A vegetable-based pondering

We know the deal with meat. Local is good, local and free-range is better, then local, free-range and organic is best. But what are the rules with vegetables?

Both of my local supermarkets supply an array of organic produce. The prices are higher than standard, naturally, but at least there is a choice of products. But what if these organic carrots have been flown in from thousands of miles away? Surely it is more environmentally sound to buy the carrots grown conventionally down the road?

And why should I give my money to the corporate supermarkets? My local greengrocers stocks both home grown and imported produce, none of which is organic. They are very reasonably priced and a family-run business, a rare sight on the modern high street. I have a sneaking suspicion that my greengrocer sells things that do not pass the supermarket standard test. The stickers on the grapefruit look strikingly similar to the ones in Sainsbury’s. If it’s true, I think it’s a marvellous idea, ensuring nothing is wasted.

It’s a minefield, the vegetable aisle. Either you purchase chemical-riddled veg, bred to perfection and cheap to buy. Or you get squeaky clean, odd-shaped veg, all the way from goodness knows where. Of course, the best solution is to grow your own, thus ensuring the best quality with no chemicals or air miles. Sadly, this is not a possible choice when you live in a third floor flat like I do. I know the next step would be an organic vegetable box delivery, but then Dan and the guys at Long’s would lose a customer. For now, I’m going to continue to support my local shop, getting the best value vegetables I can, alongside quality meat. Maybe I’ll give Abel and Cole a call in the future.

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The vile truth

This is the book that changed how I view the meat industry in an instant. And I can pinpoint the exact sentence that changed my perception permanently. Page eighty-seven, the introduction to the poultry section. The line reads; “Chickens are bred to grow faster and faster, making them crippled under their own unnatural weights.”

Isn’t that grotesque? To take something as natural as the process of growing and forcing greater intensity to the point where the animal is in pain, mutated from its original form. Besides the holistic notion of the animal’s feelings, manipulating the genetics of a chicken for our own satisfaction is an abuse of science and cruel. We’ve forgotten that we’re dealing with life and death, our new boundaries are yield and profit.

A comment on the blog recently suggested a vegan lifestyle and I can certainly see its merits. Just a few would be the reduced impact on the environment, cheaper and no grossly engorged chickens for dinner. But I am of the belief that we as humans are designed to eat meat. Whether or not you agree with me is a debate for another day. One thing I think we can all agree on is the meat industry needs to be accountable and respectable when dealing with livestock.

As I mention constantly, I don’t have a lot of money. But to eat cheap meat now, after lifting the lid on Pandora’s box, it would simply taste like sawdust. My own actions will contribute to the conquest of the meat industry, to turn the entire operation on its head.

Eating less meat. The most obvious solution had to go first. By cutting back on my meat intake, I won’t be lining the pockets of the dirty scoundrels. Then, when I do purchase meat, it will increase the profits of farmers and companies that actually care about the produce they create.

Quality over quantity. I shall buy free-range at MINIMUM, stretching to organic when my budget allows. I hope to attend a farmer’s market more regularly, but I do have to take a train to Winchester now, instead of just walking there. It’s an additional cost, but might be worth it for excellent quality meat.

Making the most of the meat I buy. Rachel de Thample’s book has so many great recipes. I borrowed my copy from the library, but I’m hoping to purchase one soon. Confession – I’ve never made roast chicken before but I’ve been inspired to do so after seeing what can be created with the leftovers. One whole chicken, one death, instead of multiple to just get the breast meat or legs. Where do all the carcasses go? Oh gosh, that’s another horrible thought, piles of dead chickens, still with meat on the bones because those bits don’t come as part of the 3 for £10 deal at the supermarket.

            My aim is not to upset anyone by using this imagery, but I do hope it makes you think. I can’t stop the fat cats on my own, but with the rise of local, sustainable, free-range foodstuffs becoming more available, we will soon all be heading in the right direction. That’s a road I wish to travel.

Forging a new path

It’s Day One of my latest spending challenge and already, the goal posts have been moved. The Friday night takeaway is no longer applicable and I added the remaining change from my purse to the pot. So I set off to go shopping yesterday afternoon with £17.37 for the week.

I have become increasingly aware of the damaging nature of the meat industry and fear for the ecological future. I have decided to live as sustainably as I can, within my means. A book has triggered my new mindset, more about which in a future post. Even though my budget is minimal, I will be buying local, free-range, sustainable, organic produce where I can. Also, I’m avoiding waste like the plague. I’m making the most of every scrap, so I can make the most of higher quality products.

In Sainsbury’s on Sunday, I bought:

  • SO caramelised onion chutney
  • Tin foil
  • Reduced Black Farmer’s Daughter chipolata sausages
  • SO bananas (6)
  • Reduced Free From Gingerbread man (a snack for me and the chap whilst shopping)
  • Toothbrushes

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The reduced sausages were a great buy. The label reads “British Outdoor Bred Freedom Food Pork.” What more could one ask for? I bought foil, which is not environmentally friendly, but I’m not perfect, goodness no, I’m just trying to do my bit to help the planet. And yes, organic Fairtrade bananas are more expensive than regular Fairtrade, but not by much, and the whole idea is less food of a higher quality.

I then visited Waitrose to get my free coffee (Fairtrade!) and pick up supremely delicious milk. Less than 20p extra compared to Essentials, but I think the flavour is noticeable. Plus, it’s a donation to charity as Duchy is affiliated with the Prince’s Trust.

You might think I’m mad (the chap does!) spending more on food when I could get similar items cheaper. But it’s not just about the money. Personally, I would rather cut out television and instant internet access than nourishing food. It’s starting to feel illogical to live any other way.

I spent a total of £10.77 on my Sunday afternoon trip, as I also purchased a Basic chopping board with the intention of using it solely for meat. I have £6.60 in my purse to last until next Sunday.

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PS This is why eating up the stores is so much fun – my Sunday lunch; GF ciabatta from the freezer, drizzled with garlic oil, topped with the last of the Cornish cheddar, accompanied by carrot batons with the last of my previous jar of chutney and cucumber. Pudding was the last of the packs of finger cakes from last week’s afternoon tea. All raided from the stores but felt very decadent!

PPS: Today, Monday, I have spent £4.40 in the greengrocers and local co-operative. I have £2.20 left.

My little den

It saddens me when I don’t have regular time to check in with the blogging world. I miss keeping up to date with postings from people I’ve followed for months. But then, when you only have a certain amount of time between sleeping and working, some things do tend to take priority, like seeing friends, doing laundry and cooking.

I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately, and writing about it too. My new venture into writing a student lifestyle book is coming along wonderfully. It’s a subject I’m truly passionate about and I think that’s coming across as I write.

I would like to be more consistent with my posting and my activity within the blogging community too. I’m going to carve out two mornings a week where I can dedicate an hour at the library solely to The Domestic Storyteller. That should give me a chance to not upload the latest instalment, but also read and learn from others’ posts too.

As much as I miss consistent access to the internet, there is one huge upside. I do get more done. Instead of scrolling through webpages before work, I read more and write more. Instead of spending hours catching up on television programmes on various services, I can improve my little flat. After making cushions, I was ready for another project.

The dark wood coffee table was unwanted by my parents, who kindly brought it with them on their last visit. It was accompanied by sand paper, a pot of paint and two paint brushes. Armed with instructions from my knowledgeable father, I set to work on transforming this piece. It was the only dark-wood item in the flat and I much prefer it when things match.

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IMG_0618 IMG_0620Whilst I had the sheet out and the paint brush wet, I thought I might as well cover up the faded wood of the stool too. It’s the perfect size for a bedside table for my chap to use.

Thanks to these cheap, personal touches, I really do feel like I’m home in my flat. It’s not much and it’s a bit shabby, but as a friend commented on seeing it for the first time; “You’ve done well here Rebecca.” I’m inclined to agree.

PS I’ve just updated my About page to put down in black and white my new intentions. I’d love to hear what you think! https://thedomesticstoryteller.wordpress.com/about/

Graduaines

The day is done and what a day it was. After three years of study and a summer of uncertainty, I finally graduated yesterday.

The chap and I arrived at the Guildhall in Winchester in good time to collect my rental gown. My parents arrived just before, having driven all the way from Glastonbury for the occasion. A flurry of forms and photographs ensued so that I could have the immortal picture of me and the scroll.

We swept along in procession to the Cathedral, a magnificent venue. As my friend sidestepped puddles and slippery paving stones, I secretly felt relieved at my choice of flat shows. Less glamour, more security, especially when I knew there would be steps to climb later. We took our seats; my parents and the chap had a splendid view of the proceedings, thanks to the chap venturing into a different seating area. They could have been stuck at the back, and as you can imagine in a cathedral, that would have been a very different experience.

The excitement and anticipation bubbled through me as my row of seats awaited our turn. It was nothing more than a couple of handshakes and a posh certificate. But no, it wasn’t just that really. It was the hours of effort poured into a single dream. It was a culmination of hard work during my school years that led me to attending University in the first place. It was recognition of every story I struggled over, every word I wrote. I took a deep breath before stepping on to the stage. As I left, I let out a sigh of satisfaction and pride.

We left via the main doors of the cathedral, a true honour. More photographs – every parent in the land was trying to capture the essence of the day. Soon it was time to hang up the infamous hat and return home. We dined on a feast of smoked salmon, carvery ham, steamed potatoes, salad, crudités, dips, hummus, savoury rice, coleslaw, crackers, cheese and Prosecco. The celebratory meal was paid for by my parents, who also gifted me with a delightful bunch of roses. It was my supper of choice, much more personal than a hurried meal in an overcrowded restaurant.

The day ran so smoothly, I couldn’t have wished for it to be any better. I’m pleased to close the chapter on full-time education now. Who knows if I will return to University in the future, but for now, I’m a graduate with big dreams and big ideas. Thank you Winchester, for lighting the fire.

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I have been able to reconnect with my blog since returning from my vacation. Put simply, it all got a bit much. Posts were unachievable because I didn’t have an ounce of interesting material. For me, it was about getting through each day. A fair amount happened in my absence.

My 22nd birthday came and went in a flurry of good food, plenty of wine and a ridiculous amount of shopping.

I continued working at ALDI and enjoying my work there.

But most importantly of all, I found my dream flat. It’s heaven and I can’t wait to share pictures with you all. It’s exactly what I wanted; a humble studio flat in the heart of town. It’s not perfect, but it’s all mine and I am responsible for it. It’s daunting and thrilling in equal measure.

As such, I hope to return to the sanctuary of the blogging world with more frequent posts. The budget is not as tight as I once thought it would be, but I plan on living economically and sharing my journey in my very first home.

The tastiest, most incredible part of moving into my own place, even a studio flat, is the sheer joy of owning my own kitchen. It’s not a place ruled by my mother, who upheld her own order with an iron fist. It’s not a place scavenged by students, leaving only dirty plates behind. It’s not a place that has it’s own time frame and schedule for when one can cook dinner. It’s mine. I can cook and bake and spend as long as I want in it. I can leave things to marinate, to cool, to rest without fear of damage or theft. I can arrange the cupboards in a way of my choice. I will have more than one cupboard and a whole fridge and an entire oven just for my own personal use. My heart is singing.

I will be able to share many more recipes and meals once I’m in and settled. I collect the keys tomorrow morning. The adventure begins.

Food parcel

It’s easy to see where I get my thrifty habits from. My mum is an artist when it comes to budgets, coupons, saving for special occasions and the like. She passed on the baton of bargain hunting on to me and my sister and we have both benefited from this knowledge through the years. She was a wealth of advice when I first went to University and was in control of my own expenditure for the first time. We shared a lovely day together yesterday, and she brought supplies.

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Gluten free products are expensive, so when Mum spotted this little lot reduced at her local Waitrose in Wells, she snapped it up! Many of the boxes of biscuits cost five times the price of what she paid. Best of all, they’re all still in date, with most of the products having a “best before” (whatever that means) of 2015. Whilst in Southampton, we bought things for lunch and she left a bag of salad and a few slices of good deli ham for me to enjoy at a later date.

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It just shows that you don’t have to spend a fortune to show your children you care. I truly appreciate the thoughtfulness that connected the gluten free gifts to me. Thank you Mum!

 

In other news, a new rationing period begins on Monday. Through my calculations on my spreadsheet, I managed an average weekly spend of £19.54 for the five weeks in August. That is bang on for my target of £20 a week, although I did start to slip nearer the end when contraband foodstuffs were providing me with quick, cheap energy. But now the cupboards are well stocked, I should be able to keep this month’s grocery bill to a minimum. I’m sure there will be a post in the near future about the details of the rationing plan that I personally follow, just in case anyone was interested.

I hope you all have a joyous weekend.