0019. tps: food

When I started thinking of sustainable changes I began the process by evaluating what I do everyday and food is a big part of my days. I love food! (Who doesn't??)

It was also a semi-easy place to start. I'd wanted to start composting for a long time so I finally sat down and did the research (we were still in nyc) - we could collect our scraps over the week, freeze them to prevent odors, and take it to the farmer's market on the weekend - wooo!

It's not so easy now that I'm on the road, but that one step got me thinking, re-evaluating, and making smarter/greener food choices. And as long as you're doing that you're winning in my book. Don't let what you grew up with dictate or limit how you eat.

As such, food is sooo personal! Even though I like to indulge (I only have one life after all), the choices I make matter and I like to think that I strike a balance and do my best. We all have different dietary preferences, restrictions, and budgets so it's a tough topic to discuss. With that said, this is how I started and what I do to keep it affordable:

+ Evaluate the foods you eat & determine your priority.
What swaps can you make for a greener end? Cereal was an easy breakfast/snack to bring to work but I wasn't finding a good low impact option so I switched to oatmeal. A little extra prep but it's affordable, low waste, versatile and delicious. As always, when you figure out your priority decisions are way easier - my guidelines when it comes to food: sustainable (ethical + organic + low waste). 

+ Aim for organic.
I know how difficult and expensive it can be to find/buy organic produce - it’s frustrating. We should all have access to food that isn't hurting farmworkers and our planet in the process of production. Unfortunately in some supermarkets those are the most available options.

+ Don't eat meat (or eat less).
We’ve all heard this one before, but to each his own. I do eat meat occasionally, but sources matter. Try to find local, organic, ethical suppliers. If you're cutting it out a few times a week then you can spring for better meat - both these efforts make a difference.

+ Limit animal products or source ethical options.
I have eczema - dairy and eggs make it worse so limiting animal products is something I strive to do to keep my skin rash-free. Alas, I'm human and I love pizza so I do the best I can. As with anything strive for organic and ethical options (I dream of the day I can have happy little chickens in my yard). One area that was easy for me - milk, see below.

+ Choose a better milk.
I started by switching to organic dairy, but I never buy cow's milk anymore (the dairy industry is frightening). I mostly opt for homemade oat milk. Nut milks are also delicious, but there is an environmental concern with these - all nuts require a lot of water to grow and most almonds are grown in California where water is scarce.

+ Find a bulk store.
If you can get your grains, nuts, beans, etc in bulk that's a lot of waste saved. Bring a cloth bag or jar and make sure to get the tare weight first. If you cant, opt for recyclable packaging whenever possible.

+ Avoid palm oil.
It's sneakily in lots of foods (and other products!) and horribly harming the planet, endangered species, and humans.

+ Avoid plastic packaging/processed/pre-made foods.
These go hand in hand! If you're eating fresh fruits and vegetables you are avoiding a lot of weird additives/bad for you ingredients and waste.

+ Compost or re-use your scraps.
Find a drop off or start your own. Many cities offer curbside or drop-offs and I'm sorry I sound like a broken record, but this is a very important one - take advantage. You can also use your vegetable scraps to make broth! (Let me know if you'd like to see a diy.)

+ Eat with the seasons.
Browsing cookbooks is fun and while I don't make a lot of the recipes I see I think this has to do with the fact that they're all over the place. Research what is in season where you live and look for seasonal cookbooks to help you gather some delicious ideas. Eating seasonally makes it easier to support your local economy and has a lower footprint - as opposed to buying produce that came from halfway around the world.

+ Buy less at a time to avoid food waste/finish what you have before you get more.
When you can see what's in your fridge or pantry it's less likely you'll let it go to waste - I think it's very easy to forget what you have when you cant see it. (Or is that just me?)

+ Shop around.
No one place is going to give you all the affordable, organic goods that you are looking for - I wish! Look around and find the best deals on what you need to buy. The disparity between stores is crazy, but if you can't find a certain ingredient consider substituting or omitting it. I'll often go to the store with an idea of what I want and then select organic produce or goods that are more affordable or on sale. I also choose to support small, local farmers whenever I can.

+ Eat in.
If you're treating yourself, make it zero-waste - eat at the restaurant and bring a jar for your leftovers. If you decide to go for take-out, you could ask them to plate the food, some restaurants will let you bring your containers to put the food into.

+ Make cooking fun & creative.
When I had a job/home grocery shopping and cooking was the time AB and I caught up post work. We'd walk to the grocery store or meet there and then make our dinner/lunch (leftovers). As special as eating out is, this felt special too and we both miss it. Check out cookbooks, make a list of options you'd like to try, put on some music, and get cooking. Light some candles and enjoy a delicious meal made with love.

With all this said - unless you have a year round farmer's market (lucky you!), organic and low waste don't always go hand in hand. I love carrots - they're cheap, delicious, versatile but depending on where I am, I can't always find them not in a pre-wrapped plastic bag so I get it anyway and luckily the bag (if washed and taken to a store) is recyclable. It's a dilemma, but in this case organic wins for me. I'd rather support organic farming and hope with all hope that the bag is actually recycled.

And that is ultimately the biggest issue with food - it is so very dependent on where you live. But, as consumers we say a lot with how we spend our funds. Try approaching leaders of your community or reaching out to your local supermarket with suggestions of produce and products you'd like to see. (Stop & Shop has an online form for product requests.)

How do you tackle/manage eating sustainably? Any tips you would add?


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