On a typical trip to the grocery store I will usually find myself unaware of the the wide array of packaging my food is used to coming in. Often the container holding the item I’ve came for is absurdly larger than the item itself. Despite the environmentally unfriendly package to portion ratio, we are conditioned to accept this by the appeal of convenience and (supposedly cheaper) cost. As part of a nutrition class challenge, I assumed the task of creating a lunch entirely “waste-free”. As someone who believes they leave a relatively small eco-footprint, the initial difficulty of planning this meal surprised me and consequently instilled a helpful dose of self-awareness in how I individually contribute to waste and pollution. Aside from some initial re-evaluating of my grocery shopping style to get this meal just right, the end result was nutritious, easy to recreate, and satisfyingly cost effective.
- Tomato Cashew Curry on Brown Rice
- Red potatoes
- Apple slices
The bulk of my meal found in the produce section. It consisted of cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and apples. These were easily transported in re-usable bags. The cashew curry and rice ingredients were rounded up in the bulk section at Whole Foods. Even though plastic bags are free flowing to your hearts content here, it’s easy to bring your own ziploc bags to transport these items. If you do use a bag or two, try to offset the environmental impact by re-using them for storage at home! After some chopping, dicing, sauteing, and a bit of seasoning, the final products were put into two tupperware containers and were ready to go!
This endeavor ended up being more affordable than if I had bought these items pre-packaged or pre-made. The total cost of this meal (not including leftovers) came out to $4.90, approximately. Comparing this to the fancy packaged tomatoes, bagged rice, single-serving cashew containers, etc, I would likely be seeing a major difference in future grocery bills. Even though this challenge requires some initial brain power to create something delicious and nutritious, it would eventually adapt as muscle memory the more you could incorporate this style of“mindful eating” into the everyday routine.
Here’s what you can do to get started:
- Eat more produce! Fruits and vegetables are always available sans packaging.
- Stock up on staples. Buying grains, legumes, nuts, and cereal in the bulk foods section can help you save and allows you to cut down on waste.
- Register with a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture programs are found all throughout the country, with home deliveries available. Brought to your front door in a reusable crate, you can enjoy fresh picked produce as well as locally produced milk bottled in old-fashioned, recyclable glass bottles.
- Consider Compost. Check out backyard compost blogs for “How To Guides” on setting up your own compost bin or check out options for composting in small indoor spaces.
Guest Posting by Erin
Erin is taking Holly's Nutrition class at Montgomery College as she continues on her way to becoming a future nurse. She likes to spend her Saturdays perusing DC farmers markets and her Sundays baking black bean brownies.