My principles don't have an ascending/descending order of priority — they are all important to me.
These are the principles that now determine my grocery shopping:
- My health. I have spent a humungous amount of time reading and researching the impact of food on health. As our UK health service gets more fragile, and as I age, I feel a clear responsibility to build the best health I can through what I eat.
- The well-being of creation. For me, the work of Allan Savory has been a real eye-opener. It makes sense of what I've read elsewhere about farming and respect for the land. I want to do my very best to care for the Earth and to be sure the farm animals whose bodies or produce (eggs, dairy) I eat have been cared for and allowed as natural a life and as gentle a death as possible. I want my buying choices to work towards shalom.
- The local economy. I believe in supporting local businesses, because I think that is in every way more sustainable. It promotes accountability and reduces the pollution associated with big food miles. It means I can find out about the places and people who produce my food, making wise choices and allowing them to build up a customer list they can rely on. I also (vaguely, this is more instinctive than rational) believe in eating produce from the place where I live — local honey and butter and fruit and veggies.
- Cost. I have a low income, but I prioritise food quality above almost anything else in my purchasing. So I buy food that may seem expensive, but I eat relatively small amounts, and anyway that's the thing I choose to spend my money on. To be able to afford high quality food, I choose the cheaper items — cabbage rather than artichokes, mince rather than leg of lamb, for instance. Where I can, I get the items that are cheap and nutritious and compassionately and responsibly produced — of which the star example is that we buy our eggs from the farm gate right next door to our chapel. A dozen costs less than half a dozen in a supermarket. There are zero food miles because the hens live there and that's where we're going to chapel anyway. The hens are battery rescue hens. They are free range. Perfect.
So the food I buy now goes like this:
- I buy meat. I am very attracted to vegan diet as an ethos, but I don't do well on it personally and I have issues with some of the global impact of it. Having thought about this deeply, I have come to the view that our living and dying are always inextricably linked; for instance the combine harvesters for grain crops are bound to kill mice in the fields, and our car journeys to the shops are bound to kill insects — the windscreen after a motorway journey is covered with tiny dead bodies. The only reason farm animals have the opportunity to live is because they are farmed; if we did not eat them, there would be no more pigs, or beef cattle, bred. A wild animal (eg deer, goat, bird) often lives its whole life looking over its shoulder for predators, and its end is often violent and gruesome, and its condition pitiable in disease. Though a farm animal's life is short, if it is looked after kindly then it at least has a life, during which it is cared for and provided for. Animal welfare is very important to me. So I buy my meat from two or three places, chosen for animal welfare, organic farming methods (and pasture-raised animals), and/or freedom from plastic packaging. My meat products come from Primal Meats or Graig Farm. I used to buy from Eversfield Farm. They are very good, but I love the passionate animal welfare of Primal Meats, and the plastic-free packaging commitment of Graig Farm. I also buy bone broth from Osius. I don't know why it only has one s.
- I buy dairy products. I like Beurre d'Isigny butter, Graham's milk and Yeo Valley Greek Yoghourt, but I have just made a new discovery. Hook and Son farm is just a few miles away from us at Hailsham, and they will do a doorstep delivery to our postcode once a week. So I can get raw butter, raw cream and raw milk from them delivered! Yes!! They also will include in the delivery bio-live yoghourt from Court Lodge just down the road at Wartling.
- Apart from that, I buy fruit and vegetables. Mostly I get these from Sainsburys, Asda, less often Marks and Spencer — or from Trinity Wholefoods (a co-operative selling local produce, in our town). Sometimes I drive a few miles out to Great Park Farm. I also get my oil, nuts, salt, herbs, spices and cider vinegar from whichever of these shops I happen to be in when I need them. My cider vinegar is the organic sort with "the mother", and my salt is Cornish sea salt.
In addition, I have been trying to grow more of our own food. This year nearly all the cherries we had were from our own tree, and we have lots of greengages, plums, apples and pears coming. We pick blackberries wild. Each year I try to grow courgettes and pole beans, because one plant does a lot of food in each case. I started growing kale this year, and will grow that every year from now on. I've grown some outdoor tomatoes, but only a few. We grow lots of herbs, which we use for teas and in cooking. The only other food I can think of that we buy is honey, and we get ours from Freddie's dad who keeps bees in the park down the hill from us. Oh — our water is from the spring at the foot of the hill.
I have stopped eating processed foods and ready meals, also sugar and grains, and I no longer drink any tea or coffee. I never drank much alcohol, but I now no longer drink it at all. I avoid additives and artificial sweeteners, preferring to just eat a simple "ingredient".
As the members of our household have birthdays coming soon, though, there has been discussion about whether or not to have birthday cake . . . And we might. Or not.