Our ‘fresh from the farm’ (or farmers’ market) approach to grocery shopping here in Delft has been the outcome of a lot of little changes to our lifestyle in the past few years as well as the product of quite a bit of research. So, now I am one of those people who, when I get onto this topic, you can’t shut up!
Before Delft we were in London, and before that in Vienna. Our conversion to now eating predominantly organic whole foods, have been the product of our 8 year journey through Europe and our fight to find ordinary groceries which meet (what we now recognise as) the luxury and privilege of the abundantly available high quality fresh produce which the Australian climate allows year-round.
So… how do we do it? Where do I shop in Delft? The answer is: not at standard supermarkets… This process of trying to find quality has taught me to buy local as much as possible, shop with the seasons (embrace learning about winter vegetables that I had never heard of in Australia) and when we just ‘need’ a tropical fruit hit, at least buy it from somewhere I can be sure it isn’t being air-freighted here. Yes, as Aussies, we just can’t live without our bananas, but I will willingly pay more to make sure they are fair trade and coming by ship.
Most of my shopping through the week is done on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to coincide with markets. Thursday morning is market day here in Delft and the Markt is full of stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetable, cheeses, meats and … the reason I go to the markets… fish! I did start out here in Delft doing all my fruit and vegetable shopping in the Thursday markets, and you can find quality there if you look for it, but since researching and convincing myself to commit to almost entirely organic eating, I now just head to the Thursday markets for my fish. I shop at Simonis who were recommended to me for their ethical sourcing methods, freshness and quality. Simonis also have shops in Den Haag and at Scheveningen, which are open every day, but since we don’t have a car, Thursday is fresh fish day for us.
After the markets on Thursday I often head out to (as my 2 year old calls it) ‘our farm’. This farm shop is where I do most of my basic vegetable shopping as well as buy our cheese, eggs, fresh farm milk and some meat. The farm shop is entirely seasonal in its produce and you will find that most of what is available is coming from Holland. In the right season you can buy the fruit and vegetables they grow themselves and really be cooking produce that was literally picked only hours before you eat it. The farm is organic, so all produce sold there is also exclusively organic. The beef they sell is from their own herd, but sold packaged and frozen. I understand they are planning to open a butchery shop on site this or next year for fresh meat. They also sell lovely breads in the farm shop, which come from the organic baker who has his bakery at the Delftse Hout camping ground. Although I do love his stuff, we actually buy all our (organic) flour at the farm shop, which comes from a windmill in Schiedam (Molen De Vrijheid) and I am lucky enough to have a husband who makes all our bread.
For us, the fresh (raw) milk is the real draw-card of the farm. We go to buy it once or twice a week. I was sceptical at first (selling raw milk in Australia is completely illegal and I therefore had no real understanding of what the benefits could be and what safeguards can be in place for milk without pasteurisation) but I am now a complete convert. We all love it in our family and drink it every day. I recommend you do your own research to make sure you are comfortable with your choices, but for me, once I tasted it I didn’t want to ever go back to buying cartoned milk in the supermarket. The system for the milk is that you need to collect it yourself from the milking sheds. You pay by the litre but need to bring your own bottles to fill at the vat tap. They sell reusable glass bottles if you need them. By the way, it is much cheaper than buying cartons of milk at the grocery store. The farm shop (and dairy) is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.
So, now I hear you asking, where do I buy these bananas I mentioned? At the organic farmers’ market held in the Hague every Wednesday. I go there by train because that is most convenient for me with my daughter still in a pram (we go from Delft to Den Haag Central and walk up to the Hofweg where it is held) but the trams (I hate lifting prams on trams- the slow Sprinter train means no lifting) also stop just by there at the Centrum stop (tram 1 from Delft). At the markets there are butchers, bakers, fruit and veg, in the right season a specific mushroom stall, cheese stalls (both imported and local), a stall for dry produce (e.g. dried fruits, lentils, grains, nuts etc.) a stall for honeys and oils etc. and (I claim) the best stroopwafels in Holland! Not everything at the farmers markets is local, but it is all organic and it is all being sold by people who know about and care about where the produce came from and how it got here, not to mention their wealth of knowledge about what is in season, when something will be in season locally (if you prefer to wait) and what to do with any ingredient when you get it home. They love kids there, and with all the free samples my daughter collects from every stall I stop at, there really is (for her) such a thing as a free lunch.
I have been asked if the cost of living organic and being so ‘choosy’ about our food choices is more expensive. The thing is that for us it all started with a one month trial two years ago, and after the month was up I was meant to analyse our bills and decide whether we could continue to live this way, but after the month was up, we didn’t want to go back to the alternative. We decided to prioritise this in our budget. 18 months ago we made some other food habit choices like alternating meat/ fish/ vegetarian through the week and also going processed-sugar-free. These choices for us meant that I do all our cooking from basic raw ingredients. So with those changes too, for us the organic thing brings us back to about average in our budget. Yes, some foods are more expensive when bought in this way, but without many pre-prepared foods on our shopping list we manage, even in our currently single-income household.
Last things: I can’t write a blog post about where I buy my quality produce without some personal recommendations for the treats as well. A recent discovery for me is The Living cafe/deli who do wonderful organic vegetarian food and, if I ever need a last-minute take-away evening meal for the family they are my only stop. A favourite luxury? De Lelie chocolates! They aren’t all organic, but they are Fair trade. Which, given a priority list of: tasting good; organic; and fair trade, for us fair trade has to top the list for items like chocolate where the growers are so vulnerable to unfair conditions. De Lelie’s 100% chocolate (which is therefore of course sugar-free) is the best I have tried and great paired with a dried apricot or something similar to hit a chocolate craving.