This is a collaborative post.
Living ethically and eating well are often confused as being one and the same thing. The fact is that more often than not, the latest superfood craze has nothing to do with sustainable living. And there are many occasions where eating well pushes people to live well beyond their means and in a manner that is not ethical or sustainable for the planet.
One of the food myths that we often hear is that eating well is expensive, and while this can be the case, it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, the cost of food has climbed steadily over the years, and it looks like this will continue to rise. The reason behind this general increase in food prices is a combination of various factors- a growing population, market speculation, and a weakening global economy. The fact that food is becoming increasingly expensive means that many people are turning to quick, low-cost food. This often includes unethical, single-use plastic from ready meals, and takeaway meals.
The bottom line is that when money is an issue, we feel like we have to sacrifice our ethical concerns and buy the cheapest, and frequently, unhealthy option. There is no shame in having a tight food budget, but there are a few ways to stay as ethical as possible while eating well.
Live like your grandparents
Our grandparents and their grandparents lived in a time where proper refrigeration was limited, and things like microwaves to heat up food was either non-existent or still a novelty. This meant that food could not be stored as easily as it is now, big chains and big supermarkets didn’t exist, so there was no other option than to buy what you needed from local stores. There was also little to no waste, as you wouldn’t have the possibility of storing food, particularly during the war era, where there was barely enough food to go around.
Cooking from scratch is becoming less and less common, with many people finding it too time-consuming and preferring to order in, or choose ready meals. The cost of ordering in or eating pre-packaged meals is far more expensive than buying fresh ingredients. Especially when you factor in the price of delivery and the additional extras you can easily add on to your cart. The fact that so many Americans are becoming less-self sufficient when it comes to cooking, is worrying, not only when it comes to their health, but this also means that food culture is not being passed down from generation to generation.
If your grandparents couldn’t afford something, they went without. This means any luxuries that we often take for granted nowadays. If you can’t afford quality free-range meat, then consider eating less, or going vegetarian several days a week. This can have some great health benefits as well as being a good step to living sustainably. The popular hashtag #meatlessmondays on Instagram and Twitter shows just how many people are becoming ‘flexitarian’ in their approach to living sustainably. There are a whole host of websites and books that have some great meat-free recipes.
Go to local produce markets.
Instead of buying everything from one supermarket, visit your local produce market and see if you can save money on certain foods. Not everything will be cheaper, but you may be surprised to find some bargains. Attending local farmers markets not only supports the local community but means the fruit and veg you purchase will be fresh and won’t have been sitting in frozen storage for weeks. A good time to visit markets is towards the end of the opening hours, where there will often be reductions in price, and vendors will be more inclined to give things away at a lower cost.
Grow your own food
Growing herbs and vegetables can be achieved in even the smallest plots of land. If you don’t have a garden, then you can still grow herbs and salad indoors on your windowsill. Did you know that you can grow tomatoes, basil, cress, and even peppers from small pots that you can store indoors? If you are unable to grow veggies in your home, then it is worth checking out local allotments or even city farms to see if they offer plots of land for local people to use. If you have children, this is an excellent opportunity to get them involved in some hands-on work and teach them the value of food and sustainable living. Your kids will be more inclined to eat their carrots if they have seen them grow from seed and feel part of the process.
Bring your own lunch to work
Bringing your lunch to work will reduce your consumption of single-use plastic that you can find in sandwiches or the cheap packaging that a lot of convenience food comes in. Save money by meal prepping on a Sunday for the rest of the working week. The things we tend to eat for lunch in the west do little to nourish us or even get us through the day without having to snack between meals. A sandwich and an energy drink will not sustain you for very long and will lead to a crash later on in the day and contribute to a high body fat percentage. If you want to maintain your energy levels, try to include legumes, pulses, or slow-releasing carbs, that will keep you going for the rest of the day. Lentils, rice, beans are cheap if bought in bulk and will also keep well in your cupboard.
City parks and woods are full of edible leaves and plants that are mostly left untouched. Seasonal berries, wild garlic, dandelion leaves are some of the most recognisable edible foods that can be easily found. Do make sure you go for familiar edible plants before searching for more unknown edible plants as you don’t want to eat something nasty accidentally! There are even groups dedicated to foraging, which may be an easy way to introduce you to seasonal foraging if you are entirely new to it.