The closer you are to your food source, the more you know about what went into it before it gets into you and your loved ones. I always try to use the highest quality foods I can get my hands on. I strive to find unprocessed, locally produced, organic ingredients while avoiding any genetically engineered/GMO foods.
First, I try to grow my own of what I know I can use. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to walk out steps from your kitchen to cut the perfect amount of parsley to garnish your soup. I get immense joy from preparing a meal after harvesting many of my ingredients.
Need help starting or improving your garden? Contact Victory Gardens San Diego or visit Bill Tall at City Farmers Nursery.
Next, I forage from my neighbors, friends and family. Got any extra backyard harvest? Use it for trade, participate in a crop swap, put it out front of your house with a free sign to share with your neighbors.
Then, I head to farmers markets for beautiful fruits, vegetables, herbs and other items like eggs and honey - and the amazing bonus of becoming friends with those who produce my food!
And for the rest, OB People's Organic Food Co-op is my second home (especially now that I work there). I bring my own containers (they can weigh them there before you fill them and label them with the tare weight) and buy as much as possible from the bulk bins. This is cheaper, decreases waste (no packaging) and I can buy just the amount I need.
Backyard chickens are the best source of eggs. You know exactly what went into them and how the birds are treated. But if you can't raise your own or get them from your neighbor, know your farmer: how many chickens does she raise? Do they run free or are they locked up most of the time? When shopping, choose cage-free, pastured eggs. I get the most beautiful eggs from my yard. Keep a few different types of hens that lay brown, copper, speckled, pale blue, green and pink eggs! And of course, the taste, texture, and freshness of pastured, local eggs is beyond comparison to commercial eggs. My chickens are allowed full expression of their chicken-ness, are loads of fun, easy to care for, help me rehab my soil, keep down weeds and bugs, and provide an opportunity for the kids in my life to get closer to their food. I care for my chickens, and they care for me by providing me with a vegetarian protein that I can raise myself in a sustainable way: they turn weeds, kitchen scraps & bugs into eggs & manure!
and from the bulk section:
I buy all my flour in bulk, either out of the bulk bins or special ordered by the sack. If using white, I use unbleached organic all purpose; but use the white stuff sparingly. I often skip it altogether or at least sub in some stone-ground whole wheat or whole wheat pastry.
Safflower and sunflower oils are healthier (good sources for vitamin e and essential fatty acids; look for the high oleic types, which are higher in), basic choices that won’t add strong flavors and do well with heat. I also use a lot of olive oil, especially extra virgin, if i want to add that flavor. I tend to avoid canola due to possible GMO contamination.
Not only are sea salts more natural and less refined than processed salt, they also contain healthy minerals. Course or bid crystal salts are nice for finishing a dish. I use a fine sea salt for baking and cooking. There are many specialty salts (French, Celtic...Hawaiian is the most local to me).
My current favorite is rapadura, an unprocessed form of cane sugar that can replace white sugar in recipes. If i want a lighter flavor, I’ll use evaporated cane juice. Make sure it's fair trade.
I love local honey and it may boost our immune system and help with allergies. And look for grade B maple syrup (the real stuff, of course); it’s less refined and has a more intense flavor than grade A. Agave dissolves easily in liquid, has no funny taste, adds less calories than other sweet stuff, and a healthier choice for those with blood sugar issues; but the down side is it's pretty processed (and honestly, I avoid it).
Cocoa Powder & Chocolate
Make sure it’s fair trade; otherwise, you're supporting slavery.
Make sure it’s fair trade. I bought my vanilla beans by the big jar-full from George, the vegetarian guy, who knows the farmer he gets them from in India. You can make your own vanilla extract from from the pods, after you've scraped out the beans.