Ahhh, it’s nice when something that is good for you and good for the earth can also be friendly to your budget! In these economic times most of us are watching our waistlines, wallets, and environmental impact, and the good news is that a well-planned, plant-based diet can achieve all three! Here are some habits our family is working on to meet all three of these goals:
1) Buy fewer processed products. Yes, this can mean a little more time in the kitchen, but it also means that we are consuming fewer additives, preservatives, and other chemicals that have unknown effects on the body. Snack on a whole orange rather than juice or fruit snacks, slice natural cheddar cheese off a large block rather than purchasing individually wrapped american “cheese food” slices, and try oatmeal from the bulk foods section rather than individually-wrapped flavored oatmeal or dry cereal.
2) Add beans…regularly. Beans are high in fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals, yet less than 8% of Americans eat this cheap, nutritional powerhouse each day! Soak and cook dry beans according to package directions for the best cost savings, and add them to your soup, pasta salads, and even regular salads. I divide the unused portions into quart-size freezer bags and save for future recipes since our family rarely eats an entire bag’s worth in one week. If you are a regular meat-eater, you can build a bigger and better burger by adding pureed black beans to the ground meat. Start by adding small amounts daily so you don’t become, umm, too regular. Because meat production is responsible for a signifcant amount of the U.S. carbon footprint, substituting beans even a couple times a week can make a difference. Check out http://www.eatlowcarbon.org/ to see the impact this substitution and others would make on your carbon footprint.
3) Eat local! Transporting food long distances also contributes to pollution. Check out a local farmer’s market, or take your family to a pick-your-own produce place for a fun, educational activity with the kids. http://www.pickyourown.org/ lists places near you.
4) Choose seasonal produce. Many times, these are the best-tasting, most nutritious, and cheapest fruits and vegetables at the market. One way to find them is to scan your grocery advertisements and see what is on sale – and even better if it is on sale and grown in your state or at least in the U.S. Because they do not need to be artificially ripened or stored for long periods of time, seasonal produce does not lose as many nutrients and has less of an impact on the environment too.
5) Choose organic. Hands down, organic foods are better for the environment than their conventionally-grown counterparts, but sometimes the price scares us away. If organic produce, milk, or dried goods are on sale, be sure to stock up! However, also check out the origin of the food; organic grapes from another continent may not be as good of a choice as the local, conventionally grown oranges due to the carbon production involved in transportation.
Want even more info? Check out CSPI’s eating green link for more great info on how a green diet is good for you and the earth.