Thursday, 12 January 2012

Not a New Year's Resolution

I've been thinking about making changes and New Year Resolutions and can't quite decide which would be more effective than another - can I really be bothered?  After much consideration I'm not going to make any New Year's Resolutions, but I am going to try (and I mean try) to make changes in the way I feed my family.  This is just the first of my decisions for the coming year - more will follow as and when I decide what I am going to do.

To begin though, I've been reading the book Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence.  I've had this book for quite a few years yet I am ashamed to say I have not read it, at least not properly anyway, I've dipped into it several times when I haven't had a book to read and tutted over what I have read, disgusted at times and appalled at other times, surprised certainly and incredulous.  I recommend you read it if you can.  I am right now wondering if it has been updated and whether there is any more to confound us.

The chapter entitled Beans details the way in which our food finds its way into the supermarkets, how many miles it has travelled both from abroad and around the country, that's before we travel to the supermarket to buy it and drive it home - adding even more miles. 

Here are a few quotes from this chapter -

"35-40 per cent of freight on UK roads is now involved in the production and distribution of food"

"Our increasing dependence on processed food has also made its contribution.  A ready-made lasagne can contain around twenty different ingredients which may have come from all over the world"

"To air freight delicate vegetables and fruits, you have to pack them.  Most food is packaged in plastic, and plastic is made from crude oil.  Packaging in fact now makes up about a quarter of household waste;  nearly 70 per cent of that is food-related."

"Of course we have always imported food that we cannot produce ourselves.  But the traditional form of transport for the bulk of imports was shipping, which is much less environmentally damaging in terms of emissions than air or road freight.  What is new is the supermarket-driven creation of a permanent global summer time and the volume of food being imported at times when we could supply our own."

"About two thirds of the tomatoes we eat are imported, according to the British Tomato Growers' Association, and again, many are brought in when British producers could be supplying the market.  UK growers have found themselves pushed out of business, with the result that our self-sufficiency in fruit and vegetables has fallen dramatically.  In the last twenty-five years, it has dropped to just 4 per cent in fruit, and 52 per cent in vegetables."

We are taxed and taxed to dissuade us from using our cars, we turn off lights when not in use, are careful with our consumption of electricity, we have dire warnings of global warming thrown at us to engender  feelings of guilt.   Whilst at the same time distribution centres for supermarkets are travelling more miles than they need to in order to deliver food. 

"Many cities impose night curfews and other restrictions on lorries over a certain size travelling through residential areas.  For example, ............ ............'s juggernaughts from the ........................... are only allowed into London on officially designated trunk routes.  During my visit to the distribution centre he and his colleagues gave me a taste of some of the lobbying officials no doubt receive.  'We're a twenty-four hour operation and we're in residential areas, but more curfews are being imposed by local authorities.  The deliveries are shoe-horned into shorter and shorter times.  It creates rush-hour traffic james,  If we could reduce morning deliveries and bring more in at night, we could stop adding to the problem.  Central government  is in favour of it but local government isn't.'  .................. ........ later showed me a map of the London and M25 area.  he explained that in order to deliver to his supermarket's Holloway Road branch from Aylesford, he cannot take the direct route down the A2, a journey of 134 kilometres.  Instead, he must send his vehicles all the way round the M25 up to the A1, then down again, which is 214 kilometres. They go twice a day, or four times a day at the back end of the week.  That's 58,000 extra kilometres a year.  If you look at all the London stores, we're doing an extra 242,422 kilometres a year, just one way.  Half a million extra kilometres in all!  Think of all the extra congestion."

I cannot be the only person to find this ridiculous.  Little wonder that food prices are increasing all the time if petrol/diesel is being consumed in this way.

So, decision number one is to buy less fruit and vegetables from supermarkets and grow more of my own - this year and hopefully increase the amount I grow year on year.  I have all the inspiration I need from Nigel Slater's two volumes of Tender - the bigger decision is what to grow and where ............. hmmm, I think I need a cup of tea ............ a journal for my notes ................ and inspiration, and I couldn't be more inspired than with these photos which I took at Chelsea Flower Show last year of Bunny Guinness' show garden.


  1. Jen what great photos!!! I remember this garden vividly it was lovely and so much home grown produce set in pots and looking very pretty. I am sure your garden could produce some great crops. Anything over produced I am sure could be preserved. Looking forward to your next edition.
    By the way loving the grey and pink!

    1. Thank you, I was rather pleased with the photos myself and yes I think I am finally happy with the grey and pink! Did you notice that I toned down the pink? I'm going to have a good try with producing some decent amounts of food this year, not just the odd strawberry and few tomatoes.

  2. Fabulous efforts on the photography front Jen. Well done.
    I LOVE pots in gardens and particularly with fruit n veg in them. They look pretty, full of life AND taste so amazing - they put Sainsbury's to shame! Plus so much cheaper. We have a large veggie patch but might integrate more pots...