Eating Healthy and Climate Smart on a Budget

Jul, 05, 2019

Our family used to spend a lot of money on food without even thinking about what it did to climate change because we figured it was something we enjoyed and that it nourished our bodies. In the last year, with a large family and a business, we needed to put ourselves on more of a monthly budget and, as well, we wanted to eat climate-smart food that would not impact the environment as much.

 We gave up cable and TV altogether, and started buying more used things and borrowing some items. We also changed the way we eat to lower our weekly food budget from $250 to $150. By doing so, I really had to make some changes as to how, what and when we eat. Before our budget change, we did end up throwing away food that had spoiled by the end of the week. If we ran out of something — well, we simply went to the store and bought more. We also bought the vegetables and fruits we wanted, not necessarily the ones that were the cheapest.

With the new budget in place, I had to schedule one day a week for all the grocery shopping, which meant that I needed to plan the week’s menu ahead of time. By doing this, we also stopped wasting so much, and got really good at being creative and cooking with what we have at home. I don’t buy very much canned food and, being vegetarian, I use beans as the staple of our diet. I cook dried beans in large quantities in a crockpot and freeze smaller portions in recycled glass jars. On Sundays I bake all our bread for the week and freeze it. We make our own pasta sauce, ketchup, butter, salad dressings, jam, pickles, nut butter, almond milk, salsa and mustard. All this might seem like a huge burden, but I have found that once it became a routine it really is not that much work and we have fun doing it as a family together . And it really saves money, is good for your health and the planet since it eliminates the containers that foods come in and reduces the environmental impact of transport and contains no additives or chemicals.

The biggest change is that we eat local food as much as possible and we eat for the season. For example, we lived in San Diego that has beautiful local fruits available so we ate lots of citrus fruits during the winter, but when we lived in Sweden we eat more apples. Before, we used to eat kiwis and strawberries and anything else we fancied even though they weren’t “winter foods.” Now those are treats when they appear at the farmers market during summer months and, oh, how wonderful that time is☺

I don’t feel we’re eating boring food or that it’s the same every day, and I do enjoy food as much as ever. I have found that my kids actually eat more and better, and seem to really enjoy their food and never feel deprived. We eat fun treats like ice cream, raw cakes and balls, and baked goods that we make ourselves. I feel I’m teaching my children about waste and how to limit it. My children who are 12, 8 and 6 years old , are aware not to waste food and to eat what is given her. This is such an important step since the average household throws away 25% of its food. All of my kids love my homemade bread over store bought bread and love to help baking it. I no longer see it as a chore but rather as a family affair, and that goes for shopping at the farmers market, too.

I believe the saving grace for us is that we don’t eat meat because that can get quite pricy; but if your family does, then still try to choose local and free range meats, and stock your freezer when there is a sale.

Here are some of my tips for eating healthy and climate smart on a budget:

  • Buy local as much as possible.
  • Eat for the season.
  • Grocery shop only once a week and stick to it.
  • Limit buying canned goods.
  • Buy bulk as much as possible — it’s better for the environment and better for you wallet.
  • Have at last one meat-free day a week — meat and fish are expensive.
  • Serve a lot of fruit and vegetables with each meal — they are better for your health and will fill your tummies, too.
  • Be creative at the end of the week and cook from what you have at home — leftover vegetables and beans can become wonderful soups, pasta dishes, stir-fries and stews.
  • Use leftovers the next day to cook another meal — leftover pasta can be fun pasta salad;  leftover chicken can be used for sandwiches, etc.
  • Clean out your fridge and freezer often and inventory what you have, then build a meal plan from that.  So many times I will find in the bottom or back of the fridge or freezer food that would have been wasted otherwise because I would not have known I had it.

Clean out your fridge and freezer often and inventory what you have, then build a meal plan from that. So many times I will find in the bottom or at the back of the fridge or freezer food that would have been wasted otherwise because I would not have known I had it.

Fredrika Syren

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