The Life Organik

basket[The excuses and promises of negligent bloggers make for poor reading, so I’ll simply acknowledge that I haven’t written here in a long time and move on:) ]

Here’s something I’ve noticed recently – the proportion of food in our shopping basket that could be labelled ‘Bad Lollipop’ has increased toward the end of 2010. This started to bother me during the Christmas period and I’ve been giving some thoughts to the reasons for it. I think it comes down to these two:

1 The decrease in availability of organic food in supermarkets.

This seemed to start during last summer and, while the number of vanishing items has slowed, the missing ranges have not returned.
We buy over 99% of our food from Tesco, Morrison’s or Sainsbury, so this has affected the range available to us and we’ve plumped for ‘non-organic’ alternatives where the organic option is difficult to
get your hands on.

Spreadables for toast and sandwiches are a good example. Before summer, we were buying Sainsbury’s Organic Olive Spread to moisten our toast. By mid-summer it had vanished not only from our local Sainsbury, but the megastore at Braehead. None of the other Supers seem to stock organic spreads (other than humous) and H&B don’t stock the Pure organic spread, sadly. So now we’re picking up non-organic non-dairy spreads like Flora or Vitalite.

The Supermarket Shrink is a problem that suggests that the option proposed by Julie Gibbons, sourcing as much of your food from non-supermarket sources as possible, is a wise one. It certainly means you’re less at the mercy of the whims of the Big Boys.

2 The increase in the price of food generally and organic food in particular.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the price of food seems to have rocketed in the past year. Organic food seems to have been disproportionately affected – perhaps because the demand has slightly dipped as the media convince people that they need to tighten their belts. There’s no doubt it’s had a great effect – the organic humous I bought tonight from Sainsbury was £1.20. It used to be 90p – a massive 33.33% increase in price over a few months. Although we really should know better, we’ve found that we’ve also sometimes gone for the non-organic alternative on the basis of cost. I find this habit disappointing – with a minute’s thought, I know that I’d rather spend the 33% extra for humous that hasn’t been up someone’s arse (be it literally or metaphorically).

And I know that, actually, when our basket gets closer to 100% organic, we
actually spend less money

But here’s the good news: we’ve noticed it, and now we’re putting it right. 🙂


I miss cheese. Or rather, I miss variety. But mostly, I miss gouda. And edam. Havarti. All those lovely European cheeses I now can’t get as the organic range available in shops is quite limited. But tonight I came across this Scottish dairy near Inverness… Connage Highland Dairy. It looks like I can order in some gouda if I can’t find a stockist in Glasgow. Woo!

Another veggie box was delivered today. With three beetroot. I have NEVER in my life cooked beetroot, I’ve only eaten it pickled or a few times cooked in school meals: in Russian Borscht soup (hated it) and in Swedish Lindstrom’s hamburgers, burgers made with beef mince & grated beetroot (which I did like). This should be interesting, results to follow 🙂

The brown paper bag contains green beans, next to the carrots there are parsnips and the green bit sticking out underneath the vine tomatos is a courgette. The garlic appears to have been missed from the box 😦 The leek is definitely going to be turned into soup, as are the massive carrots. Swede I might use in making Finnish lanttulaatikko (swede casserole) and the rest.. it remains to be seen 🙂 veg box

We’re not skint yet, and it’s been a month. But if we lived in Finland, we would be. Or we wouldn’t be eating anywhere as organic as we are now.

organic yoghurt in a carton (strawberry)

I flew over to Finland for aweek at easter, to see my family & friends and got to sample organikal living outside the UK. I assumed there would be loads more choice, with continental Europe historically having been ahead of the UK when it comes to biodynamic farming, consumer choice etc. But that wasn’t the case, much to my disappointment.

Yes, there were pleasant  surprises such as organic produce available cheaply at Lidl and one particular supermarket own range of organic goods, but overall, the availability was weak and prices were HIGH. I mean, would you buy organic tomatos if you had to pay €4.90 for a bag of five tomatos? That is £4.29 in sterling.  Then again, they were grown in Finland, not flown from somewhere warm… so good for food miles, at least. But to answer my own question, no, I wouldn’t. Those tomatos would be a rare treat.

I was pleased to find a wide variety of fresh salads (often still in their own pots), breakfast porridge flakes/cereals, yoghurts and yummy dark chocolate with antioxidant-laden cocoa nibs (crushed cocoa beans) through it… but apart from the cereals, they were more expensive than their UK equivalents.

organic fairtrade cocoa powder

Four-grain porridge cereal

And what about the food on the flights? Any choice for organikals? Or what about food at the airports? Could not find any organic food at Helsinki airport (plenty choice for coeliacs, though) but I did come across this stall at Amsterdam Schiphol selling sandwiches made with organic bread. And the white wine served on my KLM flight was Cono Sur organic Sauv Blanc (available from Oddbins, here in the UK)

Ethical sandwhiches at Schiphol airport

Something that a lot of people will say is that they like the idea of ‘going organic’, but it just costs too much more than ‘ordinary’ fare.

Well, it’s a few weeks since we made the switch and I’m happy to say that we haven’t had to increase our weekly food budget. If anything, we seem to be spending very slightly less than usual.

There’s no doubt that on a like-for-like basis, individual Organikal items cost more than their polluted 😉 counterparts, so how can it be that our spending on food has decreased – even if it’s only by pennies or a pound or two?

It seems that the reason is quite simple: so many impulse purchases are no longer available to us because there aren’t organic variants or our more healthy diet doesn’t allow for them.

So when we visit the supermarket, we leave without the 12-pack of crisps along with accompanying dip, several bottles of artificially sweetened soft-drinks, whatever frozen food was on special offer etc.

Suze’s home-baked loaves – at three from a £1.50 bag of flour – are actually cheaper than the supermarket’s cheapest ‘wholemeal’ loaves @ 85p each. When I’m at work, I tend to eat only what I’ve brought with me, rather than occasionally nipping round the corner to the cafe.

Having to think carefully about our purchaes seems to provide us with some protection against impulse buys. That and the immunity from most supermarket BOGOFfers that Organikal living brings appears to be saving us money!



…was inspected by our cat. Photo evidence here 🙂 He was more interested in the box than the goods included… and what did we think?

It cost us £10 for the selection of veg (incl. delivery) and comparing the prices with Tesco/Sainsburys, they were pretty much identical. Nothing was itemised as you can see, but I weighed everything included and used that to price items to see what we would’ve paid at the supermarket. Pretty much the same, is the answer…cheaper it wasn’t, but not more expensive either. Only downside to the delivery/farm veg is that the tatties and carrots are dirty… you’ve got to wash them. Something the supermarkets do for you when the bag things up. Suppose I’ve gotten lazy, as growing up we would buy our veg from the market and it all came straight from the farm. And covered in soil/dirt.

The paper bag in the box is 1.150kg of potatos…  Apparently tatties & onions are staples, something you get in the delivery each week. Otherwise they vary the items, depending on what is seasonal and what they have.. and what you, the client, like & don’t like.

It’s not a lot a veg though, for a vegetarian and a carnivore (me) who eats mainly veggie diet. We had to drop by the supermarket to get lunch box fruit and some extra carrots & leeks in order to make soup for the week. The vine tomatos are BEAUTIFUL but I’d prefer the regular kind.. better on sandwiches. Something we can perhaps request next time?

So yes, whether it is your local Boots the Chemist here in the UK or Stockmann department store in Helsinki, Finland.. you can find these guys:

Organic Surge. A range of skin, body, hair care and bath products. All the way to you from sunny (or not so..) Wick in Scotland! They use organic essential oils.. no parabens or other nasties, they say. And you can get it from both of these places. And from some others…

Today when I was in town with my friend, we popped into TK Maxx and they had a range of their goodies for just £2.99 if you’re looking for a bargain. Also, some of their skincare range is is on 3 for the 2 at Boots just now.

Might check them out. I like their site and the charity support they do but as for the ingredients, not too sure.. dimethicone in your moisturiser? That’s silicone.  Hmmm. I’ve tried to avoid silicone in my hair products for the last few years (difficult, but at times necessary when my hair is really dry..) but hadn’t even considered its presence in skicare.

And apparently it is not that uncommon at all. It’s oily, protective and its molecular size means it’s meant to stay on your skin as a barrier (rather than getting absorbed) much like the natural oils your skin secretes. Think I need to be reading the small print in much greater detail from now on. I’d like to avoid silicone, if I can. Parabens however, I will want to stay clear off. They’re proven to be endocrine disruptors, mimicking estrogen and are linked to breast cancer in some studies. That’s quite enough for me to ditch them, thanks very much. Read the wikipedia entry above on parabens (esp. on breast cancer) or google for more info.

Meanwhile, Dr Organic range of skincare is on buy 1 get 1 half-price at Holland & Barrett. And I came across this cute mum & baby range at Boots that I might be investing in, although I am no mum and have no baby. Their Little Me Mum to Be tummy cream is a yummy mix of rosehip, vanilla & grapefruit. Smells gorgeous!

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