  1. Eat more grains. Pearl barley, buckwheat, quinoa; you name it, it's healthy and cheap, and anything that reduces our monthly spend is good news in my book. Hopefully choosing grains will reduce our reliance on white pasta and rice which currently permeate much of our diet.
  2. Choose organic fruit and vegetables wherever possible. This has been something we have been striving to achieve for a while, but now our conscious efforts are transforming into firmer decisions. More on our reasoning for this later in the month.
  3. Plan ahead and make energy boosting snacks to prevent 3pm hunger strikes and biscuit cravings. Not eating in order to lose weight is no fun at all; we want to use food as a fuel, just as nature intended, and this means eating the right sort of snacks (seeds, nuts, dried fruit) rather than avoiding them entirely.
  4. Eat less red meat. We've never been averse to eating vegetarian foods and choosing fish instead of meat, but we're now saving red meat for special occasions rather than eating it regularly. This should also have a positive effect on our bank balance!
  5. Use honey as a sweetener instead of sugar. Mr CC's experience as a beekeeper has been a contributing factor to this decision, but health has also dictated the change, as we are trying to eat more natural products rather than refined sugars.
  6. Use extra virgin olive oil more in cooking and on salads. Mr CC informs me that olive oil can actually reduce cholesterol and is full of good fats; I'm sold!

On a personal level, I am also trying to introduce a more regular exercise regime at home, with a range of dance, pilates and toning DVDs / online videos.

Are you focusing on healthy living too this month? Any tips or advice?

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Eleanor CheethamFood, Health, Life
Preparations

It's that time of year again when, unless I am fully organised and ready for the festive season ahead, I start to get a little bit frantic. I am usually fairly well-prepared but this year others are putting me to shame, having already bought and wrapped all their gifts, ordered their Christmas food and got the tree up and decorated (still a bit early for my tree!). So this weekend has been designated the 'get on top of Christmas' weekend, and if I'm honest I'm relishing the idea of preparing for one of my favourite times of the year complete with warming hot chocolates and perhaps a festive film or two.

Lincolnshire-Produce-Creative-Countryside
Lincolnshire-Produce-Creative-Countryside

I began in earnest last night and attended the preview of the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair at the Showground. Complete with the smooth dulcet tones of Jazz singer Molly Amour and a complimentary glass of wine from Steep Hill wines, it was the perfect opportunity to survey the best of what the county has to offer, and I left with a number of bags and a feeling of over-indulgence after tasting one too many Lincolnshire cheeses. The show continues today and tomorrow and features demonstrations and workshops for those wanting a little crafting or baking inspiration for the weeks ahead, alongside numerous stalls bursting with local flavours and produce.

Dried-Fruit-Creative-Countrysde
Dried-Fruit-Creative-Countrysde
Turkish-Delight-Creative-Countryside
Turkish-Delight-Creative-Countryside

I managed to purchase another few gifts and some tasty treats for the fridge, so I left feeling very content that the preparation weekend had started so well. Head over here for tickets for the show (£5), or alternatively buy on the door for a slightly higher price (£6). Do not miss the baklava in the second hall; I had another for breakfast this morning they were that good!

Tea-Pin-Creative-Countryside
Tea-Pin-Creative-Countryside

How is your Christmas shopping going? Have you been to any festive fairs yet?

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P.S. Check back later for a second preparations post on creating a Christmas advent calendar!

London: a new food discovery + a long walk
London

It's amazing how much you can fit in on a short visit to the capital. I stayed in two different areas of London (with friends, then family) over the weekend and managed to fit in a lot of miles over a few days (the sort of break where you need a break again once it's over). We had an indoor barbecue (I brought the rain...), swooned at wedding dresses, sang along to the new Beatles musical - Let it Be - and ate far too many croissants. In short, it was the best weekend I've had in a long while. Our first stop on the Saturday was the V&A for the wedding dresses exhibition - a present from my friend, and also a feature on my Big Summer List. Living down south, my two friends haven't had a great deal of involvement in wedding plans so far, so it was lovely to spend time together as bride and bridesmaids and discuss, dissect and delve into the world of wedding dresses. There were some beautiful fabrics, some rather interesting designs and some that were just downright off the chart (they didn't look anything like wedding dresses for a start).

All that wandering through the world of weddings left us hungry, so we wandered to find something to eat once we were finished and discovered the café Muriel's Kitchen. Located right next to South Kensington's tube station and in the heart of Museum Quarter, it was a feast for the eyes as well as our hungry selves. The decor was simple but styled and I loved the tea cups on the walls in particular - something that matched with the almost vintage vibe of the café.

tea cups

food sign

quiche and courgettes

I chose the butternut squash, feta and spinach quiche with a side of chargrilled summer courgette ribbons and the taste was so fresh and light that I didn't feel weighed down like lunch out can often leave me. My friends also tried the sweet potato wedges which were apparently delicious. We will definitely be returning!

The following day we took my friend's puppy for a walk on Wimbledon Common. It was the first time I had ever visited, and being a country girl it was invigorating to feel so far away from the hustle and bustle for a few hours. The sun was ferociously hot and we got lost once or twice, but it was all part of the fun.

park 2

park

Unfortunately the puppy didn't stay still long enough for a non-blurry shot! How was your weekend? Did you go anywhere or see anything? I'd love to hear about it!

I'll be writing another London-focused post telling the story of the rest of my trip, including a visit to Shakespeare's Globe, very soon, so don't forget to check back!

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