8. Buy food without ingredients, cook from scratch (Shop the perimeter of the supermarket)
One of my favorite rules for buying food is that it has no ingredient label. You are thinking, “How can it be that a food has no ingredients?” It simply is what it is. When you buy lettuce, it is lettuce. When you buy an orange, it is an orange. The same is true of all other produce, meat, fish, and many dairy products. All these foods can be found in the perimeter of your supermarket. One loop around the store and you will be done.
Now you ask, “How does that save energy?” When food is grown and transported that generally accounts for less than half its energy consumption, the rest is processing and packaging. That is somewhat startling. When you cook fresh or stored vegetables rather than frozen or canned, you have saved the packaging and preparation costs by the manufacturer. Vegetables prepared at home are more nutritious and if purchased fresh in season also more economical. The other great advantage is your control over the amount of salt, MSG, flavoring, dye and preservatives your foods contain.
You might now comment, “But I don’t have the time to cook from scratch.” There is a very important acronym, KISS, Keep It Simple Sweetheart. Most often cooking from scratch seems difficult and time consuming because you simply don’t know how. Keeping vegetable preparation simple is simple. Eat your vegetables raw or lightly steamed. “Boring” you say. Not if you choose vegetables that are colorful, have a variety of textures and tastes. Then there are KISS dressing up ideas, like mixing them together, using grated cheese rather than butter or oil, sprinkling them with nuts or seeds, chilling them and adding them to salads, stir frying with meat or tofu. Learning how to make a few sauces to have on hand can also be fun. Keeping meat preparation easy is also simple. You can buy cuts of meat that cook quickly or ones that can be thrown in a pot with all those vegetables and eaten as soup. Pot roasts, slow cooked meals, even roasts are all very easy to prepare.
How you ask, “What about bread and pasta and crackers and cookies and …?” The answer is simple to this as well. Don’t eat them or learn how to make them from a few highly nutritious, staple ingredients. All the processed carbohydrate foods found in the middle of your market have very little nutrition, even if they are organic or natural. I used to bake all my family’s bread, but stopped when the children grew up and I was no longer packing lunches. Now when we have company and I want to serve bread, I start reading labels and end up coming home and baking the bread. I could not find one loaf that had organic, whole wheat flour as the first ingredient. You can find wraps and pockets that have better ingredients.
Finally you ask, “But what about paper products and cleaning products, I surely can’t make them from scratch can I?” Rags are wonderful replacement for paper towel, along with handkerchiefs for tissues. “But how will I wash them?”, you ask. Now that’s an article for another time. Watch for it in Living Sustainably.
Nancy is a retired secondary teacher. She built and lives in an active and passive solar, high thermal mass home. She is an avid gardener and helps others to learn how to garden.