Monday, August 6, 2012

Living Healthfully: August Eat Local Challenge {Week One}

A few months ago I began feeling like I needed a Ph.D. in biology, botany and chemistry to simply meal plan for my family.

There were so many varied and extensive and conflicting {and funded!} reports about what food is good and what food is bad and what food must certainly be harvested by the devil himself, that it's amazing any of us who are health conscious even eat anything at all besides, of course, kale and dandelion greens grown in our backyards.

As I thought about it and continued trekking on in our health journey, I stumbled across the Real Food Summit and happened an epiphany of sorts: just keep it simple.

And keeping it simple when it comes to food means eating

food that doesn't boast an ingredient list on the package because clearly it doesn't need a piece of paper declaring itself a pepper or a green bean.

food that doesn't come shrink-wrapped in plastic and bound up in a cardboard box.

food that can be traced right back down the street to the farm field or right out my backdoor and to my garden.

You know, in real simple terms, real food.

When I haphazardly stumbled upon Donielle's Eat Local Challenge, I knew that taking it would simply simplify meal planning, prep and so many of my swirling thoughts about food.

After all, if I didn't have the Internet telling me what to eat and not to eat and what's secretly terrible and secretly wonderful and secretly wonderfully terrible or grocery stores selling me every kind of food possible, I'd be doing what everyone for thousands and thousands of years has been doing when it comes to dining; I'd been eating locally and not even giving this food stuff a second thought.

We don't need a PhD to figure out how to best feed our families; we just need to remember a little bit of our high school history lessons and be reminded of how we've always fed our families: with locally and seasonally available foods.

I live in the real world, though.

I do.

And in my real world there are grocery stores. And there are restaurants. And, in my real world of suburbia Illinois there are avocados and bananas, neither of which were grown locally but both of which are huge staples and hugely adored in my house.

Also, I live in the real world of going to Target to buy toilet paper and passing those bananas and avocados while two little monkeys oooh and ahhh for them. And because bananas and avocados have nutritional value, I'm not willing to wage a war about not buying them simply because they are not locally grown.

So I decided that for the Eat Local challenge to work in my family, it had to follow the 80/20 rule by which we normally abide when it comes to eating endeavors. {Yes, children, you can have that icky terrible rice krispie treat at that birthday party, but darlings, it's best we eat this burger, these green beans and this zucchini for dinner instead of the box of Star Wars Hamburger Helper that's calling your name on aisle five. {WHY did I go down aisle five?! Short cut to the bathroom not worth it!}}

I digress.

So we're focusing on eating about 80 percent of our food from locally grown farms -- within about a 150 mile radius from our house here in the northern suburbs of Chicago. The rest -- the avocados, the bananas and all the foods that have traditionally been imported like spices and citrus -- fall under the 20 percent. Anything pre-existing in the pantry or freezer is also fair game. We're also supplementing with locally grown fruits we've frozen from earlier harvests and the tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers from our garden.

Week one began August 1 with a trip to the Grayslake Farmer's Market, which featured an amazing array of farmers and produce.

Here's the bounty:
Eat local!

*one pint of Michigan cherries
*two pounds of green beans
*three organically grown ears of sweet corn
*two pounds of pastured ground beef
*two dozen pastured eggs
*three pounds of ground pork raised in the great outdoors of McHenry County
*two zucchini
*one yellow squash
*six Michigan peaches
*one pound of kale

And all this {cherry-thieving toddler excluded} for $56.50, which is way less than what I used to pay in the grocery store.

So far, my family has happily obliged and delighted over the foods on which we've been feasting. Fresh kale sauteed in pastured butter with homemade ground pork breakfast sausage and fresh cherries for breakfast was a huge win!

Probably this week, we'll have to hit a few different area farmer's markets to keep up with food demands, but it's not really been too terribly difficult to eat mostly local.

And it's been a lot easier than going back to school for a few extra degrees.

It's early in August still! Want to join us for the rest of the month? Perhaps start where you can and build from that point each week? What better way to eat healthfully and deliciously than eating locally during our peak growing season here in North America?

Want to see what we're eating? Follow along on Instagram!
Want locally inspired recipes, be sure to connect via Pinterest and Facebook!


  1. We eat local fruits & veggies, too. The meat we buy at the market, but often we get our bacon & sausages from a Rogers City butcher.

    Eating/Buying local is so easy in the summer ;)

    1. I love summer for myriad reasons, but like you said, it's so much easier to eat well in the summer time.

  2. Laughing because avacados are grown locally down here. :) I have been struggling lately with all the info out there. Eat organic, but don't bother with certain foods because organic doesn't matter with them. Certain foods being EXTRA dirty like blueberries but they are a super food. Why must this be difficult? Why can't I just sit down for a meal and know that what I'm eating won't kill me? I'm trying to do better, but dang it. Someone needs to make it simple.

    1. Julie, oh, I know! I feel really comfortable buying local because the farmers at the markets tend to be pretty honest about their farming practices ... which helps me make better decisions on what to buy. Agreed with the whole blueberry thing being extra confusing. We buy our blueberries, just for example, locally when we are at the lake in Michigan, and we rinse them as clean as possible. I hope the antioxidants cancel out any residue left behind. ;-)

  3. You have to do the best with the options presented to you, you know? I am really hoping to continue to expand our garden this fall (and every year after). Just a bit by a bit so that our backyard will actually FEED us instead of just prick our feet with thistles. We just cleared the side of the house and I hope to put the blueberry bushes in there this August. Hopefully corn down in the back corner next summer, too. If I can get my husband to turn it over...


There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.