By Larraine Roulston:
When shopping, there are several opportunities to achieve zero waste, save money and help the planet at the same time. With a tight food budget, however, it can be a bit daunting to accomplish all three. Buy less food; more food; don’t buy food; save money — here’s how:
Start by choosing a healthier diet that “tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe.” This encourages cutting in half the consumption of red meat and sugar while doubling the intake of fresh vegetables, beans, nuts and fruits. Organic protein — chickpeas, for example — are quite inexpensive. This versatile food (that also helps keep blood sugar levels in check) can be served as hummus, used to create casseroles, and added to soups, smoothies and salads. They also make a nutritious snack after sprouting. Check out these recipes for dal, pumpkin dal, chana masala, not-too-spicy black beans, refried beans, and hummus with preserved lemon. When purchasing dried chickpeas and other bulk store items, provide your own glass jars.
Most people have more fridge and pantry food than they imagine. This became obvious to me when, due to flooding in our area, we missed our weekly grocery shopping. With grains, potatoes, as well as tins I’d neglected to open, we were fine. We called it the “maroon diet.” Tip: To avoid purchasing more food than you need, never shop when you are hungry.
Occasionally, grocers offer large bags of oats, rice or beets at reduced prices. Store them in a cool area. Beets can be cooked all at once and frozen in small servings. Discounted bags of ripe produce are also frequently displayed. These can be popped into your freezer for casseroles. When I couldn’t resist a bag of overripe avocados, I checked a link showing how to freeze them. When thawed, they are suitable for smoothies and guacamole.
Grow your own herbs and some veggies on a windowsill, balcony, patio or backyard garden.
Shop locally and in season. If you live within a couple of blocks of a marketplace, you’re fortunate: being able to shop often allows you to take advantage of daily specials. Cooking meals and baking from scratch save money on both food and packaging.
Separating and washing lettuce, spinning it dry and refrigerating the leaves in a container will keep them much longer than storing in a plastic bag. Celery and chard can be brought back to life by standing them in cold water.
Make your own vegetable stock by saving the water from cooked vegetables. If using a steamer, add peelings and stems to the water. You can even make your own milk by blending a handful of sunflower seeds, a cup of water and a spoonful of honey. If you purchase oat or coconut milk, add a little water to stretch it further. Be creative with leftovers. Include peeled chopped broccoli stems and add uneaten veggies to homemade soups.
Avoid over-packaging. Put loose produce into small reusable bags, and take containers to deli and bakery sections.
Besides going zero waste with foods, shop for what you need at thrift stores to save money and to avoid packaging.
Larraine writes the children’s Pee Wee at Castle Compost series.www.castlecompost.com