The first and fundamental issue.
It all starts with the shopping. Clients very often say, they have no time for cooking, and after examination it turns out they have no time for anything that is related with cooking. Starting with shopping and necessity of visiting different addresses in the city in order to collect all needed ingredients. I will tell you how it works in our home and what I teach at our culinary workshops.
Loose foods such as millet, buckwheat, oat and spelt flakes, dried fruits and nuts – we buy all those products in befriended online store: „Wege na wagę.” The shop uses world proven idea for truly ecological sale. The owners buy organic, certified products from organic wholesalers or directly from the producers. Then they distribute the products into simple paper bags, but they do it only once the order is placed, so it’s up to us to decide whether we want 250gr or 2,5kg. The packing is modest but functional, marked with product name, whereas country of origin and expiration date are available online.
This way all the expenses related to packing, marketing, transportation, broker profits, branding and storage are saved. In the end it allows us to buy the product at the price very close to the producer’s price. This way, one kilo of millet that is tasting much better in bio version, with clear sweet taste and no bitterness, costs only slightly more than the groats bought at regular supermarket.
Similar savings can be noticed when buying other groats and niche flakes such as spelt or rye, that in regular shops can only by bought in 300gr packaging. For a family that eats regularly such products 300gr happens to be one or one-and-a-half, very expensive breakfast. Savings is observed also with nuts, almonds and dried fruits. The price of the latter resembles the price of the local store but the quality is incomparable. We get fruits which are not treated with sulfur dioxide, having authentic color and scent. Such food serves its purpose – to nourish instead of poisoning.
The advantages seem obvious. Let’s sum them up once more.
First – we save money.
When I do shopping at value of approx. 200-300zł I save up to 100zł. It is a considerable amount. Such an amount can tip the scales and convince the whole family to change to a healthier lifestyle.
There is a false premise that healthy food is expensive. Indeed, we can have such an impression after visiting a local store with organic products. The prices are as if they were copied from Germany, just the reality is different. Additionally, the small packaging which might be good for a mother caring for her child, but not necessarily for the family of four.
Second – we save time.
The online shopping takes much less time with no need to travel. A parcel of up to 30kg is dispatched efficiently by a courier and arrives quick and without any problems. The shopping lands in our larder within the next day. The parcel arrives at our door, which is a big advantage having in mind that it’s 20kg and we live on the third floor with no elevator. After exceeding a particular purchase value the delivery is free of charge, which is a very nice gesture from the seller.
For those who are single I recommend a proven model of joint orders together with your friends, neighbors etc. It really works. You get a chance to reduce the delivery costs or to share it between a few persons and have a nice opportunity to meet up for a coffee while collecting the shopping.
Third – I support organic and creative solutions.
We save a lot on resources, such as packaging, stickers, marketing, promotion, transportation and storage. I support producers. I support those who already know the alternative ways are possible. I saw a store functioning this way for the first time when I traveled through Australia in 2009. A stationary shop filled with tubes with dry, loose goods and barrels with liquids. Clients came with their own containers. Why it is worth to have them? I will explain next time. They transferred groats and rice right from the tubs and poured the tahini, olive oil and date syrup into brought bottles.
Fourth – I have an access to high quality products.
Bio and organic does not need to cost three times higher than standard product. Especially that such price difference paid by the consumer rarely ends in the farmer pockets. This is, perhaps, the greatest paradox. As if we are to support those farmers and producers who withstand the pervasive chemistry and make huge effort of organic farming and all the difficulties coming along, why shall we overpay? Let’s support them wisely and do shopping more often and on larger scale. Instead of paying needles brokers.
Liquid products such as olive oil, date syrup, sesame butter, flaxseed oil – their price drops when we buy them in bigger bottles. Ask for sesame butter and date syrup at Asian food stores as they offer bigger packaging and at much cheaper prices.
I order special products like basmati rice or mung dal online through tested internet store littleindia.pl. The store is for bigger shopping and its profitable to buy i.e. 5kg of rice or 2kgs of mung dal. You can also buy there hard to get spices such as coriander leaves in good quality. As always it’s good to place joint orders together with friend, neighbor, family, so that bigger volumes are shared and delivery costs reduced.
Fruits and vegetables
We buy fresh fruits and veggies once per week or twice if needed. We go to the market and visit Kasia, a friend and a farmer, who sells wonderful pumpkins, shallots, garlic, a lot of green herbs starting with parsley and dill, through thyme and oregano to Thai basil and oriental pak choi cabbage.
We have Kasia in Wrocław, but there is such a person offering high quality fruits and vegetables in any smaller or bigger town.
When we moved to Wrocław, we asked our friend, our guide in a new place, about vegetable markets in Wrocław, where we could buy fresh fruits and vegetables directly from farmers. He said there was not many such places in Wrocław. We found it hard to believe and kept on asking until one of our first clients recommended Kasia and her Saturday stand. Since that moment we have been her loyal clients, shopping on regular basis and recommending her at any opportunity. Everyone is delighted because the food is fresh and prices very reasonable. Her attitude beams with generosity and so our fridges are filled up at relatively low costs. What cannot be bought at Kasia’s stand, we buy at befriended greengrocery store that offers selection of fresh and juicy fruits and vegetables. The prana is felt in that grocery store – the life-giving energy, and the products start to lose it, they quickly vanish from the shelves.
For cravings such as avocado, mango or bananas we visit local discount grocery store, in fact they are the only reason we go there, so the shopping takes only a while. All products can be stored, so a trip once per week I perfectly enough.
Occasionally, we also use the services of farmers affiliated in Wrocław Food Cooperative or in the Local Farmer initiative. I sincerely recommend you to get familiar with these methods of direct trade. We buy directly from the farmers, who very often offer certificates confirming their ecological farming methods, if anyone cares about them. There are also farmers that for various reasons do not care about certificates, but still offer organic food farmed with respect towards nature. Dishonest salesman can be recognized quickly, and in small communities the word spreads with the speed of lightening.
Goods such as nori sheets or soya sauce we usually buy at Makro. It offers big packs but the prices are very good. It’s good to visit such a store once in a while and to stock up with the oriental flavors.
We save up to 100zł and we can use this opportunity to buy big packs of products such as washing powder for kids or mentioned olive oil. Lack of Makro membership card is not a problem anymore as these days any existing client can apply for up to 20 additional cards. If you wish to shop at this store ask your friends who do their own business and you will become a card owner sooner than you think.
Spices are another crucial aspect of stocking up your pantry. It is worth to find good source, that we will use on regular basis. Spices of good quality stand not only for healing values but also beautiful color, aroma and later, taste of the meal. Green cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon are examples of spices where quality makes huge difference. I would not recommend buying spices packed in small bags by market leading companies. They are way too small for a house that uses a lot of spices. Littleindia.pl or Asian food store is a good solution
If you happen to be in Germany or UK do the shopping there. You would be surprised how much you save and about the quality you get.
We developed a habit of buying spices when we travel – insane Sicilian oregano, incomparable to any other, Moroccan or Tunisian market with black cumin, dried rose petals or lemon verbena. India with all its wealth and nearby Germany if we run out of stock. Be cautious with ground spices when you do your shopping abroad. They are a subject of big abuse when comes to quality and freshness. And instead of saffron you might get completely different spice or even finely cut plastic.
Dairy products, fish and meat
We reach for good quality diary and cold meats less often as such shopping is a bit of a hassle for us. Well, it’s all good after all, as according to Ayurveda those products should constitute a smaller part of our diet. Their price suggests how they do not serve us well – on two levels – health and finances.
The fish and meat might be difficult in the beginning, especially if we care about something fresh and not frozen. The only thing I can advise you here is to ask, search, inquire anywhere you can where you can buy fresh products of good quality at reasonable price. Not everyone is that lucky to have really great fish store and also a shop with raw and cut meat right from ecologic farms in as we do in our close neighborhood. Fish and meat can also be available at Food Cooperative, right from the farmer. If you trust a person, it is worth checking such source.
Favorite online store
I do shop on regular basis in the online eco shop, that offers discounts for regular clients and also a nice policy when comes to delivery costs. That’s where I buy kudzu, malts and oils. This way I get all the benefits of online shopping, and I do some saving with current promotions. I shop at MarketBio.
Local store with healthy food
Local store with healthy also has an important role to play. It’s a place where we buy bread, cakes or sweets produced by local manufactory or healthy confectionery. The place where we get to know the novelties, fill up the stock once something is missing or buy some extras. Here we buy pickled cucumbers, sour cabbage, diary and cut meats from verified sources. Delicious olives sold by weight, that taste as if they just arrived from Greek market or wide selection of herbal infusions. And what’s most important contact with people sharing the same values. Very often it happens to be the hub of all kinds of information about local events such as Honey Day, Beekeepers’ Feast or a meeting with Flaxseed oil producer. We have two stores, Dziki Melon ( Wild Melon) and Zielona Trufla ( Green truffle).
Nearby supermarket can also be a relevant place and as our local City Market shows, even such a small store can have a wide assortment, from vinegar to chestnut flour. Shops start to meet client needs, healthy food departments spring up like mushrooms and if you keep on asking there are big chances the store adds the products you need to its regular offer.
Bazaar and ecological markets
It is also worth to mention ecological markets, where, having a nice cup of coffee with piece of homemade cake prepared from quality ingredients, we can spend some nice time and stock up our pantry with some delicacies.
There is Bazar Smakoszy ( Foodies’ Bazaar) in Wrocław. Apart from food stands there also is the Greek – cheese and olive lover, who offers wonderful Kalamata olives, the Portuguese guy who is visited by the amateurs of canned sardines and the farmers of chokeberry or flax or even producers of natural pasta. Places like this are an adventure with lots of temptations so for those who have difficulties with watching their budget it might be a bit dangerous. Goods are usually more expensive than anywhere else, and prices are not that clearly marked which can be pleasant when buying but not anymore when comes to paying. Only five things in a bag and we spent 100 zł, not entirely knowing on what. Additionally we spend some money on coffee and that cake, pancake for child and we get home with kind of exceeded budget. We find such a trip to be some kind of a holiday spent in the city, a chance to watch, smell, try new things and not a place of weekly shopping.
Discount stores might also have something interesting to offer. Some companies introduce certified ecological products to their offer and low prices are a big advantage. Still I advise against regular shopping at such places not only because of the quality of the products, although it gets better. But do we really want to be part of the movement that with friendly logo pretends to be a polish brand and in fact is a foreign capital? By leaving our money in such a store we boost the profits of other country while the owner, instead of looking after the employees, offers them ridiculously low wages and poor working conditions.
When to shop?
When comes to stationary shopping the timing is quite important. Try to choose, whenever possible, the hours when shops are relatively empty with people. Early morning, late evening or around noon we will do our shopping quick and efficiently, without wasting time on queueing, and that might take even 15 minutes! Experiment, try, create your shopping map which will turn into algorithm, my favorite word of late. Such shopping algorithm will save you a lot of time related to organizing your supply base.
Are you for real???
Watch out for products that pretend to be what they are not. If the olive oil producer glorifies its qualities, but the seller fails to store it right…Consumer awareness regarding flaxseed oil has risen but when comes to such expensive product as clarified butter, I still come across transparent jars that show very little understanding of the product. If it really is a liquid gold, prepared with profound care from high quality milk, why to ruin it all by packing it into transparent jar?
You have the influence, use it
With our decisions we educate the market what pays off, and what does not. I witnessed a rise and fall of local store with healthy food within last year. It had its vision. The clients had other vision. At the same time another shop with similar assortment was established in the neighborhood. The one that listens to the clients. It has started cooperation with local producers of such assortments as pickles or vegan cakes and provides the product I want within a few days. And what is the best, it introduces it to the regular offer.
It is all about the relations
Who travelled to the Middle East or India and bargained over the prices in any market of Morocco, knows the trade is about relations. Relations based on mutual respect and honesty. Money is jut and add-on to this game where the interaction between people when they exchange goods is essential. When the seller does not play fair it’s time to finish such game and look for people who nourish us. Literally.
Why have I dedicated so much attention to this issue? As from my own experience I know how important it is. Price, availability, time saving. If they are missing even the best Ayurvedic recipe will not emerge from the pot.
Would you like to get a sample?
Check out this video about making a clarified butter.