The height of the pile of research books by my bed has descended to ankle-level, there are actual vegetables for sale at the farmers' market, my CSA deliveries have started, my vegetable garden is mostly planted, and I've found sources for local cheese and beer. I have to face facts - the time has come to say goodbye to my family's resource-wasting diet and begin our (sort of) sustainable summer.
The transition isn't happening overnight. I actually started easing into it a few weeks ago as I was researching sources for various local and organic products. As we ran out of things - milk, eggs, cheese - I replaced them with the most sustainable versions I could locate at the time. So we now have free-range organic eggs that were grown in the Cuyahoga Valley, milk from grass-fed Ohio cows, and hand-made breads from local bakeries. They're sitting right next to the individually-wrapped hot dogs, American cheese slices, and Quaker chewy granola bars that we already had in the house. I keep picturing the new kids on the block talking trash to the old guard whenever the fridge door closes, but that's probably just my imagination.
When sustainable versions haven't been available, I've been trying to skip the purchases. My kid doesn't really need granola bars or cheese-flavored crackers, not to mention whipped yogurt that costs an arm and a leg for something that's mostly air and artificial flavoring. And while orange juice tastes good and isn't the worst thing we could be drinking, even the organic stuff is trucked in from points that are waaaaay outside our loose definition of "local," and we're able to get local organic apple cider that's cheaper in both monetary and environmental costs.
I've been weaning us off of fast-food, too, making a point to have lunch fixings in the house all the time and scheduling errands so that we don't have to eat on the run. We've been sitting down to dinner every night - in a dining room, not a car - and for the most part all of us have been eating the same thing. I wouldn't say the troops are ecstatic about that last part - asparagus has not gone over well with Liza, and we've had a lot to use up - but I must say the routine is getting easier.
Our final preparatory step is going on today and tomorrow. We still have a stock of "forbidden" foods that need to disappear out of temptation's reach before we officially begin the experiment. I've been trying to use them up and/or throw out the ones that we shouldn't be eating anyway, but there's still quite a bit left. The nonperishables - dried pasta, cans of tomato sauce, a few tins of mandarin oranges - will get packed up in a box in the basement, where we'll be able to get them if we absolutely have to, but they won't be staring us in the face every time we open the cabinets. Perishables are going to get farmed out to friends and neighbors, who might be gullible enough to take some of those Stouffer's frozen dinners off of our hands. I sure hope so, because I could really use the space in my fridge for "real" food ...
And so tonight we had our final family meal of forbidden foods - not things that we love, but things that we needed to finish up and get out of here. An early dinner of chicken nuggets, frozen curly fries, and still more asparagus was followed by a late-evening snack of microwave popcorn. After dinner we went on a refrigerator purge, pitching jars of ancient teriyaki sauce, pickled peppers that expired last year, and some tahini that I honestly believe was from 2007, judging from the flora inside the can. I kept some salad dressings that were made outside of our area (and contain - gasp! - HFCS) because Jason was starting to get grumpy at that point, and it wasn't worth the fight. I'll have plenty of time to research awesome homemade dressing recipes without having to shove the idea down his throat the first day.
Full disclosure: As I type this, I'm making a big dent in the jar of cheese goop and bag of chips we had left.
So that's it. This next week, our family will be going in different directions, visiting family and going to a grown-up version of summer camp. The next time we're all together, we'll be officially starting to eat local. Wish us luck!