Category Archives: groceries

Buying Food: The naked truth about organic and local

Food. It is essential to life and some (ie. me) may say to happiness. But there are a few things you should be thinking about if you want to live sustainably.

Organic

Producers earn the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “organic” label by using no chemical pesticides, growth-enhancing chemicals, or genetic modification on their crops. The USDA “organic” label is assigned to livestock farmers who avoid steroids, hormones and antibiotics; use organically grown feed and treat livestock humanely. It is also common for organic farmers to use renewable resources, conserve water and maintain or improve soil quality.

Unfortunately, organic food is often (always) more expensive than conventional food. There are, of course, reasons for this: employers may pay workers lower wages in conventional farming operations, chemicals increase crop yield, organic foods are often produced on a smaller scale etc. But if you are unable to switch completely to organic start small buy purchasing organics that are comparable in price to the conventional counterpart. I’ve said it before, but it’s important to remember, you can vote with your money and stores take notice of what you buy.

Therefore, if you buy organic food you have the potential to:

  • lessen cruelty to animals
  • avoid consuming health-threatening chemicals
  • prevent damaging pesticides from entering the environment
  • help maintain soil fertility for future generations
  • shift the market toward more affordable organic products

Alternatively, organic foods are not:

  • more flavorful
  • higher in nutrient
  • cures for the common cold
  • the fountain of youth
  • preferred diets of unicorns

So get off your high horse (insert Umbridge-ian *hem hem*, unicorn).

On the other hand, organic foods are not always better (side note: I always knew it was time to pay attention in school when a word was emphasized with bold, italic AND underline *hint, hint*). Threw you a curve ball there didn’t I? For the most part, as I’ve described, organic foods are better for the environment. However, if the food has to travel very far to reach it’s destination, we measure this in food miles. In some cases, conventionally grown food that was grown locally can be less detrimental to the environment than organically grown food that has traveled a great distance. Which brings us to the topic of eating locally.

Local

Support your local community and economy by shopping at smaller, locally owned markets and farmer’s markets. It’s a little more expensive: big companies can charge less because they sell such a vast quantity, so small grocers have a hard time competing. Local harvest is a website, which helps you locate food co-ops, farmer’s markets, CSA or local farms in your area.

If you cannot afford to spend more for less, there are sections or products within the large multinational companies labeled locally grown (here in Colorado it say, “Colorado grown” or “Colorado raised”).

Food Cooperatives (Co-ops) are non-profit business owned by their members. Anyone can shop there, but by becoming a member you receive discounts on purchases and decision making abilities for the future of the business. Find your local food cooperative through Co-op Directory Service.

Farmer’s Markets are locally run, seasonal, open-air markets that showcase local growers. Farmer’s markets build community through the one-on-one interaction and education of the producer and the consumer. You can find local farmer’s markets through the USDA Marketing Service.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a subscription to fresh fruits and vegetables. On the same day every week you stop by a shop to pick up your box of fresh produce. You can choose the box size based on budget and cooking habits and you dollars go straight the the family farm — no middleman. The Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources can direct you to the CSA nearest to you.

You can also grow some, most or all of your own food at your home depending on your space. My mom mentioned in the comments below (Thanks mom!) that Grow Lawns, Not Food is a great resource for people wishing to pursue this option. For the urban agriculturalist (or anyone really, I’m not exclusive), check out my small-space gardening posts: Hanging Gutter Part 1 (my adventure in Home Depot), Hanging Gutter Part 2 (when I actually put the thing together), and Small Space Gardening on a Budget (where I show you my apartment balcony garden).

And now the moment of truth… Where does your preferred supermarket land on the Better World Shopper rating scale?

Ranked based on five factors: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social
[A Companiesare social and environmental leaders][B Companiestend to be mainstream companies taking social/environmental responsibility seriously][C Companieshave either mixed social and environmental records or insufficient data to rank them][D Companiesengage in practices that have significant negative impact on people and the planet][F Companieshave the worst social and environmental records]

Crispy-Outside, Soft-Inside Baked Tofu Cubes in Stir-Fry

Here’s a story for you, the other day I went to the grocery store for a block of tofu and some yogurt. I went to the yogurt section (which by the way, I am convinced they move everything around before I arrive just to confuse me) and picked out a tub. A strange sight uncovered itself as I approached the tofu display: a large group of people clustered around curiously eyeing the suspicious white blocks of soy bean curd.
I have never seen so many people looking at tofu. Here in Fort Collins most people pass by without batting an eye. Not today, it was tofu awareness day and I missed the memo. I excused myself through the ten or so people, checked prices, and grabbed a block of firm for $2.99.
As I started to walk away one woman called after me, “Excuse me but, we’ve just been discussing and, how do you cook that?”
Feeling like Martha Stewart must every day of her life, I walked back and told them.
I said, “You can cut it into any shape and size pieces you like, slabs or cubes, whatever. Most people I know fry these in oil in a pan, which works just fine, but I personally have another technique…”
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

I went on to describe the following procedure, which results in crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, restaurant-like tofu cubes. In this method, the tofu is baked and not fry you can cut back on some (minimal amounts of) fat. I used the tofu I bought in a stir-fry.
Cut the tofu into slabs, cubes of your preferred size. If you want to get real crazy, pull out some cookie cutters. Nothing says fun like star-shaped tofu!

cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Lay a cloth towel on the counter (NOT terrycloth, unless you enjoy bits of fuzz in your food). Arrange the tofu cubes on the towel in a single layer. Cover with a second cloth (again, I cannot emphasize enough, NOT terrycloth). I used a single cloth folded in half because I only had one clean.

cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Place a flat surface, like a cutting board, over the towel. Then put something heavy on the cutting board. Leave for 20 minutes. (Or skip all that nonsense and buy a tofu press).
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

While you wait cut up some veggies (yes I did make a yin-yang out of my peas and carrots). Use any combination of veggies you like. I’d recommend broccoli, carrots, snow peas, soybeans, water chestnuts, onions, bamboo shoots, bell peppers, corn, zucchini or other squash, tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes. Really any vegetable is great. That’s the beauty of a stir-fry: you can use whatever is in your refrigerator or pantry at the time.
Mix your sauce: I made a simple sauce of water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and cornstarch. This is another great thing about stir-fries, you can use whatever sauce you want. There are infinite combinations of sauces and vegetables.
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
After 20 minutes spray a baking sheet with cooking oil (I love my misto) and line the tofu cubes on the baking sheet. Set to the side.
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Start cooking some rice, or noodles according to the package directions. Heat some oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add some minced garlic and red pepper flakes. After about thirty seconds add your veggies and stir.
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Turn your oven to broil and place the baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes. The cubes like to jump around (sometimes off the sheet!)
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
Continue stirring veggies (Don’t forget to check on your rice or noodles!)
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Remove the baking sheet of tofu from the oven and flip the cubes over to cook the other side for 5 minutes.

cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies
Add the sauce to the veggies; keep stirring. When the tofu is done add the cubes to the stir-fry (if you can stop yourself from eating them all straight off the pan).
cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

Serve with rice. 🙂

cooking tofu, stir-fry, veggies

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The continual battle between my time traveling selves

pro·cras·ti·na·tion [proh-kras-tuhney-shuhn, pruh‐] 

 noun


the act or habit of procrastination, or putting something off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention: She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late with almost every assignment.


The definition according to Dictionary.com ^^^

I am a procrastinator.   Fortunately, for me (and for my grades) I am not like the girl in the use-it-in-a-sentence portion of this definition and I work well under pressure. A typical weekend in my humble abode looks something like the following.

grocery shopping, kitchen, empty fridge, boyfriend
That’s my boyfriend Reid looking in the empty fridge.


sounds like a problem for future self, apple laptop, lounging on green couch, coffee table
Our couch is actually tan.



grocery shopping, kitchen, boyfriend
Fortunately he puts up with my crazy.


apple laptop, green couch, coffee table, lounging
The continual conflict between my past, present and future selves is how the world will end this year. True story: ask the Mayans.

And now, presenting the 10 reasons I procrastinate:

  1.  I will get back to this tomorrow.