poor-man’s sustainable eating

“Sustainable” is the catch-word of the year, at least in the Northwest. Everyone, from individuals to businesses (even McDonalds!) is jumping on the local, free-range, organic bandwagon. The idea has appealed to me for a long time, but without the financial ability to shop solely at PCC or Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck), I had basically abandoned the concept of going totally local or organic.

I read a few articles last month, though, that renewed my desires to make this a priority. Each of them waxed eloquent about the benefits, for body and earth, of eating and shopping sustainably, and one even outlined 50 “easy” steps (see the July/ August issue of Whole Living). Some of the tips were really helpful; others, a few steps too far down the hippie-lifestyle road (which I’m not sure I’m willing to travel, yet). I’ve decided I’ll try baby-steps. Jumping into the pool may be the most efficient way of entry, but the water is cold (and expensive) and I’ll ease into this one, thank you very much. At least I have my suit on!

Here are the simple things I’m committing to do, whenever possible, in hopes that I will increase my efforts over time:

1. aiming for local produce. It may be more expensive in some cases, but if there’s any truth to what people say about the nutrition value decreasing the further a veggie has to travel to get to my mouth, I’m willing to sacrifice a few cents per item.

2. visiting farmer’s markets as often as possible. There’s one in Madrona on Fridays on my way home from work, or several to choose from on the weekends. Markets are so much more fun than Albertsons and I’m much more likely to buy all kinds of beautiful fruits and veggies, which helps my health goals, too. I love to think I’m supporting local farms in the process. I don’t want to think about what I’m going to do come winter.

3. meal planning a week in advance. This should have been number one because it enables me to do the rest easily, and  I’m proud to say I have a three-week streak going! If I know what we’re eating for the next 7 days, I don’t have to make speed trips to the supermarket, where the local and organic options are so limited. I have also gotten pretty good at planning how to use up the produce I buy before it goes the way of the yard waste bin, using the same ingredient in multiple recipes so I waste less. Not to mention, when I know I’m going shopping, I have no problem remembering about:

4. bringing my bags. So obvious, and in vogue these days, but great to do.

5. eating in season. A little more difficult, depending on what I’m craving (or Nate, for that matter). But in terms of availability and price, in season produce is always going to be the best bet. The book Simply in Season, a wedding gift from dear Oregonian friends, has given me lots of ideas of ways to use ingredients in their prime. I may experiment with canning or freezing summer fruit, berries, and tomatoes soon. I’ll let you know how to goes.

6. buying items in bulk. Not only does this save some serious cash-ola depending on where you go, but if you get really serious, you can bring your old plastic bags and be an earth-saving over-achiever.

Of course, all my habits are bound to be re-set come September when I have to search for new markets and grocery stores in BC. But once these become second-nature, I’m excited to experiment with taking this lifestyle further. If this is one thing I can do to be a good steward of the earth God has given us, and keep my little family healthier in the process, I’m in.

What do you you, or hope to do, to eat sustainably?

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