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Sustainability 2 - On becoming a Grocer

little hadham stores

I am working on a new website and as a result have to work on an "About Me" section. On the one hand, I find this difficult. Just as I find the photoshoot I needed to do DIFFICULT, despite the best efforts of the lovely Natalie Aubry.

On the other hand, it is a great exercise in thinking about, and defining once again, what I really want to do with this business/STORES/my life...

I never intended to be a shop keeper, but I believe strongly that we need to make conscious, sustainable, choices about how we consume.  I believe that food is a great way for people to start to think about many of today's environmental issues on a personal level. And, that it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the, often conflicting, environmental advice.

little hadham stores village grocers

I try to look at things holistically, aiming to tread as lightly on the planet as possible, without compromising quality, or beauty, or the need for us to share our creativity and knowledge with the widest community we can. When I choose goods and suppliers I always work to the simple principle:

"BUY LESS, CHOOSE WELL"


Anything else is an attempt to cut corners and it will end up biting you on the butt in the long run. It seems to me that one of the biggest problems with the food industry is that in it's continued attempts to create cheap food it has created the problems of industrialised agriculture. The constant downward pressure on price is what leads to; inhumane farming practices, lack of respect for animals, land and consumers, toxic chemicals being used on the soil, a disconnect from the earth itself. And we, the consumer, are often complicit in this.

I try to bring my customers the freshest food available, with a minimum of food miles and food waste. I support local, like-minded, business, small producers who make an ethical choice about how goods should be produced, sold, packaged and consumed. Not only is this great for our community, but we all get to eat seasonally and sustainably.

I also want to choose from artisan makers and the best quality producers worldwide, to support traditional, sustainable production practices and nutritionally valuable and great tasting food.

dog at shop door

SUSTAINABILITY IS AT OUR VERY CORE : -

  • Organic first is our motto; and reducing the toxicity of my environment, and the food I eat, is a life long journey. We supply weekly organic veg boxes, organic artisan bread, organic whole foods from our zero waste shelves (anything NOT organic is listed as such).

  • Reducing consumption is an aim in itself, but specifically of animal products is environmentally important. We stock vegetarian and vegan alternatives as the norm, rather than the alternative. However, I believe in nose to tail eating and believe the emphasis should be on making sure there are high welfare levels and no waste when we do consume other animals.

  • Minimise packaging. It should be compostable, recyclable or re-useable. Bring your own bags, boxes, tubs, jars, any container and we'll fill them from our shelves. Return your veg boxes, egg cartons, glass and plastic containers and paper bags and we will re-use them or compost them.

  • Cut single use plastics. Plastic is an amazing product in some circumstances but OUR use of it is killing the planet, and WE can do something about that. It’s not that we never use plastic, but we believe we can re-duce, re-use & re-cycle the minimal amount that we do use.

  • Sustainable palm oil - the West's rampant consumption of this is what drives countries to destroy their rain forests, yet like any other crop it can be sustainably grown.

  • I believe in a co-operative approach and work WITH my local suppliers. My main wholesaler is the UK’s biggest worker’s co-operative; who have been supplying natural, responsibly-sourced products since 1977. They have ethical policies on the environment, trade, palm oil, workers rights, animal welfare, toxic ingredients, and regularly review their supply chain.


It has been an iterative process, finding my way to define this approach. And it will continue to develop.

Despite my local prejudice, I find myself wanting to stock my favourite foods from overseas. I have been brought up eating West Indian food, I can't suddenly turn off that need for spice and sunshine. I am starting to stock more lifestyle products, natural materials, traditionally made, often vintage and I'm not sure if this is pushing me away from the original plan for the shop.

Anyway, I had to fill in the census form last weekend and I am now officially a grocer, so there I am. Come on in, I love to talk!



Bread Matters



We have wonderful bread in Little Hadham Stores. Fiona's Organic Irish soda bread is simply amazing. Made fresh the morning you pick it up with certified organic ingredients, apart from those locally foraged. The plain soda bread is deliciously hearty, can be made vegan at no extra cost and is the basis for 16 different speciality breads she makes.  This week Fiona is offering a taster of her bread for every customer who orders from her, so it's the perfect week to try it. 


Matt at Jigsaw Bakery is an absolute genius baker and I challenge you to find better sourdough anywhere.  I've tried a few others and I stick my neck out and say his is the best.  And that is why I drive to Linton, Cambridge every Thursday morning, it's why the shop doesn't open until 11am.



Over the first lockdown I returned to making my own bread and reading my favourite book on bread (Yes, I have one!) Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters.  It reminded me again of why a thoughtful approach to the food we eat is so important.  

Andrew Whitley is the founder of the celebrated Village Bakery in Melmerby.  An organic baker he writes of the deplorable state of British bread, explains the baking process, demystifies the science and shares the practical craft of bread making.

I've been avoiding processed bread from supermarkets for over 20 years now, and can hardly eat the stuff these days, though my children - LOVE IT - when they go to someone else house, they act like it is some kind of miracle food.  

Bread Matters reminds me to think about the whole process of making a food; not just how the wheat is grown - organically or not?, But also the source of the bread flour, how it is milled, the process under which it is made into bread and the additives that are put into it before baking. 

Particularly interesting is that the long fermentation times that used to be the norm, before modern yeasts were isolated - along with the increased instances of wheat intolerance, and coeliacs - have implications for gut health and wheat intolerances.









Sustainability 1 - Zero Waste Shops

sugar and scoop

As I am sure you know sustainability is hugely important to me.  The Christmas break and new year always gives me the opportunity, and head space, to think about what sustainability really means and what my goals for the new year are.  Looking back at my blog I find this post from the beginning of last year; A New Year but No New Planet. I found myself liking this quote:

I think a good start is to focus on the many, small changes that are compatible, and therefore sustainable, in our own lives.  It is all about our individual priorities and making active choices, even if the science tells us next year they were wrong.  Conscious choices lead to meaningful action.

It made me realise I wanted to do a series of posts on other people's thoughts on sustainability and maybe introduce you to some local, ethical and sustainable businesses.  So, I am starting with Sugar and Scoop a zero waste shop in Ware.  

Reducing plastic waste is crucial to the future of our planet. That’s why Sugar and Scoop sell fantastic, high-quality products that help you to cut down on the single-use plastics you get through in daily life.

Kirsty Taylor-Moran set up Sugar and Scoop with a crowd funding campaign, gaining support of her future customers in Ware to help establish the business.  I asked her to tell me more:

We were motivated to set up Sugar & Scoop after becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and the government inaction. We realised recycling, where possible, was not enough and started to make meaningful changes at home to reduce our impact on the environment. 

Food packaging, cleaning, toiletries and baby hygiene products were obvious areas for us to target. We were trying to do our best to reduce our single use plastic waste but found it really wasn’t very easy for us to do without travelling miles, at the time our nearest ZW store was in St Albans and was logistically difficult for us. 


zero waste shop


Kirsty's shop is beautiful and she believes that reducing your plastic waste shouldn’t mean compromising on choice or quality.  Kirsty seeks out the best quality plastic-free products so that you can buy them locally.  If there’s something new you’d like to see in her store, just let her know and she'll try to source it.

Sugar and Scoop offers refills of food, toiletries and cleaning supplies along with treats like her nut-butter station.  Kirsty says:

We feel very strongly that everybody should have a refill shop in their town and we wanted to help others in our local community reduce their household waste too but with a real focus on convenience, accessibility and offering a broad enough range of products to make it feasible to skip the big supermarket shops.

sugar and scoop



Sugar & Scoop 
Zero Waste Refill & Eco Lifestyle Shop
76 - 78 High Street,
Ware, SG12 9AT

Email - Hello@sugarandscoop.com
Instagram - @sugarandscoop


How was your January?



Minor Figures oat milk

I try not to commit to those new year resolutions that only last for January, and often can't decide how I feel about things like "Dry January" or "Veganuary", is it anything more than a marketing ploy? 

 I asked one of my favourite vegans, Tom, 17, what influenced his decision to become vegan:

When discussing why I first went vegan, I found that people always seemed to find it “too difficult” or “confusing” or need an overwhelming reason to be a vegan out of obligation. While I do understand the reason people may perceive veganism like that, and while I do believe that people have a moral obligation to go vegan, I won’t get into those things now. I’m here to talk about why I went vegan.

The reason, unlike what many would think, was simple. I like animals. I don’t want to hurt them. And once I had found out that contributing to the dairy and egg industry was doing just that (I was already vegetarian at the time for a similar reason) I felt the weight of my actions and just… Stopped (Sorry, this is a remarkably uninteresting case. Go watch Gary Yourofsky’s* speech if you want a more in depth look into the vegan mindset, he explains it pretty well)
Tom is one of the reasons I decided to stock these Suma Organic Baked Beans which are Vegan Society approved.



In STORES we always have a wide range of vegan foods, purely because we should eat a diverse range of plant based foods to make up any healthy diet.  However I do have some favourite vegan finds:

My addiction to coffee has lead me to try a number of different dairy alternatives and Minor Figures Organic Oat Milk is my favourite so far.  Oat Milk has proven to be one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly plant milks. Production of Oat Milk demands less water usage than that of cow’s milk and most alternative milks. Don't get me started on Almond Milk my friends, having spent many years in California, I am biased against it on exactly the basis of it's water consumption.

Many factors contribute to a smaller carbon footprint when compared plant milk and cow’s milk. A single cup of coffee using cow’s milk has roughly double the CO2e than a cup of coffee with a dairy free alternative like oat milk. Or of course you can drink your coffee black.

To be honest, I still have milk in my morning coffee and then often drink it black for the rest of the day or with oat milk.  I find that I use Oat Milk for all my other breakfast foods, smoothies, porridge, granola & cereal and actually I can tolerate it in tea, while my husband can't abide oat milk in tea but finds it perfectly fine in coffee.

Finding ethical swaps that fit into your life is often a work in progress, and persisting until you find what works for you is what is important.  You don't have to be perfect.  Just start the process of considering what is best for not just you, but the planet and your community as a whole, it is not something for a single month, but is an ongoing and ever evolving commitment.




Smoothie Sachets

healthy smoothies for kids

With schools closed again, and home schooling back on the agenda, I wanted to recommend one of my favourite products for kids at Little Hadham Stores - Alex's Smoothie Sachets. I mean, they are not only for kids, but I buy in bulk and put them in jars on my children's "snack shelf", so they can help themselves.

If you have a smoothie maker, they are an easy way to get extra goodness into you and your children. Each packet will make either one really big smoothie (a pint glass) or two regular sized smoothies. All you need to add is a banana (we sometimes also add a handful of frozen fruit) and 
milk, or your favourite dairy free alternative.

I love them as a quick breakfast, that the kids are happy to sort out by themselves, as elevenses or an afternoon snack. Una and Louis enjoy the process of making them.  And although we do do dairy, I've discovered I prefer them with the Minor Figures Oat Milk that I stock at LHStores, something about the slight sweetness of the oat milk I think. 

Alex's passion for healthy eating and organic food extends over two decades. From her Masters degree, where she studied organic farm families, to growing her own food, to spending most of her formative years on a farm. She has brought organic and locally grown food to people’s plates for a long time.

Alex has created smoothie recipes that are tasty, packed with whole foods (nuts, seeds) and have no gimmicks or fillers. She offers probiotics as an option with all of the smoothie sachets, for an extra boost to your gut health (another passion of ours).  


While we are not qualified to make any health claims about the smoothies, all the 
ingredients are good for you, certified organic, full of protein and a host of other macro and micro nutrients. Nutritional information is readily available online, so feel free to google them for a more well rounded picture of what you are drinking. The five flavours are:-

The Coffee One: cocoa, cashews NUTS, golden linseed, coffee

The Spiced One: cinnamon, turmeric, golden linseed, pumpkin seeds

The Peanut Butter One: peanut butter powder (NUTS), Golden linseed, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, oats

The Green One: Greens plus superfood powder, oats, chia seeds, sunflower seeds (This one is a powerhouse so you might want to add a teaspoon of honey)

The Energy One: “the perfect energiser” a naturally caffeinated Yerba Mate superfood powder (34 nutrient dense berries, herbs and greens), oats, chia seeds, sunflower seeds

healthy smoothies for lockdown lunches

The idea for Alex's smoothie sachets came to her through her friend Laura who had injured her leg and was gifted smoothie mixes from another friend, Lucy, to support her healing. Laura knows Alex's passion for great food, supporting people’s healthy eating journeys, and from there the spark was ignited. 

Alex says; "Another blessing from this journey has been my kids‘ love of my smoothies. I believe in kids eating good whole foods, but I am not opposed to hiding good ingredients from them until they are big enough to accept these, sometimes, less palatable tastes (ie greens plus powder, one of the nutritional powerhouses in my smoothies)." 


The smoothie sachets are available to order from LHSTORES and we can also mail these out to you - Royal Mail, 1st class - if you are too far away to pick up.  Alex says: "I hope you find these sachets an easy and tasty way to boost your health and your snacking pleasure."

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Welcome 2021...


Like most of us I welcomed in the new year with particular enthusiasm.  I mean, what is there to say about the s*#t storm that was 2020.  So instead here are three, slightly disperate, things that make me hopeful for 2021:




I am not going to add to the many trillions of words already used to write about the chaos of last year, I don't think I have anything unique to say.  But I wanted to share a link to this article from the NY Times on Dr Ugur Sahin and Dr Özlem Türeci, the couple who founded BioNTech.  This is not a comment on the vaccine but on the scientists, about whom there is much that gives me hope.


christmas cake

I made my first Christmas Cake for at least 15 years this Christmas.  I bulk bought the organic ingredients from my wholesaler and split it with a group of friends and customers that were baking their own cakes too.  I will be more organised and hopefully there will be an even bigger group of us to share the cost and minimise the packaging this year.  I love this post from my old homeopath Caroline Gaskin where she explains why Christmas cake for brekkie is a GOOD THING!


Credit...


It may not seem likely that a book on fungi would be the best book I've read all year (I'm counting 2020 as the year not 2021!) but Entangled Life - How Fungi Make Our World, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures.* is just brilliant.  On almost every page there is something that I did not know and have to read out aloud to my family.  It's eloquently written, stunningly informative and it is truly making me think differently about everything from gardening, to evolution, to what it is to be an individual, and I am only on the Chapter 4. 

* This is an affiliate link to the Bookshop.org, an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops, details of which are below.



Bookshop.org believe that bookshops are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our high streets and communities.

As more and more people buy their books online, they wanted to create an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support bookshops at the same time.

If you want to find a specific local bookshop to support, find them on their map and they’ll receive the full profit from your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookshops.

They also support anyone who advocates for books through an affiliate programme, which pays a 10% commission on every sale, and gives a matching 10% to independent bookshops. If you are an author, a website or magazine, have a bookclub, an organisation that wants to recommend books, or even just a book-lover with an Instagram feed, you can sign up to be an affiliate, start your own shop, and be rewarded for your advocacy of books. Bookshop.org wants to give back to everyone who promotes books, authors, and independent bookshops!

By design, they give away over 75% of our profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books!

They hope that Bookshop.org can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities.

Bookshop is a B-Corp - a corporation dedicated to the public good.

Spanish Summer with Brindisa

With the Covid pandemic meaning that many of us are staying home instead of going to Europe for our hols, I thought it would be nice to bring some Spanish summer sunshine by way of the food that we eat.  I wanted to highlight Spanish flavours and products at LHStores so I am bringing some lovely products in from the Spanish wholesaler, Brindisa. Founded in 1988 by Monika Linton, Brindisa provide hundreds of different Spanish products to many of the country’s finest restaurants, delis and food halls. And were one of the first retail outlets in Borough Market, Southwark, now regarded as being among the finest food markets in Britain.


To help get the most out of these lovely products I thought I'd share 2 quick and easy recipes, let me know if you like them and if you would like more.

Summer Salad with Butter Beans

Ingredients:
300g butterbeans
400g tomatoes
small cucumber or courgette - w
hichever cucurbits is going crazy in your garden at the moment!
onion - red is a good choice
fresh coriander - or if you have marjoram in your garden use that.
lemon juice
olive oil
salt
  • Soak the butterbeans overnight. (You could use a mixture of butter beans and haricot beans.)  Bring to the boil and simmer in salted water for about 30mins or until soft. Strain, let them stand in cold water so they stop cooking then strain again and let them sit drying in the colander.
  • Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into half-moons. You can cook the courgette if you prefer to use this and allow it to cool. slice the onion thinly, wash and chop the herbs.
  • Combine the ingredients and dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt.
  • This salad is hearty enough on it's own but you can add the Ortiz sardines or tuna on the side, or serve with cooked or cured chorizo from our Spanish Summer range add Preserved Lemons for an extra zing.


Patatas Bravas

Ingredients:
onion
mixture of rapeseed & olive oil
potatoes
red pepper - optional.
Salsa Brava - available from our Spanish Summer Range.
  • Slice the onion finely and sautée in a mixture of rapeseed and olive oil in an oven proof pan, slowly allowing the onions to soften and start to caramelise. If you are using red peppers sautée them too.
  • Scrub the potatoes and dice. Place them in a saucepan of cold water and bring them to the boil. Drain and add them to the onions in the oven proof pan. Put the whole lot in the oven for about 30mins until the potatoes are just starting to crisp.
  • Add the Salsa Brava and return to the oven for 5 mins.
  • Serve straight from the pan with bread (our tordu is fantastic for wiping up the sauce) the tinned sardines or chorizo are wonderful on the side. Or add a Spanish cheese like Manchego and create your own tapas night.
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