I think the way I can judge how green our eating has become is by looking at my waste bin that is put out each Wednesday. 18 months ago we had an overflowing bin, with bags on the side. We are a bigger than normal family and we both work from home so we expected to generate quite a bit of waste, but honestly this seemed a little over the top!As I sip my imported organic Peruvian estate coffee I have to stop myself from feeling guilty about the air miles it took to get here, even though I know it is fair trade and has all the right stickers and stamps to justify the enormous price I paid for it. I must also remember that I bought it before I found a local-ish organic coffee of similar quality….but nevertheless I still sip and think about how my outlook on food has changed over the last 18 months.
However, when we started on our veggie growing adventure I never fully realized the road it would take us down. Hey, I just wanted some good organic veggies outside my kitchen door. But then we added the 4 “girls” who give us our daily 4 eggs. Now with time, it has become so much more to us as we have looked for more and more ways to be self sustainable in a city and address how much waste leaves our home.
For many “green food” brings up the connotations of rice cakes, sprouts and humus with carrot and cabbage juice! So as I write my ramblings perhaps I will help others to examine their food habits. (And as an aside, I do like rice cakes, sprouts, humus as well as….yes….carrot and cabbage juice!)
In my mind green food can be divided as follows:
What I can grow myself –
The first thing I consider is can I grow this myself. I have a minor addiction to fresh coriander. I used to happily buy a box of it at our local store every few days to feed my dependence….but now I grow it myself. This is the same with most of our veggies in summer, chosen first for what we eat the most of, and second for the space we have available. In previous editions I have written about how we pulled up half our garden to make place for a vegetable garden, but this is not always an option for everyone, especially if you rent or live in a flat.
However, no matter where you are, you can grow something, even indoors! Balconies can have hanging baskets of strawberries, pots with tripods over them for beans, peas or tomatoes, herbs in wall mounted troughs and more.
Carefully assess what you love to eat, and then assess how much space you have, and get growing your own! This is the first step towards green food.
What I can do without –
The next thing to consider when it comes to green food is seasonal veggies and food items that you won’t die without, but you enjoy having then in your cupboard. There are something’s that are not negotiable for us…no matter how un-green they are…but I am sure that as we mature in this idea we are pursuing, we will find a good substitute or learn to go without.
When I stand at the grocery store and look at those mouth-wateringly deliciously red strawberries that are imported from some corner of the world for me to enjoy out of season….do I really need them? How about avocados that are imported from Spain? Can I wait for another month or two before I indulge in guacamole again?
One of the problems people face with the move to green food is self denial. I am really not into that philosophy, but with some planning and a little patience we can make wise choices about buying things in season in bulk, storing or canning them for later (granted not avos and strawberries) and hang in there for a month or two until the season comes around.
What I can make myself –
Next I ask myself as I hold an expensive packet of 6 tortillas in my hand – “Can I make this myself?” If the answer is “Yes!” then I will practice until I get it right. Some basic things I have taught myself to make in the last couple of years are:
I added more things to my repertoire in the last 18 months:
Not food, but I am also learning to make:
And of course our four legged friends are also getting home made dog food instead of boring dry science diets!
What I bring into my home â€“
Lastly as I fill my grocery trolley I assess how much “bad” stuff (salt, preservatives etc) is in it and how much waste will the purchase generate. For instance I have found that it is wiser to buy dried chickpeas in bulk at the health shop and soak and cook from scratch than to buy cans of precooked chickpeas at the store.
I have also found an organic butcher for our meat which is packaged wisely and I do not have to throw away non-recyclable meat trays.
Another thing is canned tomatoes….fresh works just as well and they are very easy to substitute for canned in recipes. In fact there is hardly any need for canned items when you start moving towards green food.
My children love mini pizza’s for lunch, but all that packaging makes me rather irritated, so they have learnt to make their own from scratch, therefore these are no longer added to my trolley, which, by the way, also seems to be half empty these days!
All this to say that after 18 months of slowly addressing old accepted habits we happily wheel out a half full bin these days with 2 black bags in them. Everything that cannot be recycled,reused or given to chickens, worms or compost is contained in those two bags per week.
So, now as I finish my wonderful cup of coffee, I can say with a clear conscience that for today, I am happy with what we have achieved as a family when it comes to green food.