September was my month of eating only ingredients grown in my home state of NSW (and the ACT).
To be honest, I was happy when 1st October ticked over.
When I didn’t have to think so much about every single ingredient.
Every single day.
However I did learn a lot!
Not necessarily the lessons I expected.
Which was all part of the fun….
10 Surprising Lessons from Local Food Month
1. Having a positive constraint encourages exploration
There were a few things I’d been meaning to make myself but hadn’t got around too. Like butter, pita bread and flavoured yoghurt pouches for lunchboxes.
Local thirty month gave me the push to do all of these!
While I’m happy to leave butter making and pita baking to the experts, I’m so glad I invested in some refillable yoghurt pouches and started using my home made yoghurt sweetened with a little home made strawberry jam for my boys.
2. I am a vinegar freak
I LOVE vinegar and not just for brightening up flavours in my cooking.
At least once a week I use a 500mL (2 cup) bottle of apple cider vinegar for swigging. As in straight from the bottle.
Hard core. I know.
But I love it and am sure it’s good for digestion.
Anyway I was worried that my local ‘home made wine vinegar‘ stash would not be enough.
And you know what?
I used up the whole lot, and actually had to sub in some non-local vinegar for the last few days. Yes 4L (almost a gallon!) of home made vinegar gone in less than a month.
3. I can easily live without most of the exotic ingredients in my pantry (but I’m glad I don’t have to)
And my locally grown fennel, chilli and coriander seeds were all I needed for extra spice. In fact, roasted cauliflower with fennel seeds could be one of my new favourite things to eat.
Moving forward there are a lot of ingredients I won’t buy on such a regular basis. Things like curry pastes and every single Asian sauce. I’ll get them if I feel the need, but no longer keep everything in stock all of the time.
4. Miso paste is super delicious!
OK so this isn’t really surprising but I developed an ever deeper love for miso paste over the month. It was my go-to when I wanted to add saltiness or depth of flavour. Or needed the emulsifying power of mustard in salad dressings and mayonnaise.
Miso makes everything taste better.
5. I love Sunflower seeds!
We eat a lot of nuts. I normally have peanuts, cashews, walnuts and almonds in the pantry at all times. And then also buy macadamias, pecans, brazil nuts and pine nuts from time to time.
Given my only local source of nuts was going to be walnuts, I was worried about getting bored until I found a local sunflower seed source.
Toasted in local ghee with (or without) some local rolled oats, sunflower seeds became my go-to for adding crunchy texture and substance to pretty much everything. Especially salads and abundance bowls.
So good! And half the price of most nuts! And school-lunchbox friendly!
6. A month without coffee is a loong time…
I thought I’d be fine just drinking tea.
I was wrong.
But I did make it through the whole month. Just.
7. Sometimes it’s worth paying more to support local businesses
My supermarket stocks walnuts that are insanely cheap and delicious. Before local food month I hadn’t thought about where they came from. Now I don’t think I can go back.
Not so much because the local walnuts taste better (although they do) but more because I really enjoyed knowing I’m supporting a local farmer.
Interestingly, I looked into buying bulk walnuts from a local online store and it worked out cheaper to buy 1kg walnuts directly from the farmer vs 5kg online.
8. Just because one product isn’t great, doesn’t mean they’re all bad.
My favourite dairy for milk and cream also has an extensive range of cheeses. In the past I was underwhelmed by their ‘Parmesan’ so hadn’t tried any others.
But since they were my only local cheese option, I was pleasantly surprised how delicious their other cheeses were. Especially the pecorino and the blue.
A good reminder to give small producers the benefit of the doubt and try before judging.
9. Irish Butter is the best!
I was already pretty sure of this but after paying a small fortune for local cultured butter, I was very happy to stock up on Kerrygold this week and feel like I was saving money.
Nothing beats the creaminess of Irish butter! Sorry Aussie farmers.
10. Ghee is a magical ingredient
Given my only local olive oil option was extra virgin, I had to find an alternative to my normal processed olive oil for higher temperature cooking.
While I saved any bacon fat, there’s only so much bacon we eat. So my go-to for pan frying became local ghee.
If you’re not familiar, ghee is an Indian version of clarified butter where the butter is melted and cooked so you get complex nutty, biscuity flavours in the butter.
It’s then separated from the milk solids so you only have the butter oil which is stable for high temperature cooking. And makes everything taste amazing.
Definitely an ingredient I’ll keep using and have plans to start making my own.
How did it end up cost wise?
It’s hard to tell.
I’m not super budget-conscious when it comes to food. We also had a big change with my Irishman going low-FODMAP. So he was eating a lot more inexpensive carbs.
Overall I think we spent about the same as we normally would.
Did I stick to it 100%?
No but 100% compliance wasn’t the point. Learning and exploring were my goals and I achieved both of those.
My ‘lapses’ were mostly from poor planning.
I had non-local leftovers in the fridge at the beginning of the month which my Irishman couldn’t eat because of the low-FODMAP thing. So I ate them rather than waste the food.
I also couldn’t resist having some French cheese (Comte and Camembert) and Italian prosciutto for my Birthday dinner on the 8th.
Totally worth it!
More on ‘local thirty’ month
- Want to Try Eating Local?
- 11 Ingredients I Can’t Live Without – Local Thirty Update
- 10 Surprising Lessons from Local Food Month
Doing this challenge reminded me how fun and informative it can be to play around with different parameters for eating for a limited period of time.
In October I’m planning on having a week of eating completely plant-based. Which will be my first time vegan since 2008.
Curious to see how it impacts my blood sugar if I start including legumes in my diet again.
Also keen to have a reason to perfect my coconut yoghurt and coconut kefir! And take a break from my recent habit of having milk in my tea all the time.
What do you think?
Do you enjoy reading about my crazy experiments? I’d love to hear in the comments below…
Have fun in the kitchen!