Grow Gather Enjoy: sustainablility

Showing posts with label sustainablility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sustainablility. Show all posts

That's a wrap: Plastic Free July

02 August 2018
The perfectionist in me wants to label my Plastic Free July attempt this year a bit of a failure. BUT of course, nothing is truly a failure just a learning experience (yes, keep repeating it Laura until you believe it!!). There were some wins too but mostly a LOT of learning experiences.

I set myself a few goals this year () and In the interests of keeping things real I thought I'd report on my progress, a few 'learnings' and some goals for the future.

Gratuitous holiday pic but also the reason this is so important - protecting our natural environment.


Making food from scratch: an addictive process

29 July 2018

Yoghurt was the first food that took me down the rabbit hole of making things from scratch. I remember stumbling across a recipe for making yoghurt in a thermos and being completely intrigued. I did manage to botch my first yoghurt attempt by heating the milk a little too far but I didn't let that deter me and have been making my own for seven years now. It's definitely saved me a few dollars but also saved a few hundred plastic containers from the waste cycle, built my food prep knowledge base and increased my ability to 'fend for myself' a little more when it comes to feeding my family.

Salsas, jams, chutneys and all sorts of 'made from scratch' goodies.

Reducing Disposable Stuff in the Kitchen

12 July 2018
There are lots of products in the kitchen that are disposable. That is, we use them once and toss them out. So many of them are ingrained in our cooking practices and even recipe books.

Over the past several years I've made a lot of small and steady changes to reduce the number of disposables we use. I've also tried to find ways to reuse any disposables so that they at least extend beyond single use items. In the spirit of I thought I'd chat a little about what we do here.

Baking with a greased pan instead of baking paper


Plastic Free July

03 July 2018
This month I'm joining in on Plastic Free July. I've done the challenge in years passed and I find the challenge period a good motivator to look at what I'm up to and where I might want to make further changes.

Overall I'd say I'm pretty conscious of trying to reduce packaging waste. BUT I definitely get into a routine of buying and doing certain things without reviewing them. So the challenge is a great way to take stock and set new goals.


Reuse: Food Waste Part 3

17 May 2018
Now that you've got your food home, after planing and shopping with some food waste awareness, it's time to eat it. But what to do if the plans go awry? What extra steps can we take to keep food waste to a minimum?

Confession time: finding useful ways to use up bits of leftover food is a bit of an obsession of mine. I'm always saving random bits of food in the fridge or freezer to reuse at a later date.

The tips below cover using up food that is not going to get used up in time and also using up the bits of food that sometimes get left behind. Please share any other ideas in the comments below - I'm keen to learn a few new strategies myself.


Reduce: Food Waste Part 2

13 May 2018
Many decisions we make around purchasing, storing and using our food can help us to reduce food waste. This is kind of like our first line of defense - a little planning and awareness here mean less to deal with down the line.

The statistics I shared the other week showed that one out of five shopping bags of food go to waste. Sometimes life happens, our best laid plans go awry and things get lost in the back of the fridge - but the more awareness at this stage the better.

Today I want to talk about planning before we shop, storing food and share a few food safety points.

Pantry storage.


Food Waste Part 1

10 May 2018
Food waste is full of startling statistics as I shared in a. Sometimes statistics don't tell the whole picture, sometimes they can be overwhelming and leave us feeling a little helpless. There are many parts of the food production cycle that we can't impact on directly. However, there are many things that we can do at a household level.

Reducing food waste is something that we do around these parts pretty regularly. The reality is that there will be some food waste - even if it's just the inedible bits of food. So, we are all about aiming for less waste not necessarily no waste.

Over a series of posts I'd like to dig a little into food waste - where it happens in the household and what we can do about reducing it. I'll also dedicate a post to utilising any food waste that we do have so that it is turned into a resource rather than a waste (shout out to Chris from for highlighting this very important point on my  on food waste).

I thought I'd break this series down into three main areas:
  • Reduce - what steps can we take to create less waste?
  • Reuse - if food needs to be used up or repurposed what can we do with it?
  • Recycle - how can we turn food waste into a resource?
Lettuce and coriander (gratuitous garden pic)


Making food decisions

06 May 2018
I haven't always been as conscious of my food buying choices as I am now. As a poor uni student my choices were definitely dictated by my budget. As a young professional there was a budget and time balance - I mostly needed things I could make with little time so I could fit it around my lifestyle. As I moved towards a more value driven, simple living lifestyle things shifted again.

When it comes to making food choices there is no easy 'how to' or one size fits all. I believe (but you don't have to) that firstly it's important to be clear on your values. What are the things that you think are important when it comes to food and the bigger picture. For me I'm aiming to balance the following overarching factors:

  • Nourishing meals for my family and friends (and me of course)
  • Reducing environmental impact
  • Supporting local and alternative food systems

Also in this mix is the fact that we are a single income family in a high cost of living city. So, while budget isn't the driver it has been in the past it definitely still plays a part.

Local food system - my Adelaide food garden.

So what does this look like when it comes to making food choices? I generally use a series of questions to help me make choices that fit within my values. I say generally because I'm not perfect (shocking, no?). I make the best choices with the resources and information available to me at any one time. And sometimes I knowingly make a compromise choice because of, you know, life.

I do want to emphasise that this is what works for me, we are all different and therefore how we make choices will reflect that. I offer this up out of interest and maybe a way to spark a conversation and I'm in no way implying that this is the way things should be done.

Ok, now that little disclaimer is out of the way. Here are the questions.

Can I grow or make this myself?

This is a big one for me. I find that a lot of the conflict I feel around making food choices to balance values is greatly reduced when I grow or make it myself. It also ticks all of my value boxes - it's nourishing, reduces environmental impact and supports an alternative food system - mine! So, I try to grow and make as much as I can. Of course this varies due to resources, particularly time. When I've been in the trenches of new motherhood or recently when we moved interstate I definitely cut myself some slack in this area. If I can't grow or make it then I consider....

Neighbourhood foraged peaches from the summer.

Can I source it from someone who is making or growing it locally?

This may be as simple as a friend or neighbour's garden or even a local food swap. When I lived in Adelaide I attended a great monthly produce swap. It was so lovely to connect with people growing their own and a great way to swap my glut for someone else's. More recently I've been the recipient of some excess produce at my community garden plot - hopefully I'll be able to return the favour when I manage to get some things growing. Local farmers or growers market can be a good option too - although I know in some areas these can be a little on the style over substance side of things. Since moving to Canberra I've embraced the farmer's market again and am lucky that there are some great down to earth growers there to connect with. If there is nothing locally....

Is there an option grown or made in Australia?

I think it's really important to support our Australian food systems. If the proverbial really hits the fan when it comes to the environment and food supply then it feels reasonable to infer that a strong local food system will be useful. Despite the fact that food miles may only be a tiny piece of the picture when it comes to sustainability it just seems logical to me to source my food from Australia where I can.

Loquat sauce - BBQ sauce substitute made with foraged loquats.

Is there an alternative I can use?

If I get all the way here then I like to consider if there is an alternative. Could I substitute something else? Sometimes no - coconut cream/milk is an example that comes to mind as well as many spices. But a lot of the times I can. Fruit and veg are easy to substitute - I just use what's in season. I can swap fancy grains with cous cous, cracked wheat, or barley. Sometimes, I just go without that thing.

And sometimes, I buy what I need. If I've gone through this process then I'm happy that I'm making a conscious choice either way. For me, I think that a lot of it comes down to not being a mindless consumer. In particular not complaining about the big supermarket duopoly and the state of our food system on one hand while making choices on autopilot with the other. As I said above, I'm not perfect and I don't claim to be. I just try and make choices with my eyes wide open.

How about you - is this an area you are working on?
Do you use any kind of decision making system/lists/questions around your food choices?


Food waste: the Australian picture

03 May 2018
Something a little different today. I was doing some research on current statistics into food waste in Australia and I found this interesting infographic. So, I thought I'd share it with you.

There is a lot of information in the pic so I'll leave it at that today. I am planning to write a little more on this topic so consider it a teaser....

Update 29 May 2018: Here is the full food waste series

Reuse: Part 3

Do Something About Food Waste
Do Something About Food Waste infographic by lunchalot

Do these statistics shock you?
No one's perfect of course but do you struggle with food waste or feel you have it pretty in hand?

Eating with the environment in mind

08 April 2018
I went to a workshop last week titled Mindful Eating. The focus was on being mindful about how what we eat impacts the environment. The key statistic highlighted was that food is responsible for around one third of our global carbon footprint. Of course this kind of statistic can be calculated in lots of different ways - but it's clearly a big impact.

As I've moved towards more values based eating my food choices have become more deliberate. I wasn't alone on the night in being one of the already converted in the audience - but it was a good reminder in keeping these issues front of mind.

Gratuitous flower shot - I didn't have any specifically related pics.

It's no surprise that animal based protein foods had the biggest carbon footprint and plant based protein the least. The most interesting tidbit for me was that the researcher highlighted that even if you shipped your plant protein (eg.lentils) from across the world they'd still have a lower footprint than animal proteins. I think I would still try to choose local for a whole lot of other reasons but it was interesting to learn that food miles may not be as big a factor from a carbon footprint point of view than I had thought.

The workshop was not trying to get anyone to choose any one style of eating but rather present the information and provide some resources to help people make food choices that are mindful of the environment. The key factors that seemed to have the biggest impact on carbon footprint was farming practices and processing. This talk focused on protein foods but I also think 'extra' foods, which are extremely processed, must play a pretty big role. Also, these foods aren't necessary for our daily nutrition so they'd be an easy target to reduce. And dare I say perhaps more palatable for the average Australian who is reluctant to consider a life without meat!

Peppermint that will soon be dried for tea.

So what do we do around here? A lot of things really - cooking from scratch, growing what we can and all those standard simple living practices. Specifically around protein foods:

  • Include minimum two meat free meals per week
  • Base meals around vegetables rather than protein - I generally plan my meals based on what vegetables I have to use and I make these the star rather than the side.
  • Smaller meat serves - many meals have token animal based protein eg. bacon in a pasta sauce or roast pork in fried rice. This keeps the content down but keeps other members of the family happy that we are actually eating meat.
  • Include legumes and lentils more regularly - either as stand alone protein option or as a way to 'water down' the meat.
  • Eat meals from a variety of cuisines - many other countries do not have the same focus on meat that we do in Australia so this helps to shift the ratio in a meal while trying something new and tasty.

Do you do anything different at your place?
I'd love to trade tips among us in the comments - sometimes what we do every day is something new for someone else.

P.S The event was run by . They have lots of resources and info on their website. If you are in the Canberra area they regularly run interesting events ().


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