Monday, July 12, 2010

Decluttering the groceries, 2010: Slow Food

Back in March, I boldly declared my meal planning intentions as a way of helping my family to nurture sustainable, responsible eating habits. With two small children, one extremely fussy and limited in his food choices, I was seeking a way to streamline our meals, our shopping, and our time. My hope was to avoid food waste, minimize time in the kitchen, and eat seasonally. I subsequently trialled the Table Tucker method of meal planning, which advocates bulk shopping, fortnightly menus, and only cooking three nights a week.

Errr... it didn't last.

There were a few practical reasons why. Shopping and storing in bulk makes sense, but for a family living in a small flat without a car, it was a challenge. Cooking in advance and freezing or refrigerating meals sounded great for freeing up time, but space again is an issue and I found it hard to get into a rhythm with it. I appreciated having the decisions made about what to cook, but found myself feeling a bit creatively stifled. I'm not sure we really wasted less food either. I've learnt that food waste is as much about figuring out what to do with left-over bits and pieces as it is about controlling what I buy in the first place.

The big nail in the coffin, however, was this. Trying to streamline and minimize the place of food and food preparation actually goes against my ideals about how food fits into family life. Just as I've embraced slow fashion, slow transport and slow cloth, I am at heart a Slow Foodie. Slow food is about embracing time-honoured processes, cooking from scratch and avoiding commercially-produced foods, respecting seasonal produce, taking an interest in how things are grown and harvested.

Although I find cooking around my boys frustrating, and I find the constant rejection of my meals wearying, minimizing time in the kitchen is not the answer. If I want my children to one day appreciate fresh, local, seasonal, fair produce, have some skills and intuition in the kitchen, and enjoy the nurturing and celebratory aspects of sharing meals, I need to persist in enjoying the process, instead of trying to relegate cooking to yet another annoying chore.

And so, I'm embracing my inner Slow Foodie, and with it, going back to my fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants style of not-really-planning. We're back to making trips every few days to the local shops for a few items at a time - pasta, flour, a bit of bio-dynamic meat. To help take some of the decision making away, we're back to getting seasonal 'mystery box' of fruit and vegetables delivered weekly, and using this as the basis for what goes on the table. Sometimes I figure the week's menus out in advance, sometimes I go day by day, and either is OK. I'm trying to use up every last bit of the box before the next delivery, which has meant caramelizing onions, stewing fruits and making random 'stock' with whatever is lying around. We're getting better at using stuff up and being creative with the odds and ends. Most of the time, my kids hate it... sigh. But   they always have, so what's the difference?!

organic chicken carcass and withered vegetable stock...a house specialty! 

We're also getting into the baking... lots of biscuits and cakes, and going strong so far with the artisan bread.

Letting the boys help does, of course, have its downsides...


I have many grand plans for making lots of stuff from scratch. I'm inspired by so many of the wonderful, resourceful, home-cooks I see in blog land... particular favourites include Apron StringsBountifullyDillpickleecoMILFFrog Goose and Bear, With My Own Two Hands, and new-to-me CityHippyFarmGirl and Slow Living Essentials.

Meanwhile, I gotta run. I have rhubarb to stew, pesto to pound, parsnip to stare at uncomprehendingly, cauliflower curry to simmer and a meal to figure out for our plain-eating visitor tonight. Ahhh, inconvenient food... how I've missed you!


  1. Oh my... that flour picture is priceless!

  2. Very intrigued by the 5 minute baking, can you use a plain old oven or do you need a bread maker?

    The flour pic (hilarious btw)reminds me of a dance performance I went to for Fringe Festival last year in an old disused bakery where the dancers whilst throwing flour around, it was wonderful!

    We meal plan bulk ingredients rather than indivudal meals by having pre cooked brown rice, black beans, soups in the freezer. I find I reaqlly prefer user fresh ingredients and having everything from the freezer is a bit souless (also precooked veggies can be a bit mushy and poor flavoured)...but I applaud your efforts :)

  3. Hmm, cooking in the bedroom - love the photo, not so sure I'd have loved the cleanup! Look forward to hearing about your success with slow cooking. I'm in love with my slow cooker - especially on work days 'cause I can walk in the door, get out the plates and serve a yummy dinner rather than feeling guilty about reheating baked beans!

  4. The flour!!!
    I would have had a complete melt-down.

    In other foodie news, have you seen this awesome blog?
    I'm addicted.
    (Ice cream in the freezer as we speak)

  5. I get a weekly organic veg co op box too and I love it because it means I cook seasonally and use veg I may otherwise walk past in supermarket so it forces me to eat more widely. My secret weapon is - when I get my weekly box I browse the site using the search function so if I've got cauliflower and corn I look up recipes with these two ingredients. The free iphone app based on the site is amazing and makes the search even easier - highly recommend it (promise I don't work for them!). I find enough recipes to cover all of my veg box produce for that week - I bookmark the recipes and it in effect is a weekly menu plan without any hard work.
    My other strategy with dealing with wastage is to substitute where ever possible. Recipe calls for Persian feta? Whatever, I'm using regular feta because it's what I have. Same goes for pecans - walnuts for me instead. No more random condiments in the back of my pantry now.

  6. Oh dear, that photo! I guess you can only laugh in the end. Those sort of messes are so out of control that there's only one thing left to do. Oh the clean up must have been dreadful.

    I've been thinking of starting your plan but now I'm a bit put off it after reading your story. My girls are so fussy too which is so discouraging. I still think it's a good idea so will give it a go. Your mystery box sounds ideal. I'll have to see if they do those over here in NZ.

  7. Roast that parsnip!!! One of the tastiest things ever.
    And the flour...bugger :o) Great pic though.

  8. OH MY GOODLINESS WOMAN! I heard everything you said (and even nodded emphatically in all the right places) but the last pic has me floored. Do you need me to come pick you up off the floury floor?

  9. Ha! look at those little footprints in the flour and those slightly uncertain eyebrows!

    And what is mummy's first reaction? reach for the camera, yay! ;)

  10. Love slow-cook :) It's one of the reasons I love winter so much. That last photo is a classic! Look at that gorgeous face! :) Kx

  11. I am only half laughing at the flour situation because it wasn't me taking it the picture of Busy... we here at chunkychooky are BIG lovers of the slow food movement, even I, have been known to cook slow food - in fact I can only cook slow food, a wise choice and one that seems to suit your present other slowness ( fashion etc) . it all looks lovely.

  12. Oh that flour.... I will never again be mad at my kids for a little spill on the flour.

    I too am on the slow-down-my food (waste and purchases) journey. Reminding the kids we don't buy food in tins - if they want nachos or tacos I need a day notice to cook the beans, etc.

    We've been loving making pasts from scratch lately. So very easy, and fun and versatile, and very yummy too. And then, no more of those pasta plastic packets.

    Mine are fussy too, my sister says just keep giving it to them and eventually they'll get hungry. It actually worked the other night, with a tagine pot thing I made - and they all ate it and asked for seconds. I almost fell off my seat!

    I'm off to make silverbeet + feta pie. Yes yes, it's almost 5pm, and I haven't yet made the pastry. Arh well, we'll eat dinner sometime tonight.

    I do love cooking, and my kids love it too - but I hate having to think every night about what to make. But menu planning doesn't seem to work for me too well, as I never know what I want to eat until that afternoon.

    Good luck with your ventures in the kitchen. I hope your little ones get into it.

  13. Yep - that last pic is a doozy! I know exactly what you mean about the constant rejection - I have almost given up a few times, but just as I reach the end of my tether, Little Mister thinks something I made him is "yum" - it gets better .... slowly!

  14. he he cute photo! I'm glad you're just doing your cooking the way you want to, cos if you didn't like being so organised that would have just taken the fun out of it. i think it's very important to teach your kids to eat right, enjoy cooking and know where their food comes from, because food is so central to our existence. maybe they would enjoy it more when they are a little older and are able to make things (nearly) all by themselves. my mum let all four of us make up our own recipes - sometimes they were edible and sometimes we invented new family favourites like 'fludge'. Anyway we all now eat healthy and enjoy cooking

  15. Best photo ever. Worst discovery ever. The fact that you found him like this and took enough time to take a breath, see the future humour in the moment and get your camera out is so commendable. I would have seriously struggled to get myself together (I am a severe neatfreak). I am equal parts delighted and horrified by such a scene!! xo m.

  16. Oh my!! I can just imagine what you were thinking when you saw all that flour! Priceless. thanks for sharing.

    Enjoy all that cooking. I've found for me it works better if I do much of my baking and meal prep on one day of the week... I do a weekly meal plan....then cook cook and cook. I make one huge mess and them have a freezer full of meals and baked snacks etc to last me for the next few busy days.

    Have fun :-)

  17. Oh boy. It looks like some serious fun was had in there!

    Choosing to cook for your pleasure is a wise move, I think. You never know, one day they might actually tell you that they're enjoying it! At least this way you get some joy and satisfaction from the process (especially with the bread if you salvaged any of that flour!?!)

    Parsnip chips? Roast parsnip? Parsnip in your mash? Parsnip soup, or in vege & barley soup? Thanks for the tag :-)

  18. ps. we love our parsnips just plain old roasted. sometimes we for dinner we just have a plate of roasted potato, onion, parsnip, beets and carrot! wish i had the time to bake my own bread - good on you

  19. That photo is just hilarious and oh how I wish, not so familiar... I almost posted a photo on my post today about making biscuits, which I stupidly attempted with all my children plus one of their friends - flour and bits of dough absolutely everywhere, but the photo had captured the youngest child in a precarious position on top of the table. Thought it would look bad that I'd taken the time to take a photo and missed the fact that my 20 month old needed to get off the table!

    Thanks for the link!

    p.s. parsnip is probably the only vegetable that I absolutely hate the taste of. good luck with that!

  20. I had the same plan and ran into the same problems, early on after buying 40 $ of meat in the freeze the power went out for 2 days! so I have focused on smaller planning! if that makes sense!

  21. oh that flour picture.... i'm guessing that wasn't such a good day. one day you'll look back and laugh! i agree about embracing the process. although it's so hard when your tummy is rumbling. your kids will be grateful for it one day.

  22. I'm with the folks who say to roast the parsnip! Yum! One of my favorites--and if you have some other root veg to roast with it, so much the better. Coat in olive oil and maybe some crushed garlic first.


  23. Thats a lovely surprise to be linked :-) Thank you.
    That flour picture is superb. My mum has one very similar with my little brother about the same age- he had gotten into a whole garbage bin full of flour... Did you gasp, swear, sigh, and reach for your camera all at once?

  24. My jaw has dropped over that flour picture. My own son is too close in age for me to find it funny! Poor, poor, poor you.

  25. Parsnips? Yummy this way. Peel and cut into thick sticks. I quarter the fat ends and half the thinner ends. Season with pepper, onion powder and garlic powder OR pepper, cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg. Toss with olive oil, lay in a foil-lined pan and roast at high heat until sticks can be poerced easily with a fork or knife or whatever. I like mine a bit brown at the edges. Warning--these are addictive! Have fun!

  26. Pretty good clean up job on that room, girl!! It was so lovely to see you and to now be able to picture you cooking up a storm in that kitchen xx

  27. Nice recipe! It's sound really tasty. As per i know that there is many slow cooker is available in the market but here your info is different and nice..Thanks for sharing with us.

  28. ...and I thought I had issues with random snacking on raw potatoes ... flour, glorious, flour ... bet you are still finding it in strange nooks and crannies! I totally agree on your slow food philosophy - I too have a small that is yet to appreciate how much I strive for a varied and interesting home cuisine - hmmmm! Each night I call it my beautifully cooked and presented meal for the small that will most likely not be eaten.

  29. i have the bread making book - i just have to make the bread - do you have a terracotta tile?
    we are a one car family which david takes to work most days so i have to walk to the shops. as a result, i tend to buy what i need each day for the days meal - i like it this way - i ponder over what to cook for dinner, make up a list and head off - it's part of my routine. it's definitely not time efficient though - but it works for me at this point in time.
    i love that photo of the aftermath of the boys helping you!!! it must have taken days to clean up - but heck they look like they had fun :)

  30. Holy flour Batman! Great photo, not sure I would have remained calm enough to get the camera though!
    I completely agree with having to enjoy cooking, otherwise it just becomes a chore and that is never fun! Good on you for going with what works for you guys! Vic xx

  31. Hello there Gina, so very nice to meet you. Thank you so much for your comments on my blog today.

    I was about to comment on your creative space post when the title of this one captured my attention. We too love to cook in our home and big advocates of slow food. I am very lucky that my husband loves to cook and also also enjoys making jams, pesto, cookies etc... sometimes we all do it together other times he does this and gardening with the boys on a Sunday as a way of keeping them out of my studio while I get my one full day of production time.

    The elder of our two boys is now eight and was a very fussy eater as a young child but we persisted and he now eats a wide variety of food and even if he does not like something he will have a few mouthfuls before saying; "I really don't like this"... and that is rare these days. So don't give up your passion for slow food, seasonal cooking, knowing where food comes from and what goes into it will rub off onto them... eventually... but once it does you'll reap the rewards of all your hard work.

    Love the last photo, I felt so sorry for you but still had a to laugh and then showed my husband... he gasped!

    Hope you're having a great afternoon... looking forward to following your journey through your blog.


  32. We've noted that our children are more inclined to try and like food if we tell them that they won't like it and it isn't for them!!! Strange creatures. Mr. 3 refused perfectly good pasta but ate HOT chilly beans out of sheer stubborness.

  33. I agree with Sally's comment above, if they aren't supposed to have it..they like it!
    we've discussed the fussy eating thing before & you know one of mine is fussy & rejects most things & it is very disheartening.
    I don't know how to deal with it & it does become very upsetting at dinner time.
    we don't do meal planning & I used to do a stock up shop but we tended to get wastage as things would be forgotten. so now i tend to buy things as I need them when we walk down to the veggie shop.
    goodluck with it, I hope it gets easier with our little fussy ones.

  34. Oh, dear. That final photo is just TOO good! I'm so glad you put it up, I remember times like that and they're still happening...why on earth *is* that? I thought messes were meant to get smaller as they got older...?

    I hear what you are saying about embracing your inner slow foodie, and even if we aren't the most organised of families, we can still make informed consumer choices and utilise every bit of produce that comes our way. Thanks for the little linkey up top, I look forward to reading more of your blog :)

  35. charlie looks so cute in all that flour he he

  36. That photo -with all the flour -is HYSTERICAL! I am NOT laughing at your expense because I too have had collateral damage with olive oil of all things but it was just unexpected, and that little face going 'uh oh!" is so funny and cute!!

  37. Oh dear! I am glad that is not me ;)

  38. Great photo and I totally get your predicament. I try and try to be more organised with the meals, but it's not coming naturally. Think I need to get me one of those mystery boxes!

  39. chuck in a bit of salt, yeast and water and you can have bread for the next 3 years!

  40. Oh Gina, you remind me so much of my oldest daughter...I can't hardly tell you how much...but when I just saw this picture of your son with the flour or baby powder, I knew for sure. My daughter's oldest daughter when she was 3 yr old powdered her baby sister 1 yr old all over her crib...with her in the crib, and over the room! I have pictures! LOL She gave her three year old the vacuum cleaner and had her clean it up. How she found this mess was she heard the sweeting laughing and giggling in their bedroom, and thinking they were just enjoying each other had NO IDEA what was actually going on! LOL

  41. lol @ the photo, you really need to submit that to Shit my Kids Ruined, share the love :-)


“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
~Albert Einstein