Choosing local produce can help you live a thriftier existence and promote sustainable living

Eat local, says Sheena Grant

Eat local, says Sheena Grant - Credit: Lucy Taylor

It’s a week since I started my September challenge to eat only food produced within a 30-mile radius of my home, writes Sheena Grant.

Regular readers may recall the challenge is an annual initiative, promoted by environmental group Greener Fram since 2009 and now taken up by other groups around the county keen to promote sustainable living.

I’d like to be able to share a long list of local foods I’ve been dining on over the last seven days, a list that would send you rushing headlong to the shops in such a frenzy of gluttonous desire that you may be in danger of forgetting to lock your front door on the way out, putting on suitable footwear or even observing basic rules of the road.

But I can’t. The truth is, the 30:30 Challenge is just that: a challenge.

I’m certainly not going hungry but truly local foods are hard to find, particularly if you want to resist every meal time turning into Groundhog Day.

After a trip to one of my local supermarkets, where the local produce section amounted to a few pricey pickles and the fruit and veg was sourced from everywhere but Suffolk, I soon realised that to have any chance of making the 30:30 Challenge work I was going to have to change the way I shopped.

I headed for my local market garden, where I outlined my dilemma to the sympathetic owner, who filled my basket with in-season Discovery apples and plums, picked just down the road, sweetcorn and courgettes he had grown himself. This was followed by a stop-off at my local organic farm shop, where I got eggs, tomatoes, runner beans, aubergines and peppers, all grown locally.

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Living close to the coast, seafood is easy to source from fishermen who sell direct to the public and if you search hard enough there are one or two independent bakers still out there from whom to buy bread but what about the other staples of my diet - pasta, rice, beans and, at the risk of sounding like a renegade from an Islington dinner party circa 1997, hummus and olives?

But amidst the very real difficulties there have been notable successes, such as the fresh tomato and basil sauce I made instead of using a jar of sugar-laden factory-produced stuff. The homemade version was so much tastier.

While many replacement, locally produced foods are undoubtedly more expensive than I would normally buy, I have discovered a really tasty, locally-produced cheddar that costs about the same as my more usual supermarket-brand cheese.

And the biggest surprise of all is that I’m actually spending less. I’m thinking more about my purchases and the range of foods I can buy is so small but so far they have all been better quality, fresher and healthier.

Email Sheena with your thrifty tips or tweet #ThriftyLiving

See more from Thrifty living here

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