Last week I agreed to let the “Organic. Naturally Different.” campaign do a shop for me. Turns out it was a mystery shop which arrived with few hours notice so I had to hit the floor running with my meal planning skills as soon as I unpacked my booty.
Here is what arrived:
Which looks like this:
The following is a list of dishes that I made or planned and the number of portions (there were still ingredients left such as rice, flour, pasta, butter etc):
2 x Organic Cheese on Toast with salad (my own salad)
4 x Mushroom Soup (using home-made chicken stock)
4 x Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (using home-made chicken stock)
4 x Rice, Tomato & Cumin Soup (using home-made chicken stock)
4 x Scrumptious Sausage Fusilli (based on my Scrumptious Chipolata Tagliatelle)
4 x Organic Roast Chicken, organic Crispy Coated Roast Potatoes, organic carrots, + my petite pois
Made 2.25 ltrs Chicken Stock with carcass (including 1 organic onion, 2 organic carrots, 1 bulb of organic garlic)
4 x Couscous Salad with Chicken & Roasted Butternut Squash (using left over organic chicken leg/thigh, 1/3rd organic butternut squash and chicken stock)
4 x Mushroom & Onion Quiche (using my own puff pastry sheet)
4 x Apple Meringue
4 x Grilled Organic Peaches and Home-made Vanilla Ice milk
8 x Chocolate Ice Cream (using my own chocolate & 3 egg yolks left from meringue)
4 x Peach Crumble and Home-made Vanilla Ice Milk
What I know
I know that organic food is better for you as it is farmed using naturally occurring fertilizers such manure, uses spray pesticides from natural sources plus insects and birds and uses crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching etc for weed management. Livestock are not pumped full of growth hormones or antibiotics but are given an organic diet, access to the outdoors, clean housing to minimise disease and have a better quality of life. It’s a well known fact that the food industry has created a ticking time bomb with the amount of antibiotics they are pumping into our poultry. A quote from the Daily Mail read: “Now experts are warning that the overuse of antibiotics in poultry farms around the world is creating a generation of superbugs that are resistant to treatment by virtually every drug in the medical establishment’s armoury.”
So this all means that the environment is better off and food which has not been forced by means of artificial intervention tends to taste better too.
What did I learn from my experience cooking with organic
Like non-organic food there is no guarantee that your peaches won’t go mouldy or your apples won’t arrive bruised – these are things which I tend to overcome by shopping for goods myself as I am fastidious when it comes to choosing my produce. With regard to taste the 3 things which stood out to me were the chicken, the milk and the onions. We had a bit of a Eureka moment in the house when my daughter who has had an aversion to “chicken veins and gravy” for many years, actually ate the organic roast chicken. I asked her if she’d like to try this chicken as it had had a nice life and hadn’t had any antibiotics or nasty things given to it and therefore tasted superb. So curiosity got the better of her and my small pile of left-over chicken breast soon became a completely empty spot as she picked up the pieces and dipped them in the gravy. She then said “I don’t know why I’ve never liked chicken and gravy before” hallelujah! The chicken stock also gave all my soups a beautiful flavour too as I’d made chicken stock from a standard chicken in the past and not been that happy with it. The organic milk I have bought in the past has always been a supermarket own brand but this organic milk from Yeo Valley was really sweet and creamy tasting even though it was semi-skimmed. I also noticed how really crispy and flavoursome the onions were.
As there wasn’t much meat in this shop I also learned that we probably do eat too much meat and should make more vegetarian based meals. The Mushroom & Onion Quiche I made was a huge hit with the family and I would usually have ham or fish in there.
What are my conclusions about Organic
In an ideal world we should all be eating organic but the reality is that the extra labour and welfare involved make it an expensive farming process. The taste and health benefits are great too. Did you know that organic milk contains more Omega 3 than standard milk which is useful for combating heart disease and needed for brain development in the young?
My meal planning and stretching shows how you can get the most out of £54 shop so if you can afford organic I would say buy as much as you can. The harsh reality though for many families these days is that they are already stretching their food stuffs from a squeezed income due to the economic climate that we find ourselves in. The prices of the organic items in the shopping list compared to non-organic varied widely. For instance the organic butter was the same price as a standard brand of butter at £1.60 but the peaches at £2.25 were more than double for the standard variety which I buy for 99p. I think if we were to eat more vegetarian dishes then I could see that we would be able to afford more organic produce but that’s not always easy when trying to please a whole family.
My shopping list always had organic milk and organic carrots on it before the recession as standard carrots are well known for absorbing a lot of pesticides. So I’d say if you can afford a few extra pennies for the odd organic item (or more) then go for it but if you can’t, then don’t fret, we can only do the best we can with what we have at the end of the day.
What are your views on organic? What would you have made with the ingredients if you’d had to make a meal plan with them? Do tell me in the comments section below!
NB: I was supplied with the groceries by “Organic. Naturally Different.” to make a meal plan for this post, I was not paid and all opinions are my own.