A brand new year is upon us and many of us will be taking stock and making resolutions to improve our health, relationships, financial well being, etc. Taking charge of your food system is one way you can address all of these issues.
Here are 10 steps you can take to start the new year off right:
- Occupy your Kitchen: Simple as that! Get your butt into your kitchen and take your family with you. Dust off your stove and start cooking. You don't have to be a gourmet chef or even wish you were. Keep it simple with fresh, local ingredients. Make a double batch and put some in the freezer for later or take it for lunch. You'll save money, eat healthier and have a better connection with your food and your family.
- Reduce Food Waste: Up to half of the food we produce ends up being thrown out. With food prices increasing, there's no better time to stop wasting it! Buy fresh produce from local farms (it will last longer than the stuff you find in the grocery stores). Make stock with veggies that are past their prime. Compost what you can't save and/or bring it to the farm to feed to the animals. Plan meals to avoid buying more than you need. Stop peeling fruits and veggies.... many can be eaten with the skin on and it is often healthier! Don't be a slave to "best before" dates. Many products are still good after that date has passed.
Eat Less Meat: Rethink your relationship with meat. You'll be healthier and be able to afford to buy more ethical/sustainable meat/fish/eggs. Children under 14 should have 1-2 servings of meat or alternatives a day. Men should have 3 servings and women should have 2 servings. A "serving" is:
- 2.5oz or 1/2 cup of meat or fish
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup beans
- 2/4 cup hummus
- 1/4 cup nuts
- 2Tbsp nut butter
If half your servings are made up of meat/fish that costs an average of $15/lb, a quarter of the servings are eggs and a quarter of the servings are beans, nuts, etc, a family of 4 should be able to meet all their protein needs for about $20/day.
- Eat More Seasonally: By eating what's in season locally, you'll eat more flavourful, fresher foods and keep your money in your local economy. It also makes mealtimes more interesting when dishes change with the seasons.
- Share Meals with Friends & Family: Make regular family meals the "norm" and not a special occasion. Incorporate eating into your social life. Have friends over and cook together. Start a potluck dinner club and take turns hosting.
- Get Growing: Growing even just a little bit of your own food will make you feel more connected to your food system. Even if all you have is a window sill, you can still grow your own herbs.
- Preserve: Most tomato sauces, pickles & jams are very easy to make. Buy in bulk to save money and preserve or freeze local fruits & veggies at their height of freshness. In this climate, you really must "put up" some of the summer/fall bounty to eat local year round.
- Eat Out Thoughtfully: When you do eat out, choose restaurants that are truly committed to sourcing locally & sustainably. Ask for the names of the farms they work with. If they can't tell you, move on.
- Learn Something New: Take a cheese making class, learn how to keep bees, participate in a butchery workshop, master the art of growing heirloom tomatoes...the possibilities are endless and you might just find a new passion! At the very least, you'll probably make some new friends who share your values.
- Connect with Local Farms: Get out and visit local farms, follow them on social media and attend farmers markets. You'll always learn something and it will help keep you motivated to be an involved, thoughtful consumer. Make a point of bringing a friend and introducing them to your farmers. Engaged consumers can do more to drive small-scale sustainable agriculture in our communities than the most committed farmer.
Happy New Year!
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