Why Eat Local? Finding Real Local Food

Screen shot 2009-10-14 at 7.26.25 AMPhoto by donkeycart
Originally published on May 21, 2008 under the title Enjoying Local Abundance. Revised and republished.

How spoiled we are when we truly look at the abundance God has provided us within our own communities! Why should I buy food that has traveled thousands of miles at times, when an abundance is available in my own vicinity simply through doing a little research. The more I reflect on enjoying and supporting local agriculture the more I realize that eating locally is the way to go!

1. Buying locally provides you with the freshest food and ingredients.

Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life. The average food travels 1,300 miles from farm to table! That means it needs a lot of preservatives and added chemicals to make it last! Refining and processing allow these products to store for months. Supermarket food often travels seven to fourteen days before arriving in your local supermarket. By then, it lacks significant nutritional benefit, making it hardly worth the cost. Make your dollar count!

When trying to find local food that is free of pesticides (to get the most nutrition without the harmful chemicals), make sure to ask! Many local farmers cannot afford the cost to become certified organic, but they make every effort to keep eco-friendly practices. Simply ask them if they use sprays and how they raise their products, and you will know whether it is a quality food source or whether you should look elsewhere.

2. Buying locally is beneficial for the environment.

Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations. This is another small way we can be good stewards of the world around us! You are also supporting local farmers and their efforts to provide quality products.

3. Buying locally is often cheaper when you buy in season.

Buying according to the what is in season is definitely cheaper! It doesn’t have to travel very far to your table and thus doesn’t have all those additional costs for transportation and perservation. From my experience, I have found that shopping at the farmers market or local farm stand is a very frugal option. From March-November, our farmer’s market is open, offering us quality produce for just around $15-20 per week, and we eat a lot of produce!

4. Buying locally is so much fun!

Getting to know farmers in the area is quite enjoyable! It is refreshing to know where your food is coming from, knowing how farmers go about producing their goods, and to get to knows them in the process is a great joy. The commercial food industry has fallen short (read more in my review of In Defense of Food), resorting to inhumane practices, harmful pesticides and preservation techniques, so it is growing more and more important to know where your food is coming from!

Even if you do spend more to buy locally, you can be assured that more often then not, the quality is superior, meaning you are getting more nutrition for your dollar.

Where to find local food?

Eat Well Guide -is an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Enter your zip code to find healthful, humane, and ecofriendly products from farm, stores, and restaurants in your area. This guide includes listings for US & Canada. It is awesome!

Eat Wild -lists local suppliers for grass-fed meat and dairy products.

Local Harvest – helps you connect with local farmers, CSAs, and farmers’ markets.

Pick Your Own – find local farms with fruits and berries. Make sure to ask if they spray. You want to avoid those pesticides!

Check out restaurants in your area through Eat Wild (select your state, and then click on the right side bar “Beyond the Farm” for a full listing of restaurants) & Chef’s Collaborative.

Another recent find has been Edible Communities which is a network of excellent local magazines on local food. Edible Portland is for me!

What foods are in season?

Check out these fun resources: Epicurious offers a table that includes what is in season by state and then provides shopping guides and recipes for using those items. You can also find a seasonal guide at Sustainable Table.

How to find the best deals on local food?

Look outside the city. I have found I can get far better deals if I look to communities outside of the city. Just a few miles north of us can provide me with a significant discount of berries each summer. Or buying meat from Tillmook, a few hours drive south of us, provides us with $2 per pound grass-fed meat, versus the $4-5 per pound cost in town.

Find local farm stands. Local farm stands are one of the best providers for our seasonal produce. CSA’s are a great option, but they are usually significantly more expensive than buying at a farm stand or farmer’s market. Plus, you usually can get more for your money than through a CSA’s and still be supporting the local farmers.

Local Food Sources & Restaurants – NW Washington & Portland

If you live in close proximity to us, you are in luck! I have compiled a huge resource of local food sources, restaurants, CSAs & markets in the area. You can check it out at my Local Resources page.

Further Resources

Food Routesa national nonprofit dedicated to ‘reintroducing Americans to their food – the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry if from the fields to our tables.’
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver the story of one families journey to eat locally!
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan
Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide To Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin

Check out your packaging! Where are these items coming from?

Have fun exploring the bounty that surrounds you! Every little step is making progress! We started with CSA, then we began visiting our local farmer’s market, and now I am starting to check out my labels for other items! You would be surprised how far things can travel before getting to your table! While shopping at Costco, I found organic salsa produced in Eugene, OR which is just two hours south of us. I also found raisins grown and produced in Oregon as well. It’s surprising what you can find when you look a little closer!

Find more helpful resources at Real Food Wednesday.
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In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

I recently completed In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and what a mind-boggling, insightful and enjoyable read it was. I read frequent quotes from the book to my husband and we were both astounded at how far the food industry has fallen in providing healthy nutritious food.

In just 200 pages, In Defense of Food gives you a guided tour of 20th century food science, a history of “nutritionism” in America and a glimpse into the union of government and the food industry. It provides the reader with very helpful step by step tips to guide them in food shopping.

“Nutritionism prefers to tinker with the Western Diet, adjusting the various nutrients (lowering the fat, boosting the protein) and fortifying processed foods rather than questioning their value in the first place.”

With the age of industrialization, we have more heart disease, obesity, and diabetes than any other period of time. And these diseases are only so common in Western societies. Why? Corn, soy, wheat and rice is the majority of what we are eating!

“Corn contributes 554 calories a day to America’s per capita food supply and soy another 257. Add wheat (768 calories) and rice (91) and you can see there isn’t a whole lot of room left in the American stomach for any other foods. Today these four crops account for two thirds of the calories we eat. When you consider that humankind has historically consumed some eighty thousand species, and that three thousand of these have been in widespread use, this represents a radical simplification of the human diet. Why should this concern us? Be humans are omnivores, we need somewhere between 50 and a 100 different chemical compounds and elements in order to be healthy. It’s hard to believe we’re getting everything we need from a diet consisting largely of processed corn, soybeans, rice, and wheat.” (page 117-118)

Why are we eating so much of these products? Because it grows fast, is cheap to grow, and the government pays farmers to grow corn and soy! Most of the corn and soy winds up in the feed of our food animals (and then we pump them up with antibiotics because they get sick on it), but the rest goes into processed foods. Thus it results in cheap food; unfortunately, food that is depleted in nutrients because it has grown too fast to get what it needs. Then it is processed and refined so that there are no living organisms in it that would cause it to spoil over the long distance that it must travel to get to the supermarket. People are more worried about what to eat then ever before. Health claims are smacked on every packaged food on the market. Is this really advancement? Americans now eat more calories resulting in being overfed and yet undernourished.

Food quality has declined since the introduction of industrialization with the depletion of soil nutrients from chemicals and pesticides. “To put this in more concrete terms, you now have to eat three apples to get the same amount of iron as you would have gotten from a single 1940 apple, and you’d have to eat several more slices of bread to get your recommended daily allowance of zinc than you would have a century ago.”

I love how this book doesn’t supply us with a new diet plan! It is just a gentle reminder to return to the way our ancestors ate. A more traditional, whole foods diet of REAL food. As Dr Weston Price discovered in his research studying the diets and health of various traditional cultures around the globe: “The human animal is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.” It’s a new look at encouraging readers to avoid processed, packaged so called “food” and return to the basics: produce, dairy, real fat, whole grains and meat.

How do we find real food? Michael Pollan offers these helpful guidelines:

1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) Unfamiliar, B) Unpronounceable, C) More than five in number or that include D) High-Fructose Corn Syrup. The main idea here is if it has a package, there is a significant increase in the possibility that it is not really food. Always check those ingredient lists. Even “whole grain” products can just be a combination of refined and fortified ingredients with the addition of HFCS.

3. Avoid food products that make health claims.

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. Processed foods dominate the center aisles, whereas whole foods can be found among the meat, dairy and produce.

5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Find those local sources in farmer’s markets, CSAs, etc.

Overall, I highly recommend this read, if you overlook some of the evolutionary thought that jumps out here and there. If you are new to the whole foods way of eating, or even if you are like me and been on the journey for a few years, but don’t know all the history and truth behind it, this is a must read for all! It was very fascinating to me!

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PH is Sponsoring a Cambodian Orphan Home! Join Us!

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I spent two months at the age of 18 serving among the orphaned children of Cambodia through the ministry of Children of Promise & Warm Blankets. I observed first hand the awesome work this ministry is doing. The Khmer Rouge massacre of the 1970′s (1.5-3 million were killed) has left many orphaned children and widows. It was a significant devastation. This ministry is seeking to meet these two needs, in addition to furthering the gospel by planting churches across the nation with one unique method: church orphan homes.  Each Church Home has a family atmosphere based on love and compassion that is touched by the word of God. Every home shares a building with the local church. Widows are the principal caregivers in each orphan care facility. They understand the pain each orphan faces, having experienced loss as well. Each home maintain a staff ratio of one caregiver for every five children, so you can be assured that a frightened child will be held and comforted by someone who cares. The Pastor of each church is the father figure for the orphans residing there…making it truly a family atmosphere! Both their physical and spiritual needs are being met.

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Passion for God builds home – Columbian article

I have been blessed with the opportunity to appear in our local newspaper, The Columbian, today! It was a fun privilege and the article was well written and truly caught my vision and purpose in blogging, homemaking, living simply, and our family ministry. If you want to read it, it is online for all to see. ;) Check it out here. All for the glory of God!

I must add though…my husband (although he was not given much acknowledgement in this article) is the back bone behind this blog! He is my tech man that made this blog possible. He is my biggest cheerleader, not only in my blogging, but always encouraging me in my delight for homemaking. I love him and couldn’t do it without him.

P.S. To to clarify about the comment on “affiliate marketing” in the article, I do not receive payment for posts that I write. Being an affiliate means I use and recommend products that I have found beneficial, and earn a small percentage of the sales made through the referral links in the post and sidebar. I only have affiliates with companies that I believe in and personally use. And yes, all our profits are now being donated to support an orphan home! More on this soon!

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Simple Home Decorating on A Budget

Screen shot 2009-10-08 at 4.18.52 PMPhoto by Cottonblue.
Originally published in January 2008 under the title Decorating on A Budget – part 1 & 2.
Updated with current pictures.

Did you know that your home is an embassy of Christ’s kingdom? It is especially designed by God to be a place for others to find refreshment, encouragement, a haven of rest to their souls from the weariness and trials of this world. This haven must be a welcoming place to display the glory of God! This should always be our chief goal in our decorating. How can I make my home more of a testimony to the work of Christ in my life? How can I seek to refresh others as they enter into my home?

Furniture Layout

Make conversational areas. The key is to arrange your furniture so that the line of traffic from door to door is not passing right through the conversation area. You want to keep the furniture facing each other in smaller, intimate conversation areas without having people walk right through the center and taking away from the relaxed setting. You do not want this flow to hurt your fellowship. Arrange your future close enough that you don’t have to shout to have a conversation. The closer the better.

Choose a purposeful focal point. Each room will have a focal point of some sort. Most American homes have the furniture arranged so that the focal point is the television. This does not serve to invite conversation, but only distracts from it. Use your windows and fireplaces for this purpose.

Re-arrange your furniture with the seasons. Re-arranging adds fresh variety and change! It gives the feel of a whole new look without adding anything! For example, if you have a large window in your living room, you might make turn your furniture to make that the focal point in the summer as it is bright and cheery to look at. In the winter, the outdoors may not look so attractive so turn your furniture inwards to your fireplace. I recently angled my dining room table for a change in the corner, and I was amazed how appealing it was.

Keep furniture away from the walls. Arrange your furniture on an angle or in a unique fashion so it is not flat against a wall, or simply pull it away from the wall a bit (if possible). This adds a variety and creativity to your layout! We have placed our bed frame on an angle in the corner of our bedroom. It does take up more room in this way, but it is different and variety is the spice of life.

Have a place nearby to rest the arms or place a cup or mug. It is important to have a coffee table or end table near every seat, so your guests don’t have to stretch too far to relax themselves or place their beverage.

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Simple & Frugal Children’s Bedroom Decor

IMG_6614We have finally completed our decorating of Karis & Titus’ bedroom! What a fun project it was of practicing making my home lovely! My goal was to complete this in August…but hey, at least it was completed before the end of the year. ;)

We started decorating the kids’ bedroom by choosing a gender neutral vintage green color. We added red highlights through the curtains, kid’s table, and rocking chair. We also spray painted our picture frames for a photo collection. These colors were selected from our gender neutral crib bedding set. All the furniture was found on craigslist, gifted, or loaned to us. I don’t think we have ever bought a new piece of furniture as there is so much available through used sources.

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Making Your Home Lovely

Screen shot 2009-10-06 at 11.48.53 PMPhoto by berly816

Lately, as we have been finishing some final decorating touches on our children’s bedroom, I have been pondering the idea of making our homes lovely. We have each been fashioned uniquely by a creative God in His image and likeness. We likewise have been made creative like He is! I don’t feel naturally creative myself, but I do know that when I set my mind, thought and heart to it, I can definitely express creativity in beautifying my home. It may take a little extra effort, but as you practice it becomes more natural and delightful. It is one of my favorite aspects of homemaking because I feel God’s pleasure when I take delight in the domain He has assigned to me!

Nicole at GirlTalk says it this way, “Little touches of creativity in our home can create an atmosphere of beauty, worship, love, and care. This God-glorifying atmosphere can promote a shared joy and conversation. And that communication can strengthen our relationships.”

Nicole also shared this insightful quote from Edith Shaeffer,

“I feel very strongly that this modern fear of the home becoming non-existent can be countered only if those of us who want to be sure our little spot is really a home take very practical measures to be sure that it is just that, and not a collection of furniture sitting in some sort of enclosure being protected from wind and storm. Of course, human relationships make a house into a home: either the relationships within the house, or the welcome and understanding that guests find. Human relationships depend on communication. But this communication takes time. It is also helped by atmosphere, and the atmosphere is helped by the ‘things’ which are arranged with love and with an expression of creativity in a visible form. p. 99

I love how June put it in her article titled The Making of a Home, “One of the most rewarding endeavors a homemaker can partake of is making her home lovely for those who live in it…Know that it is not perfection we are striving for–instead we are doing this to bless and be attentive to those we love. It doesn’t have to be glamorous, just practical.”

Making our homes a lovely place to be is not only a blessing to our families, but is an effort to provide a place of rest, refreshment and joy to all who enter! It makes our homes more welcoming for conversation, building relationships, and growing our love for one another. It does not have to be extravagant…just simple expressions of creativity!

Stay tuned for some home decorating posts this week!

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Homemade Pizza Supreme – Tips for the Best Pizza

IMG_6099Pizza is a family favorite at our house…especially when you load it up with lots of delicious, fresh and hearty toppings! Here are my favorite tips for the best pizza:

Pizza Stone

I must say that I love my Pampered Chef pizza stone (thanks to hosting a PC show, I got this for free!). It makes the best crispy crust. It is never soggy or undercooked. It is easy to cut on and clean (no soap is necessary or recommended). Stoneware gives it a fine even baking to your crust. No burning your pizza here! After several uses, stoneware becomes non-stick as well, but until then, a thin layer of olive oil does the trick. Although a pizza stone is not essential, it is a nice addition! I highly recommend it if you like pizza at your house! Amazon also sells one, but I cannot say how good it is.

Sauce – Less is more!

The more sauce you put on your crust the more soggy your dough will become. A very thin layer will do you just fine (about 1/4 cup is all). Just remember…less is more! You don’t need any fancy pizza sauce either. Just some simple spaghetti sauce pureed in the blender will do. Spread it thin it spatula.

Cornmeal

Dust your pizza stone or pan with ground cornmeal before laying our your crust. This helps give it a nice crisp crust!

Combine your Cheeses

I use a combination of mozzarella and white cheddar cheese on my pizzas, with a final thin topping of Parmesan on the very top. It gives the pizza a ton of flavor. A sprinkling of Parmesan on the top gives it a yummy crunchy texture as well!

Spice it Up!

Sprinkle a good layer of Italian seasoning and garlic salt or basic garlic powder on the top of your pizza. Yum!

Here is our favorite collection, topped in this order:

Homemade Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (soaked or regular as you desire)
Spaghetti/Pizza sauce, 1/4 cup pureed (I like to freeze my homemade sauce in small portions to pull out for this purpose.)
Mozzerella, sliced (about 1/3 cup)
Cheddar Cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
Pepperoni (Applegate Farm’s Nitrate Free pepperoni is wonderful! 1/2 package covers one pizza.)
1/2 pound Chicken Sausage, cooked & crumbled
1/2 (15 oz) can olives, chopped
1/4 cup onion (red or yellow), chopped
1/2 Green/Red Pepper, chopped
Mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Dipping sauce: 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 tsp garlic powder. Melt together in a pan over low heat. We love to dip our crust into this sauce! Just like Papa John’s.

Bake at 475 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Enjoy!

This post is a part of Kitchen Tip Tuesdays.

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Motherhood: My Only Gems

Screen shot 2009-10-05 at 8.11.27 AM“She came tonight as I sat alone, the girl I used to be…
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye and questioned reproachfully;

Have you forgotten the many plans and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame, and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you and the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad for I wanted her please with me…
This slender girl from the shadowy past the girl that I used to be
So gently rising, I took her hand, and guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems, and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love, and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls for the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest, she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now, pleased the girl I used to be.

- Author Unknown
Quoted in Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski

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Training Children to Be Included in Church

Screen shot 2009-09-30 at 6.40.27 AMWelcome back for part two on our discussion about the why’s and how’s of including children in church. If you missed part 1, read it here.

Training my little ones to sit with us during the church service definitely takes some work. Sometimes I only get to hear small snippets of the sermon. But this has motivated me to be more purposeful during the week and listen to the weekly sermon or download various podcasts to encourage and strengthen my faith (Revive Our Hearts is my favorite!). Aaron and I try to watch a sermon together (Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church offers video feed) while the kids are in bed or napping some other time during the week. Currently our church service is in the afternoon, so we do this on Sunday mornings. This gives us time alone to really focus on the Word and discuss it together. This allows us to continue to grow in our faith even if we can’t get the whole sermon on Sunday. We realize that it can be a sacrifice, but it is worth it!

1. Begin at home. Training my children to sit with the church service always begins at home. We started with small increments of time sitting quietly and listening to a sermon. We would let Karis look at a book while we listened together. If she refused to sit still, discipline was in order. We began with just ten minutes and worked up from there. When we have family devotions, we have Karis look at a little picture Bible while we read together. This is practice time as well. We started this process around 1 year of age after she stopped napping during the sermon.

2. Train baby to nap during sermon. I always try to time the baby’s nap to take place during the sermon time. I will either bring a pack n play and lay the baby down in a back room or bring a baby carrier (my favorite moby or Ergo) and rock them to sleep in the back of the sanctuary. This way I can listen to the sermon with a sleeping baby. I know of others who have trained their babies to just sleep in a stroller, car seat, or on the pew next to them during this time as well.

3. Bring a snack. We like to bring raisins and nuts with us in a small baggy for a quick protein snack during the service.

4. Don’t push it. Give your children room to be kids! We require Karis to worship with us during the worship services and then sit quietly with us for 30 minutes of the sermon. At 2 1/2 years old, I don’t really feel it is necessary to push it longer than that (others may have varying opinions). After 30 minutes or so when she starts getting restless, we take her to the back and let her quietly walk around in the back of the sanctuary or lobby and occasionally play with some of the other little children that also may be present there. As she gets older, we will stretch the amount of time she is to sit with us.

5. Bring 1-2 simple activities. We usually bring an etch-a-sketch with us to church. No mess and it allows Karis to draw a bit during the sermon. We usually have a mix of sitting quietly and then doing some coloring/drawing. Our church also offers a coloring page that is related to the sermon for some of the older children to use. There have fill in the blank questions and cross word puzzles that correspond with the sermon as well. This helps the children listen carefully for the answers. (If your church does not offer something like this, talk to the leadership and see if it is something that could be developed). Growing up, my mom would keep a special church bag for the little ones. It was a small plastic manila folder container that had a elastic strap that kept all the contents in. It contained a bag of coloring pencils, a coloring book, and a few other small items. Each of the younger children had their own special container and we would just keep them in the car throughout the week.

6. Be willing to ask for help. We are blessed to attend services with extended family and they are always willing to hold a child if needed, but there are often older ladies or young single gals who would love to hold a baby for awhile. Don’t be afraid to ask for an extra helping hand. If the child needs discipline, carry them to a quiet place to discipline or talk with them.

Now for some tips from the other ladies on our panel…

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