Living lightly in the kitchen – food and packaging

Whether at work, home or school, our minds are constantly challenged to innovate and pay attention. For the majority of the waking day we have to solve problems, make judgement calls, and think original thoughts.

It’s no wonder, as soon as we hit the kitchen, we switch to auto-pilot. Pre-heat oven, boil water, open packet. Roast, boil, fry. Scoop what’s left on the counter into the bin et voilà! A balanced meal and a clean kitchen in 20 minutes or less.

When Cape Town fell face-first into the drought of the century, our routines were shaken. We learnt to notice how much clean water our kitchen routines consume. We made a few easy changes. We adjusted our auto-pilot to be more water-conscious.

I like to believe that, with a little bit of attention, we can adjust a few more of our kitchen habits to live lighter yet.

Read more: Live lightly in the kitchen – save energy

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Food

A third of the food produced in the world is wasted while 815 million people go hungry. It’s admittedly hard to avoid food waste while having enough vegetables to keep your family healthy, but all of us can make a bigger effort to avoid food waste.

Note the expiration date

Use the foods that go off first, first. Starchy vegetables like squash, potatoes, and butternut last for weeks while leafy greens get old in a few days. While you may be dying for a potato curry tonight, you may have to postpone your craving and rather eat that spinach, first.

Here’s a handy sheet you can stick in your kitchen to keep track.

Ignore the expiration date

Just because the packet says it’s going off doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Especially for vegetables, you can use your own judgement. Plus, veggies that are too wilted to eat fresh still make for great stews and soups. You can even try your hand at making your own vegetable broth to freeze and use in future soups and stews.

Honour the leftovers

Perhaps you made too much of something, but you don’t feel like having it a third night in a row so you let it go off. Try making your leftovers exciting again by turning it into something else. Especially plain cooked vegetables or starches have a whole new life ahead of them in the form of stir fry’s, or bakes.

Food waste

I also used to pull a face at the thought of composting, or justified my tardiness as not having a yard for a big compost heap. Luckily these days you can make compost in the kitchen without a lingering smell, ants, or flies. Earth Probiotic makes a special Earth Bokashi bran that you can add to your food waste in an airtight bucket. This prevents the food from rotting or smelling.

I have one myself and it’s the easiest thing. Simply gather the day’s food scraps in a container on the counter and add it to the bigger, 25L, bin once a day. Sprinkle some of the Earth Bokashi on top and close it up again. Once the bin is full, drain the liquid and use it as fertiliser. Let the bin stand for two weeks to ferment (this is why you have two of the big bins) and you can bury the fermented compost or add it to someone else’s compost heap. You can add anything to a Bokashi composter: cooked or uncooked meat and produce, bones, fish and even dairy.

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Packaging

I’ve written a whole other post about ways to reduce your packaging, linking some awesome suppliers in South Africa.

Start by noticing the amount of plastic you find in the shops. Then start saying no to them or using alternatives. Shopping bags, produce bags, and any type of plastic bag that simply helps you to transport food from the store to your house is usually redundant. These single-use plastics only have a lifespan of a few minutes before going directly to the landfill or the ocean.

Shop at places where the fruit and veg is loose and take you own bags to weigh them. Avoid pre-cut and packaged vegetables. It might save time, but it’s more expensive and more wasteful. That it’s been transported without its skin also means it’s lost a lot of its taste. Rather buy the whole vegetables with the skin on and compost the offcuts!

The kitchen is probably the room in the house that consumes the largest quantity of plastic waste. It’s so easy to make a few adjustments. Unpackaged food usually also means the food is unprocessed. Apart from saving money and saving the planet, you’re also saving your own body by giving it more whole foods and less added salt, sugar, and fat.

 

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