Well the Supermarket was a good place to start, or not….

Day 1:  We are going to starve to death!  Well we would if this is how we are going to sustain ourselves for the next 30 days as we attempt to only eat local within 200km from here.  I expected a degree of imported food, but not as much as I found at the local supermarket.  This trip was a good starting point as it is where most of us go by default to do our weekly shop.

I knew there would be things we’d have to give up like pineapple, bananas and coffee (although we have decided to keep the coffee as a 5% for sanity reasons) and the delicious yet extremely affordable curries all the way from India.  But what surprised me the most was the duplicity on the labelling.   On the front of a lot of products there is rhetoric in bright colours alluding to the local nature of the food within the packaging.  But like some kind of wide sweeping corporate disclaimer in the fine print it more often than not states the product is “Made in New Zealand from Local and Imported Ingredients.”

We're off to a good start. Omelette for breakfast with only a few food metres!
We’re off to a good start. Omelette for breakfast with only a few food metres!

This seems to be a safety cover-all like the one they use for the poor people with allergies that says “Manufactured in a facility which also processes:…[ insert all allergens known to man here] lest they kill someone.  The worst thing is choosing to be local is a lifestyle choice.  People with allergies have no choice and are way more restricted than they need to be, if there wasn’t this butt covering and a higher degree of transparency and integrity.  This is life and death stuff for some people.

So is it safe or not?
So is it safe or not?

I mean take rolled oats for example.  Ingredients 100% oats.  “Made in New Zealand from Local and Imported Ingredients.”   How is that possible?  The oats in the store were from Dunedin – you couldn’t get further away and be in the same country.  I think Australia is closer.  I may need to look around for a more local source.

The other thing that shocked me was it seems a lot of our trusted ‘local’ companies have sold out some time ago and either import their products and repackage here to stake a local claim or manufacture offshore and retain the old familiar branding that we have all grown to love and trust.  Is our economy that dire that it is more affordable to drag our food from half a world away? Or is it more of a board room issue?

A quick snapshot of our pantry reveals food from far flung places
A quick snapshot of our pantry reveals food from far flung places

The other problem with the labelling is the address listed on the box is the corporate head office.  I don’t imagine there are too many vast manufacturing factories in the heart of our largest cities.  And a quick internet search on my smartphone in the store revealed only what the company wants me to know – pictures of happy chickens and crops in the sunshine harvested in baskets by smiling children. Ok I exaggerate but you get the picture.  The factory location would seem at first glance in a secret location.  Further digging will be required.

Digging on the internet for information, but also in my garden.  If I’m to be locally responsible, then I need to up the game at home.  I think whole food is the only real way to be local and growing it yourself is the only way you can truly know where your food has come from.

We have local wine, we'll be ok
We have local wine, we’ll be ok

We live in an incredibly fertile country with a very small population.  My recent trip to Atlanta took me to a CITY with more people than we have in our whole country.  We have 4.4 million people calling themselves Kiwis and Atlanta has 5.5 million locals.  Surely it can’t be that hard for us to feed ourselves.

Come again soon – I’ll try to keep the ranting to a minimum, but this kind of shocked me a little.  I never realised it was that bad.

Sarah the Gardener  : o )

13 thoughts on “Well the Supermarket was a good place to start, or not….

    1. Hi Terri. The food system seems to be completely mucked up. Fresh food shouldn’t be so expensive. If I ruled the world….
      Thanks for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  1. Very interesting. I was surprised that you hadn’t noticed how many of our foods were made from ‘local and imported’ ingredients, but it has been slowly changing and as consumers we haven’t noticed.
    I was thinking about doing this challenge – but by working from the opposite direction, ie what food producers do I know locally (I’m near Leeston, so it’s Oamaru to above Amberley). We have a Watties factory at Hornby, flour mills that produce using local flour and many dairy factories, etc, but I know that many of them import some of their ingredients. There’s even a chip factory made using local spuds within that distance… yippee!
    I’ve decided its easier to make a slow and gradual change, rather than a big jump. So I try to buy local products from local companies, whenever I can, but understand that some ingredients in the product can be imported. Luckily we have our own farm and garden grown food, as well as some awesome neighbours!

    Good luck for the challenge!

    1. Hi Taryn. To be honest, we have been trying to live with a more simple diet for a while and while not strict with it, we don’t often buy packets and powders and things with ingredients my grandmother wouldn’t recognise. Growing all our veggies really helps.
      You get into a routine in the store and tend to buy the same things each time. So I went along with a fresh eye and looked at things I wouldn’t normally look at. Even things I thought would be ok surprised me.
      I think supporting local business is also important, but for the challenge I think it is a good opportunity to see what an relatively normal family can achieve. I’m not a hippy or anything, I just a mum trying to feed my kids and teach them how to be responsible and to care for the environment and their health.
      Thanks for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  2. Bingo! It might be hard to eat local, but please keep trying and telling us about it! I have a food allergy and am always amazed about the labelling….

    1. Hi Marion. Labels seem to have got to the point there is so much information that they are actually not very helpful at all. I hope you are able to find your way through the label minefield and have good health. Cheers Sarah : o )

    1. Hi Linda. I think the whole food supply system is in complete disarray. Fresh is so easy to grow, it shouldn’t be so costly. Thanks for your support.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

  3. I’m one of the “poor people with allergies.” I must live or die by the labels. I’m one of the lucky ones. You see, I cook from scratch. Everyday. My family eats wonderfully–no junk. We garden, we can. We buy organic. What started as a mess of allergies matured into a healthy lifestyle. I’m also lucky that I live in an area with everything. Great for gardening, we also have local wine (and good ones, too), local beer, local spirits, oodles of fresh fruits and vegies. We do not have wheat though–fine with me, I can’t eat wheat.

    1. Hi. We had a fresh understanding of living with strict dietary requirements recently when we stayed with a family where it was pretty much life or death that they get the right food for their child. It was scary to watch, but it did make me cross, because if there wasn’t so much butt covering by companies their life would be easier.
      I’m pleased to see you are well and enjoying a better quality of life. Sometimes what seems like the worst things can be blessings in disguise. Cheers Sarah : o )

  4. Interesting post! I am lucky in that I can get all of my basics from sources not more that about 50km from where I live. And if I cook from scratch then that just about does us. However, bananas and coffee are things we also love (well, I love the coffee) and then there is we chocolate!

    1. Hi Helen. I’m missing bananas and chocolate, but to be honest, apart from a few food items, our diet hasn’t changed that much at all. It has been quite eye opening though to see where some foods come from that I had expected to be locally produced.
      Cheers Sarah : o )

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