Warning: supermarket bore ahead

31 May 2007

We are right into school holiday mode now. People are staying up later and getting up later as well. So far everyone seems to be able to amuse themselves and there have been no major ructions.

We have had a lot of rain over the past week so time as been spent mainly indoors. Weather like this makes me realise how small our house has become or rather how much room two teenage boys take up.

It has also been excellent eating weather so I have been hard pressed to keep up with three healthy appetites piqued by cold winteriness.

My experiment in local food shopping continues. At the moment I'm concentrating on buying Tasmanian made and if that's not possible then Australian made then I consider New Zealand products and Fair Trade items. Really apart from chocolate and coffee it is possible to buy everything I normally buy from Australian producers. It is a battle sometimes to find out if it is an Australian product because of dodgy labelling but I believe new labelling laws are about to be enacted.

I buy Fair trade coffee which on close analysis is produced in Germany but I have found a manufacturer of organic Australian coffee. It seems I can only purchase it on line.
With chocolate I am just trying to limit our intake. As a family we love chocolate but the Fair Trade product is too expensive for me to buy. I do buy Fair Trade organic cocoa for cooking. Cadbury chocolate is manufactured in Tasmania but of course the base product comes from overseas and is probably not ethically produced. I have to investigate but I haven't had time yet. We have two excellent chocolatiers in Launceston but again I don't know where the base product comes from.

It is fairly easy to get local vegies , eggs , milk, dairy and meat. Fruit at this time of the year is limited to local apples and pears mainly but mainland citrus is OK by me. Most dried fruit are produced here but the cheaper brands are often imported. I was shocked to find that my old favourite stand by , prunes, were labelled as being from local and imported fruit. We have a prune plum tree and it produces more fruit than we can manage so I can't see why they would ever have to import more. I must admit that some our fruit went to waste this year so next summer I will have to dry some prunes.

I was amazed that many of the cracker type biscuits in the supermarket are made in China but labelled for Australian companies. Why would you bother, surely it is easier to make them here. I don't usually buy sweet biscuits ( cookies) as I bake my own but I like to have some dry biscuits on hand to have with cheese.

Canned tomatoes are a bit difficult as most of the brands actually come from Italy and the overseas ones have the least number of additives. The Australian ones tend to have a few strange ingredients. Given that these are a staple in my pantry I have decided to make sure I grow as many as I can next season to bottle and freeze.

Rice is a vexed question for me. Rice is grown in Australia but as far as I understand it is grown in an area that relies heavily on irrigation in the Murray Darling Basin. As such , like cotton, it is probably an inappropriate crop for Australian conditions. The alternative is to buy imported rice or not have rice. If anyone knows more about this than me ( which is very likely ) please inform me about the most ethical rice choice.

I have found all this really interesting. I'm amazed at the origin of some products which are so familiar on our supermarket shelves, eg, Cheerio cereal is made in the UK. Why would you bother to import a cereal from the UK , the grains are probably imported into the UK from far and wide, maybe even from here. It's crazy isn't it? I must say my shopping trips have taken a lot longer lately as I take great interest in investigating the origin of all kinds of different products. I have also become aware of how much smaller the supermarket could be if they only stocked Australian produce. Do we really need all that padding of the shelves with imported stuff that just makes choosing more complicated.

I think I am becoming a supermarket bore.

To change the subject, tomorrow we are having firewood delivered. Autumn has been so mild until this past week that a fire has rarely been necessary. It's a good workout for the boys to stack the wood. They have always helped with this job even when they were just little tackers but now they do the job on their own. Yes there are good reasons to have teenage sons around the house.

10 Responses to “Warning: supermarket bore ahead”

  1. I'm hoping for many tomatoes this season too. Some day I may be able to make our diet more local, but I have the same trouble with deciphering lables and "made locally with imported goods" hoops to jump through.

  2. I love to eat prune plums fresh (as well as dried). I have a Prune d'Agen sharing a hole with a Greengage - both still quite youg trees. I havn't tried drying them. I did apricots this year but many went mouldy, so I guess they weren't dry enough. The previous year they wre so dry and shrivelled they resembled giant toenail clippings!
    And yeah, visiting the supermarket always involves dilemma for me - budget, origin of goods, amount of processing involved and so on.

  3. For me the main problem is flour. Something like 90% of the flour we use in Britain is imported from Canada or North America. Yet I can't not bake, especially since I make my own bread. We can grow wheat very easily in this country, but it is not a profitable crop when it can be cheaply imported from abroad.

    I also think to myself how local is local? I try always to buy British, and it's not that hard, however, is it okay for me to buy European as well? England is four times smaller than Texas, so is it okay to buy Spanish citrus or Italian nectarines or French wine? Surely that is the equivalent of of someone in Chicago buying Florida oranges and Californian wine.

    Saying that perhaps I am justifying my need to "act rich", my need for luxury foods. My dad remembers when oranges were so luxurious they were a Christmas present (1950s). Also, 100 years ago a melon would cost the equivalent of £100. Again, foreign wines were a real luxury until the 1970s, my mum and dad were home brewers and only because they liked a drink and couldn't afford the real deal, they wouldn't dream of doing it now you can get Blossom Hill or Jacob's Creek for a fiver...but how many air miles has that New World wine stacked up on it's way to the supermarket?

    Yours sincerely

    eco-worrier and fellow supermarket bore!

  4. Hi, I live in Devonport and I love your blog, tho I have only just discovered it. Supermarket shopping has never been more difficult I think. Sometimes it seems that all the best Tasmanian products are sent straight out of the state. I'd love to see more blogging on this subject.

  5. PS. I've linked to this on The Homespun Revolutionary.

  6. Wonderful post, and it's encouraging to see how many others struggle, too, with 'local' and the politics/economics behind it all. I'm in the US and it's just as confusing/difficult here -- some people feel you shouldn't buy produce, for example, grown outside your own area/state, but for us living in Massachusetts that would mean absolutely no citrus, among other things, which we're not willing to give up.

    With all the talk of tomatoes, I'll quickly mention my alternative to canning. Slice tomatoes up, layer them on a baking sheet (with sides, so they don't drip all over your oven), drizzle with olive oil, and slow-roast until they are somewhat browned and cooked down (I'd go 300 degrees F for about an hour, but depends on the thickness of your slices and the amount of tomatoes you've packed onto the sheet). Pack up in containers and freeze, then add to sauces, etc. -- delicious!

  7. I have struggled and gone around in circles with this topic. So much product labelling is misleading where "Made in Australia" means canned in Australia from imported product. My pet hate, and the reason I no longer shop at Safeway for anything, is the way they mix up local and imported vegies on their stands, so you can't choose to buy local. In my opinion, Australia should not have to import any fresh foodstuffs at all; we can grow everything here with our range of climates from tropical to cool temperate -- though I agree that cotton and rice are particularly vexed crops.

  8. Susan, I won't ask you for any tips on how to dry apricots then.

    Marie, labelling is a pain isn't it, on purpose perhaps?

    Natalie, I know what you mean about how local is local. If I just buy Australian I really don't have any food problems, apart from chocolate of course.
    Tasmania imports all of its flour as wheat from the mainland to be processed here. Wheat grown locally is used as animal fodder because it is a soft wheat and so more difficult to use for bread making.

    Hi Lulu and welcome, I'm sure the best of our fruit is exported and a lot of the vegetables are used in frozen produce.

    Hi Jennifer, it seems many countries are suffering from the same problems. Thanks for the tomato idea, sounds yummy.

    Kate, I agree. There is absolutely no reason why Australia should be importing any fresh produce.

  9. Thank you for the "food for thought." I have always bought local produce at stands *in season* to support local growers, but frankly, more for the Flavor.

    You've really got me to thinkin'!


  10. I'm in the US and I try to buy as local as possible, and definitely from the USA. I wonder what is added or not cleaned from foods from China.

    As for apricots, halve, take out stone, dry cut side up until when torn, the edges do not pearl with moisture. If you see in a day or two, moisture on the inside of the sealed jar, put back in the dehydrator (or oven or in the sun) for several more hours.

    Growing your own tomatoes and other vegetables & herbs is easy. Container gardening is an option if one has no "garden". Even fruit like strawberries and dwarf fruit trees can be grown on a patio or balcony.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.