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Eating well isn’t just a rich man’s game

By Food for thought No Comments

A lot of people think that eating healthily and buying from sustainable sources is a rich man’s game, but it really isn’t the case and I believe that you can eat very well on any budget.

It’s easy to buy ready meals and processed foods all in one trip to the supermarket, but do you ever look at what you actually end up with? How often do you come home, unpack the shopping after spending a small fortune on your big shop and realize that you have bought hardly any food and there seems to be a lot of items you don’t really need?

We all know that supermarkets entice you with their special offers, encouraging you to buy more to get a better deal, but did you really need two bags of carrots or three packs of sponge fingers? If you find yourself throwing food away at the end of the week because it’s gone out of date or you couldn’t get through all those carrots, then there is another way: shop in local, independent stores that are run by real experts. There are so many benefits of using and supporting your local shops and you will get a much better deal, too.

So, next week, ditch the supermarket shop and visit your local greengrocer. Pick and choose exactly how many carrots and onions you need, and you’ll soon discover when all your favorite fruits and vegetables are in season.

Next stop, nip in to see the butcher and you’ll find a spectacular array of meat to choose from, which you know will all be local and fresh. Your butcher will even prepare it just how you like it and will be able to give you tips on how to cook cuts of meat you wouldn’t normally choose. You can expand your repertoire and you’ll be paying no more than if you were buying from the supermarket, and if anything you’ll pay less. You won’t be paying for loads of packaging that will go straight into the bin – just think about what you actually get in a beef curry ready meal, once you take into account packaging and production costs! You get a small amount of poor-quality beef (or, if you’re lucky, horsemeat!).

Pop into the fishmongers to pick up some sustainably caught fish that will have been landed that same day, to go with the seasonal spring greens that you just happened to buy from the greengrocers because they looked so good. Again, your fishmonger will be able to advise you on how to cook fish and will happily fillet it for you.

Last stop is the delicatessen, where I know things can get expensive, but my top tip is never to go in too hungry! You can easily come out with a fantastic cheese at a good price, some local ham perfectly sliced into the exact amount that you need, and you know it tastes good because you’ve had samples of three types.

Now you can head home with shopping bags full of produce that’s going to get you excited about trying new things and eating delicious wholesome meals.

These days, I find myself eating a lot more vegetarian food, so fish and meat become a special treat, and it keeps the food bills down, too. There is plenty you can make from kitchen staples. You could make chickpea and squash curry, served with mint yoghurt and homemade flatbread; cous cous salads are quick and easy; a tasty frittata is perfect for lunch; a warming soup is ideal on a weeknight; or my favorite, bits-from-the-fridge pizza! If you have the time, make your own bread; once you’ve done it a few times you’ll find it is quite easy and tastes so much better than anything shop-bought.

How to eat sustainable fish without a guilty conscience

By Sustainability No Comments

The recent news that our seas around the world are overfished and that fishermen continue to discard half the fish caught due to political quotas, is having a big impact on the types of fish that it’s advised that we can eat. To the normal fish eater, knowing which species of fish are sustainable to eat can be confusing, and the Marine Conservation Society a while back reclassified mackerel due to overfishing in the northeast Atlantic.

The reclassification of mackerel has thrown the spotlight onto which fish we should or should not eat, and where we should be sourcing our fish from. I believe we should be eating all kinds of fish, and not steering clear of the fish that are deemed to be in short supply. If everyone starts eating the fish that are in plentiful supply and being sustainably managed, these fish will become over used and unsustainable – it’s a vicious circle where we just move from one fish to the next and the problem is never solved.

A perfect example of this is the humble mackerel. Not so long ago, it was the fish that no-one could get rid of, sitting lonely on the fish counter. Watch a fisherman bring in his catch and you would always hear a little murmur ‘oh it’s only a blooming mackerel again’. Mackerel has had a hard time, until recently, when it became the fish du jour and a must-eat dish. The mackerel was in its heyday and would not look out of place on a top restaurant dish competing against the best of them.

Now, because of the lack of international agreement about the quotas that can be fished, it’s recommended that we should only eat mackerel on occasion. The vast majority of mackerel is sold to overseas buyers and each year, 850,000 tones of mackerel is caught and sold. A tiny proportion (approx. 2,000 tonnes) of this is landed by the traditional Cornish handling fleet.

The most sustainable way to choose fish and to not worry about whether you should eat it or not, is to buy from a local day boat that either uses a static net or the traditional line- catching methods. Buying locally caught fish in this way has very little impact on the sea: fish taken are landed and caught in the most sustainable way possible and you support the local economy. If you buy like this, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy that unspoken word ‘cod’, or any other fish you enjoy such as sardines, herrings and crabs.

For me I’m always looking at which types of fish we should be serving on our menus. I only use sustainably caught fish and if it’s not available from the fishermen, then I won’t put fish on the menu.

The only fish I eat generally is the fish I catch – so not very much! If you want to continue eating fish, make sure it’s caught locally, or even better, go out and to try to catch your own, you’ll never have it fresher or tastier, and it gives you the biggest grin when you finally lift out a fish out from the water, even if it’s a good old mackerel!

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Joe Draper